Revista THEOMAI   /  THEOMAI   Journal
Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo / Society, Nature and Development Studies


número 14 (segundo semestre de 2006)  
number 14 (second semester of 2006)



The post-marxist project: contribution and critique to Ernesto Laclau
Henry Veltmeyer

The objective of this paper is to demonstrate that post-estructuralism constitutes an abandonment of Marxism and a rejection of the fundamental principles of historical materialism. In this context, we state that post-Marxism is not but the last one from a series of attacks to the possibility of Social Science, so much in its Marxist version as in the non Marxist.      (Article in Spanish)

Three logics in construction of a hegemonic domination
Javier Balsa

This article proposes that there are three logics in construction of a hegemonic domination. The first logic is based on a class alliance, a political accord between unmodified social subject. The second logic organizes the hegemony on the recognition of an intellectual and moral direction of a dominant class or social sector. The thirst logic is the construction of the hegemony on a particular lifestyle that improves the acceptance of the domination. This work examines each of these three logics and provides some elements for its empirical study.      (Article in Spanish)

Not see the wood for the trees. Neo-funcionalism and posmodernity in the studies about social movements
Guido P. Galafassi

The present theoretical frameworks with which social movements are researched (identified with the functionalistic and post-modern ideology of the methodological individualism) prefer to differentiate between old and new social movements as well as between old and new political paradigms. The old movements were enrolled in the classic classes´ struggle in which the dominant social subjects were both the institutionalized groups and the political parties that promoted the values of social mobility. Whereas the new movements are guided by open and flexible networks responding to non-institutionalized politics, in a context in which the classes´ struggle is not present. Instead of following this theoretical argument, it is preferred to think the social movement reality in terms of complex processes in which the mechanical divisions (between, for example, old and new social movements) do not correspond to the historical present and where, the social movements diverse manifestations interrelate and interact in different ways, always expressing opposition between classes or fractions of classes.      (Article in Spanish)

Handicraft from Neuquén: State and trade of Mapuche handicraft
Alejandro Omar Balazote and Mónica B. Rotman

In 1974 the Government of Neuquén created “Artesanías Neuquinas” (Handicraft from Neuquén) with the aim of “recovering, promoting and developing the Mapuche handicraft activity, enhancing its cultural importance, which results in a permanent as well as sustainable source of income to ensure the artisan´s permanence in his homeland, thus rescuing the socio-cultural value of the artisan and his produce.”
Today, thirty years later, we analize the influence this enterprise has had on the marketing of Mapuche handicraft from communities located in areas close to San Martín de los Andes and Junín de los Andes.     (Article in Spanish)


The preservation plus approach: linking preservation and poverty reduction goals
Lucio Munoz

The incorporation of preservation goals in development plans is becoming a must do activity in most, if not all, countries. This is the result of the increasing recognition that without preservation initiatives the earth’s environment will degrade beyond repair. However, while it is agreed that preservation goals cannot succeed unless paired with poverty goals, current preservation initiatives are de-linked from the long-term poverty processes around them. Hence, the need to identify ways of promoting both poverty reduction and preservation goals at the same time is a pressing one. The main goal of this paper is to highlight one possible way to reconcile long-term preservation goals with long-term poverty reduction goals.      (Article in English)


The Mexican migration towards the United States through the perspective of the regional economic integration process: new dynamism and paradoxes
Raúl Delgado Wise and Humberto Márquez Covarrubias

The present article analyzes the new dynamism of Mexico-U.S. migration in the context of the economic integration process under NAFTA. By means of the conceptualización of the labor export-led model three basic mechanisms of regional economic integration are envisaged: the maquiladora industry, the disguised maquila, and the labor migration. This analytical framework allows us to contextualize the migratory phenomenon beyond its demographic dynamic when considering structural means associated to the neoliberal globalization and the role assigned to labor migration in the process U.S. productive restructuring. We conclude that the Mexico-U.S. economic integration process, instead of promoting the development of the region, paradoxically is widening the socioeconomic asymmetries between both countries and increasing the socioeconomic dependency of the remittances in Mexico.   (Article in Spanish)

Precarious conditions of the Mexican workforce under the process of United States productive restructuring
Humberto Márquez Covarrubias, Raúl Delgado Wise and Óscar Pérez Veyna

Based on the concept of cheap labor export-led model, that explains the paper assigned to the Mexican labor in the process of U.S. productive restructuring, this article analyzes the conditions of labor precarization prevailing in the Mexico-U.S. transnational horizon. It is argued that, in the context of the North America’s economic integration process, Mexico plays the role of a labor reserve for the foreign capital, particularly U.S. This function relies on: i) the conditions of vulnerability and uncertainty that prevail in the labor market in Mexico, both in the formal and the so-called informal sector; II) the large wage differentials that exist between both between countries; III) the requirements of cheap manual labor in the U.S. labor market, and IV) the role of labor migration in the process of U.S productive restructuring.        (Article in Spanish)

Mexico in the scope of the global economy of cheap labor: critical dependency on remittances
Raul Delgado Wise, Rodolfo García Zamora and Humberto Márquez Covarrubias

Throughout the world, international migration is acquiring greater visibility and economic, social, political and cultural importance. But it is in the mature migratory systems where the differentiated role played by migration in the societies of origin and destiny becomes more apparent. In the case Mexico-U.S. migration, the Mexican labor plays a key role in the process of U.S. productive restructuring and, in counterpart; it contributes to the support of a precarious socioeconomic stability in Mexico, in the absence of a national development policy and growing asymmetries between both countries. In this regard, the present article attempts to disentangle the socioeconomic importance of remittances in Mexico, in a context where the dependency towards that conspicuous resource is deepened.   (Article in Spanish)

Critical dimensions of the migration and the development problematic in Mexico
Raul Delgado Wise, Humberto Márquez Covarrubias and Miguel Moctezuma Longoria

This article analyzes the migration and development policy recently postulated by the international organisms. It focuses on the Mexican case, at present the world’s top exporter of migrant labor. Our central concept is the development model based on remittances. This concept explains the role assigned to migrants in the socioeconomic stability of the major labor exportation countries. We conclude that remittances do not constitute an instrument or a motor for local or regional development in Mexico, and that the aforesaid model is rather a by-product of the North American economic integration process based on the exportation of workforce. Under these guidelines the new social policy helps to legitimate the neoliberal development policy and to guarantee certain governance, without supporting in any reliable way local, regional or national development.      (Article in Spanish)


International Migrations in Uruguay: from transplanted town to Diaspora
Javier Taks

This paper describes the main historical trends on international migration and development in Uruguay, with particular focus on the recent shift from an immigration profile to a Diaspora country. It is estimated that 13% of the current population is living abroad. It is argued that it was not until recent years that official attention to Uruguayans living abroad joined peoples´ attitudes towards a renovated sense of the nation trespassing the traditional geographic and symbolic limits of the nation-state. Thus, there is an open arena of dispute about political participation and transnational citizenship, along with a more complex definition of national identity, which is expressed in the various reactions of political opposition, NGO, international organizations and migrants to the new public policies proposed by the left-wing government.    (Article in Spanish)




Portada/Cover     Editorial     Contenido/Contents 
Instrucciones para los autores /Instructions for Authors
Consejo Editorial/Editorial Board  


Revista THEOMAI   /  THEOMAI   Journal
Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo / Society, Nature and Development Studies


número 12 (segundo semestre de 2005) 
number 12 (second semester of 2005)


ISSN 1515-6443

Tools and indicators to improve urban life and to promote sustainable consumption in the city of Padova*

Dario Padovan**


** Università degli Studi di Torino. E-mail:

* This paper is based on the third phase of the project of research called “The involvement of stakeholders to develop and implement tools for sustainable households in the city of tomorrow” (ToolSust), financed by European Commission. The consortium of research is led by Eivind Sto, Norway. For more information see I thank my colleague in the research Federica Rigoni for her help in this paper.


1. Introduction

The continuous social, economic and environmental transformations that are a feature of European cities force us to reflect upon the meaning of the Quality of Life and on the challenges that will be faced in the future. The aim of this paper is to analyse the strategies that could be adopted to improve the quality of life of city and town dwellers in terms of ecological sustainability and, at the same time, could improve the physical and natural environment. This report illustrates a study carried out, in the city of Padova, in which the existing relationships between the quality of the urban environment, the nature of relations and the consumption patterns in two different areas of the city where there are public housing estates have been analysed. The data gathered by means of focus groups that were set up in the two areas could help in developing a model of sustainable urban living that is aware of the natural capital inherent in energy resources. This study has highlighted citizens’ widespread knowledge, on the basis of which the quality of the natural capital present in the urban environment deeply influences their own quality of life. Furthermore, the study has been able to identify the nature of social relations which are a crucial element not only in ‘living better’ but also in putting strategies that seek to deal with environmental risks into practise. The concept of social capital, which has become increasingly important in sociology, becomes a means of explaining a considerable part of the social actions and transactions of individuals’ daily lives, which are to a grater or lesser degree oriented towards ecologically sustainable lifestyles. This study seeks to evaluate the potential of the social factor, as vector of short term change, in the behaviour and attitudes of householders seeking a better quality of life and to do this the study first sought to understand the role of existing relationships between local residents.

Our research was developed in five stages:

Ø      The first stage checked the social conditions and the quality of life of residents and their own definitions and perceptions.

Ø      The second stage analysed and reconstructed the networks working inside the neighbourhood, identifying the nature of bonds, the nature of the social capital there and the level of trust in the neighbourhood.

The third stage analysed the environmental risks that people deal with them.

The fourth stage checked the consumption patterns they have in common related to
Energy saving
 -  Means of transport in relation to purchasing activities
- Organic products
- Rubbish recycling

The fifth stage tried to find some strategies of improving the quality of consumption, orienting these actors towards sustainable consumption and transforming them into a means of diffusing the new consumption patterns.

The results offered important food for thought and, in particular, made it possible to define some key indicators such that in tomorrow’s city the idea of sustainability will no longer be an ideological question but rather will become the criterion and the method used to develop it. Lastly, a film was made during this research, a sort of list of grievances, which will be presented to the press and to local institutions in order to highlight the needs and desires of the residents of the areas analysed in this study.


The research used the “focus group” methodology. In both of the areas studied, the people who were invited to become part of the focus group were those who had previously been identified as “nodes” in the local relationship network. In Via Maroncelli we identified the subjects who played the role of nodes in the network of local relationships, simply by asking people who we should speak to in order to talk about problems in the neighbourhood and turning up at the customary meeting point for people in the public housing complex. The people who make these communal spaces work are those who are most active in local social life, in whom others have trust and who actively seek solutions for others’ problems. In Via Pinelli we met “key” figures by going to a group of householders/occupiers who habitually play cards in the lobby of one of the public housing blocks. It is they who play cards, for pleasure and not for money, who reflect at least in part the sociality of the area. Thanks to these people who helped to organize the first meeting in which we presented this research project, we got to know the representatives for each stairway. Later on we got in touch with another group of householders, who live in two of the other blocks and who, as we shall see, organise the life of their blocks in a very intelligent manner.

It was not difficult, in both areas, to identify the people who played the role of nodes, of hubs, within the network of resident’s relationships. However, although it was relatively simple to identify the “key” figures it was much harder to discern and decipher the relationships between these figures, the “configurations” they were a part of. (Elias N. and Scotson J.L., 1965, pp. 167-171). Indeed, during the course of the meetings held in the two areas, the network of relationships that emerged was far more complex and conflictual than it had seemed at the outset. This question will be taken up below, in the section dealing with social relationships in these neighbourhoods.

As regards the method used for the focus group, we tried to use the backcasting approach as described by Karl Dreborg (1996). However, we have, to some extent, simplified the approach. Firstly, participants described their situation by focusing on the most unpleasant aspects of their neighbourhood. This constituted the largest part of the focus group work. Subsequently, we developed scenarios which were suggested by the participants. Often these were not very probable scenarios but they did show how important social problems could be copied with and solved. Starting with desirable futures, which in our case did not often reach a very high level of imagination or complexity, we tried to outline ways of achieving these goals, usually through political and institutional measures, but also by means of a shift, a change, in the quality of social networks and connections.

The Features of the Neighbourhoods

The urban areas where we set up the focus group are very different one from another. The urban area, which includes the housing complex in Via Maroncelli and its neighbourhood called Pio X, also contains a large settlement, mainly occupied by foreign immigrants, that is usually referred to as “the ghetto of Padova”. Urban planning models for Italian cities have always tried to avoid creating “urban ghettos” in order to stop social groups concentrating in specific areas and to reduce stereotyping and stigmatisation. Only quite recently, with the growing influx of migrants has there been a sort of “Americanisation” of urban spaces, with specific areas being ‘taken over’ by diverse ethnic groups. But to return to the description of the area around Via Maroncelli, it is a semi-suburban area, near an area of large commercial structures, shopping centres and offices, which have little to do with the everyday life of the zone, it is daily subjected to heavy traffic, many different social classes mingle and there are few essential services.

The urban area around Via Pinelli is very different. This is on the southern outskirts of the city but it is a long way both from major roads and from shopping centres and other facilities. About 250 families live in the area distributed among a group of buildings constructed in diverse periods. The oldest buildings date from the 1970s, the others were built in the early nineties, while the most recent were put up a few years ago and were designed and built to meet environment friendly criteria. The zone is largely cut off from the city itself, and from other urban settlements, thus, until about one year ago there was neither much pollution not noise. However, such isolation also means that there will be a lack of accessible urban services near at hand. Indeed, there are no shops, nor are there services such as a Post Office, a Chemist’s or efficient Public Transport in the neighbourhood. But, as we shall see, people prefer to breathe better quality air than to have shops. However, today, the most pressing problem for the area is that this relatively privileged environmental well-being is rapidly changing, and changing for the worse.

2. Sustainable urban life and social capital

What is Social Capital?

In recent years, increasing interest has been shown in the concept of “social capital”. The term captures the idea that social bonds and social norms play an important part in sustainable livelihoods. The value of this concept was identified by Jane Jacobs (1961) when examining social life in urban neighbourhoods; by Glen Loury (1987) when studying the labour market; by Pierre Bourdieu (1979) and later given a clear theoretical framework by James Coleman. As Pierre Bourdieu suggests, social capital is a network of relationships, which is the product, intentional or unintentional, of social investment strategies aimed at the building and reproduction of durable and useful social relationships able to offer material and symbolic benefits. These relationships enlarge the individual or collective actors’ action capabilities and, if extended enough, the social system’s action capabilities too. Because of this, social capital is a public good. Persons who actively support and strengthen the structures of reciprocity produce benefits not only for themselves but also for all individuals who are bound to these structures. From the point of view of Coleman, “social capital inheres in the structure of relations between actors and among actors. It is not lodged either in the actors themselves or in physical implements of production” (Coleman J, 1988). In short, social capital is different from physical capital and human capital, it is a public good shared by a number of individuals. Robert Putnam (1993) and Francis Fukuyama (1995) have also stressed the role of civic participation in implementing democracy and social cohesion, and applied the concept at both the national and the regional level.

Social capital is characterised by a plurality of forms, because it can emerge both at the individual and the collective levels. It is a contingent result of interactions among actors with different aims, which are shaped by the institutional context in terms of opportunities and constraints. Social capital is featured by those social relationships which persist for a certain long term period, which individuals have, partly an ascribed way (kinship and cetual relationships), and partly actively built during their lifespan (friend or professional relationships). However, social capital is not the amount of properties a certain individual possesses, neither is it found in tools or other goods nor in individuals themselves. Rather it is inherent to structural relationships between people. These relationships are a form of capital because they produce material and symbolic values. For the social actor they are both resources and strengths. Trusting relationships (strong or weak, variably extended and interlocked), which act to improve the social understanding, information exchanging, reciprocity and co-operation for common goals, that characterize social capital. In short, social capital is formed by informal or formal reciprocal relationships, ruled by norms and which define the forms, contents and boundaries of social exchanges in a flexible manner.

Social capital is formed by a special category of social relations, in which durable mutual identification of participants, reiteration, and some form of reciprocity and trust is possible. Exchange relationships do not generate social capital except when the quality of commodities is not immediately ascertainable, when, for instance there is hostility, conflict, exploitation or a simple meeting. Many people benefit from the contribution made, by an individual or by a group, to the social capital. Nevertheless, it runs the risk of being exploited by those that do not gain adequate benefits from it (Coleman, 1990).

Social capital is the raw material of civil society. It is created from the myriad of everyday interactions between people. It is not located within the individual person or within the social structure, but in the spaces between people. It is not the property of the organization, the market or the state, though everyone can work to produce it. Social capital is a “bottom-up” phenomenon. It originates with people forming social connections and networks based on principle of trust, mutual reciprocity and norms of action. Social capital refers to the processes between people, which establish networks, norms, and social trust and facilitate co-ordination and co-operation for mutual benefit. We increase social capital by working voluntarily in egalitarian organizations. Learning some of the rough and tumble of group processes also has the advantage of connecting us with others. We gossip and relate and, in so doing, create the closeness that comes from trusting. Accumulated social trust allows groups and organizations, and even nations, to develop that tolerance that is sometime needed to cope with conflicts and differing interests.

Forms of Social Capital and Networks

The idea of social capital is associated with that of “network of relations”. Each of us holds social capital because each of us is embedded in networks. In all this activity we make choices, every day we decide whether to see people or to avoid them, to help or not, to ask or not. But these are hardly free choices; rather, we are forced to make them. Living inside networks, we are constrained by the pool of people available to us. We are also constrained by the available information, by our own personalities, by society’s rules and by social pressure (Fischer, 1982). Once we have initiated a relationship in a social context, we face the task of maintaining it. People feel that bonds require time, expense and attention, as well as being required by social capital.

There may be high social capital within a group (“bonding” social capital) which helps members, but they may be excluded from other groups because they lack “bridging” social capital. Cross-cutting ties between groups open up different opportunities to all members. They also build social cohesion, which requires not only high social capital within groups but abundant “weak” cross-cutting ties among groups. Several writes have pointed out the importance of ties outside the primary network as a means of getting access to resources and power outside the group. Mark Granovetter (1973) emphasised the “strength of weak ties”, highlighting the importance of those ties which run beyond the immediate circle of small family or neighbourhood dwellers, giving actors richer resources to achieve a better quality of life. For certain individuals or groups, these kinds of networks can create a competitive advantage in pursuing their ends. Ronald Burt has drawn attention to the fact that actors who bridge between subgroups have access to unique resources and information that makes them powerful brokers in a system (Burt, 1992).

