Our plenary addressed itself explicitly to the economic crisis. We have all witnessed the severe upheavals in the financial sector, with its consequences for the real economy, especially regarding unemployment and public sector finances. Moreover, our meeting took place during the Greek crisis, indicating that the questions we examined were as relevant as the daily headlines. Our plenary this year was marked by an analysis of recent events in a manner more immediate than is customary in the rhythms of academic life.
Among many points our academicians and our invited guests made, I would draw attention to three themes that emerged in many interventions.
The current economic crisis had its roots in the financial sector. Indeed, one invited speaker, Dr. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Chairman of Ferrari and Fiat, former president of Confindustria, spoke of a shift from an economy based in the real production of goods to an economy dominated by speculative activities driven by greed. The fragility of the economic system was partly a consequence of an overreliance on speculative financial activities separated from productive activity in the real economy. Two members of our Academy, Professor Margaret Archer and Professor Partha Dasgupta, spoke more broadly of the danger of the “financialization” of human relations, in which human activities, even in the family, are reduced to a merely commercial dimension. One of our guests, Professor Stefano Zamagni, pointed out the danger of thinking even of business firms in this way, where the corporation ceases to be an association of persons and become a commodity instead. Such a “financialized” approach to the social order not only narrows the vision of the human person, but creates instability in the economy.
A common theme of our deliberations was that the economic crisis took a serious toll on the poor, even if the origin was in the wealthy countries and within the financial sector of the wealthy countries. Those who were not at fault suffered. Members of our Academy, including Professor Paulus Zulu and Professor Mina Ramirez, spoke about the suffering of the most vulnerable. Professor Sabourin of our Academy drew our attention to the fact that, for the first time, our world will soon have 1 billion malnourished people….
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