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“Milanesiana”, talking about science and philosophy in industrial environments

Areas of knowledge, those of manufacturing and machines, that overlap. The analytical knowledge of philosophy which seeks out original keys to interpretation in order to navigate the complexities of companies and markets going through constant change. Those of research and development laboratories, in which the bases for new products and new systems of production are experimented, as well as those of artistic creativity. In an Italy struggling to come out of a recession, still filled with the devastating social effects (loss of jobs, drop in income, fading of hopes, above all for the new generations), the strategy of a manufacturing renaissance (discussed in the blog on 8th January) in fact needs to bring together different skills, able to enrich the human capital and the social capital essential for sustainable growth in environmental and social terms.

As the sociologist Aldo Bonomi, who theorised “molecular capitalism” and the “infinite city” of intelligent manufacturing and services networks spread throughout the territory, rightfully noted, Italian production must become Italian reproduction in order to open up a fourth season, after those of the workshops, industrial buildings and industrial zones. For production chains the time must come when the territory is a source of value in its dimension of a common asset to be regenerated. No longer just a store of knowledge, traditions and resources to be taken within a purely quantitative growth model founded on territorial consumption and social dumping, but instead something which raises the problem of the social and cooperative nature of investments in the knowledge economy. Where, in order to reconstruct the bases of value, manufacturing needs to pollinate the culture of the factory with scientific and social knowledge borne by creatives, professionals and young digital natives. Who in turn, if they want to translate investments in training into income and corresponding jobs, cannot continue to cultivate the utopia of a virtual and de-industrialised capitalism (La sfida della crisi e le cinque metamorfosi, [“The challenge of the crisis and the five metamorphoses”], IlSole24Ore, 23 June).

Those raised by Bonomi are in fact themes dear to Pirelli corporate culture, discussed in depth several times on the pages of this blog and used as the bases for designs and products. A fusion of different competencies within the production system and dialogue from inside industry to the outside.

An example? The recent case of workplaces enlivened by debates on the general themes of philosophy and science, at the end of June, hosting in the auditorium of the Pirelli headquarters, in Bicocca, a section of the “Milanesiana”, directed by Elisabetta Sgarbi, dedicated to “Philosophy, Cinema and a Secret” (with participation, among many others, by Massimo Cacciari, Remo Bodei, Umberto Veronesi, Marco Bellocchio, Tzevan Todorov and Emanuele Severino). Or the experiences exchanged among artists working on the building of large installations at the HangarBicocca (Carsten Nicolai, Tomàs Saraceno, Micol Assael and Wilfredo Prieto) and the engineers and technicians from the Laboratori Pirelli (long and impassioned discussions on nanotechnologies and light, electricity and mechanical strain, applied to art or to the experimentation of new materials for rubber mixes). Theatre and music in the factory, in the new plant in Settimo Torinese, with the structure of the facilities and research laboratories designed by Renzo Piano, according to criteria of “industrial beauty”, in a natural setting, ecologically admirable. Or the factory which becomes the material for tales of work which give shape to books and plays (in a collaboration with publishers such as Mondadori and Laterza or with the Piccolo Teatro di Milano). Or the exhibitions at Fondazione Pirelli and the educational projects of Fondazione Pirelli and HangarBicocca with thousands of children from Milan schools, in order to strengthen and renew relations between industry and education, work and training. All this is a fusion of outlooks and competencies, questions of different cultures and answers rich in “cross contamination”.

Intense activity in view of a better quality of the metropolis as a place of innovative competencies and high-end products, as part of the knowledge economy and, in fact, of industry as a lynchpin of quality development. Another way of bringing to life corporate culture and the corporation as a place of culture, open to culture, producer of culture. This also means working towards a “manufacturing renaissance”.