Three basic forms of social capital have been identified: social bonds, bridges and linkages (Woolcock, 1999).

Ø      Bonding social capital refers to the relations between family members and members of ethnic groups.

Ø      Bridging social capital refers to relations with distant friends, associates and colleagues.

Ø      Linking social capital refers to relations between different social strata in a hierarchy where power, social status and wealth, are accessed by different groups. Woolcock relates linking social capital to the capacity of individuals and communities to control resources, ideas and information from formal institutions beyond the immediate community radius (Woolcock, 2001).

Although strong bonding ties give particular communities or groups a sense of identity and common purpose, without “bridging” ties that transcend various social divides (i.e. religion, socio-economic status…), bonding ties can became a basis for the pursuit of narrow interests and can actively exclude outsiders. Relatively homogeneous groups may be characterised by strong trust and co-operative norms within the group and by low trust and co-operation with the rest of society. Thus some forms of exclusive bonding can constitute a barrier to social cohesion and personal development. These are examples of weak bridging but strong bonding. A restricted radius of trust within a tightly knit group, such as family members or closed circles of friends, can promote forms of social interaction that are inward-seeking and less orientated to trust and co-operation at the wider community level (Portes and Landolt, 1996). An exclusive focus on group interests, to the neglect of wider public interests, can promote socially destructive “rent-seeking” activities. Thus, particular forms of social capital have the potential to impede social cohesion in certain circumstances. In this respect, social capital is no different from other forms of capital: it may be used to serve different ends, not all necessarily desirable for the community at large.

Sources of social capital

The social capital is characterised by different kinds of social conditions. We have identified the following:

  1. Participation in networks and groups

Key to all uses of the concept of “social capital” is the notion of more or less interlocking networks of relationships between individuals and groups. People engage with others through a variety of lateral associations. These associations must be both voluntary and equal. Individuals acting on their own cannot generate social capital. It depends on a propensity for sociability, a capacity to form new associations and networks. Connectedness, networks, and groups and the nature of relationships are a vital aspect of social capital. There may be many different types of connection between groups (trading goods, exchange of information, mutual help, provision of loans, common celebrations). Connectedness manifests itself in different types of groups at the local level – from guilds and mutual aid societies, to sports clubs and credit groups, to foster, fishery or pest management groups, and to literary societies and mother and toddler groups. It also implies connections to other groups in society, at both micro and macro levels.

b.      Reciprocity and exchanges

Social capital does not imply the immediate and formally accounted exchange of the legal or business contract, but a combination of short-term altruism and long-term self-interest. The individual provides a service to others, or acts for the benefit of others at a personal cost, but in the general expectation that this kindness will be returned at some undefined time in the future when he/she a service. In a community where reciprocity is strong, people look after each other’s interests. Reciprocity and exchanges increase trust. Usually, there are two types of reciprocity. “Specific reciprocity” refers to simultaneous exchanges of items of roughly equal value; and “diffuse reciprocity” refers to a continuing relationship of exchange that at any given time may be unrequited, but over time is repaid and balanced. Reciprocity contributes to the development of long-term obligations between people, which can be an important aspect of achieving positive environmental outcomes.

  1. Relations of trust and safety

Trust entails a willingness to take risks in a social context based on a sense of confidence that others will respond as expected and will act in mutually supportive ways, or at least that others do not intend harm. Trust lubricates co-operation. It reduces the transaction costs between people, and so liberates resources. Instead of having to invest in monitoring others, individuals are able to trust them to act as expected. It can also create a social obligation – trusting someone engenders reciprocal trust. Three different dimensions form the concept of trust: the trust we have in individuals whom we know very well (parents/family, colleagues, neighbours); the trust we have in others (strangers and unknown) we do not know or inter-subjective trust; the trust we have in the institutions or systemic trust. The combination of these three elements provides a concept of trust, which fits into social capital. Trust means that in a condition of uncertainty an actor will expect to have positive experiences, with a cognitive sense by means of which he/she can go beyond the threshold of mere hope. Trust is, at the same time, both the source and the outcome of social capital. Trust take times to build up, and it is easily broken. When a society is pervaded by distrust, cooperative arrangements and agreements are unlikely to emerge. The presence of the norm of trusting reduces the uncertainties present in social life. In this way, safety becomes an indicator of sustainability, because it ensures the maintenance of a given social order, and provides changes that can improve the situation. Safety is not in this perspective only the absence of crime, but it rather is a condition that makes sure the individual and social equilibrium when we are facing the everyday risks.

d.   Social Norms

Common rules and social norms are the mutually agreed norms of behaviour that place group interests above those of individuals. They give individuals the confidence to invest in collective or group activities, knowing that others will do so too. Individuals can take responsibility and can ensure their rights are not infringed. Social norms are sometimes called the rules of the game, or the internal morality of a social system, the cement of society. They reflect the degree to which individuals agree to mediate or to control their own behaviour. Formal rules are those set out by authorities, such as laws and regulations, while informal ones are those individuals use to shape their own everyday behaviour. Social norms usually provide a form of informal social control that obviates the necessity for more formal, institutionalized legal sanctions. Social norms are usually unwritten but commonly understood formulae for both determining what patterns of behaviour are expected in a given social context, and for defining what forms of behaviour are valued or socially approved. Some argue that where social capital is high there is little crime, and little need for formal policing. A high social capital implies high “internal morality”, with individuals balancing individual rights with collective responsibilities. Where there is a low level of trust and few social norms, people will cooperate in joint action only under a system of formal rules.

  1. The Commons and Pro-activity

The combined effect of trust, networks, norms and reciprocity creates a good community, with shared ownership over resource known as the “commons”. The commons refers to the creation of a pooled community resource, owned by no-one, but used by all (Hardin, 1968; Ostrom, 1990; Goldman, 1998). The short-term self-interest of each, if unchecked, would render the common resource overused, and in the long term it would be destroyed. Only where there is a strong ethos of trust, mutuality and effective informal sanctions against “free-riders” can the commons be maintained indefinitely and to the mutual advantage of all. To maintain the commons the presence of a sense of personal and collective efficacy is needed. The development of social capital requires the active and willing engagement of citizens within a participative community action. This is quite different from the receipt of services, though these are unquestionably important. Social capital refers to people as creators, not as victims.


Conditions for increasing social capital

·         Participation in networks and groups

·         Reciprocity and exchanges

·         Relations of trust and safety

·         Social Norms

·         The commons and pro-activity

Social capital indicators

1.       Participation in local society

2.       Pro-activity in a social context

3.       Feelings of trust and safety

4.       Reciprocity and obligations

5.       Neighbourhood connections

6.       Family and friends connections

7.       Tolerance of diversity

8.       Environmental values

9.       Common goods


10.   Personal empowerment

3. Outcomes of the focus groups: social services, social networks and the Quality of Life

Social services, housing and the Quality of Life in the area of Via Maroncelli

The discussion started with an examination of the quality of life in the area in relation to the existence, or absence, of urban social services. Most of the participants focussed on the absence of such services or, more specifically, on the lack of five types of services: 

Ø     Structural social services, such as a Chemist’s, a Post Office, more efficient public transport.

Ø     Services concerned with looking after people, caring, again elderly people are often alone, looking after themselves or dependent on care from outside or within their family, or services for youth, as groups of young people are often seem wandering around the area with nothing to do. Social mediation was requested in order to resolve some local conflicts.

Ø     Services designed to improve the quality of urban life, such as green areas, parks, traffic reduction, street cleaning and general maintenance of public places and areas.

Ø     Services concerned with law and order, city police, who are not able to control anti-social behaviour in the area. Participants complained about the lack of any consistent police presence in the area and also criticised the use of the so-called “vigile di quartiere” (neighbourhood policeman), who were considered to be useless and inefficient.

Ø     Spaces for local residents to socialise in. Whether there are or are not meeting points available in a neighbourhood is really important for the quality of life of the people living there. Most housing projects were designed in order to minimize, or even prevent, any chance of communication between residents, to stop informal, unsanctioned meetings and to provide minimum facilities for formal gatherings of people. The way these complexes are designed also limits the type of activities that can be carried on outside or around the housing blocks. People begin their life in a housing project as an aggregation of strangers with diverse habits, cultures, and backgrounds. Ideally housing complex design should help this group of strangers to become less ‘strange’, more familiar, help them to get to know each other and trust each other. Luckily, in this public housing complex there is a meeting point which has and is working, over time, to bring residents together, but outside the settlement there is nothing like it.

Social services, housing and Quality of Life in the area of Via Pinelli

Unlike the former, residents in Via Pinelli felt that the overall quality of life in their neighbourhood was relatively good, mainly thanks to the low density of housing in the area, to the fact that there are green spaces and very little traffic pollution. Unlike the residents of Via Maroncelli (who were on average older), people in Via Pinelli are willing to go without the convenience of having certain services and facilities “close by” (shops, schools, offices, means of transport) in order to benefit from “silence”, “clean air” and a traffic free life. The main problem that residents in Via Pinelli are becoming more and more concerned about is the increasingly fast and unregulated process of urbanisation they see around them. Many buildings, including a huge shopping centre are currently being built very near to their neighbourhood, thousands of cubic metres of concrete which do more to satisfy speculators than to meet real social needs.

Via Pinelli residents talked a lot about the quality of their housing, perhaps because the buildings they live in are all fairly new and were built according to the norms of bio-architecture where housing needs are met in an environmentally sustainable, eco-friendly manner. These houses, built by Edilizia Residenziale, are considered to be aesthetically pleasing and even the way in which the individual buildings are laid out is appreciated. However, even though they recognise the aesthetic qualities of the Via Pinelli housing development, residents still list a series of problems that the houses have, four years after they were built. The most consistent problems cited are: damp inside the houses, the poor quality, hence degradation, of the materials used, the fact that some of the houses get too much sun and rooms are badly insulated, the fact that there are no balconies and there are architectural barriers that affect elderly and disabled people. Indeed, when it comes to the crunch, people would choose functional buildings rather than aesthetically pleasing ones. As well as the structural problems, there are also problems of organising both Municipal services (grass cutting, rubbish collection, etc.) and of managing public spaces and areas, for example, the tale of the public meeting areas on the ground floor, which is told below.

Unsafety and insecurity

In both the neighbourhoods some of the participants claimed the lack of personal safety in the area due to the fact that there is a low level of social control exercised by the police there. But there were considerable differences between the two groups of people.

Our witnesses from Via Maroncelli complained of the fact that bands of drug dealers (usually foreigners) operated in the area; that there are prostitutes on the streets, groups of youths who behave in an anti-social manner and show little respect for other people, and bands of petty criminals who commit various kinds of crimes. They also complained about the lack of any official agencies, methods or concrete action taken to control these situations, particularly as they were increasingly aware of the powerlessness of any private attempts to enforce some sort of social control. There was a general feeling of being abandoned by the institutions. The problem of security and of personal safety seems to have become one of the main themes in the context of the quality of life in the city in general, and this was confirmed by people’s reactions here too. We have already examined this problem in an earlier piece of research which showed that concern about personal and social safety is relatively high. The problem is, however, how that feeling of not being safe should be interpreted. Often it is neither related to any specific crime that may have taken place within the area, nor to any episodes of victimisation or attacks undergone by the residents. Rather, as we shall see when analysing other opinions, the roots of this feeling of non-safety can be found in the types of relationships in the area and in the poor quality of the environment. Basically the theme of security/non-security lies at the heart of the worry and concern expressed during the discussion, fears which, as can be seen from the video enclosed with this paper, can only partly be connected to the fact that a large group of immigrants lives nearby. Even though images referring to “conquering the area”, to “invasion” by groups of foreigners did emerge from the focus group, such fears are only partly attributable to the problem of the “other”. Here is what one group member said:  

·        “If I don’t think, I could say that I live well here, but in reality there is always the problem of security: I can meet either foreign immigrants or Italians round here and I am equally afraid of both. If I think about Via Anelli, where they (immigrants) are concentrated I am afraid too because I think that if they have taken over there, then they could, little by little, take over here in this area also. And nobody checks on these things. I don’t entirely trust even the people I do know, there’s an underlying distance. Because of this we tend not to support each other. Security isn’t only being protected against threats but also feeling secure with others”.

These fears show, on the one hand, that a sense of belonging may develop as a reaction to the arrival of outsiders and, on the other, that this identity tends to blame the “other” for all the social frustrations of the absence of institutions and unsatisfactory, or non-existent, social relationships. People feel that they have been left to fend for themselves and this is the main cause of existential uncertainty and personal insecurity. As a witness said:  

·        “If the institutions don’t look after us then we begin to feel abandoned, frustrated and insecure. Fear doesn’t arise out of nothing, but it develops in this type of situation”.
·        “…fear is a problem of solitude…… because here the other is the other!”

The people who live in Via Pinelli are less concerned about insecurity and unsafety. This is probably due to the fact that the neighbourhood is fairly isolated, cut off, from other areas, that people do know each other and that the terraced houses, built according to bio-architecture standards, are mainly occupied by professional security workers (policemen and policewomen, prison warders, tax police). Only a couple of focus group members expressed some doubts about security:  

·        People come from outside and cause problems; they even stole a park bench!
·        All that is needed is for a Police patrol car to pass by regularly.

However, apart from these generic complaints, criminal activity is considered to be a minor problem by residents in the area, certainly not one of their main worries. There was some concern expressed about crime but this seemed to depend more on the fears stirred up by the alarmism of the mass media than on perceived criminal activity in the neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood social networks

What is interesting in the outcomes from the focus group of Via Maroncelli is that there are no prevalent social networks in the neighbourhood. Both weak and strong connections are at work there. Using the former classification we can identify both “bonding” relations among members of local groups or between residents in the housing complex and “bridging” relations among neighbours and distant friends, associates and colleagues. What is weak is the “linking social capital” or, in other words, the capacity of both individuals and the community to control resources, ideas and information from formal institutions beyond the immediate area of the community. This weakness is the result of a low level of participation in common local issues. What could be very useful for the people living within a public housing complex, and in places nearby, are networks with weak connections. These ties cut across the boundaries of the public housing complex, reaching people who live in other social and urban spaces or, simply, outside the public housing area. These weak ties serve to connect different groups, allowing these latter to pursue professional, economic, political and cultural goals. They also increase the social cohesion within the neighbourhood, reinforcing collective action and opening up new horizons for public housing tenants (Granovetter, 1973). When discussing the quality of the social relationships in the area, participants showed three distinct types of attitudes.

Firstly they complained about the limited nature of their social bonds, revealing a sense of spatial isolation which may well be partly due to the way the area was initially laid out: it is bounded, cut off, on at least three sides by busy roads and by big commercial and industrial buildings. As one of the focus group said:  

·        “As regards the feeling of identity in the area in relation to its boundaries, here we sometimes feel like prisoners”.
·        “In my opinion it is not the case of someone from the outside who wants to break us up or damage things, rather it’s something that happens within, something that comes loose, disconnects, inside, because it has been forced on us. In a small area if someone wants to cut loose then they tend to be put on one side; here you can’t do that because that person is inside. However, I can’t say that my life here is all that bad”.

Thus it would seem that there is the desire to set up a large network of people who would be able to develop joint, communal actions for the good of the local inhabitants and, furthermore, that the links formed could then be loosened or broken so as to exclude those who neither fit in nor inspire trust.

Secondly, the group members had noted how weak links, for instance those marked by indifference, sometimes create awkward situations and social distance for some categories of people, especially the elderly and children. As one participant said:  

·        “The ease with which one can live is very important because we are on the outskirts of a city: you don’t know everyone and it is easy to lose contact with those who move away. Even young people today don’t spend their lives in the area, but go to other areas to meet up. Thus it becomes very difficult to get together. And elderly people, if they are lucky enough to live to a good age, shut themselves up in their homes. And some of the young people do meet in the Church Hall, but why should everyone have to go and meet on Church premises?”
·         “…you can live quite contentedly here but you never really get to know your neighbours, if you are prepared to ignore things then you can indeed be quite happy here …”.

Usually, distance in relationships does not produce interpersonal trust, it does not involve actors in common activities, rather it allows for a limited degree of reciprocity, an accumulation of “chits” which the actors hope will permit such reciprocity. The possibility that actions might be repaid in some way is encouraged both by the norm of reciprocity which is part of moderately dense social bonds, and by the actors’ hopes that they will create a feeling of being indebted in the person who has been helped. But this type of relation based on a “utilitarian” exchange was not enough for our witnesses who wanted bonds based on deeper shared meanings and values.  

·        “If you give something you don’t necessarily have to have something back in exchange, if you give something you give it freely. To expect reciprocity is dangerous: the spaces are narrowed because for anything you give there must needs be a personal repayment or compensation.”.

It is easy to identify the desire to exchange freely without forming “debts”, something, which is always associated with commerce and trading, and to limit the “utilitarianism” and the opportunism that social exchanges may entail. Rather, witnesses would like to see a more widespread, general reciprocity, one which allows for a continuous series of exchanges. In this latter case, the favour does not have to be repaid immediately or the debt instantly paid off. We could call this behaviour as “something for nothing” (Gouldner, 1975). Friendship, kindness and tact are aspects of relations that imply long term, widespread reciprocity, they do not have to be immediately repaid but work, over time, to create a situation which will benefit all the actors involved. This type of reciprocity serves to reconcile the two opposites of individualism and solidarity and makes it possible to control any opportunistic behaviour that may develop within collective action.

The third, and perhaps most commonly held attitude that emerged during the focus group meeting, concerns participants’ overall satisfaction with their existing social relations. This satisfaction would suggest that the general, widespread, reciprocity described above does, to some extent, already exist:  

·        “For example, I always leave the keys with a neighbour when I go away”.
·        “Relations between us are excellent, so long as someone behaves then there is nothing to say. I have a lot of friends both here in the area and outside. Sometimes we invite each other to dinner”.
·        “I could say that we are a happy enclave. I live in a block with six other families, we get on well together and I certainly cannot complain about a lack of socialisation.”
·        “It is difficult to cultivate social relations when you work. Thus I have few, but important, relationships”.

What is clear from the above is that most people think that they do have good social relations. To a certain extent they do trust their neighbours and acquaintances, they do help each other, leave keys with each other, and meet up, but these interpersonal links do not necessarily develop into social activities which require a certain degree of willingness to take part in actions for the public good: But we will return to this later.

