Javier Retegui. President of Eusko Ikaskuntza: We are living with exactly the same social organisational structures as before, as if nothing had happened with the technological changes

2008-12-19

VELEZ DE MENDIZABAL AZKARRAGA, Josemari

BELAXE. ITZULPEN ZERBITZUA



Our weekly magazine Euskonews will reach its tenth anniversary in 2008. To mark this event, within a very extensive programme of activities, every month until December we will publish a special interview with an inportant figure in the recent history of our country. It is the best gift we can give the thousands of readers who read our magazine every week.

Xabier Retegi has a long and distinguished career under his belt, developing his natural gifts mainly in the fields of education and industry, in both the public and private sectors. He has served as Regional Minister for Industry, Agriculture and Fishing and Deputy Minister for Education and was the first Chancellor of Mondragón University. He has been Chairman of Eusko Ikaskuntza for six years and the vast amount of experience ha has accumulated over the years provides him with a unique perspective of the future of Basque society.

The 90th anniversary of the institution of which you are president is being celebrated this year. How would you describe Eusko Ikaskuntza to someone that is not familiar to it?

I think there can not be many people that have not heard anything about Eusko Ikaskuntza, and I believe that, in general, it is considered a venerable institute, honourable and highly prestigious. The unknown part is basically the contents and functioning.

I would say that it is an institution which has gone through many ups and downs in its 90 years of history and, to quote the poet, “from old fountains, new water springs, crystal clear, every morning”. Eusko Ikaskuntza is likewise producing, day by day, the know-how for work well done as well as knowledge on cultural issues, as a result of the work of many people from this country. At this moment, it continues to carry out the function for which it was created.

On the other hand, I would say that Eusko Ikaskuntza has been a pioneer, a highly innovative entity, and continues to be so now. In its beginnings, Eusko Ikaskuntza created Euskaltzaindia, which has managed to form its own history throughout its long life. Eusko Ikaskuntza also campaigned for a Basque State University, which finally saw the light during the period of the Civil War, but it was also cut short in the same period. In addition, Eusko Ikaskuntza developed the first draft for the Statute of Autonomy for the Basque Country in 1931, which later laid the foundation for the construction of the Basque autonomy.

Apart from all this, Eusko Ikaskuntza played an important part in the promotion of the use of the Basque language in education, although this is now part of our history. Nevertheless, they still maintain the same pioneer vision as they did before. As an example, we have the Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities of the Basque Country, Jakiunde, which has just recently been formed. Our wishes are that this new institution, which is only now opening a path for itself, is successful and still running 15 or 20 years from now. Eusko Ikaskuntza has also started up the Euskomedia foundation, which comprises the largest digital offer on Basque cultural issues, and the Asmoz foundation, which offer digital lifelong learning education.

Many thousands of people have participated in Eusko Ikaskuntza, and many more continue to do so. Today, with over 3.000 members, Eusko Ikaskuntza gathers together the foremost members of the Basque society in the field of culture and investigation.

I would also mention that it is an institution promoted by the Provincial Councils of Alava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa (and Navarra in its origins, but now the role has been taken over by the Government of the Autonomous Community of Navarra). It currently counts on the participation of the Basque Government as well as the collaboration of the Spanish Government, via its Ministry of Science and Innovation.

After all, this is what Eusko Ikaskuntza is: a private organisation that is alive and maintains the same energy as in its beginnings.

Those beginnings go way back to 1918. Javier Retegui’s course in life is not that long, but it is very rich in contents. How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a person of certain age that has been lucky enough to have been faced with new compromises and challenges that were continuously different. With 71 years behind me, I have lived some very enriching experiences. I would emphasise three aspects about my life: my learning process, the business world and educational activities.

During my education, I was lucky enough to count on three authentic masters, who were a real influence on me: D. Elías Azpiazu, primary school teacher, D. Miguel Altuna, Teacher and secretary at Bergara Professional Training Centre, and D. José Maria Arizmendiarrieta, ideological founder and promoter of the Eskola Politeknikoa in Mondragón, as well as of the cooperative movement. They laid the foundations for the principles and motivations that have accompanied me throughout my life; they left an indelible mark on me.

