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Good work and good business

Industry 4.0 as seen through the eyes of a philosopher, in order to better understand the freedoms and limitations of factories and business

Good work is an integral part of a strong corporate culture. And on the other hand, in every strong business, quality work is (in every sense) a priority. This is true even today, in a time of digitalisation of manufacturing and industry 4.0, and (apparent) de-materialisation of many production processes. It is necessary to rethink and revise the very idea of work (just as it is imperative, on the other hand, to constantly review business paradigms). On this point, one might read the recently published article ‘Libertà nel lavoro. La sfida della rivoluzione digitale’ (‘freedom at work: the challenge of the digital revolution’), by Giovanni Mari.

Mari addresses the theme of work and its evolution, drawing on his background in philosophy; this is what makes his writing unique.

The author begins by stating that our general idea of work has always been based on the contrast between manual work and intellectual work. This dichotomy is now seemingly obsolete due to the transformation of work in digitalised factories, and industry 4.0 in general. We are faced with a job Mari defines in a linguistic sense, as a set of instructions given to machines that carry out the production. It is therefore new industry, as well as new business; both can give birth to work that is different from the way things were done the past, and creates a different link between time at work and leisure time. Mari does not stop there. He wonders if it will be possible in an era where ‘work has ended’ (in which robots have taken on a substantial role), to put the concept of personal self-realisation in the workplace at the centre of the discussion.

The author’s response is positive: a new way of thinking about work, both high in quality and chosen by those doing it, can really be put into practice and take on the characteristics of an act of freedom. That is, provided that there is knowledge, creativity and responsibility intertwined in the workplace and in the company culture.

Giovanni Mari’s book is interesting to read, not only because it deals with a topic that concern all of us, but also because it uses language that is straightforward and extremely accessible to the reader.

Libertà nel lavoro. La sfida della rivoluzione digitale
Giovanni Mari
Il Mulino, 2019