Basically, people’s experiences of relationships in the area show that there are both close and distant relations, both familiarity and non-relations and that these experiences simultaneously feed the desire for closeness and for distance. On the other hand, the existence of, or the desire to develop, a plurality of relations can create the conditions for strategic action which would be able to modify the negative aspects of local society. We can add other pairs of dichotomies to these, for example, “individualism/sociality”, “trust/diffidence”, “isolation/participation”, opposites which highlight and describe very clearly, the reality of the existential and relationship tensions that the actors experience every day.

In Via Pinelli the relationship model at work is different from that of Via Maroncelli. In Via Pinelli there are two groups of tenants each of which are based on rather different relations, bonds of friendship and collaboration. The two groups have formed around the key persons on the estate who we identified and then invited to the focus groups. The two groups are also physically separated in two different sets of buildings. If one were to describe the style adopted by the two groups one could say that one group is characterised by the spontaneity of its relations, Rabelaisian type friendships, while the other is marked by a far more rational, or better “reasonable” conception of rights and duties, as in the reciprocity found in common action. In Weberian terms one could say that the first group privileges values of friendship and solidarity, reinforced by specific and declared class membership (the members of this group declare themselves to be left wing and workers), while the second group is closer to the rationality of the aims where the aims and the results are more important and not shared values. The members of the group are held together by a minimal and negotiated link. Bonds based on such negotiation mean that living in the community does not require the individual to belong or to make any emotional investment in relations; rather the community is merely a space for supporting social interactions and resolving common problems.

The “rationalist” group is made up of 19 family nuclei all of whom live in the same block and who are united by their common efforts to manage and run the block. Because there is no formally appointed administration for the block the tenants have organised themselves by allocating agreed, set roles to each person. This means not only that they have organised the maintenance of common areas (cleaning stairs and corridors, seeing to lighting on the stairs, landings and in the entrance hall, garden maintenance) but also that they have agreed upon common rules regarding how common spaces should be used (times when noise is permitted and when it is not, time and place for other work and managing the heating system). This system of rules covers almost everything and offers the basis for mediating the conflicts that used to arise before the code of behaviour was agreed on. The system also means that maintenance costs less in the long run and certain forms of energy are being used more rationally. As some of this group said:  

·        We set up a kitty to pay for maintenance which otherwise would be far more expensive if we did it individually, things like changing light bulbs or cleaning the stairs.
·        We agreed that 40W bulbs were adequate on the stairs and there was no need to use 60W bulbs.
·        We worked out when people were at home and set the timer programme for heating accordingly.

Even though it may seem somewhat exaggerated at times, this detailed, precise and responsible co-operative approach to block management has meant that the diverse needs of the families living there have largely been met. The absence of the institutions both triggered this self-management approach which has created a model of participation that is seeking a non-conflict way of managing problems linked to living alongside others:  

·        The most important thing is that from the outset we all had a common aim: to be well.
·        We began to take decisions together and to look for the best way to organise ourselves: there were some disagreements but in the end our efforts to mediate were successful.
·        Those who hadn’t wanted to join in at the start soon did, once they realised the advantages of managing things together.

This relationship model which seeks to ensure functionality for each individual is built up by a series of monads that interact with each other in order to achieve a specific objective: that of ensuring the good functioning of the system. There are not emotional or ideological elements, no inter-personal likes and dislikes between the members of this group. Participation is based on exchange relations and on rationally evaluated and weighted pooling of personal time, very ascetic relations that seek to guarantee the well being of everyone, individually. In other words, don’t cause problems for your neighbours.

On the other hand, as we have said, the relationship model developed within the other group aims to create the situation where people live well together, that is, it is based on sharing and on the consolidation of inter-personal relationships. In this latter case there is no specific allocation of tasks and duties, nor are there explicit rules. One of the most usual ways of meeting is over a hand of cards, which is, however, only an excuse for meeting: 

·        It is true that some people don’t even play cards, but they still come and meet others, it’s a way of having a chat.

The differences in these two models of sociality reflect the social origins and position of the members of the two groups. In the first case, the group is made up of employed people who spend much of their day at work, outside the neighbourhood, and only return home in the evening, after work. As explained above, their social references and relations are mainly outside the housing development. They are office or white collar workers who find it hard to come to terms with the idea of living in council housing. Sometimes they implicitly let it be known that they are better educated or have higher social standing, something that emerges from their attitudes and from their life-style (they do not use dialect, they emphasise the fact that they are white-collar workers or are busy studying or involved in cultural activities and they have both a healthier personal lifestyle and respect the environment to a greater extent). They do not wish to be assimilated into, or be identified with, the other group of residents.

The second group is largely made up of pensioners, blue-collar workers and people, often disabled, who receive assistance from Social Services. Their day revolves around life within the confines of the neighbourhood, as many of them are unable to move around unaided (either because they have no means of doing so, no driving license, or for reasons of age or invalidity). Contacts within this group are based on interpersonal relationships and people find many reasons for meeting: whether it be for a game of cards, for dinner, just to chat, or to help those who need moral of personal support for some reason, they’ll find a reason to meet:  

·        We often invite our neighbours to eat with us; sometimes we have even spent Christmas day or Easter together, just like relatives do.

To use the Rabelaisian metaphor again, if one were to ask these people what sort of life they long for they might well wish to live in the Abbey of Théleme: “Their lives [that of the members of the Abbey] were not dictated by laws, statutes or rules but unfolded according to each one’s desires and free choices. They would get up when they decided to or felt like it; they eat, drink, work or sleep whenever they want: no one wakes them; no one forces them to eat or drink or to do even the slightest thing. Gargantua had established this”.

But leaving aside 16th century burlesque literature, we could say that the two lifestyles expressed in the two groups do produce different habitus, that is, different “systems of generating models that are likely to be applied, by simple transference, to very different practical situations”. As Pierre Bourdieu argued, life-styles are the systematic products of diverse habitus that, perceived through their reciprocal relationships, on the basis of habitus models, become the system of signals based on social position. The dialectic between conditions and habitus is the catalyst for the alchemy that transforms the distribution of capital, the result of a power relation, into a system of perceived differences, with discrete features, that is, into the distribution of symbolic capital (Bourdieu P., 1983, pp. 118-139).

Indeed, disparity of lifestyles is not simply a given fact, but often expresses more as it establishes both the identity of the person and their social and individual representation. The fact of belonging to one group and not to another is not an accident and it becomes especially clear in this case where a lot of energy is put into highlighting the “differential distances”. As when making any choice, the object chosen is always the product of an identification operation. Goods (including forms of sociality) should be seen as “distinguishing marks”, as the visible parts of the iceberg of global social processes. Goods are used to identify others by, that is, they serve to classify into categories: marking is the right word in this case. Identification can be done privately, but here we are concerned with public identification. Goods are evaluated on the basis of an agreement between consumers” (Douglas M., Isherwood B., 1984, pp.79-89). This clearly reveals the social nature of consumers’ actions; indeed consumer choices acquire a meaning and a social function that, contemporaneously, both defines differences within the social hierarchy and confirms that the subject belongs within a wider context and is integrated within the dominant values.

Given the differences we found, it is not hard to see why, in Via Pinelli, there is no Residents committee like that in Via Maroncelli: setting up a committee means electing representatives who are able to mediate and find ways of getting residents to agree. The fact that in Via Pinelli there a variety of different points of view, which we have simplified into two main models, makes such unity impossible, or rather, it is not seen a priority by the residents concerned. Lastly, it should be remembered that the Public Authorities do not encourage Residents to set up committees. Institutional inefficiency and the fear that people will set up groups that are really strong enough to demand their rights, only exacerbate this situation of division and ongoing conflict between the groups of tenants, quite apart from the diverse lifestyles and priorities they have. 

Systemic and interpersonal trust

Another aspect which emerged from the discussion in both of the neighbourhoods is that of trust and diffidence. There are two types of trust: “institutional or systemic trust” and “interpersonal trust” (A. Mutti, 1998, p. 38). By “institutional trust” we mean the trust that citizens have in social institutions for as long as these institutions continue to offer concrete responses to their demands, to take decisions and, to put such decisions into practise so as to guarantee a certain degree of existential stability, A lack of institutional or systemic trust reveals the instability of the natural or social order subjects are involved in and, obviously, implies that there is a certain degree of uncertainty about the routine events of daily life. Interpersonal trust corresponds to the expectation that Alter (the other) will not manipulate communication, will give a real, and not biased, representation of their own role and behaviour and of their real identity. Basically, the expectations of Ego concern the sincerity and credibility of Alter, that is, expectations of transparency and abstention from lying, fraud and trickery (Goffman, 1971).

Trust, as Harold Garfinkel suggests, is “a person’s compliance with the expectancies of attitude of daily life as a morality”. Acting in accordance with a rule of doubt directed to the correspondence between appearances and the objects that appearances are appearances of, is only one way of specifying “distrust”.” Doubts about the identity offered by either an institution or a person means losing trust in that institution or person and, consequently, feeling irritated, angry, frustrated and, even, hatred. Trust ensures that the routine elements of a situation are confirmed, which permits the “rational action” of the actor. If there is no trust then this social resource breaks down, revealing the uncertainties of the rules of the social game and putting the regularity and the stability of the world with which the actor daily interacts in crisis. Thus the lack of systemic trust weakens the elements of our daily life that we “take for granted”, creating confusion, anomie and neurotic aggressive and discriminatory attitudes (Garfinkel, 1967, pp. 50-51 and p. 173; Garfinkel, 1963, p. 219).

The existence of systemic and interpersonal trust in an area is a basic requirement for a better quality of life, but it is relatively rare in the neighbourhood. As some of our witnesses said:  

·        “Apart from a few exceptions there is a certain harmony within our neighbourhood. But there are people who come in from outside. When they began to bring “bad apples” in, the atmosphere that had been created was destroyed. Because building the houses doesn’t mean that they construct the tenants too. And the people who arrived created a bad atmosphere, they began to throw their weight about and people began to be afraid. And this doesn’t help relations between residents”.
·        “If there is only one “negative person”, they can be isolated and he/she will either conform (to the norms of the group) or cut themselves off; but when there are two they support and help each other and they don’t fit in with the other people. Indeed they think that the others should conform to their needs”.

The type of situation described by the focus group is not unusual in public housing complexes because there is always the possibility that a new occupant will arrive who will upset the existing social balance in the neighbourhood. Distrust and diffidence develop when people begin to fear others, who try to dominate or are violent. Such fear develops when the “others” come to live in, or visit, the neighbourhood. Such people, who do not fit in, indeed often do not accept, indeed even resist, the existing tacitly shared norms of the previous residents. Distrust also develops between people; they begin to fear strangers, foreigners, or, more generally the “other”, or when communication breaks down:  

·        “There is communication between people but there is always someone who will try to break up such unity”.
·        “There are people who just want to take over places… Even though it is true that here there is nowhere to meet, except in the Church Hall. Any meetings are between local yobs”.

From this point of view, one could say that “all actions as perceived events may have a constitutive structure, and that perhaps it is the threat to the normative order of events as such, that is the critical variable in evoking indignation, and not the breach of the “sacredness” of the rules” [Garfinkel H., 1963, p. 198].

As people begin to feel more and more abandoned by institutions, so do distrust and diffidence gradually develop between them. Once it has taken root, it is very difficult to eradicate distrust because it stops people becoming involved in certain activities or, worse, it generates behaviour that confirms the advisability of not trusting. As focus group members said: 

·        “And even the people who should be responsible for the green areas, the roads the local police, etc. You never see them, they are just not there and at a certain point you say: “I have been abandoned”.
·        “And then there is the problem that the political institutions don’t do anything unless there’s something in it for them. So the politicians must stop doing things only for themselves and start doing things for the citizens”.
·        “If there is trust in the institutions then there is trust between the citizens, because the institutions are made up of citizens”.

Residents from Via Pinelli said much the same about the degree of trust they felt in institutions. During the focus group a number of strongly held and felt opinions were expressed about the institutions, statements which bear witness to the widespread feeling among residents that they have been abandoned by the authorities and which complained about the inconsistencies of any action taken by City Officials.  

·        When they built these houses they created a jewel, but since then they have not looked after them. ·        It is easy to see that the Public Authorities just don’t really care: it took them four years before they finally got around to doing some necessary work on the houses requested by the residents, and people were already living there.
·        The institutions spent a lot of money building here but, after three years, they still haven’t done any maintenance work. What private company could or would behave like this? This means that there are no checks and controls, no assumption of responsibility when contracts and sub-contracts are handed out for building work on housing.

The lack of trust in institutions, as expressed by Via Pinelli residents, could be the result of confusion about whose duty/task it is to act, a confusion which has arisen between ATER and some sectors of the Commune. This mess arose after the administrative tasks that should be carried out by the municipality were redistributed. As a result of this re-organisation, residents and citizens no longer know who to turn to. This problem, which is indicative of serious deterioration in the quality of public services, affects communication between the parties and exacerbates the tensions between residents and institutions. Hence we are faced with a situation in which citizens, even though they are willing to do voluntary social work, something which is encouraged by the institutions themselves, reap no benefits from their efforts or, worse, meet with indifference and disinterest on the part of the official organs which should be able to offer clear answers to legitimate demands. As some members of the Via Pinelli focus group said:  

·        It is not that we don’t care, that we can’t be bothered: we notify the Public Administration about any problems, but it is really hard to set up any sort of relationship with them, even on the telephone. They always try to pass the buck and won’t take responsibility.
·        Only because we put pressure on them through the newspapers, did the Commune finally come and cut the grass, we had been forgotten.

Thus the situation that emerged was somewhat worrying. In order to finally get the grass cut and publicise the shortcomings of the City administration, residents in Via Pinelli had to enlist the help of the local newspaper and of local politicians from the opposition. The fact that they turned to the mass media for help serves to highlight, once again, the lack of trust citizens have in public institutions. And in many areas such protest, voice as Hirschmann would say, is becoming the only way citizens can ask for public interventions that will improve the quality of urban life, as happened in Via Maroncelli. This lack of systemic trust creates a sense of frustration in those actors who would otherwise be willing to cooperate with the Public Administration in order to guarantee rational management of “common” spaces for public use. Thus self- organisation is necessary, not so that social subjects can cooperate better with the institutions, but rather it becomes the only way in which these same actors can find meaning in some segments of collective, everyday life. On the other hand, the poor performance of institutions does not help to reduce local and neighbourhood conflicts. Local institutions often seem to act ambiguously, concentrating on first one then another group of local residents. Sometimes the local institutions represent one interest group, sometimes they listen to another’s protests, but they never manage to set up a strategy aimed at negotiating about the needs and aims of the parties involved.

The subject of trust in institutions has been examined in depth in both sociological and political literature, and all agree that such trust is fundamental for the success of both local and national society. The part played by social capital is crucial for the effective functioning of institutions. Social organisation is more efficient when there is trust, norms that regulate communal living, networks of associations, that is when there is a positive stock of social capital. These sources of social capital are “moral resources” which cut down on the betrayals and behaviours of “free riders”, behaviour which according to game theory are not uncommon between individuals. Consequently, trust in the institutions of social life, such as, unions, political parties, local and state administration, the public companies that manage the many urban and social services and in the elites that control them is essential. This is because these institutions not only forge the politics but also the identity of citizens, their public and private behaviour and the norms of communal living. Furthermore, the institutions are directly responsible for many aspects of social and public life. Institutions regulate and control economic life, the environment (e.g. traffic) technological innovation, the general culture and education or training. These institutions are perhaps the main public good on which actors depend in order to delineate their life plans (Donolo, 1997). If they are, or appear to be, structurally unsound and the actors involved do not trust them then both economic and social life will be inefficient, the quality of life will decline and uncertainties about the future will increase.

Another problem, which should be studied in depth, is the development of a new type of asymmetry of power relations in society. The perception of environmental risk is a social construction that influences the way in which responsibility and blame for the increase in pollution are attributed: an increase that threatens the well-being of the collectivity, which latter must react and organise in order to protect itself. The concept of environmental risk encourages a critical approach to assessing the way in which society functions highlighting the fact that corporate actors (firms, Nation States, industrial groups, local institutions) are largely responsible for the ecological problems that threaten the planet and the daily life of its inhabitants. To be conscious of ecological risks means underlining the role, the responsibility, of the big corporate actors in creating many of the dangers faced by natural persons, by single individuals. The increase in social awareness of environmental risks depends on the asymmetry of the power relations between corporate actors and natural persons within society [Coleman, 1982, 88 pp.].

The attitudes and opinions expressed during the course of the focus group made us reflect on the impact such ideas will have on the way in which public goods are consumed - here public goods includes spaces for “common” use and the management of collective resources. The sense of responsibility shown spontaneously, autonomously, by tenants is neither recognised nor appreciated by the public institutions involved. However, the degree of attention and responsibility residents show as regards public goods is, interestingly, reflected in the level of responsibility, of awareness, they show in relation to the consumption of energy resources. The same care and attention they pay to cultural resources, to public spaces and to their sociality is reflected in their responsible management of energy resources used heating, of water consumption, of rubbish recycling and of electricity in stairwells and entrances. We looked further into this question during the second focus group held in Via Pinelli.

4. Environmental risks and strategies for facing them

During the first part of the focus groups more social questions, such as trust, the quality of relationships, political participation, satisfaction with the services provided were taken up. In the second part the aspects were related to environmental risks and the discussion centred on the individual and collective strategies that could be adopted to face such environmental questions.

The concept of environmental risk is used to refer to risks to human health and ecosystems posed by the use of certain technologies which lead, more or less directly, to deterioration of the environment and an increase in natural disasters (Beck, 2000; Schwarz and Thompson, 1993; Lupton, 1999; De Marchi, Pellizzoni, Ungaro, 2001). From the greenhouse effect to the loss of biodiversity, from desertification to floods, the list of the phenomena that threaten our lives is getting longer and longer all the time. In this research we have looked in particular at the way in which people and local society deal with environmental risks. The way in which they take up the problem depends, obviously, on a complex set of inextricably linked factors, but what is certain is that the quality of social relationships, cultural awareness, the ability to mobilise and put political pressure on policy makers, radically affect behaviour in the face of any risks. A sociological approach to the question of environmental risk and the actions taken to reduce such risks, suggests that it is both the overall social system and, above all, the local social systems that mediate “physical” and “natural” events both amplifying them and containing the consequences.