On the subject of more professional aspects, my life has been dedicated to the world of business, or industry. When I was 17, I started to work in “Unión Cerrajera”, in the electrical maintenance department. One and a half years later, I was made head of the lamination section, and from there I started moving towards posts in the board of directors. Reaching a position of director at the age of 20 turned out to be a striking method of apprenticeship, almost like going to university. I started to lead teams of workers and acquired total management responsibilities. From then on, my life has been linked to the business world in stages, always in posts connected to management duties. As an example of the posts I have accepted to carry out in the past are the following: Councillor for Industry, General Director of LKS, and General Director of the Business Division of Caja Laboral.

As a consequence, I have had to accept a lot of responsibilities in the business sector, but the same can also be said of the educational world. On finishing my studies in engineering, D. José María Arizmendiarrieta requested that I should become a part of the team of teachers in the Polytechnic College. The following year, I was named Headmaster. Therefore, I have accepted responsibilities in education, both in direct teaching and in the management of teachers and educational centres.

In this way, I took part in the promotion of the university colleges and cooperative educational centres of the Alto Deva area, until I was called on to form part of the first Basque Government as Deputy Councillor for Education, with Pedro Miguel Etxenike as Councillor. To be able to begin the negotiations for transfers of political power and the establishment of the Basque educational system were extremely important experiences for me. Later, and still in the educational field, I assumed the responsibility of the presidency of the Eskola Politeknikoa in Mondragon, among other presidencies, and finally, as Rector of the University of Mondragon.

This shows that my life has moved to and from the business sector and the educational world, more or less equally, but maybe more inclined towards education, as this is where I have always felt more attached. As you can see, I have held posts in the public administration services, but I have always considered these as a kind of collaboration, never as a professional position, as my work has been limited to specific collaboration projects in the political sphere, to later return to the private world.

For these reasons, I would tend to define myself as a person with many interesting experiences, with many years behind me, and who has lived in two worlds: educational and business, with a few appearances in the public world.

Since you accepted the responsibilities of Head of the Polytechnic College of Mondragon at the beginning of the 60s, until your experience as Rector of the University of Mondragón, a time period of 30 years elapses. What is surprising is that you manage to achieve all this in a limited social and geographical area, the Alto Deva, which has a social component that has evolved from almost exclusively technical training to an approach directed more towards university education, and therefore more universal. Is this innovation?

It certainly is. I believe that when the process of evolution stops, innovation is indispensable. To innovate is to be constantly beginning something; it means knowing how to start things over and over again. Every 4, 5 or 6 years, a new leaf is turned. The old lesson has already been mastered, so we can end it and start anew. A blank page to start on a new topic. This forces us to modify our way of thinking and our mind, or the way we study things, and brings us face to face with permanent challenges. Innovating means facing challenges which are harder all the time and the new challenges that come have nothing to do with the ones already faced. That is what I have had to live, an experience which I have found highly enlightening.

As for education, innovation is absolutely necessary. The world of education is following, in my opinion, the same basic guidelines that have existed for centuries. This means that if we begin to design a proposal for education using strategic thinking in a calm and serious way (as I have had to do many times as manager of educational centres), this will always be innovation.

A few days ago, Pedro Miguel Etxenike declared that the Catholic Church and the universities are probably the longest lasting institutions that still exist. We can see the situation of the Catholic religion, but what is the situation of the universities? Is more innovation still necessary, or is it necessary to begin a new type of innovation?

The world is evolution, the world is change, and life is a complete and continuous modification of the things around us. Some institutions are obliged to evolve, for example the ones that depend on their own exploitation. If an institution depends on itself for promotion, it has to innovate and modify, or it disappears. We have seen great entities disappear in this country precisely because of this, such as the steelworks of Altos Hornos in Vizcaya, or other large industries that have disappeared due to lack of innovation or through being unable to adapt in time.

Organisations that do not depend on this exploitation are not obliged to innovate or change in order to survive. This means they can become perpetually permanent and their structures take shape based on professional interests. On some occasions, a type of balance of interests is achieved, but many times, situations are defended brandishing grand principles, though concealing totally professional interests. In addition to this, I believe that our universities, just like other institutions, are suffering not so much due to the people in the university, but more because of the structures, which are blocked at a total standstill. We have been functioning with almost the same guidelines for 200 years. We may have the latest in desks instead of the old wooden ones, and instead of inkpots, we now have computers, but the basic university structure remains the same.

On the other hand, society has changed a lot. The society we lived in was a society with a series of impressive options to enable professional training outside of the educational ambit. This was in order to develop capacity for socialisation, such as leadership capacities, our relationship with others, or our capacity for initiative. Nowadays, this has practically disappeared. From a university prepared to form the elite, we have gone on to a university capable of educating the whole of society, but maintaining almost the same criteria as before.

