Parole di benvenuto
PASS President Stefano Zamagni
Good morning, everybody. It is my real pleasure to welcome all of you to the 23rd Plenary Session of our Academy, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. I would really like to thank you for having accepted to share your time and your knowledge to unravel one of the most intriguing problems of present times.
As you know, Charles Colton wrote some time ago that “No metaphysician ever felt the deficiency of language so much as the grateful”. These words perfectly describe my mood today. I really owe a lot to many people, first of all to Pope Francis, for having appointed me, much to my surprise, to the Presidency of this prestigious Academy. I hope to be able to deserve the trust he put in me. Second, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my predecessor, Professor Margaret Archer, for the great impulse she has been able to give to the Academy, extending its visibility and reputation. She is not with us on this occasion, since the British Home Office has organised a court hearing about one of the trafficked women in her charity. However, in a couple of weeks, Professor Archer will co-chair the joint workshop of the two Academies on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
A similar sign of gratitude goes to all the members of the Council of this Academy for their generous cooperative attitude, and to the members of the Secretariat for their kindness and efficiency.
Based on a proposal first advanced by Monsignor Roland Minnerath, who is with us, and then thoroughly elaborated by Vittorio Hösle, we are now ready to start our three-day workshop specifically devoted to study the multifarious relationship between nation, state and nation-state. The purpose is both to understand the main causes of the recent resurgence of nationalism and to suggest what can possibly be done to cope with present-day major challenges related to the problem of sovereignty.
The crisis of contemporary democracy has become a major subject of political commentary. However, what is often forgotten is the distinction between the two main types of systemic crises: one dialectic, and the other entropic. The former type of crisis, the dialectic one, is one that originates from a radical conflict of interest that society is incapable to cope with using traditional modes of resolution. Such a crisis, however, contains in itself the seeds to overcome it. On the other hand, an entropic crisis is one that leads to the collapse of the system through implosion, without changing it. This is what happens when a society loses the sense – in other words – the direction of its moving forward. Why is this distinction important to me? Because the remedies to solve the two types of crises are quite different. An entropic crisis is not overcome by technical adjustment or by regulatory measures, albeit necessary, but by directly facing the problem of sense – which is what the recent teaching by our Pope Francis often reminds us of. A system might stagger from one crisis to another but never recognise the underlying mechanism that subverts its logic. We may never even get to the end of this story, but so long as the inner aporias are not named, the story will always be one of cyclical failure.
This workshop is about entropic crises: democracy, capitalism, nation-state politics, modern culture and education; all of them are experiencing an entropic crisis. All of them are grounded in illusions and contradictions, whether it be the simultaneous increase of global income and social inequalities or the symbiosis of oligarchy and majoritarianism in modern democracy or the mixture of nationalist rhetoric and globalistic economic homogenisation on the chaotic stage of international relations.
Now, modern democracy was supported by the post-World War 2 institutional setup that provided the momentum for the case of geopolitical stability, economic growth and globalisation. However, what worked then does not work now, as the politics of compromise and accommodation gives way to populism and authoritarianism.
The Thirties saw the rise of xenophobia and nationalism in the context of a prolonged economic strife, the lingering impact of World War 1, weak international institutions and the desperate search for scapegoats – in those years, the Jews. The 2010s, this decade, show notable parallels: the protracted fallout of the financial crisis which started in the year 2007/2008, the clamour for protectionism, ineffective regional and international institutions and the growing xenophobic discourse that places virtually all blame, for every problem, on migrants. In the Thirties, the politics of accommodation gave way to the politics of dehumanisation, war and slaughter.
In these years we are taking the mutatis mutandis steps down a dangerous similar path. Can we choose a different route? I believe, we believe that a different route does exists. We have to find it. My hope, which I share with all the other members of the Academy, is that this workshop might help us find a way out.