The theme of global environmental risks such as air and water pollution is usually accessed through consumption. Maintaining the prevalent lifestyle in today’s industrialised world requires a massive use of technology and, consequently massive use of energy resources. When we eat, travel, work or heat our buildings we use products and thus are part of “energy laden” processes that generate garbage, waste, toxic substances, polluting gases and continuous waste of energy. As consumers we are part of these polluting activities and as actors we are also part of the social system. Strategies to limit the impact of our consumption activities on the environment could be, indeed are, dependent on our actions as consumers.

Eivind Stø, Harald Throne-Holst and Gunnar Vittersø Eivind have suggested that, in this post-modern period, individuals play an important part in the measures and goals of environmental policy, whether it be in their role as citizens, employees or consumers. This is not unlike the situation as regards policies on health, nutrition and alcohol. Here too, Governments can make laws and emit directives, they can tax production and consumption of some products and subsidise others. But it is the individuals themselves who have the last word. It is an individual, personal matter whether to start or stop jogging, drinking alcohol or make a consumer choice in the food market e.g. in order to reduce individual consumption of fat. In short, consumers can choose between individual and collective strategies, and individuals can act strictly as a consumer in the market or also tackle the questions that go beyond markets: into politics (Stø, Throne-Holst and Vittersø, 2001).

We do broadly agree with this argument even though the problem of institutions is, in part, ignored. On the basis of the data gathered through the focus groups, it would seem that if individuals are to modify their attitudes in such a way as to promote environmental sustainability then they must be put into a position whereby they will be able to act in a suitable manner. As we have seen, individual actions depend on the one hand, on the quality of the inter-subject relations in which people are embedded and, on the other, on the degree of trust they have in institutional actions. Basically, there must be certain types of social capital available in order to predict and direct sustainable behaviour. One could say that different types of sustainable behaviour are guided by different actors. In some cases, certain attitudes depend, to a large extent, on institutional actions, in other cases they depend on the quality of relationships and on social position, in yet others, they are the result of more personal, individual choices. When trust in institutions, or in others, is limited, or when people are too closed and cut off, then decisions about what to consume and how to consume it are often seen as unimportant and thus neglected. When, however, individual action is perceived as part of a broader collective action which decides about the quality and the way in which “commons” will be used, in this case any decision taken will have a moral force which makes it efficacious and a source of inspiration to others. We will return to this problem when we deal with individual environmental risks and the strategies actors adopt in order to face them.

Residents in Via Maroncelli felt that reducing environmental risks should largely be the task of, and indeed depend on the actions of the institutions. However, people from Via Pinelli argued that successful action on environmental risks depends on the culture, attitudes and beliefs held by individuals themselves, on their willingness to do something to improve the situation and to contribute to caring for the environment, thus they do not put responsibility onto others. When discussing factors and actions that are seen as environmental risks, our focus groups’ participants concentrated on the following problems:

Water pollution

Most people of Via Maroncelli are aware of the problem of water pollution even though some think that this type of problem is rather unlikely and impossible to control. However, one thing is clear, none of our focus group members think of water as being a resource that is, planet-wide, becoming more and more scarce, especially in complex urban environments such as cities. During the discussion, focus group members did seem to be becoming more aware of the fact that not wasting water is important both for the environment and for people, because it is a precious and increasingly scarce good, as the current drought that is now affecting North Italy is showing in a remarkable way.

In Via Pinelli the problem of water is mostly perceived in terms of the amount of Chlorine in it which makes it taste unpleasant. People did not complain about the risk of polluted water, rather of its unpleasantness, the taste of chlorine and the high calcium content.

Traffic pollution

The question of air pollution is one of the most pressing and most widely perceived environmental risks. It is usually associated with traffic. According to Via Maroncelli witnesses, air pollution is largely an urban problem and is seen as a threat to health.

Traffic is probably the biggest problem in Padova from the point of view of environmental sustainability. In the decade 1981-1991 overall mobility in Padova rose. However, while the use of private means of transport increased dramatically, public transport provision decreased to a large extent. In recent years it would seem that people’s attitudes have begun to change as they are becoming more aware of the hazards traffic poses for the environment. Indeed, people seem to blame traffic above all else for air pollution and this is now one of the hottest ongoing debates between environmental associations and the City Council administration.

In Via Pinelli the problem of traffic and pollution hardly exists because, as has been said, the area is fairly isolated and a long way from main roads.

The spread of buildings and uncontrolled urbanisation

The question of uncontrolled building and urbanisation is, in the eyes of the focus group members of both the neighbourhoods, another important risk factor for the environment. In Padova, there are already very few green areas, such as public gardens, rivers areas and green play/sports areas and even these constantly under threat. Only 2% of the entire urban territory is destined for green areas, this effectively means that Padovans have only 9.5 square metres per capita of green space. Focus group members of Via Maroncelli think that uncontrolled urbanization is one of the most serious threats to environmental sustainability. They are also conscious of it because the City Council is planning to increase the overall level of urbanization (the so-called Peep blueprint) in many neighbourhoods. This means that the few green areas still in existence will soon disappear under new buildings, houses and apartments, which are to be provided for thousands of potential occupiers.

The idea of creating green areas brings with it problems of a social nature. Creating a park in this neighbourhood, and it has already been planned for in the urban master plan, does not only mean that considerable preparatory work has to be carried out on the land itself, as the area designated was formerly used by an industry which has left behind it a high level of pollution in the soil, but also requires some form of collective management should be developed for the new public space. The members of the focus group expressed the fear that the park would soon be neglected, abandoned, or little used, and could become a refuge for undesirable social elements. Here once again the dilemma of collective action/responsibility raises its head: when there is public space this must be managed and maintained through the collective efforts of the citizens, of local associations and public bodies. If these three “parties” do not work together, if their actions are not integrated, then the only result will be to create further scepticism and fears among the people who live in the neighbourhood where the public space is. The question of good public park/space management is thus directly linked to the fact that there is social capital available in the area itself, the sort of social capital that is both able and willing to manage the resources provided by the City administration efficiently and able, also, to ensure that this type of public resource will be used by the collectivity.

In Via Pinelli the problem of urbanisation, and of uncontrolled construction and development, is perhaps the question that most worries people. As described above, the area around the Via Pinelli housing development is an oasis of green space, with very little traffic and little air and noise pollution. Until recently the problem of uncontrolled urban development, which has been affecting many other areas of the city, simply did not arise. Some of the members of the focus group, who moved to Via Pinelli from other, more polluted, areas of Padova, highlighted the fact that since moving their health had improved because of the lower levels of pollution. These people in particular expressed concern about projected future developments in the area where new housing developments and commercial centres are currently under construction. The area has become a target for the development of all those services which previously did not exist. Some economic interests, including the local administration, seeing an almost “virgin” zone are currently planning, without any real controls, large urban developments in the area.

Unlike in Via Maroncelli, in Via Pinelli the lack of services has never constituted a problem for the quality of life. Quite the opposite, if more services were provided it could well worsen the quality of life of residents. The question has nothing to do with the fact that residents do not feel the need for such services but rather with the fact that these services are being set up in such a way as they will have a negative impact on public spaces, destroying what has, until now, been a very liveable-in environment. The Local Administration is being blamed for this situation because they have made decisions without taking the needs and the desires of the citizens affected into account. This takes us back to the intrinsic “deafness” of the institutions, who do not listen to the people who live in such areas, and highlights institutional short-sightedness: on the one hand they have invested in sustainable technologies but on the other, a few hundred yards away, are investing in technologies that “consume” and destroy the environment by altering its equilibrium.

Electromagnetic fields

Another environmental risk often mentioned by the focus group members in both areas is that relating to the electromagnetic fields produced by high tension electric cables and by mobile phone antennae. Via Pinelli residents pointed out that high tension electric cables actually cross their housing development and generate dangerous electromagnetic fields that can affect people’s health. Indeed, the local kindergarten has had to be closed because the emissions from the electricity lines were well above permitted levels. The dangers of electromagnetic fields encouraged both Via Pinelli residents and people from other areas to support a petition asking for the electricity lines to be put underground but, so far, their pleas have gone unanswered partly because no-one has yet established what exactly the consequences of this type of pollution are.

As is clear this type of environmental risks can only be dealt with by institutions. In order to reduce the dangers of such risks, citizens must use every available means of putting pressure on both institutions and on other economic interests in order to force them to act and to protect “natural persons”. Like traffic and water pollution, electromagnetic pollution, too, threatens a public good: health. Through their own actions, individuals can help to reduce such risks but their activities must be co-ordinated at an institutional level. However, the real problem that arises when facing these, and similar, risks is that of official planning policies. Such policies necessitate a very rational policy and administrative approach, a high level of internal coherence and external synergy; they require “usable knowledge” and a level of “consistency”, of stability and coherence, over time, all of which are indispensable for social learning. Urban planning policies are essentially a part of those social and institutional processes that should offer certainties and stable interactions, they should also reduce uncertainty and risk and promote clear communication. But such processes only emerge when there is a relationship of trust between the actors involved and it is possible to overcome the resistance, the power, of natural inertia, as in the case of traffic where social inertia and everyday collective behaviour are taken for granted. Basically, the sustainable strategies that would be able to deal with the risks mentioned above are dependent on a whole series of institutional actions and interventions all of which latter must be matched by cooperation and trust on the part of the individual actors. It has probably been the excessive de-regulation of public planning policies over the past ten years that has served, more than anything else, to destroy people’s trust in the system and to increase criticism, especially regarding the question of the destruction of the environment. As Coleman has suggested, the increase in the power of corporate actors is just one indicator of the breakdown of checks and regulations in many areas of social life, a breakdown which has affected, diminished, the rights and prerogatives of natural persons. One factor that implicitly, but consistently, emerged from the focus groups was that people do perceive the need to define new rules and regulations, for example in the field of environmental sustainability. If there are no clear rules then it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for institutions, economic actors and citizens to work together, to cooperate. The fact that current rules and regulations concerning the protection of the environment are rarely clear makes it unlikely that stable, predictable relations can be set up as they will always exist within a crisis situation.

5. Energy consumption and saving from the point of view of environmental sustainability

Recycling garbage

The practice of garbage management is the institutional response to the environmental threat in the context of the risk society (Beck 1992). Formulating, identifying, a risk implies that there is a threat. Garbage management regulates the excesses of consumerist society containing that risk and threat. The business of garbage management is not just about dealing with the garbage itself, it is also about the cognitive structures which allow our society to function. One example of this is the persistent use of the words, “green” and “environmental”: both words offer positive and comforting images in society.

The participants in the focus group of Via Maroncelli all showed that they were well aware of the positive impact garbage recycling has on the environment. Their comments revealed a high degree of willingness to take positive action in order to reduce one of the causes of current environmental problems. Moreover, they also mentioned the ethical questions that the economy should face as regards both society and the environment. Their criticism of the economic rationale that underlies garbage recycling is very important because it takes up the problem of the social distribution of the benefits of collective action and solidarity.  

·        “I agree with differentiated garbage collections because there are a lot of things that can be recycled. Everything that is recycled is one less damage to the environment. Kitchen garbage, instead of polluting, can be used to produce energy and you can earn from this. Furthermore there are cases like “Tamiso” (a local organic food cooperative) which channels heat from the pizza oven into their building’s heating system.
·        I already split up my garbage and I hope that this will generate some form of saving so as to limit damage to the environment.
·        If the economy isn’t managed better from the point of view of its ethics, the world will collapse.

One piece of research carried out in Dhaka (Bangladesh) showed that social capital plays a role in the community-based provision of a public good such as garbage collection (Sheoli Pargal, Maimul Huq, Daniel Gilligan, 1999). Social capital and networks are vitally important because garbage collection involves positive externalities leading to limited incentives for individual action. Also, garbage collection is an activity wherein one individual’s actions alone would not have much impact, so collective action is necessary, even more so in the case of differentiated garbage collection. Why are some communities better able to organize themselves for the collective good than others? What specific characteristics within a local community give rise to activism, cooperation and pro-activity in some neighbourhoods and not in others? We think that “social capital” is a crucial determinant of such collective action, where we equate social capital with good interactions between, stakeholders and public authorities, interactions based on trust, shared norms, reciprocity and participation. When these characteristics are lacking a differentiated garbage collection project will probably fail. The role of social capital emerges clearly from the following statements: 

·        “My mother checks whether I separate the different sorts of garbage correctly. Initially I was not keen on the idea because it is so much easier just to throw it all away in one go. You need to put a bit of time and effort into separating garbage. I have learned to do it, but it wasn’t a spontaneous action on my part”.

·        “Ever since differentiated garbage collection was first introduced we have provided separate garbage skips for the different types of garbage and we have had no problems managing this sort of collection. The fact is that people must be taught to respect the environment.

·        Separating rubbish? Well, I did find it difficult at first basically because of my own laziness, but it’s a question of habit, of getting used to something and now I’m trying to introduce the idea in the office where I work. There, even though the office is in the city centre where there is a door to door garbage collection, there is no attempt to separate different types of garbage. I feel guilty because, as I say: “if I do it at home why shouldn’t I do it in the office too?”

The social capital of both the family and the neighbourhood help to transform an initially difficult and unlikely action into an everyday habit which, as time goes by, becomes easier and easier to do. Garbage recycling is an excellent example of the way in which social norms shape social action not because they are “sacred” but because they re-affirm certainties of daily life whenever changes are underway. On the other hand, even the institutions with their ability to educate and orient members of society must contribute to affirming a culture of sustainability so that it will enter and become a stable part of daily life and of the world the actors live in.

Garbage, or waste, obviously, says something about who we are. Our relationship to it, as creator or consumer, and how it makes us feel good, bad, guilty, or indifferent, defines our status in society. We live with our garbage being collected weekly or daily, in close geographical proximity to hazardous waste and with elaborate social and physical arrangements for ‘dealing’ with such waste. It is possible to live with this excess only because we have institutionalised the management of garbage to avoid excess. The “Otherness” of garbage has been institutionalised over the centuries. The garbage or waste management professional is located somewhere between the ordinary citizen and the public authority. The local citizenry is becoming increasingly adept at objecting to planned landfill sites and the government is making increasing demands on the regulation of garbage/waste collection systems. The skill of the garbage management professional is in managing this tension to avoid any public protest. The institutionalisation of such practices acts as a neutralising agency and assists in maintaining the status quo of consumption and production. But often, this management and the local government fail to maintain unity in the public sphere, causing breakdown, tensions and conflicts in both the institutional and the social fields. Our witnesses are well aware that so long as differentiated garbage collection is successful then there will be a trust relation between the public institutions and citizens, however, as we saw above, trust in institutions is not generally very great precisely because they tend to act unthinkingly and often very inefficiently.  

·        Whether differentiated garbage collection is successful, effective, or not also depends on how well it is organised by the city council.
·        You need garbage skips and other specific equipment if you are going to ensure that such collection will be successful. You can’t introduce differentiated garbage collection and then leave dirty or insufficient skips for people to use.
·        The problem is that the garbage skips, especially those for kitchen waste, are never washed and they often smell disgusting. All you need to solve this is a counterweight, or a revolving, mechanism which could stop the smell getting out.

In short, a relationship based on trust in public institutions is crucial even for an apparently simple problem like differentiated garbage collection. Obviously lack of trust in the institutions is not only a question of people’s prejudices, encouraged merely by the idea that institutions are necessarily inefficient, rather it stems from the real perceived shortfalls and deficiencies of the institutions themselves. Furthermore, trust is not encouraged when the ordinary citizens involved who agree to collaborate as a collectivity in order to make a public service function or to improve a public good, feel that they are being cheated of the benefits that their cooperation produces.  

·        We hope in this way to make some money: seeing as the material collected is then re-sold, the APS (i.e. garbage collection authorities) should lower the cost to us in relation to how much they make. If they are making a profit they should pass this on to us, the people who use, and pay for, the service. But I doubt they ever will do so. So we are paying for an advantage that is not passed on to us.
·        There is a town in Tuscany that has made its fortune re-cycling the garbage of the towns near it. They produce biogas and humus from this garbage and then sell it. There are the means and the opportunity to do so, but you have to act.

This highlights the link that exists between the public economy, the surplus and profits that can be privatised and the collective good. If the APS, the agency which organises garbage collection, makes money as a result of the efforts of citizens then they should pass back some of these benefits to the people, for example by reducing the costs of the service to consumers and/or by improving the service itself. However, differentiated rubbish collection has at times been used to justify imposing higher costs (rates) for this service or to improve the situation of APS shares on the stock market. This one could say that public managers have failed and now risk alienating the social actors involved and discouraging them from doing something that is vital if we are to save our environment.

In Via Pinelli focus group members complained about the inconvenience largely caused by the failings of the City Refuse Collection Service, which only got around to providing rubbish bins for the area six months after the tenants had moved in: 

·        “This situation created a lot of inconvenience because we had to throw our rubbish in bins that were a long way away and which, in any case, were there for the residents of the other area not for us as well so the bins were always overfull. We have had problems in the past so now, with the introduction of separated refuse collections in our neighbourhood too, we are afraid that things will go wrong again, that is that the new bins will get too full because they will not be emptied as regularly and efficiently as they should be”.

However, most of the focus group participants were already separating their refuse even before it became official City policy. They now hope that as separation is official it will become easier because of the new special public bins: 

·        “Personally I have been separating refuse for the past ten or even fifteen years. So separating rubbish is not such a hard task for us: we have always done it anyway.”
·         “Even when you try to be responsible and cooperative it seems that the authorities want to put obstacles in your way, in the end people are discouraged.”
·        “They should provide more bins, but it’s not very nice living surrounded by huge bell-shaped bins.”
·        “I have always separated my rubbish, there was such a lot of discussion about it and I understood that you really can save a lot of energy and recycle things if you don’t just throw everything away together. But I don’t really understand what is in it for us. If the City makes money from these separate refuse collections why don’t they share the profits with us, without our contribution it wouldn’t happen?”

Basically people are not satisfied with the service, their willingness to cooperate and to separate refuse is being discouraged by the attitude of the very institutions that should be doing quite the opposite: encouraging, promoting and welcoming such cooperation. Service is equally poor at diverse levels, even though the local tax levied to pay for refuse collection have risen a lot of late, not only for retailers and other businesses but for ordinary householders too. There is also a pressing need for the individual’s efforts and commitment to separated refuse collection to be recognised by the authorities. The best thing would be tax cuts or discounts, or, at the very least, some improvement in the quality of the service offered to citizens.