We must seriously reflect on the demands laid out by our current society, and carry out a profound modification of what the university contains. This should not imply limiting ourselves to merely transmitting our experiences or setting up concepts for investigation, but that we should make a real effort so that the students at university develop certain values and capacities and manage to organise themselves, and in particular, that they should feel identified with their task. This would require a profound modification in university structures, an issue which must necessarily be approached. It would be extremely difficult for any of the organisms in this country to dare to take steps towards this type of transformation, as it will probably affect many professional interests that are currently working in the university area.

Is professional training for our youth a challenge for the Basque society?

It is a genuine challenge. It is so in any society, but in particular in ours, as we can train young people that are lacking in many areas, and who later have a difficult encounter learning the lessons of life due to the fact that the university has not prepared them properly. Furthermore, one should bear in mind that training is widely commented throughout one’s life, although, in contrast, the real concept has not yet been included in our way of thinking. We still believe that our educational period must necessarily include all the knowledge we need for the rest of our lives, a concept which results impossible.

Apart from being the president of Eusko Ikaskuntza, you were also elected president of the social section of Innobasque in 2007. Innobasque is an entity whose objective is innovation and it faces the challenge of placing Euskal Herria in a referential position in the world in this aspect. What is the role that Javier Retegui plays in this organism?

In my opinion, Innobasque has a great challenge ahead: to promote the second important transformation in the Basque Country rooted in innovation. This is easy to say but difficult to carry out. In Eusko Ikaskuntza, we have sustained many a time that this country requires leadership, as the separate entities that work in this country, looked at as a whole, and bearing in mind the changes that society is undergoing, would not be able to transform society individually and with each one’s own criteria and ideas. Our society needs to be led.

Therefore, Innobasque displays clear leadership. It counts on representatives from all the principal institutions responsible for promoting social changes. Besides this, it has a work method which allows us to focus on identifying the innovative aspects that have to be considered by society, and hopes to be able to some day count on the participation of society as a whole. Thus, we begin to break with the despotic approach illustrated “for the people, without the people”. The proposal here suggested is “for the people, with the people”, making society participate in the genuine transformation which must be established for the future. I believe this is the role that Innobasque must play.

On the subject of my own role, or the role of Eusko Ikaskuntza, I think that these last few years we have tried to test civil society from below, but possibly lacked the leadership to do so, unlike Innobasque in its present situation. In my opinion, Innobasque and Eusko Ikaskuntza could combine their efforts in a way that, while some are creating pressure from above, others are doing so from below and achieving an innovative procedure with their combined efforts. This way of innovating consists basically in establishing criteria and guidelines so that the social vectors bear towards innovative criteria. I think that Innobasque is perfectly capable of achieving this. I have high hopes because the first steps that have been taken have demonstrated that the people involved really want to work and participate, and in addition, enough capacity exists to be able to confront a transformation of this magnitude.

In all this confusion we live in around the subject of social innovation, I would like to have a clear concept of what it means.

So would I! I think that the concept of innovation includes various different aspects: Firstly, there is an evolution of the concept of innovation. Before, innovation was defined as investigation, both scientific and technological. This implied that innovation was acquired through investigation. This was a primary concept that later evolved.

Afterwards, the conclusion was reached that innovation was the result of not only investigation, but also the current market. Following that theory, marketing and organisational innovations emerged, as well as different types of approaches. Innovation had become a combination of scientific investigation, technology, market modifications, different ways of organisation, and so on. The concept of innovation was expanding.

Today, a new concept of innovation is arising, a genuinely revolutionary concept: people are the source of innovation and they are the ones who innovate. Innovation is an attitude, a constant questioning of the elements developing around us. Therefore, I believe in the concept of social innovation, because it is centred on people as a source and origin of innovation in all of its areas and in all types of organisations. Innovation is present in companies, religion, trade unions, during our leisure hours and while we are cooking. It is present in every aspect. This concept of social innovation, which is still in its beginnings, has to transform into a genuine element of change for our society.

To tell the truth, I wouldn’t know how to define innovation, but of the three stages I have just mentioned, we are getting to the third, where people are the source and origin of innovation, and a basic element for its future.

At the beginning of the 90s, with the industrial situation that our country was living, was it necessary for the Councillor for Industry to think of innovating, or renovating?

