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The ideal enterprise between factory and community : an intellectual biography of Adriano Olivetti

Abstract : Entrepreneur, urban planner, politician, editor, the Italian intellectual Adriano Olivetti (1901-1960) proposed a novel reading view of modernity and demonstrated that an alternative way, one that was complex and disinterested in the common good, was possible. Relying on previously unexploited research drawn from Olivetti's library and various archives, this intellectual biography reconstructs the life of Adriano Olivetti looking through the lens of the specifics of his territory and his family, the scientific management, urban planning, anti-fascism, entrepreneurial activity and politics, thereby providing a global and historically-based interpretation of the man and his thought. Adriano Olivetti was born in Ivrea, in the Canavese. Situated between Aosta and Turin, this small rural town had little industry when, in the early twentieth century, his father Camillo Olivetti founded a typewriters' factory. Camillo was a socialist of Jewish origin, whose wife was Waldensian, and his son was educated in religious freedom and would become a Catholic. As an engineering student, Adriano Olivetti supported the principles of autonomy and of federalist socialism, before focusing on scientific management which he had observed in the USA. In the early '30s he became the director of the company, where he inaugurated the scientific management of mass production. He subsequently noticed that the modernization of industry, conceived as the only means to generalize the well-being, generated serious social and urban problems. As a result, as the company grew larger and conquered foreign markets, he coordinated an urban plan of the Val d'Aosta. An antifascist, he contributed to the fall of Mussolini by working with the Allies. While exiled in Switzerland, he developed a plan for the reform of Italian institutions which would set the territories at the center of politics, the "Communities" that would allow the citizens to participate more directly in the management of politics, economics, urban and social development. When in 1945 he returned in Italy, Olivetti decided to dedicate himself to politics and joined the Socialist Party and its Center for Socialist Studies. Disappointed by the party system, he returned to Ivrea and introduced a new direction for the company, one which combined a concern for the material and spiritual welfare of workers with aesthetics, technological research and global success. Between 1946 and 1948 Olivetti founded the magazine “Comunità”, the Edizioni di Comunità and the Community Movement, which in the '50s administered several municipalities in Canavese by management practices inspired by scientific rationality which was based on the Olivettian design, a project that in the late '50s collided with a double political failure: of the Movement, which could not achieve consensus out of the Canavese, and that of the company, where the idea of success equated with the redistribution of profits bothered Italian capitalists, who opposed the Socialist, Keynesian and Fordist principles of Olivetti. Olivetti died in 1960, before finishing his reformist projects. This thesis reconstructs the historical and cultural context in which Adriano Olivetti developed and applied his innovative concepts of company management, culture and society, centered on the person and his community. While avoiding to update this "model" entrepreneur, this thesis considers that Olivetti may provide alternative answers to some problems of social cohabitation that in Europe are still current, drawn from his affirmation of the centrality of work , the value of solidarity and freedom, its tension with the proper recognition of the person beyond the socio-economic boundaries, and with political forms that consider social complexity and allow its representation in the institutions.
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Marco Maffioletti. The ideal enterprise between factory and community : an intellectual biography of Adriano Olivetti. Architecture, space management. Université de Grenoble, 2013. Italian. ⟨NNT : 2013GRENL018⟩. ⟨tel-01679331⟩

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