Consumption of organic products

The question of organic and whole food products is also inextricably linked to the question of trust. In this case it is not the trust that is expressed as regards public institutions that is the issue, rather it is a question of trust in the market. All the participants in the focus groups were rather sceptical about the quality (and veracity) of the true quality of organic products (be they vegetables or meat), because they did not trust either eco-labels, the certification system or the declarations made about the quality and benefits of the goods themselves. This distrust has long been studied by both economists and sociologists. It would seem that consumers’ past disappointments with goods, because of pollution, poisons or other risks, have encouraged many of them to change their purchasing patterns/attitudes to everyday products. After the mad cow scandal almost one million Italian consumers started to buy only organically produced meat or even, in some cases, stopped eating meat altogether. This, obviously, greatly befitted the producers and distributors of organic foods. However, the momentary panic was not sufficient to totally convert people to organic products, not only because there are still not enough producers to satisfy potential demand but also because people always develop preferences during their interactions on the market: they look at prices, quality, brand, ecological standards, they have their habits but, in the end, can only buy what their income will allow them to. However, it is also true that the new organizations which put eco-labels on the market are more vulnerable: vulnerable because of that lack of trust between suppliers and customers that only develops over time. As Ronald Burt said, the longer an organization can survive, the more widely it becomes known and trusted among customers (Burt, 1992, p. 215).

Moreover, at the level of daily life/habit, consumers are probably affected by other mechanisms that have nothing to do with trust in the market and in its ability to react to shifts in consumer preferences, but rather can be correlated with the social networks the consumers themselves are caught up in. As Ronald Burt observes, consumers must have information on the goods, sellers, buyers and prices available when they are selecting the best exchange. This is the point at which network mechanisms enter the analysis. The structure of previous relations among people and organizations in a market can affect, or replace, information. Replacement happens when market information is so ambiguous that people use network structures as the best available information. It is precisely what happens when people approach a new market, such as the organic products market, where there is a marked lack of information. Such assumptions underlie the network contagion, where contagion ensures the transmission of beliefs and practices more readily between certain people (Burt, 2000). In this case, people with insufficient information about new organic products prefer to trust in the old beliefs transmitted and confirmed by social contagion and imitation within the social network. As our witnesses said: 

·        “It is true that chemicals can be dangerous, but if they are used in moderation then they will only help. Purely biological, organic foods don’t exist. If you don’t use anything on the soil then nothing will grow”.
“I don’t entirely trust organic products because I think that some people are speculating, profiteering from the idea of whole foods. It’s just another business”.
·        “I have hardly ever bought organic foods, both because I don’t really trust them and also because I believe that there is so much pollution everywhere in any case that truly organic products can’t exists. So really either there is a far wider campaign to eliminate the use of chemicals in agriculture in general, or you may as well do nothing at all about the problem”.
·        “I have eaten some organic products, even though they are more expensive, but I’ve noticed that not everyone believes that they are better, for example my mother says it’s not worth bothering, forget about it”.
·        “Me too, I don’t really believe in the purity of such products, the air is just too polluted. If they really wanted people to start eating more organic products then they would try to bring the prices down, but that will never happen!”
·        I would agree with the principle of organic foods, but I don’t trust the products and also because I know some people who produce them and they say that producing them is very costly.

Consumption of organic products is not only limited by the generalised distrust of their quality, there are other reasons too. The fact that they are usually relatively expensive is also very important as the price puts many people off. Indeed, while most feel that such foods are undoubtedly better for you, they also argue that you have to be able to afford them in the first place.

·        “They are expensive because you need a lot more manual labour to produce them and they cannot be grown on a large scale, that’s why they are so costly.”
·        “I think that we would all be only too willing to eat more healthily but, most of the time, we just can’t afford to do so.”
·        “I eat organic meat and vegetables, they do have a different flavour, they are much tastier, but I don’t buy them all the time because they always cost more than non-organic products.”
·        “I have tried to reduce my consumption of meat because I know I used to eat too much. It was my mother’s fault and the fault of post war Italian culture where everyone said that meat was good for you. Now that I only eat meat twice a week I feel much better.”

Lastly, organic products are still not distributed widely enough. The existing legislation does not help producers as they are not allowed to retail their products directly, thus cannot develop a direct relation with consumers and prices continue to be remain high because of the middlemen who take their percentage.

·        “They did introduce allotments, but I don’t agree because it just caused arguments about whose “turn” it was to plant what and where.”
·        “I’ve been asking myself for a long time why Coldiretti (farmers association) can’t manage to create its own sales network to help farmers? In the past the system of licences and laws wasn’t like it is today. Market gardeners used to be able to come to Piazza delle Erbe (n.b. a big retail vegetable market in Padova) and sell their products directly to consumers. But over the last 15 years, these direct sellers have all but disappeared.

In Via Pinelli too, very few people use organic products for largely the same reasons as those given by the inhabitants of Via Maroncelli: 

·        “I sometimes buy organic products because I feel they are the lesser of two evils, however, I must confess I have very little faith in organics: I don’t really understand how the whole thing functions, whether the product has been made according to the right criteria. I definitely don’t trust the organic products on sale in supermarkets.”
·        “I don’t understand what is meant by ‘organic’ nowadays. The problem is that there is a lack of available information.”
·        “I am very careful about meat, and for example, fruit that has had chemical products used on it has no flavour, indeed I buy organic fruit because at least you can taste what you’re eating.”
·        “It is hard to trust anyone as you hear a lot about cases where something has been sold as organic when it wasn’t, you rarely hear about all the honest organic farmers.”
·        “And then, if the aim remains that of always producing as much as possible, this is incompatible with the criteria of sustainability: people must change the way they think and understand that it is better to produce less but better products, rather than going all out for quantity.”
·        “I don’t eat much meat, because it’s not good for you, but in reality all food is contaminated to some extent, indeed cooks have the highest rate of tumours.”
·        “I am a vegetarian, because I don’t much like meat and I love animals, so I try not to buy either meat or leather goods. However, I don’t eat much organic food also because it is difficult to have to do one’s shopping in a lot of different places. The only thing I am careful about is Soya, which I always buy in the health food shop.”

The results obtained from our focus groups are, to some extent, at odds with those of another survey carried out earlier on a sample of city residents. In the earlier survey, almost 30% of those interviewed stated that they often bought organic produce and a further 20 % said they usually bought organic products. It is possible that these results were influenced by the fact that the “mad cow” scare was underway at the time, but these outcomes are confirmed by a recent national survey, where 25% of interviewees declared that they bought organic products. When the mad cow emergency ended people tended to return to their former, traditional consumption patterns. On the other hand, the fact that in the first survey interviewees complained that there was not enough information about organic products available to consumers was confirmed by our focus groups.

To sum up, focus group members consume very few organic products for three main reasons: they do not trust the declarations of quality made regarding such products given that pollution is so widespread; such products are far too expensive for them to use every day; and, the distribution network of organic foods is poorly organised and there is little readily available information about them.

Means of transport and shopping

The policy of creating large shopping centres is highly developed in Padova, to the point where, nationally, Padova is one the cities with the highest concentration of big shopping centres. One direct consequence of these large centres is an increase in traffic and, consequently, in pollution. However, as one interlocutor who wishes to remain anonymous said, the proliferation of such centres is creating a paradoxical – it is creating a new type of consumer, who probably has a lot of free time, with a new hobby: when the weekend arrives, he or she takes the car and takes a trip round all the big shopping centres in the area. This represents a real change in the way of life and, also, increases traffic and pollution. This type of consumer either does not realise or ignores the fact that, among other things, lower prices are cancelled out the cost of travelling and petrol. The other more serious consequence that local shops are being forced to close for lack of customers. In some small villages in the countryside there may only be one or two shops still open. Luckily there are often travelling shops, which come a couple of times a week to the centre of these small villages to sell goods. But this is obviously causing huge problems for the elderly, or for those without cars or other means of transport to get to and from the big shopping centres.

Fortunately, our witnesses do their shopping in a different way from that described above. Indeed they confirm the results obtained from a general survey carried out in Padova. Families tend to take their car and do a big bulk shopping in a supermarket once a week, buying the basics which they then top up on a daily basis in the food shops in their local area. In neighbourhoods where there are small shops, consumers often enjoy going there, because they build up a trust relationship with traders as regards the products they buy. Some still prefer to do their shopping in the old city centre where there is a far wider choice and often better quality than elsewhere and where shopping becomes an enjoyable and social task.

Thus, most people use the car once a week to do the shopping for basic goods (detergents, coffee, pasta etc.) in large supermarkets/discounts because it is cheaper, while they seem to prefer buying foodstuffs in the small local shops, None of the participants seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the large shopping centres which they tend to see as being places where there are so many special offers that shoppers just get confused and end up spending more than they would have done shopping elsewhere because they fall into the trap of buying things that are useless, superfluous, to their real requirements.

Attitudes expressed by our members are very close to that of associations of small retailers, and they can help themselves to fight big shops tyranny. Associations of small retailers have for some time been promoting a big effort to re-launch local trade and to put pressure on local administration until they take into hand the problem of the shopping centres, which sometimes provoke management conflict at the level of internal relationships. If the association were not active there would be even more shopping centres today. Associations claim a limit and balance in shopping size, because there is the risk of repeating a situation similar to that of a village where all the shops have been closed, exactly because an infinite series of big shopping centres had sallied forth. The 1500 habitants of that village remained completely without local shops.

6. Conclusions

The main results of this study concern the fact that social actors have a complex perception of the quality of life. This derives from three social dimensions which, manifested in an unpredictable, yet typical, way in each local situation, greatly influence the lives of individuals.

·        The first dimension is that of the physical urban environment which surrounds the local community and is part of the larger ecological system within which society reproduces itself day after day. It is concerned with the physical objects that populate the social space of social subjects. The quality and the functionality of these physical objects and, more broadly, of the constructed environment that surrounds them will, naturally, influence the quality of life of people in a local area. The nearness of shops and primary services, the efficiency and adequacy of means of transport, schools and hospitals, the quality of the environment - for example, the air we breathe, the food we eat - are all crucial indicators when defining a person’s quality of life. The nature and the extension of the environmental risks that surround us and which we must face every day also affect the quality of the environment in which we live.
However, these features are not enough to ensure that people will be able to lead the “good life” they seek. There is a second, fundamental dimension: that related to the broader system of social relations the actors are involved in. A large part of people’s daily activities depend on the institutional system, activities that are taken for granted because they are guaranteed and regulated by what is often an impersonal set of decisions and actions supported and promoted by institutional actors. This dimension includes economic organisations, the system of laws and norms, the cultural context and public and state administrations. Here, the focus is on the “external” cultural, political and economic influences that affect the nature of social ties within a network, the structure of that network and the dynamics of the network’s construction, changes and devolution.
A third dimension that emerged from this research is the structure of the existing relationships, especially local, within which individuals are embedded. At this level, we have considered the presence and the structure of a specific local network, the patterns of ties between the egos in that network, and the ways that resources flow through the network as a consequence of its unique, specific structure. In this perspective we have considered the individual ego’s ability and potential to mobilize resources through the network in order to achieve certain goals, to obtain some help, to shape his/her own lifestyle and consumption patterns. Here, our focus has been on whether the perception of the quality of life perception did or did not depend on the nature of the social network in which the ego is embedded.

Trust is the fundamental resource that influences each individual’s level of satisfaction in relation to these three dimensions. This study has shown that trust between subjects and systemic or institutional trust are crucial for the actors involved, both as regards their perception of the quality of their lives (including the physical objects that are part of that quality) and in relation to the decisions that they will take as regards consumption, or as regards to how to act in order to improve or protect both the natural and the urban environment. This study has shown that there are diverse levels of trust within these two types of trust.  

·        The first type of trust studied was internal type trust which is based on reciprocity and the presence of others. This means that in any relationship between two actors there must be the expectation that each of them will do their utmost in order to respect the desires and needs of the other and that both will expect the other to respect the implicit rules that govern their exchange. Trust, as Garfinkel said, is “a person’s compliance with the expectancies of attitude of daily life as a morality”. Trust ensures that the routine elements of a situation are confirmed. If there is no trust then this social resource breaks down, revealing the uncertainties of the rules of the social game. This type of trust is well established in the two neighbourhoods where this research was carried out. Even though there had been episodes when the implicit rules of social exchange were not entirely respected, in general, there is well established interpersonal trust where reciprocity is the rule. In Via Pinelli, the existing tensions could be blamed on the different cultures and social origins of the inhabitants but this does not mean that the rules of reciprocity are not respected at the level of everyday exchanges.
·        When considering systemic or institutional trust the question becomes more complicated. The very nature of modern institutions is closely linked to the trust mechanisms of abstract systems. In this case, trust in the system is expressed rather than trust in the individuals that represent it. Social actors and networks are embedded in overlapping political, economic and normative systems. These latter can determine the types and the amounts of resources available to the network over time, describe with whom actors may forge ties, regulate the actions of actors, implement sanctions for those who violate the rules and construct the motivations for actions and transactions inside the network. A lack of systemic trust weakens those elements of our daily lives that we “take for granted”, creating confusion, anomie and neurotic, aggressive and discriminatory attitudes. Our witnesses said that they had little very trust in either the political and institutional system or in the representatives of the system. This is important for our study. All our interviewees were well aware both of the power institutions have in regulating social transactions and of the fact that institutions are also responsible for the strategies for developing urban sustainability.

Lack of systemic trust directly influences the consumption and action models of actors. The results of our study have shown that trust in institutions is indispensable if some attitudes are to exist. For example, the householders’ act of separating rubbish depends directly on the level of trust they have both in the organisation that manages separate rubbish collections and in the institution that promotes recycling. Whether or not to consume organic eco-labelled products also depends on trust in the institutions of the market. When there is little trust in the ability to regulate and control the market, that is, when there is uncertainty about the market’s ability to act upon and stop fraud and misrepresentations of food products, or to reduce the risks associated with certain products, consumers find little reason to embark upon new consumption patterns. In this case the inertia that comes from habit and, also, social imitation prevails. Institutions also play a decisive role in the provision of the means of transport required by individuals in order to do their shopping. Whether or not small shops will survive, as well as reducing the impact of large shopping centres, depends directly on the political choices made by local administrations.

Obviously, the intermediary networks of actors do have some impact on consumption models. Separate rubbish collection for recycling also depends on the moral pressure that the members of the network in which actors are embedded are able to exert, Indeed, the fact of buying organic eco-labelled products also depends on the social “contagion” exercised by the individual’s network of reference, if these networks tend, for some reason or another, towards encouraging sustainable consumption then they are able to “contaminate” members in a radical, convincing way.

Thus, one element that greatly influences actors’ perceptions of the quality of life is the quality of the environment of the place they live in. However, the fact that there are different combinations of social links and relationships in different areas, in other words different types of social capital, generates different perceptions of the physical environment itself and different attitudes to face environmental risks, which influence consumption models.


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Portada/Cover     Editorial     Contenido/Contents 
Instrucciones para los autores /Instructions for Authors
Consejo Editorial/Editorial Board

Revista Theomai está auspiciada por:
* Universidad Nacional del Comahue (Argentina)
*  Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Doctorado en Estudios del Desarrollo (México)
* Università degli Studi di Camerino, Dipartimento di Scienze Giuridiche e Politiche (Italia)
*  Programa Nexos, Secretaria de Extensión - UNQ  (Argentina)

Theomai: palabra de origen griego que significa ver, mirar, contemplar, observar, pasar revista, comprender, conocer
Theomai is a word of greek origin wich means: to see, to contemplate, to observe, to understand, to know

Revista Theomai es una publicación de la Red de Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo
Theomai Journal is published by  Society, Nature and Development Studies Network


Revista THEOMAI   /  THEOMAI   Journal
Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo / Society, Nature and Development Studies


número 12 (segundo semestre de 2005) 
number 12 (second semester of 2005)


ISSN 1515-6443

¿Élite o clase política?
Algunas precisiones terminológicas

Luis E. Blacha*

* Facutad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales y Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Argentina. E-mail: 

1.- Introducción

Gaetano Mosca, fue el primer científico social que desarrolló una teoría moderna de las “élites”, o mejor dicho de las “clases políticas”, como él prefería llamarlas. Este autor entiende a la historia como “la historia de las minorías dominantes”(Meisel, 1975)1; un escenario en el que surgen y desaparecen esas minorías. Es él quien remarca la necesidad de las jerarquías en la organización social. El Estado y la sociedad aparecen como complementos, donde existen debe haber “una minoría que gobierna y una mayoría que es gobernada por la minoría gobernante.” (Meisel, 1975)2 Esta distinción entre mayoría y minoría, según Raymond Aron, es característica de toda la tradición maquiavélica, que también incluye a Vilfredo Pareto.(Aron, 1996)3
El concepto de “élite”, que será mundialmente difundido por Pareto, es el término con que los franceses designaron a “los mejores”. Desde hace tiempo, ha dejado de ser una palabra francesa para designar a “quienes, por cualquier razón –quizá muy poco valedera- se destacan y se sitúan por encima de los demás” (Meisel, 1975)4, intentado excluír toda referencia a una superioridad moral.
La tradición elitista moderna se remonta a Henri de Saint Simon. Estas teorías al igual que las clasistas son “producto de épocas de crisis” y su principal premisa es que toda acción social es “esencialmente una lucha por el poder” (Meisel, 1975)5. Es una formulación de la clase media, que se encuentra combatiendo, al mismo tiempo, contra el antiguo régimen y el proletariado. Resulta, en consecuencia, una doctrina defensiva ante la propaganda de la izquierda revolucionaria frente al avance de las masas.
El estudio de las “élites” es importante, según Wright Mills, por su centralidad en la comprensión de la estructura social que habitamos. Esta estructura limita a los hombres a proyectos que no son suyos, sino que les son impuestos por la minoría.
Para llevar adelante esta investigación analizaremos la “clase política” en Gaetano Mosca, “la circulación de las élites” en Vilfredo Pareto y el concepto de la “élite del poder” de Carl Wright Mills. El objetivo es arribar, finalmente, a una definición que, basándose en los clásicos anteriores, nos permita comprender mejor a “los que mandan”.