The renovation that took place then was without a doubt carried out with a vision of innovation. My task involved industrial administration: first, I was named General Director of the SPRI, and afterwards I became part of the team directed by Jon Azua, (then Deputy President and Councillor for Industry), more specifically in the post of deputy Councillor for Industry. From 1995 to 1999, I became head of the mentioned department.

From 1992 to 1999, which is when I worked directly for the administration, we were in a situation where many businesses were crumbling. We had passed a period that saw the incorporation of Spain into the European Union, culminating in 1992. Parallel to this, the European borders began to disappear. Thanks to all this, we suddenly found ourselves in the free European market, with all the European competitors entering the State markets. What happened then was that all the obsolete businesses that had not innovated began to disappear. We saw this with the steelworks of Altos Hornos in Vizcaya, with the shipyards, and with several other cornerstone companies in the country.

Unemployment was going up; we had reached an unemployment level of almost 26%. It was increasing month by month, and the disorganisation was absolute. The situation was considered unsolvable. However, while competition arrived for some businesses, for others, Europe meant an opportunity. Just at that moment, the foundations for the future of industry were being established, based on studies of competitiveness in the Basque Country and the formation of families of related businesses that were known as “clusters”. A strategy for the future was thus designed, with total scepticism coming from the State powers, who did not believe in any of the efforts made by the industry sector of the country.

The next step involved confronting the crisis face to face. “If businesses are falling, it’s best not to delay the process by requesting funds that will serve for nothing but for burying them deeper”. We set up a programme to help companies close down, helping to alleviate the consequences of the closure through an aiding system for the workers that became unemployed. This programme was denominated ‘3R’. Parallel to this, companies that showed certain possibilities if supported by some sort of boosting, were given the necessary resources to take that leap forward. This was all done within a highly ambitious project that brought forward the second important proposal: industrial restructuring, beginning with a gradual clean-out of the obsolete industries.

The third step was to support promotion, as this way it became possible for business projects to be created, with the support of the public administration. This was a vibrant moment which saw the birth of many new institutions and projects that gradually renewed the industrial framework with innovative business projects.

Another important aspect was the improvement of the business management systems. At the same time, the old hands in the business sector, with their old fashioned family business mentality, began to be substituted. This brought forward a new, more scientific approach to business management than the one that had existed until then. This new approach had a very important new vision for market internationalisation.

These were the four factors that helped create the basis of what was to become the industrial restructuring and recovery, and which made the unemployment figures drop from the mentioned 26% to the current, practically symbolic figures. Of the 660.000 jobs that existed in the Basque Country in those days, we have increased to almost 1 million posts currently covered. A giant leap has been taken during these 15 years of industrial recovery.

That means those decisions were correct...

I don’t know if they were correct, because whenever these types of decisions are taken, some prove correct and other times errors are made. When decisions have to be taken in extreme situations, the risk is enormous. In this case, some proved correct and others, not so much. However, I believe that the overall activities as a whole were correct. Another question would be whether the decisions that were taken were the most adequate. We will never be able to know that. Life itself makes people take decisions that may or may not be the best, and what is done cannot be undone. One cannot rewind and start over again. I think that the decisions taken were reasonable, and the results are there to prove it.

Going back to the subject of innovation, don’t you think that technological innovation, from a purely applicable point of view, is creating a larger social unbalance?

That could be so. I have dedicated much thought to the subject and, in the first place, I believe that technological evolution has always been at the service of humanity, since its origins. When the wheel was invented, or the first silex tools, they served to improve the conditions and wellbeing of all humanity.

Today, technological science has advanced remarkably. Human imagination is now less productive than certain tools. Tools have been much more powerful than the capacity of imagination to evolve at the same speed as technology. This entails the risk of creating a situation where a small group uses science and technology in their own benefit and interests, with the world and its globalisation as a field of action in order to develop their own speculative desires, or their desires for power. However, they leave aside desires to improve humanity. This fact has greatly increased the situation of instability.

Nowadays, we see that both situations of extreme poverty and cases of extreme wealth are on the increase and exist in cohabitation, thanks to the control of technology and science by a small group for speculative reasons. In any case, you can’t put a brake on the wind, that is to say, technology and science cannot be held back. The situation is unstoppable and will continue at its own rhythm, because right now there are huge masses of scientists and technologists investigating in this field. Therefore, we have reached a point where, right now, the field of scientific and technological investigation has become part of the economic sector. This economic sector is more important than the primary sector was in its days, at least here in the Basque Country. In spite of its history, nowadays it is less important than the science and investigation sector in the Basque Country.

