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Progress for all

The latest book from a great historian makes the reader think about one of the core concepts for mankind

Looking ahead. Seeing a brighter horizon, a better future. Attempting to make sense of what’s going on. The ability to do these things is important for anyone who wants to maintain a conscious awareness of where they are. This also applies to production organisations, and as such, to entrepreneurs and managers who are interested not only in profit but also in the deeper meaning of their business activity.

In light of the above, Progresso (Progress) by Aldo Schiavone (a historian and keen observer of the way in which history is interwoven with today’s reality) is a great read. A short book (just under 140 pages), but nonetheless packed full of ideas and content, Schiavone’s latest literary effort takes the reader on a journey around and into the concept of progress, viewed and described through the eyes of someone with a lifetime of historical studies under his belt, along with great critical insight (as well as the ability to write well and tell a good story).

As such, the author focuses the text around a word that today is almost seen as something to be avoided; a memory of distant times and lost intellectual innocence. And yet, the idea of progress expresses something profound and essential: a representation of history without which our identity and our ability to conceive the future would be at risk. This idea is at the heart of the book’s value, not least for all those who find themselves having to “govern” an association or a company.

The structure of the book is simple: it begins with an analysis of the idea of progress over the course of history, before addressing the theme of the present, and of how to approach the idea of progress today – as well as how far this concept still bears contemplating. Schiavone writes: “An awareness of the past (…) helps us to focus on the challenge ahead of us: a testing future asks us to adapt to a dizzying technological leap (something that has just begun, and has already proved very disconcerting), developing a capacity to build social, ethical, political and legal structures that can sustain the effects of these changes, and focusing these on a goal that has never yet left us, despite terrible failures and devilish complexity: that of achieving greater freedom for human beings, and fostering in all of us an enhanced capacity to understand and give full expression to ourselves.”

Schiavone’s book brings all the hope that we can draw from the human condition to life. As long as we know what needs to be done. Written shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Progresso is now invested with even deeper meaning.

Progresso

Aldo Schiavone

Il Mulino, 2020