2.- Gaetano Mosca y la clase política

La ciencia política desarrollada por Mosca utiliza el método “de la comparación histórica” (Meisel, 1975)6 que extrae leyes constantes que regulan el nacimiento y ocaso de los Estados de la confrontación de hechos históricos de distintas épocas y regiones.
La ciencia política es posible, para Mosca, porque existen "tendencias psicológicas constantes, que determinan la acción de las masas humanas." (Mosca, 2002)7 Su fin debe ser enseñar a los gobernantes y a sus opositores a respetar esas leyes constantes descubiertas gracias a la ciencia política, evitando el cambio revolucionario e introduciendo modificaciones graduales en el sistema político con el fin de evitar su disolución.
Para este autor existen en todas las sociedades dos clases de personas: "la de los gobernantes y la de los gobernados”. (Meisel, 1975)8 La primera, es siempre la menos numerosa, desempeña las funciones políticas, monopoliza el poder y disfruta de sus ventajas. La segunda, la mayoría, es dirigida por la primera de una manera más o menos arbitraria y le da a la minoría los medios materiales de subsistencia. Una diferencia de tipos sociales es lo que separa a la minoría de la masa y no diversos estados psicológicos, que podrían dejar entrever una superioridad moral en la minoría, como supone Vilfredo Pareto. Es él quien le asigna -en un primer momento- una pasividad total a las masas. Mosca, por su parte, considera el buen funcionamiento de las élites “como sinónimo de sociedad sana”. (Meisel, 1975)9
Esta teoría representó una ruptura con el pasado, ayudando a los estudios políticos a realizar un análisis de las fuerzas reales, en detrimento de un doctrinalismo abstracto. Nos remarca que “no puede haber organización humana sin jerarquía” (Mosca, 2002)10, haciendo, necesariamente, que algunos manden y otros obedezcan. En la transición de una época a otra no cambia el hecho de que exista una clase política, sólo varía su formación y organización.
Inspirándose en Henri de Saint Simon, de quien toma su sistema de dos clases con una minoría dominante y una mayoría dirigida, Mosca creyó haber descubierto la herramienta ideal para destruir el concepto marxista de clase. De hecho su obra pretende ser una refutación al marxismo, al que considera como utópico, y le opone una teoría “realista” en donde habrá siempre una minoría dominante. Ambas teorías coinciden en reconocer las desigualdades de la sociedad burguesa, pero la tesis de Mosca es conservadora por el papel pasivo que concede a la masas sometidas.
El ascenso y caída de las sociedades son entendidos como efecto de los “cambios en sus tipos de estructura social” (Zeitlin, 1993)11 relegando las “leyes psicológicas constantes” a un papel subordinado a las variables sociales y culturales. Pero, Mosca, termina cayendo en esas leyes constantes para explicar la preeminencia de la minoría gobernante, haciendo de su sistema algo eterno.
El dominio de la minoría, no está justificado por un status moral superior, sino por su organización. El poder es ,para Mosca, organización. El peso que la minoría tiene sobre los individuos de la mayoría desorganizada es "irresistible frente a cada individuo de la mayoría, que se encuentra solo ante la totalidad de la minoría organizada.” (Mosca, 2002)12 Pero las masas, también ejercen cierta influencia en la clase política.
La educación es otro factor determinante en la "clase política", que permite el desarrollo de "ciertas tendencias intelectuales y morales con preferencia a otras" (Mosca, 2002)13 otorgándole ventajas significativas.
Las minorías gobernantes están constituidas por individuos con ciertas cualidades, reales o aparentes, que son apreciadas en la sociedad que viven. Esta es una minoría que ejerce autoridad y asume responsabilidades; Mosca la denomina “clase política”. Habría en esta explicación un elemento constante y otro variable; el constante haría referencia a que siempre habrá una “clase política” en cualquier tiempo de la historia, pero los criterios por los que esa clase gobierna pueden ser disímiles y variables.
Una definición muy útil de la "clase política" nos la ofrece Bell quien la conceptualiza como "un grupo poseedor de poder, con una comunidad establecida de intereses y una continuidad de intereses". (Meisel, 1975)14
El hallazgo de la “clase política” representa “un momento decisivo en el pasaje de la metafísica a la ciencia política". (Meisel, 1975)15 Es esta última la que lleva adelante el estudio, históricamente documentado, de los diversos tipos de “clase política” y su relación con las masas. Según Norberto Bobbio puede interpretarse mejor la obra de Mosca, sustituyendo el concepto abstracto de Estado por “el históricamente más concreto de clase política”. (Meisel, 1975)16 Cabe aclarar que este término no es equivalente al aristotélico de aristocracia.
Al ser una minoría logra comprensión mutua y una acción concertada, que le permite una celosa promoción de estos intereses gracias a su organización. Su número será tanto más reducido cuando mayor sea la comunidad política, haciéndose más dificultoso a la masa organizarse en su contra. La “clase política” es “un hecho y una necesidad a la vez” (Meisel, 1975)17 ya que sin ella no se podría gobernar la sociedad. Debe sostener el principio de unidad social y sólo se mantendrá en su posición mientras lo refleje.
El origen de las clases políticas, parece ser confuso para Mosca. Por momentos lo sitúa en las clases guerreras, que acapararon la propiedad de las tierras. En otras explicaciones la importancia pasa del valor guerrero, a la inteligencia. También hace referencia a los jefes de familia, que gradualmente se van agrupando hasta que, luego de siglos, logran convertirse en “clase política” a través de un proceso interno de integración elitista. Mosca adjudica estas explicaciones contradictorias a la escasez de datos de las sociedades primitivas.
La clase política justifica su posición mediante "principios abstractos" o una “fórmula” que es compartida y aceptada por la masa poco educada; que refleja su carácter y funciones. Es lo que Mosca denomina “fórmula política”; equivalente al concepto weberiano de “legitimación” , e incluye los valores, creencias, sentimientos y hábitos comunes que resultan de la historia colectiva de un pueblo y hacen aceptables las ficciones empleadas por la clase política para legitimar su poder. La "fórmula política", corresponde a “una genuina necesidad de la naturaleza social del hombre, (...) de gobernar y sentirse gobernado, no en base a la fuerza material e intelectual, sino a un principio moral” (Mosca, 2002)18. Es una "justificación" más que un procedimiento de explicación del poder.
La "fórmula política" le otorga a una “clase política” el fundamento de legitimidad, haciendo, según Bobbio, "de un poder de hecho un poder legítimo." (Mosca, 2002)19. Mosca, a diferencia de Weber, no pasa de una enunciación del problema, poniendo el acento en sólo dos clases de "fórmulas" las que justifican el poder derivándolo de la voluntad divina y aquellas que lo consideran emanado de la voluntad popular. Los principios de esta "fórmula" deben estar arraigados en la conciencia de la masa y no deben apartarse demasiado de éstos parámetros para evitar conflictos, que pueden amenazar la supervivencia de la sociedad misma. La “fórmula” intenta representar el consenso popular, acerca de lo que es considerado justo en una comunidad y en una época determinadas. Nuevamente el papel pasivo de la masa entra en acción, ya que acepta estas fórmulas porque su escasa educación le imposibilita comprender acabadamente la situación social en la que está inmersa.
La cooperación dentro de la "clase política" es otra condición necesaria para un adecuado ejercicio del poder. De esta manera, la sociedad mantiene en equilibrio sus fuerzas. Estas minorías son, para Mosca, "meros epifenómenos del proceso social, (...) que unifica dialécticamente el conflicto y la cooperación”. (Meisel, 1975)20
La "clase política" siempre tiene intereses propios y se organiza en defensa de ellos. Lo cual no debe hacernos pensar que la minoría posee siempre los mismos intereses, sino que por lo general son incongruentes. Sus decisiones sólo coinciden "cuando el gran Tribuno del Pueblo se convierte en César"(Meisel, 1975)21; volviéndose más claro en estos momentos sus intereses de clase gracias a su aceitada organización. La necesidad de una "clase política" está dada porque mantiene el orden y conserva unida a la sociedad, forjando las condiciones para el trabajo productivo y suministrando personal técnico y directivo. Si no lo logra, es reemplazada por otra minoría.
Por estas razones, Mosca clasifica los distintos regímenes según el carácter de la “clase política” en tres formas de aristocracia: la militar, la del dinero y la sacerdotal. De esta manera llega a la comprobación de que "todos los regímenes son aristocráticos” (Mosca, 2002)22, pero no del mismo tipo.
Presta especial atención a los problemas de la formación y organización de la clase política. Cuando analiza la formación hace referencia a dos tendencias constantes, una hacia la clausura que lleva a la cristalización de la “clase política” y otra orientada a la apertura, que permite su renovación. La organización, por su parte, comprende los procedimientos empleados por la “clase política”, para mantener su propia cohesión y ejercer el dominio. La unidad moral entre las clases sociales explica la fuerza o debilidad de los organismos políticos.
Otro de los aspectos sobre los que este teórico llama la atención es la cerrazón de la “clase política”, que produce una distancia tal entre masas y minorías, que las primeras se sienten totalmente aisladas del estrato superior. Las leyes pueden cumplir un papel importante al excluir a los individuos de la masa de ingresar en la minoría, produciéndose lo que en física se denomina “inercia”. Mosca, a diferencia de lo que sostiene Pareto, hace hincapié en lo que hoy llamaríamos técnicas de consenso; vale decir, cuando las masas ejercen cierta presión sobre la “clase política”, aludiendo a una relación de poder en donde las masas participan en cierta medida, por mínima que sea, en las decisiones.
La cerrazón de la “clase política” hace que ésta se encuentre con mayores probabilidades de caer en errores, al no permitir el ingreso de individuos vigorosos de las masas e imposibilitando el mantenimiento de las cualidades que le permitieron llegar al poder. Los nuevos individuos son necesarios porque la fuerza de la costumbre naturaliza las posiciones de los hombres y diluye las virtudes de la "clase política". Además, junto a estas tendencias a la inercia, actúan siempre fuerzas renovadoras de los ordenamientos sociales, haciendo que si una minoría no posee los atributos que la llevaron a gobernar o esos atributos ya no son valorados en la sociedad, sean reemplazadas por una nueva minoría. Los cambios socio-culturales favorecen está circulación de las minorías.
La "clase política" ideal a que alude Mosca, no debe impedir el ingreso de individuos vigorosos de las masas en sus filas. Esta penetración debe hacerse, para ser útil a la sociedad, en una proporción tal que los recién llegados asimilen rápidamente las mejores cualidades de los antiguos miembros de la minoría. Si el número es excesivo la "clase política" no se renueva, "se vuelve plebe". (Mosca, 2002)23 Mosca sostiene que si todas las minorías hubieran "permanecido inmutablemente cerradas y estacionarias el mundo no habría cambiado jamás”. (Meisel, 1975)24. Esta circulación asegura la continuidad de la cooperación dentro de la "clase política".
En esta coyuntura, la democracia se vuelve una fuerza conservadora, que impide bruscos cambios sociales gracias a la renovación gradual de la minoría. Mosca descree de la democracia, ya que en todo movimiento democrático triunfante siempre surge una minoría que toma efectivamente el poder. A pesar de considerarlo un sistema imperfecto, lo visualiza como la mejor opción posible. La crítica a la democracia se hace más evidente cuando analiza a los "representantes", quienes actúan sólo en nombre de su propio interés y se hacen elegir por la masa. Las elecciones no dan al pueblo una verdadera opción, “y los únicos que tienen alguna posibilidad de éxito son aquellos cuyos candidatos son promovidos por grupos, comités, por minorías organizadas”.(Zeitlin, 1993)25 Este autor va más allá, cuando afirma que los "representantes" son una creación de la misma "clase política". Nuevamente el peso de la minoría organizada se impone a la mayoría desorganizada, pero la masa puede llevar adelante un pequeñísimo control sobre la "clase política" porque los representantes deberán prestar atención , al menos en apariencia, a sus "representados" para ganarse el voto.
A pesar de lo expuesto, no puede atribuirse a la minoría todo el mérito por la prosperidad o disolución de una sociedad; hay que investigar al cuerpo social en su conjunto. Los estratos intermedios, juegan un rol central en la eficacia de los organismos políticos, aportando sus capacidades directrices que hacen aceptables para el público las normas dictadas por la "clase política". Esta importancia es más notoria en las últimas obras de Mosca; quien sueña con una clase de intelectuales comprometidos con la sociedad. Estas clases mantienen con las masas una relación más cercana que con el estrato más elevado de la sociedad.
En su último análisis Mosca hace derivar la estabilidad de cualquier organismo político del nivel de moralidad, inteligencia y actividad de este estrato intermedio; pero remarca que si el mismo se disgrega, puede ser reemplazado por un nuevo estrato intermedio, dando muestras de la importancia de la presencia de este estamento.

3.- Vilfredo Pareto y la "élite"

Si bien es Gaetano Mosca el primero en realizar una conceptualización moderna de las “élites” o, como él prefería llamarla, de la “clase política”, es Vilfredo Pareto quien da fama internacional al concepto. El análisis del término de “élites” y, especialmente, la “circulación de las élites” son los puntos centrales de la obra de Pareto que estudiaremos en este apartado.
De los teóricos de la élite considerados en este trabajo, es Pareto quien mayor atención presta a la heterogeneidad social. A diferencia de Marx, las desigualdades entre los hombres no están fundadas en las clases sociales, sino en el poder de gobernar. Por lo tanto, toda sociedad se divide en una masa de individuos gobernados y una minoría que los domina, denominados “élite”, que se distingue por una “psicología” diferente a la de la masa. Se produce, entonces, una rivalidad entre los intereses de la “élite” y los de la masa; rivalidad que actúa sobre los intereses mismos y que está destinada a continuar eternamente. Según Raymond Aron esta distinción es característica de toda la tradición maquiavélica. (Aron, 1996)26
Pareto conceptualiza dos definiciones de la “élite”, una amplia que engloba al conjunto y otra estrecha que hace referencia a la “élite gobernante”. La definición amplia sería la que se obtiene si "formamos una clase con los que tienen los índices más elevados en la rama en que despliegan su actividad, y asignamos a esta clase el nombre de élite". (Aron, 1996)27. No hay que atribuirle un sentido metafísico o moral a este concepto, ya que es una categoría objetivamente aprensible.
Este autor concentra su análisis en la “élite gobernante”, que “agrupa al reducido número de individuos que, como parte del grupo de los que alcanzaron éxito ejercen funciones políticas o socialmente dirigentes”.(Aron, 1996)28. Estos individuos representan, directa o indirectamente, un destacado papel en el gobierno. Ésta “élite” no es homogénea e incluso se podría caracterizar a las sociedades por la naturaleza de su minoría gobernante. Gracias a ella se percibe el nivel de equilibrio del sistema social.
Son tres las variables interdependientes que nos permiten comprender el movimiento general de la sociedad: los intereses, los residuos y las derivaciones. Los residuos son las expresiones de los sentimientos humanos; el elemento constante de la acción. Las derivaciones, por su parte, son los sistemas intelectuales de justificación que permiten al individuo enmascarar sus pasiones y “racionalizar” conductas que no lo son; es la parte variable de la acción. Los intereses, en tanto, son las tendencias que impulsan a los individuos y colectividades a apropiarse de bienes útiles y agradables para la vida, así como “procurar la conquista de consideración y de honores."(Aron, 1996)29. Pareto los sitúa fuera de los residuos, derivándolos de una toma de conciencia que el individuo se propone alcanzar.
Pareto desarrolla más profundamente el análisis de los residuos que el de las otras variables. Los considera como una categoría que representa "lo sociológicamente relevante del comportamiento humano". (Agulla, 1987)29. Al ser una categoría el residuo no existe, sino que se utiliza para medir analíticamente un impulso del comportamiento considerado sociológicamente relevante. Para este autor, todos los conceptos deben definirse con respecto a realidades comprobadas directamente o creadas experimentalmente.
Si bien divide a los residuos en varias clases, sólo utiliza en su análisis dos, "el instinto de las combinaciones" y "la persistencia de los conglomerados". A la primera clase la asocia con el origen de las civilizaciones y su caída, la investigación intelectual, el progreso científico y el desarrollo del egoísmo. Es la tendencia a "establecer relaciones entre las ideas y las cosas, a extraer las consecuencias de un principio formulado, a razonar bien o mal". (Aron, 1996)30. Es un impulso por buscar lo nuevo e implica una necesidad de desarrollos lógicos. Es la inteligencia de la "élite" para aprovechar las supersticiones de las masas.
La "persistencia de los conglomerados" es la tendencia a mantener "las combinaciones ya formadas".(Agulla, 1987)31. Es un impulso conservador, comparable con la inercia, que rechaza los cambios. Equivale al conjunto de sentimientos religiosos y patrióticos que mantienen a las sociedades y residen primordialmente en los individuos de la masa. Es lo contrario del "instinto de las combinaciones".
Esta segunda clase de residuos, son fundamentales para la teoría paretiana del equilibrio social y la “circulación de las elites”, al ser "en última instancia, el fundamento del orden." (Agulla, 1987)32. Basándose en su concepción "cuasi freudiana"(Agulla, 1987)33 de la acción, Pareto desarrolla su teoría de la "circulación de las élites", uno de sus grandes aportes a la teoría política.
Las "élites" se degeneran con rapidez, por lo que necesitan vigorizarse con refuerzos que consisten en los mejores elementos de la masa. Esta decadencia se expresa en una explosión de humanitarismo enfermizo. La nueva "élite", formada en el seno de la masa, se encuentra –según Pareto- llena de vigor. Toda “élite” no dispuesta a luchar para defender su posición se halla en plena decadencia. Es que la "circulación de las élites es la esencia de la historia". (Zeitlin, 1993)34.
Para este autor la historia es “un cementerio de aristocracias” (Aron, 1996)35. Para que una "élite gobernante" pueda mantenerse en el poder debe equilibrar el "instinto de las combinaciones" y la "persistencia de los conglomerados"; este último residuo, además, debe abundar en la masa. Si esto no sucede se trastoca el equilibrio social y, para recuperarlo, se promueve una nueva distribución de residuos entre masas y "élites" que llevaría a una "circulación de las élites", al reemplazo de una minoría por otra.
Para mantenerse en su lugar de privilegio "las elites gobernantes" cuentan con dos mecanismos: la fuerza y la astucia, que nos recuerda a "la vieja teoría de Maquiavelo de los "leones" y los "zorros" (Agulla, 1987)36. La fuerza le permitiría reprimir a los elementos vigorosos que surgen en la masa, mientras que la astucia le posibilitaría captar a su favor a los individuos más fuertes. Las familias que surgen de las clases inferiores y llevan consigo el vigor y las proporciones de residuos necesarios para mantenerse en el poder, restablecen la calidad de la "élite gubernamental". Si esta cooptación cesa, la minoría en el poder se derrumba. El vigor que aportan los nuevos elementos de la "élite gubernamental" incluye el uso de la fuerza. En este contexto, la movilidad social pasa a ser una expresión más de la "circulación de las elites".
Pareto también utiliza los residuos como los principales factores para determinar el equilibrio social. Si se perturba el equilibrio existente, entran en juego “fuerzas” o residuos que lo restablecen. En la teoría paretiana el equilibrio social es central para todos los análisis que lleva a cabo. Parte de una simplificación de la realidad que presupone "un minimum de equilibrio" (Agulla, 1987)37 entre los diferentes atributos psicológicos individuales. Este equilibrio conlleva una concepción donde las sociedades casi no cambian, pero evita las explicaciones causales de los hechos sociales y promueve aquellas donde se interrelacionan los diferentes fenómenos puestos en juego.
Esta teoría marca una tendencia a reducir al mínimo las situaciones revolucionarias y a relacionar el desarrollo social con la actividad de la minoría dominante. Si bien la masa recibe pasivamente los residuos -por la situación de ignorancia en la que se halla condenada eternamente- éstos no se hallan en excesiva contradicción con las exigencias de la vida colectiva; si así fuera imposibilitarían la vida social. La "persistencia de los conglomerados" debe ser bastante fuerte como para asegurar la obediencia al líder, pero no tanto como para impedir ciertas "actualizaciones" necesarias para mantener el equilibrio social. Por otra parte, el "instinto de las combinaciones" no debe ser excesivo en la "élite gobernante", porque llevaría a la primacía del egoísmo de sus miembros.
Las oscilaciones de los residuos, entre la masa y en la élite, determinan que estén unidos funcionalmente, de tal manera que "conjuntamente determinan la estructura social"(Agulla, 1987)38 y se necesitan mutuamente.