Therefore, this phenomenon is unstoppable. However, social sciences should be developed and the world should be organised with parameters different to those now established. Social sciences have become old-fashioned and have come to a standstill. The advances have not been in line with advances in scientific and technological development.

We are living with exactly the same social organisational structures as before, as if nothing had happened with these technological changes. In the field of technology, doors have been opened to other things, for example the scope of economic movement. Capital is moved from one country to another with practically no control. On the other hand, other aspects, such as the inequalities, continue on the increase.

I usually compare this to the period of the industrial revolution, when mechanisation produced changes in company structures. This brought forward miserable salaries and astonishingly high working hours. It meant the abandoning of agriculture, increase in child labour, exploitation of capital over workmanship, and so on. These were painful circumstances, but also enlightening. Society was learning the lesson but, parallel to this, absolutely chaotic situations were being created. The situation was kept in check by the apparition of social doctrines like socialism and trade unionism, which have gradually balanced out the situation. In a way, these new social doctrines have been extending institutionalised solidarity. And not only this. Countries have afterwards organised themselves to create a minimum level of protection for working conditions and a state of welfare to enable everyone to have the right to education, health and a decent minimum salary. All this has been institutionalised by social politics and movements.

This parameter cannot currently be established on a national scale. It must be established globally. Past inequalities on a national or business scale are now being generated internationally. Therefore, a similar form of organisation must be established on a global scale, in order to create a guaranteed minimum for the subsistence of the whole of humanity. This in turn would require enforcement and organisational approaches different to the ones currently being used. Many people have worked on these issues, and many different formulas have been used. Furthermore, totally clear alternative formulas have been proposed in this area, even though I believe they still have not been accepted. There are no consolidated social movements right now capable of finding a balance for current inequalities being produced by the power of technology and the economic sector.

Is our society conscious of these social movements that could, maybe, keep this phenomenon in check? Are we conscious of this excessive effort towards technology that exists among us?

I don’t think that there is an excessive effort towards technology; I think it is more a lack in social organisation. I would not try to keep technology in check. Technology is a tool. If the tool is powerful, we can achieve a higher level of welfare. The trouble is that this welfare cannot be estimated by the welfare of some controlling others, or by some controlling the whole world, through sole efforts, speculation, or to increase one’s personal wealth, but rather should be at the service of all of mankind.

It is important that new social movements of influence be urgently generated in order to respond to these types of situations of inequality. Thus, I would not try to keep science in check; I would be more inclined towards boosting social movements. I would put a drive on social sciences, social organisations and on the demand for a much wider social justice.

You have in some occasions used the simile of a society that only invests in technology being like a rowboat with only one oar...

In that case, technology would be in danger of turning on its own axel, creating many more problems than those being solved. For a rowboat to advance, both its ends need to pull together. If not, it begins to go round in circles and not take us anywhere. It is dangerous not to go forward, as social inequality increases. If we don’t do this through contrition, we must do it through attrition, as the problems that will be generated are enormous. Some can already be seen, such as those concerning the migratory movements that are currently being produced.

Migratory movement means the displacement of a huge amount of people, probably the most well-prepared in their own country, towards other countries, creating authentic social ghettos and causing a profound modification in the structures of the receptor countries. Meanwhile, entire continents are being abandoned to misery. In these countries of misery, their societies are somehow surviving with the consignments being sent home by their offspring, who, from other countries, try to support their families that have no other way of surviving. This is intolerable. We cannot establish a future society on such a situation of inequality.

Consequently, we either reach an urgent solution as to a new concept of global organisation, or this world has no future.

A typical case of badly applied technology.

Absolutely. This is because it has been at the service of only a few. Nuclear energy, apart from the environmental problems it can cause, has been used in warfare and economic science. What I mean is that, on the one hand, it is an enormous advantage, whereas on the other hand, it is producing immense harm. Therefore, it is important to learn to use the tools we have.

Technology cannot be used for the advantage of just a few over the rest of the world, and nowadays the world is dominated by a handful of influential families and multinational companies. One only has to take a look at stock market speculation. It seems incredible that from one day to the next, global values are modified in remarkably high percentages, moving immense sums of money. But speculation is present, and in the hands of a few. Hands that are capable of generating such a wave of speculation according to their own short term interests.

What can we do to avoid being drowned in this rush?

I think that a lot can be done. However, the world is huge and we are extremely small. One thing that we mustn’t do is to say “let the governments be the ones to act”. There has to be a profound social awareness. If this social awareness is established, the political powers would be forced to give priority to the problem, as this would be linked to votes.

The Basque Country is small and of insignificant influence in the world. However, an advantage exists: specifically because of its reduced dimensions, almost a family, these issues can be dealt with in depth and we can come to understandings amongst ourselves and lay out different functioning methods.

The Basque Country begins to gain importance, not only in economic development, but also in development of social aspects. I believe that the Basque Country can and must be an example in development issues. Nevertheless, this demands two situations: first, the transit from spoken solidarity and awareness to a much more compromised solidarity. We can say that social awareness exits in the Basque Country, but only in concept; however, we work in a different way when any of these issues affect our way of life or our pockets. Important tax increases start to be proposed, in order to be able to attend to both the internal necessities of the Basque Country and our solidarity with the rest of the world. In this situation, I would say we do not have as much solidarity as it seems.

One way or another, we have to take the step from the solidarity of intentions to a much more compromised awareness that will affect our pocket, forcing us to modify our way of life.

We are constantly talking about loss of social values. However, is it not more precise to say that any living community that values itself must also evolve in values?

I do not think that there has been a loss of values. In my opinion, there are intrinsic values in mankind which have been maintained since its origins. What has changed in depth is the way in which those values are applied, that is to say, society has changed. We have passed from a society of hardships, which I personally experienced in the post-war period, to a wealthy society in just a few years. From a society with practically no options in education, where 80% of the students finished their studies at the age of 14 and immediately looked for work, to our current society, with 80% of students achieving higher education certificates. The composition of our society has changed radically. Therefore, values cannot be approached now in the same way as before.

Values still exist today. Nowadays, these values are reflected by the proliferation of NGOs, voluntary workers, donations, ecological and third world awareness… What has changed are the important social references, such as the concept of transcendence, religion, the concept of the great social doctrines, basic political and territorial concepts or concepts on patriotism. These references have gradually lost their validity.

The important references marked two things: a motivation to struggle forward in life and norms of conduct in order to develop in that motivation. This way, people felt motivated because those references marked a guideline for life, responding to canons of conduct that were coherent with the references that had been outlined. All those references have now disappeared: the Catholic Church is now hardly a social reference; no one talks about the great social movements, such as dictatorship and proletarianism. This phenomenon has led to people not having those references and therefore, they have gradually moved towards consumerism and hedonism, considering these as reasons to live. However, these concepts of consumerism and hedonism only cover a fraction of our lives and do not lead to satisfaction.

As a result, rather than talk about loss of values, we should focus on the loss of references, and the failure to adapt of the entities which have been references until now. These entities have maintained principles which are eternal, albeit giving them an absolutely out of date form, but our present society cannot let their lives be guided by obsolete forms. Our lives must be guided by forms which are adequate to the present circumstances.

That is to say, our society is currently a society that is not satisfied. Are we capable of believing in expectations within that dissatisfaction?

Our society is not satisfied because, although we have everything, we lack something essential which goes beyond the person itself: motivation and purpose. However, I think we still have time to react and offer alternatives, ambitious projects and alternatives with ambitious visions of the world and of society. We have enough capacity and intelligence to carry this out, what we lack is organisation. On this subject, I believe that Innobasque can provide the Basque Country with a worthwhile contribution, namely by establishing the important references that are necessary and guiding personal and institutional will.

This would probably mean having to turn everything upside-down again in order to reflect on the current situation of society. Would we not be placing doubt on the social model itself?

The model is in constant change. I usually say that we are living a period of social metamorphosis. The cocoon is becoming a butterfly; a profound social change is occurring right now. We are heading towards a social model which is completely different to the present one. We do not know the shape of this new social model, but what I am sure of is that it will be based on people.

Hierarchy in the sense of rule, which is what sets the standards for society, will disappear together with the shape and functioning it has had until now. Leadership will not mean hierarchy or rule; it will mean leadership capable of indicating values, ideas or criteria which will motivate peoples will. People have enough capacity of understanding and deciding to put forward ideas. We are living an extremely solid period for generating joint leaderships. As I have already mentioned, instructed despotism has disappeared from history. This may be possible in less educated societies, but in our educated society there is no space for instructed despotism. We have to include the people in doing what we believe should be done.