4.- Carl Wright Mills y la "élite del poder"

A diferencia de los autores analizados hasta el momento, Charles Wright Mills lleva adelante un estudio más concreto de las clases altas, al centrarse en un solo país, los Estados Unidos de América. En su análisis ocupa un lugar central las posiciones que los individuos tienen dentro de las instituciones. Entiende a éstas como “organizaciones de roles que implican una diferenciación de funciones para el logro de determinados fines.” (Agulla, 1987)39. El "rol" es la unidad de comportamiento ejercida regularmente, que permite al actor orientarlo en función del de los otros. Por lo tanto, el hombre debe ser entendido como un conjunto de roles y la estructura social, como un conjunto de instituciones.
Las instituciones son importantes por ser medios para el poder, que permiten a los hombres realizar los acontecimientos históricos. Gracias a ellas, una minoría puede imponer sus proyectos a los hombres corrientes. Los poderosos son quienes realizan su voluntad a pesar de la resistencia de otros y , en consecuencia, “nadie puede ser verdaderamente poderoso sino tiene acceso al mando de las grandes instituciones”. (Wright Mills, 1987)40
°Wright Mills clasifica las instituciones de acuerdo a las funciones que cumplen y las ordena basándose en dos ideas: los "órdenes" y las "esferas". Hay cinco “órdenes” (el político, el económico, el militar, el parental y el religioso) y cuatro "esferas" (la tecnológica, la simbólica, la de status y la educativa). Para nuestro trabajo nos interesan especialmente 3 ordenes: el político, donde se encuentran "las instituciones mediante las cuales los hombres adquieren, manejan e influyen en la distribución de poder y autoridad dentro de las estructuras sociales”; el económico con las instituciones “mediante las cuales los hombres organizan la mano de obra, los recursos y los medios técnicos en orden a la producción y distribución de los bienes y servicios”; y el militar con sus instituciones “mediante las cuales los hombres organizan la violencia legítima y supervisan su uso.”(Agulla, 1987)41 Cuando esos “órdenes” se centralizan y amplían, se racionalizan, aumentan las consecuencias de sus actividades y su relación mutua, porque las consecuencias tomadas en un ámbito influyen en los otros. Este triángulo de poder es "la fuente del directorio entrelazado que tanta importancia tiene para la estructura histórica del presente". (Wright Mills, 1987)42
Las “esferas”, por su parte, "traspasan todos los órdenes" (Agulla, 1987)43centrándose Wright Mills en la estratificación social, entendida como la distribución del "prestigio, rango y honor". (Agulla, 1987)44omo los órdenes económico, político y militar han coincidido, como las decisiones tienden a hacerse totales en sus consecuencias, sus intereses se vuelven coincidentes, haciendo que los individuos en la cima de cada uno de éstos órdenes, se unan y formen la minoría del poder. Esta situación se hace posible, al tomar alcance nacional los negocios y convertirse en “iguales y hasta intercambiables” las funciones de las clases altas. (Wright Mills, 1987)45. Al interior de estos órdenes hay una gradación del poder, que es necesario examinar para comprender mejor a la minoría en el poder.
La minoría esta formada por quienes tienen el máximo de lo que puede tenerse, gracias a sus posiciones institucionales que les permiten tomar decisiones, que tienen importantes consecuencias y trascienden los ambientes habituales de los hombres corrientes. Son ellos quienes comandan “las grandes empresas, gobiernan la maquinaria del Estado y exigen sus prerrogativas, dirigen la organización militar, ocupan los puestos de mando de la estructura en los cuales están centrados ahora los medios efectivos del poder y la riqueza y la celebridad de que gozan”. (Wright Mills, 1987)46. La "élite del poder" está constituida, en definitiva, por quienes deciden, al menos, los acontecimientos nacionales.
Este autor prefiere el término de "élite del poder" al de "clase dirigente", pues ésta última conceptualización concede demasiada autonomía al orden político y no especifica nada en relación al militar. Para Wright Mills los tres órdenes son importantes y su interacción puede verse en el concepto de “esferas” que trasciende a los diferentes órdenes. Tampoco hay que confundir la "élite del poder" con la aristocracia, porque la primera no es un grupo dirigente basado en la nobleza hereditaria como la segunda. A pesar de que existen similares orígenes entre sus miembros, los mismos debe buscarse en su educación común, en su más temprana socialización y no en una nobleza heredada, porque el origen social de los individuos no es tan determinante en las sociedades actuales y nos dice poco sobre las inquietudes que los motivan.
La mayor parte los individuos de este estrato tienen orígenes sociales análogos y mantienen entre sí una red de conexiones familiares o amistosas singulares. Por ser un tipo social análogo tienen “bases psicológicas y sociales para su unión”(Wright Mills, 1987)47Pero los integrantes de la “élite del poder” no son un club con miembros estables y límites fijos.
La unión, la cooperación al interior de la "élite del poder", está fuertemente determinada por las escuelas a las que asisten sus miembros desde pequeños, donde son seleccionados y preparados para sus funciones futuras. “La escuela –y no la familia de clase alta- es el agente más importante para transmitir las tradiciones de las altas clases sociales y para regular la admisión de riqueza y talentos nuevos”. (Wright Mills, 1987)48La escuela se transforma en una influencia unificadora que posibilita el alcance nacional del accionar de la "élite del poder". La formación común, a su vez, posibilita los matrimonios entre personas que se han educado de la misma manera.
Los clubs metropolitanos, por su parte, son un lugar de contacto continuo entre los individuos pertenecientes a la "élite del poder", además de importantes “ascensores de posición social" (Wright Mills, 1987)49 para sus miembros. Si al origen social análogo le sumamos la educación común y el contacto continuo entre sí, es fácil comprender por qué los integrantes de la "élite del poder" se entienden a través de códigos comunes. La conciencia de clase es manifiesta en estos planos sociales más que en los inferiores. Wright Mills entiende por conciencia de clase, como hecho psicológico, “que el miembro de una “clase” sólo acepta a aquellos hombres aceptados por su propio círculo como representativos de la imagen que él tiene de sí mismo”(Wright Mills, 1987)50. Nuevamente se hace presente la importancia de las “esferas” que permite la intercambiabilidad de sus miembros y posibilita una mayor conciencia de clase.
La conciencia de clase no debe hacernos creer que la "élite del poder" está exenta de cierta tensión; ya que “sólo se une en determinados puntos coincidentes y en ciertas “crisis”, según las tareas que deban ser llevadas a cabo (Wright Mills, 1987)51. Su unidad no descansa sólo en su analogía psicológica, sus relaciones sociales, sus coincidencias estructurales de los puestos de mando e intereses, sino que en ocasiones se basa en una unidad de coordinación más explícita, que implica un "juicio" común y mutua responsabilidad entre sus miembros.
Durante su análisis, Wright Mills hace referencia a dos tipos de clases que conviven en los Estados Unidos, además de los 3 "órdenes" que forman parte de la "élite del poder". Según este autor en las pequeñas poblaciones -especialmente en el sur de ese país-, conviven un tipo de clase alta formada por las familias rentistas a la que denomina "vieja clase alta", con otro vinculado a la empresa capitalista, a la que llama "nueva clase alta".
Los integrantes de la “nueva clase alta” ven a los de la “vieja” como poseedores de un prestigio que ellos no tienen pero, a la vez, como individuos anticuados que impiden negocios importantes; “como provincianos atados a las cosas locales, sin visión para ponerse en pie y avanzar”. Los miembros de la “vieja clase alta”, por su parte, ven al integrante de la “nueva” como demasiado consciente de su dinero.
Los estilos de vida entre ambos tipos son diferentes y, de hecho, los la "vieja clase alta" se burlan de los recién llegados. Si ésta quiere perdurar debe incorporar a estos hombres vigorosos en sus filas, o de lo contrario su influencia - meramente local- quedará eclipsada ante la importancia nacional de la "nueva clase alta". La educación y el contacto continuo, son factores claves para superar las asperezas.
El alcance nacional de los negocios posibilita que sean iguales las condiciones para ocupar los primeros puestos en los 3 "órdenes" principales, conllevando a una similitud entre los hombres que los desempeñan, tanto en su selección como en su educación. Para Mills el concepto de “élite del poder” y su unidad se basa en "el desarrollo paralelo y la coincidencia de intereses entre las organizaciones económicas, políticas y militares. (...) Esta conjunción de fuerzas psicológicas e institucionales, queda de manifiesto en el gran intercambio de miembros entre los tres grandes sectores." (Wright Mills, 1987)52.
Otra característica de la “élite del poder”, es la transformación del “público” en “masa”. El público, a diferencia de la masa, se organiza en asociaciones y partidos, que representan a los diferentes puntos de vista. El público presupone individuos informados, capaces de tomar decisiones y defender sus intereses. La transformación del público en masa supone el colapso del optimismo liberal del siglo XIX. En la masa son menos los individuos que exponen su opinión que aquellos que las reciben, impidiéndose la formación de la opinión propia y de fuentes independientes de información, que permitan responder a la opinión recibida. Además, las autoridades penetran en la masa suprimiendo "toda autonomía en la formación de opiniones por medio de la discusión”. (Wright Mills, 1987)53.
La distancia que se origina entre la minoría y la masa, hace primordiales a los niveles medios como eslabón entre el ciudadano y los centros decisorios. La relación de los sectores intermedios con las masas es esencial, pues sólo a través de estos sectores "se ejerce el poder de que dispone” (Wright Mills, 1987)54 persuadiendo a las masas de la inacción. La distancia entre masas y minoría no conduce tanto a "la ley férrea de la oligarquía como a la ley del que habla en nombre de otros" (Wright Mills, 1987)55 ya que los representantes organizan las opiniones que "representan", gracias a la manipulación psíquica de las masas. En esta situación, aparece un hombre de la masa aprisionado por sus preocupaciones personales, y aislado de sus pares.
A diferencia de la idea de público que sugiere una sociedad sin "élites" o con "élites" transitorias, la idea de una sociedad de masas sugiere una "élite del poder". Si un público auténtico es soberano, las masas, son "únicamente soberanas en algún momento de adulación plebiscitaria a una minoría como celebridad autoritaria”. (Wright Mills, 1987)56e produce, además, un debilitamiento de los sectores intermedios en su función de eslabón entre la minoría y la masa, generando en ellos una actividad pasiva. Las organizaciones de nivel medio, se han vuelto " campos de entrenamiento en que los jóvenes activos de la cumbre se ponen a prueba". (Wright Mills, 1987)57.

5.- Hacia una conceptualización de los estratos cimeros de la sociedad

A partir de los autores y conceptos hasta aquí analizados, este estudio propone construir una conceptualización, una definición, que nos permita comprender mejor los estratos cimeros de la sociedad. La idea es focalizar la cuestión en dos temas centrales: la definición y funcionamiento de las "élites" o "clases políticas", por un lado, y su circulación, por el otro.
La polémica desatada en las primeras décadas del siglo XX, con respecto a la autoría de la conceptualización de una minoría gobernante, fue ardua e involucró a los dos primeros autores analizados en el presente trabajo. Si bien fue Gaetano Mosca el primero en dar una forma moderna al concepto de "élite", el término se hizo mundialmente conocido gracias a la obra de Vilfredo Pareto.
Livingston, editor de las obras de Pareto en Estados Unidos, acredita a Mosca muchas de las intuiciones y aproximaciones que luego retoma Pareto. Para Livingston es este último quien transforma esas intuiciones en un sistema coherente, pero enfatiza que Pareto "tiene en cuenta las principales posiciones de Mosca". (Meisel, 1975)58 Mosca, por su parte, se sintió dolido por la falta de reconocimiento que le dio Pareto, quien ni siquiera lo nombra en una cita, y hasta lo acusó de haberse apropiado tanto de su teoría de la "clase política" como de su argumentación contra la interpretación meramente económica de la historia desarrollada por Marx. Pareto sostiene en su defensa que “el principio de que las minorías gobiernan es conocido desde hace mucho; es una premisa habitual no sólo en los trabajos científicos, sino en escritos de índole exclusivamente literaria” (Meisel, 1975)59.
Vilfredo Pareto tiene una concepción más heterogénea de la sociedad que Gaetano Mosca, "quien a partir del grupo, termina con una virtual fusión de las fuerzas sociales que operan dentro y fuera del gobierno formal" (Meisel, 1975)60. La "clase política" tiene la función de amalgamar las voluntades grupales de la sociedad, que son inicialmente autónomas. Además presta mayor atención, al "consenso", que Mosca denomina, en cierta medida, con el término de "fórmula política".
En la concepción paretiana la diferenciación social se equipara con la libertad, haciendo de las asociaciones intermedias un elemento esencial de la “defensa jurídica”. Este enfoque es totalmente ajeno a Mosca, quien para enfatizar el equilibrio de las fuerzas sociales presupone la existencia de una gran sociedad plenamente integrada y el concepto de "élite" es "equívoco y sugería superioridad moral" (Meisel, 1975)61. En esta afirmación puede comprenderse la importancia que le asigna Pareto a las bases psicológicas o residuos, en su teoría de las "élites", en contraste con Mosca; para quien la "clase política" tiene una mayor influencia de factores sociales, a pesar que para ambos autores las bases de sus explicaciones son psicológicas.
Es Carl Wright Mills quien hace referencia a los orígenes sociales y educativos comunes dentro de la "élite del poder", a los que les asigna un rol central que posibilita la toma de decisiones en conjunto y la intercambiabilidad de sus miembros. La conciencia de clase es enfatizada en demasía por Wright Mills, lo cual podría llegar a suponer una "superioridad moral" por parte de la minoría. Si bien este autor se refiere a los estratos intermedios y enfatiza, hasta cierto punto, sus funciones en el mantenimiento del orden social, no aclara cómo se desarrolla la circulación entre éstos y la "élite del poder", dándole un papel pasivo a los nuevo receptores, a las masas; una situación que Mosca resuelve de manera más consensuada. Wright Mills centra su estudio en la intercambialidad de los miembros de la minoría entre los 3 "órdenes" primordiales de la sociedad contemporánea y su formación común.
La relación entre la masa y la minoría es central en la definición de ésta última. En este sentido es Gaetano Mosca quien le presta mayor atención al “consenso”, a pesar de que su "fórmula política" no es del todo específica. Si entendemos el poder en un sentido no unidireccional sino como una "red de relaciones", debemos prestar particular atención al concepto de "clase política".
El concepto de “élite” desarrollado por Vilfredo Pareto supondría ciertas características morales superiores en la minoría que nos hace descartar este término. Lo mismo ocurre con la "élite del poder", en este caso el marcado énfasis en la "conciencia de clase" de esos grupos, podría llevarnos a cometer el error de suponer una superioridad moral, ya que las masas en su pasividad no poseen conciencia de su situación; siendo influidas por la “élite del poder” en su forma de pensar y percibir la realidad.
El concepto de "clase política" es, a nuestro juicio, el más adecuado para el trabajo que pretendemos llevar adelante aquí, aunque el mismo quedaría incompleto sino incorporáramos algunas características que remarcan las "élites" de Pareto y la "élite del poder" de Wright Mills. Primeramente, debiéramos incluir dentro del concepto de "clase política", la importancia que tiene el contacto continuo y la educación similar de sus miembros, que posibilitarían como principal característica la aceitada organización que Mosca atribuye a sus minorías. La capacidad de tomar decisiones de amplio alcance, cuanto menos de carácter nacional, es un aspecto central en el análisis de Mosca y Wright Mills, que merece ser retomado en esta nueva conpcetualización de la “clase política”.
Tomaremos de Pareto el concepto de “circulación” para desarrollar la “circulación de las clases políticas”. Ésta incluye tres tipos distintos de circulación, que poseen tres tiempos diferentes de desarrollo.
El primer tipo, el más frecuente en las sociedades actuales, es la circulación como intercambiabilidad que hace referencia al pasaje entre los 3 órdenes de los miembros de la élite, al que hace alusión Wright Mills.
El segundo tipo, que tiene una frecuencia media, es la circulación como cooptación, es decir, el ingreso de los elementos más vigorosos de la masa en la minoría. Para que este tipo de “ascenso” sea efectivo, el número de individuos en la masa que ingresan en el estrato cimero, debe ser tal que a los recién llegados asimilen los valores de los antiguos sin modificarlos. No olvidemos la importancia de esta “renovación continua” de la “clase política” que menciona Mosca, para evitar la caída de la minoría debido a su cerrazón.
El último tipo de circulación, es el que refiere al reemplazo de una “clase política” por otra; el que con menos frecuencia se da en las sociedades actuales. Si bien los procesos son siempre graduales, es este último tipo el que tiene un menor tiempo de maduración y sus consecuencias sólo pueden ser observadas en el largo plazo.

6.- Conclusiones generales

Un balance de los autores hasta aquí analizados, nos permite plantear la necesidad de una jerarquía en la sociedad, así como la importancia de la “clase política” para su normal funcionamiento. No debemos pensar a esta minoría como un conjunto estático e inalterable, que sólo esporádicamente es reemplazado por otro grupo de iguales características. La “circulación de las clases políticas”, el principal aporte de este trabajo al análisis de los estratos cimeros, propone una tipología que nos permita comprenderlos mejor. La circulación como intercambiabilidad es una característica cotidiana de las sociedades actuales, tanto como la circulación como cooptación, permite el mantenimiento en el tiempo de una “clase política”. Por otra parte, el último tipo de circulación, el referido al ascenso y decadencia de una minoría y su reemplazo por otra, es menos común de lo que los autores aquí analizados sostienen.
Si nos atenemos a estos diferentes tiempos de “circulación” es posible sostener una definición de “clase política” donde primen las características sociológicas, en detrimento de las psicológicas, ya que esos tiempos son meramente sociales. Son también sociales, el origen común de sus miembros, su educación, selección y capacitación; condiciones que les permite un juicio común, capaz de posibilitar su intercambialidad de posiciones y su conciencia de clase.
El interés por comprender a la sociedad en su conjunto, desde una óptica que actualmente no predomina en las ciencias sociales, ha guiado el objetivo central de este trabajo, que se propuso estudiar a quienes se encuentran en la cima de la sociedad. En este sentido, resultó fundamental comprender la organización de estas minorías, conceptuar sus “tiempos” y caracterizar los medios a su disposición, para definir el perfil de quienes toman las decisiones.


Bibliografía fundamental

AGULLA, JUAN CARLOS: Teoría sociológica. Sistematización histórica, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Depalma. 1987.
ARON, RAYMOND: Las etapas del pensamiento sociológico, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Fausto, t II, 1996.
MEISEL, JAMES H.: El mito de la clase gobernante. Gaetano Mosca y la élite,  Buenos Aires, Amorrortu Editores, 1975.
MOSCA, GAETANO: La clase política, México, FCE, 2002.
WRIGHT MILLS, CARL: La élite del poder, México, FCE, 1987.
ZEITLIN, IRVING: Ideología y teoría sociológica, Buenos Aires, Amorrortu Editores, 1993



1 MEISEL, James H:, El mito de la clase gobernante. Gaetano Mosca y la élite,  Buenos Aires, Amorrortu Editores, 1975, p. 7 y 21
2 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . .,., op.  cit. , p. 135
3 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del pensamiento sociológico, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Fausto, t II, 1996, p. 175
4 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. ., op.  cit. , p. 8
5 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. ., op.  cit. , pp. 8,9 y 12
6 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, México, FCE, 2002, p. 9. Esta obra, compendiada por Norberto Bobbio resume las partes más importantes de Los Elementi di scienza política cuya su primera edición es de 1896. La obra que utilizo reproduce la última edición al cuidado del autor, de 1939
7 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op. cit., p. 10
8 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 106
9  MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 56
10 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op. cit. , p. 305
11 ZEITLIN, Irving: Ideología y teoría sociológica, Buenos Aires, Amorrortu Editores, 1993 p.222
12 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op. cit. , p. 110
13 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op.cit p. 122
14 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 315
15 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., p. 16
16 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., p. 19
17  MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 158
18 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op.cit p. 133
19 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, p. 23
20  MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 12
21 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 342
22 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op.cit p. 20
23 MOSCA, Gaetano: La clase política, op.cit p. 339
24 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 196
25 ZEITLIN, Irving: Ideología y teoría sociológica, op. cit. , p. 238
26 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del ..., op. cit.,  p. 175
27 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del ..., op. cit., p. 176
28 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del ..., op. cit., p. 176-7
29 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del ..., op. cit., p. 170
30 AGULLA, Juan Carulos:  Teoría sociológica. Sistematización histórica, Buenos Aires, Ediciones Depalma. 1987, p. 224
31 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del ..., op. cit., p. 145
32 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit., p.226
33 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit., p.227
34 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit., p. 219
35 ZEITLIN, Irviing: Ideología y teoría sociológica..., op. cit. , p. 191
36 ARON, Raymond: Las etapas del ..., op. cit., p. 184
37 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit., p. 232-3
38 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit., p. 229
39 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit., p.231
40 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit.,  p.470
41 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit.,  p. 471
42 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 15
43 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit.,  p. 470
44 AGULLA, Juan Carlos:  Teoría sociológica..., op. cit.,  p. 471
45 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 71
46 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 12
47 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p.25
48  WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 67
49 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 65
50 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, p.265
51 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, p.259
52 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 273
53 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …., op. cit., p. 283
54 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 286
55 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, op. cit., p. 286
56 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, p. 300
57 WRIGHT MILLS, Carl:  La élite …, p. 43
58 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 124
59 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 163
60 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 168-9
61 MEISEL, James H.: El mito de la. . ., op.  cit. , p. 169



Portada/Cover     Editorial     Contenido/Contents 
Instrucciones para los autores /Instructions for Authors
Consejo Editorial/Editorial Board

Revista Theomai está auspiciada por:
* Universidad Nacional del Comahue (Argentina)
*  Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Doctorado en Estudios del Desarrollo (México)
* Università degli Studi di Camerino, Dipartimento di Scienze Giuridiche e Politiche (Italia)
*  Programa Nexos, Secretaria de Extensión - UNQ  (Argentina)

Theomai: palabra de origen griego que significa ver, mirar, contemplar, observar, pasar revista, comprender, conocer
Theomai is a word of greek origin wich means: to see, to contemplate, to observe, to understand, to know

Revista Theomai es una publicación de la Red de Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo
Theomai Journal is published by  Society, Nature and Development Studies Network


Revista THEOMAI   /  THEOMAI   Journal
Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo / Society, Nature and Development Studies


número 12 (segundo semestre de 2005) 
number 12 (second semester of 2005)


ISSN 1515-6443


La Biotecnología para ayudar a los pobres

Lilian Joensen




* Grupo de Reflexión Rural. E-mail:


Varios informes han sido publicados en diferentes países Europeos y organismos de las Naciones Unidas, que defienden a la biotecnología como la forma de ayudar a los pobres. Recientemente el más criticado ha sido el informe de la FAO: ”La Biotecnología, resolviendo las necesidades del pobre?”. Otro que se puede nombrar es el Informe Nuffield de Gran Bretaña ”El uso de los cultivos modificados genéticamente en los países en desarrollo”. Algunos de estos informes, como el publicado por iniciativa de la Asociación Danesa de Cooperación Internacional (Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke): ”El Mercado Libre no es Suficiente. Una Nueva Visión  para los Campesinos más Pobres del Mundo”, recomienda que dinero del Estado sea utilizado en la investigación de cultivos transgénicos, como forma de combatir el hambre y la pobreza en el tercer mundo. Pero el siguiente caso descripto en este trabajo, es un ejemplo de cómo estos argumentos están alejados de la realidad.

En mayo de 2003, Targeted Growth Inc, de EEUU (TGI) y CropDesign NV, de Bélgica (Crop Design) comenzaron una colaboración de investigación y un acuerdo de licenciamiento cruzado de tecnologías. De acuerdo a ésto, TGI pondría sus genes de ”aumento de rendimiento” al alcance de Crop Design en forma exclusiva, para que ésta última empresa europea los utilice tanto en su sistema TraitMill de alto throughput (tasa de salida de transformaciones genéticas exitosas), como para el desarrollo comercial de cereales.

El aparato de publicidad de Crop Design informa que TGI era dueña de los derechos exclusivos de varios genes que son clave en el control de la división y crecimiento celular de plantas y animales. Agrega que con la utilización de estos genes, TGI ha desarrollado plantas que crecen más rápido y más grandes y que tienen mayor rendimiento y ciclos de cosecha más rápidos.

Por otro lado, Crop Design hace propaganda de su sistema TraitMill, asegurando un sistema de troughput de clonación de genes, transformación  y evaluación digital de plantas, que permite que la Compañía determine rápidamente el valor del mejoramiento de los cultivos, con respecto a los genes implicados en el crecimiento y desarrollo de los mismos. Además afirma que los genes de la propiedad de TGI serán testeados, directamente, en el sistema Trait-Mill de Crop Design, en arroz.

El Dr. Johan Carden, Vice Presidente de Alianzas de Negocios de Crop Design informa que: ”Acceder al mercado de cereales de EEUU es uno de los objetivos claves de nuestros negocios...” Agrega que: ”La Compañía utilizará los genes de TGI para desarrollar variedades de alto rendimiento en arroz, maiz, trigo y otros cereales”. Dice que la expresión y regulación de los genes ligados al crecimiento pueden mejorar el rendimiento, la maduración y la tolerancia al estrés, y admite que estos caracteres son importantes para las compañías de semillas y las empresas de agroquímicos, que venden sus productos en paquetes con semillas.

El 26 de enero de 2003, Crop Design anuncia que el Instituto de Promoción de Innovación por medio de la Ciencia y la Tecnología de Flander (IWT), una Institución pública, ha decidido apoyar con 2,4 millones de EUROS, a la investigación de la empresa, en genes de tolerancia al estrés y el desarrollo de cereales tolerantes al estrés. El desarrollo del sistema TraitMill había recibido también apoyo económico anteriormente del IWT. Crop Design dijo que los mejores genes serían testeados en el campo y que se desarrollarían más variedades de arroz tolerantes al estrés. Los genes serían agregados también al maíz, otro cereal para el cual, los intereses comerciales son muy altos y que está relacionado al arroz en forma cercana. Otra vez, la compañía belga admite que : ”La tolerancia al estrés es escencial para alcanzar un rendimiento de cultivo mas alto y mas estable, y que ésto es exactamente lo que las compañías de semillas y los productores, tanto en el mundo desarrollado como en el tercer mundo están buscando”.

El 21 de noviembre de 2003, Crop Design admite, una vez más, que la Compañía avanzará en estos objetivos en maíz y arroz con el fin de entregar un carácter genético de aplicación con impacto comercial mayor. La Compañía dice que se basa en los resultados de la revolución genómica. La plataforma TraitMill permite a Crop Design testear varios cientos de modificaciónes genéticas en arroz por año, utilizando una combinación sofisticada de robots de tratamiento de plantas y tecnología de imagen digital.

Además, la empresa dice que necesitan introducir los caracteres modificados genéticamente en el germoplasma de arroces de elite e integrarse a programas de cultivos, para que los productos puedan ser entregados a los productores, dentro del marco de los próximos 5 a 7 años. Crop Design informa que su caracter genético será introducido también en maíz. Agrega que tiene confianza en que, de esta forma, podrá tener un gran impacto en el mercado de las compañías mas grandes del mundo”.

Crop Design admite que nunca ha dudado en continuar enfocando en esta tecnología, ni siquiera mientras Europa estaba implementando una moratoria efectiva, que ahora ha terminado, en la aplicación comercial de la misma. La empresa dice que, en vez, ésta ha sido capaz de capitalizar las fuerzas de Europa. Continúa aseverando que la ciencia basada en la biotecnología de plantas sostiene esquemas  para empresas de alta tecnología además de un medio de soporte financiero enfocado en la creación de valor real. Afirma que su elección deliberada de construir su plataforma en cereales está comenzando a dar réditos  a la compañía, ahora que están discutiendo con las empresas de semillas a lo largo y ancho del mundo, quienes están ansiosas de usar los caracteres genéticos que Crop Design ha descubierto”.

Para cumplir con esta idea de joint venture (empresa conjunta), el Instituto Inter-universidad para la Biotecnología de Flanders y la Universidad Nacional de Australia donaron los derechos intelectuales en el campo de ciclo celular de plantas en retorno de equidad.

Este caso es claramente ilustrativo como un ejemplo que muestra que la idea de que ”la biotecnología salvará al mundo del hambre y la pobreza” no es más que un mito. Pero veamos el papel que le toca al tercer mundo en esta historia.

En mayo de 2003, cuando Crop Design anunció que comenzaría con la experimentación a campo ese mismo año en una localidad no revelada, algunos concluyeron que la compañía europea, que ya había llevado a cabo experimentos en China anteriormente, volvería a usar a este país u otro en Asia para los ensayos. Pero ya en 2002 se habían otorgado a Crop Design cuatro (4) permisos para la liberación al medio de arroz genéticamente modificado, en la Argentina. Los cuatro eventos para ensayo a campo correspondían a modificaciones de arquitectura para aumento de biomasa del cultivo. En el 2003 se le otorgaron a Crop Design veinte (20) permisos más para liberación al medio ambiente en ensayos a campo de eventos de arroz modificados genéticamente, tambíen en la Argentina. Las características conferidad por las modificaciones genéticas que serían experimentadas a campo son las combinaciones diversas descriptas a continuación:

·  tolerancia a estreses abióticos (3 construcciones)
·  con aumento de índice de cosecha (1 construcción)
·  aumento de índice de cosecha, para aumentar la biomasa de la parte aérea, el peso total y el número total de semillas (1 construcción)
·  para modificar el crecimiento y la arquitectura de la planta (1 construcción)
·  con modificación de la arquitectura para aumentar la biomasa de la parte aérea (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el tiempo medio de crecimiento (1 construcción)
·  para incrementar la altura de la planta, el número de tallos, el peso total de semillas y el número total de semillas (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el índice de cosecha, el peso total de semillas y el número total de semillas (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el peso total y el número de semillas (3 construcción)
·  para incrementar el índice de cosecha, el peso de mil semillas, peso total de semillas y número total de semillas (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar la biomasa de la parte aérea, número de espigas primarias, peso total de semillas y número total de semillas (1 construcción)
·  para incrementar el índice de cosecha, la biomasa, el número de semillas llenas y número total de semillas (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el número de tallos, el peso total de las semillas, el número total de las semillas (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el índice de cosecha y reducir la altura de la planta (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el número de tallos y de espigas (1 construcción)
·  para aumentar el peso de mil semillas (1 construcción)

En resúmen, la historia de este caso testigo es que la tecnología fue desarrollada en Europa, EEUU y Australia. Los derechos intelectuales fueron entregados por científicos de estos países a cambio de retorno de equidad. Un instituto estatal europeo proveyó los fondos a la empresa privada europea. El papel de un país del tercer mundo, en este caso el de la Argentina, fue el de proveer la tierra donde el arroz modificado genéticamente pudiera ser testeado. ¿Será ésto lo que se entiende como transferencia de tecnología del mundo desarrollado al tercer mundo?

Por otro lado, en septiembre de 2001, Crop Design llegó a un acuerdo con el Proyecto Genoma de Caña de Azúcar de Brasil (SUCEST). En este acuerdo, se le ofreció a Crop Design el acceso exclusivo a la base de datos de SUCEST, por un término no revelado. Crop Design sería responsable de la comercialización de los resultados de esta alianza fuera de Brasil, mientras que la explotación comercial en Brasil sería responsabilidad conjunta de los socios de la alianza. Brasil comercializaría exclusivamente los resultados del programa en caña de azúcar dentro de Brasil. El proyecto genoma de SUCEST, basado en San Pablo, Brasil, fue financiado por la Agencia de Investigación Estatal de San Pablo, FAPESP. En este caso, el financiamiento público desde un país del tercer mundo le sirvió, al final, a una compañia del mundo desarrollado.

Uno debería temer realmente, cuando la FAO dice que los cultivos de alimentos básicos como la casava, la papa, el arroz y el trigo no reciben mayor atención por parte de los científicos. Investigando un poco el mundo de los negocios de la biotecnología, nos debería llevar a preguntar si esta aseveración de la FAO surge por pura inocencia o si hay algo detrás de ella; por cuya causa deberíamos mantener los ojos bien abiertos sobre el organismo de las Naciones Unidas.

La aventura de Crop Design pone en relieve la verdadera motivación detrás del desarrollo biotecnológico en la agricultura: un gran negocio para unas pocas empresas que sólo están interesadas en vender su tecnología a las compañías semilleras y agroquímicas, que venden sus productos en paquetes semillas/agroquímicos. Y esto dicho por los mismos directivos de Crop Design.

En qué parte de esta historia hay alguien que se preocupe de los intereses de los pueblos originarios y los campesinos del tercer mundo? De qué forma puede el modelo de biotecnología agropecuaria ayudar al ”pobre”? Si a alguien le queda alguna duda sobre las ideas y las intenciones detrás del mito ”la biotecnología salvará al pobre”, que se anote en la 5ta Conferencia Internacional de Biotecnología en Agricultura, ”AgBiotech goes Europe”, ABIC 2004, que se llevará a cabo en Colonia, Alemania entre el 12 y el 25 de septiembre de 2004, hospedada por Phytowelt. Una recorrida por su página de internet podría ayudar a que los soñadores utópicos, que creen en una biotecnolgía de justicia social, puedan volver a poner los pies en la tierra. Claro que para ello, deben revisar su posición ideológica dentro de su papel en la ciencia. Deben repensar la sinceridad de su discurso y decidir si, auténticamente, quieren estar del lado de sus patrocinantes o trabajar para desarrollar ciencia sustentable que sirva verdaderamente a la misma ciencia y porqué no, a su pueblo.



Portada/Cover     Editorial     Contenido/Contents 
Instrucciones para los autores /Instructions for Authors
Consejo Editorial/Editorial Board

Revista Theomai está auspiciada por:
* Universidad Nacional del Comahue (Argentina)
*  Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Doctorado en Estudios del Desarrollo (México)
* Università degli Studi di Camerino, Dipartimento di Scienze Giuridiche e Politiche (Italia)
*  Programa Nexos, Secretaria de Extensión - UNQ  (Argentina)

Theomai: palabra de origen griego que significa ver, mirar, contemplar, observar, pasar revista, comprender, conocer
Theomai is a word of greek origin wich means: to see, to contemplate, to observe, to understand, to know

Revista Theomai es una publicación de la Red de Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo
Theomai Journal is published by  Society, Nature and Development Studies Network


Revista Theomai está auspiciada por:
* Universidad Nacional del Comahue (Argentina)
*  Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Doctorado en Estudios del Desarrollo (México)
* Università degli Studi di Camerino, Dipartimento di Scienze Giuridiche e Politiche (Italia)
*  Programa Nexos, Secretaria de Extensión - UNQ  (Argentina)

Theomai: palabra de origen griego que significa ver, mirar, contemplar, observar, comprender, conocer
Theomai is a word of greek origin wich means: to see, to contemplate, to observe, to understand, to know

Revista Theomai es una publicación de la Red de Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo
Theomai Journal is published by  Society, Nature and Development Studies Network