We read an idea of yours not long ago: “Against essentialisms, integrating projects”.

I think that essentialism stems from the idea “our country has its essence, its nature and its history”, especially if we are looking towards the future of a society’s conception. We have turned this fact into an emblem, as if it were an absolute value. Based on this, we are trying to picture the future counting on a conception that includes dogma and a class for the interpretation that dogma. This way, those who do not accept the dogma are excluded from what could be the conception of a nation or a country and its history.

This is an issue which can be clearly seen. In the Basque Country, we can distinctly see essentialist attitudes, attitudes that understand that the Basque Country is an entity with its own rights and which has been struggling for 200 years to maintain itself. It is advisable to continue maintaining this struggle until we change the concept of the society that we want to impose and establish in the Basque Country.

Another approach could be to start thinking up another project, together with the people we cohabit with, constructing not so much a way of living, but a modern, technically advanced community, socially coherent and integrating, making us all feel a part of it. This would be an ambitious project for any country, where all of us would be able to row in the same direction, with no exclusiveness. It would be faithful to the roots of the history of the people, and on this basis we could begin to create a future which would include everyone. That is the project: a project for constructing and integrating, against concepts of essentialisms; a project with no dogmas.

Above all, there are two questions that should be taken into account. Firstly, the diversity or increase of feelings of identity and culture that exist in our country, and which are going to increase even more due to immigration. Already an important part of our population are immigrants, with their own rights, their culture and their roots. We have to create the future of our country together with them and integrating everyone. This is our reality.

Another reality is the metamorphosis of society. We are not living in a static society but in a changing society which is moving towards a different model to the one we have been used to until now. This new model offers tremendous opportunities for the construction of a new, different society which unites all forces.

This would destroy the concept of “State-Nations”.

If we bear in mind the evolution of the states, they have been losing their competences in naval issues, economy —money is no longer dominant— borders are gradually disappearing, and agricultural or industrial policies are no longer established by the states. The old state concept we held is nothing like the one we are now living. I believe that a few years from now we will see many more changes, and many issues that are now considered taboo will become possible. I would turn the present approach to state concept upside-down.

When we talk about the states, we are talking about a reality that some people understand one way and others another. What is a state? A border? An economy? Nowadays, it is inconceivable that a state with borders should exist in Europe, or with its own economy and currency. I am more worried about building a new society than defining the concept of a state.

To use a simile, we are discussing what clothes to put on a baby that is being born and we are running the risk of letting the baby die whilst we discuss its clothes. Therefore, we should first build an economically and socially advanced Basque community, capable of situating itself among the most prosperous regions in the world, and afterwards, we can decide what sort of legal status we are going to apply to this entity for which we all feel responsible.

On the question of cultural aspects, the Basque Country contains many different identities and many different concepts of identity. I think we are going to have to find a plural-identity society, where one can feel identified with the Basque Country and also feel French, Spanish, Columbian or Andalusian.

If we build this advanced society, we will be in condition to “prepare the clothes”. Nowadays, the only thing I would ask is that this community be permitted to act freely, with autonomy and power, and that the capacity for decisions be held by our society. Javier Retegui (Bergara, 1937) Xabier Retegi studied Vocational Training at the Bergara Vocational Training Centre, engaging in supplementary studies in Economics and Engineering. After completing his industrial engineering degree, he started work as a teacher at the Mondragón Polytechnic School, where he was appointed Director after only one year. He remained in that post from 1962 to 1975. In 1975, he was appointed Director of HEZIBIDEA ELKARTEA and participated in the creation of the Debagoiena University-School and the coordination of the regional educational system. Also in 1975 he was appointed Chairman of IKERLAN and in 1979 collaborated with the pre-devolved Basque Government within the Education Department. From 1979 to 1982, he served as Deputy Regional Minister with the Basque Government. In 1982 he was appointed Director of the Business Department of Lankide Aurrezki (nowadays Caja Laboral – Euskadiko Kutxa). From 1983 to 1986 he combined his duties as Director of the Lankide Aurrezki (nowadays Caja Laboral – Euskadiko Kutxa) Business Department with his position as Chairman of the Polytechnic-School’s Board of Directors. In 1989, when the Consultancy and Engineering firm LKS was set up, he was appointed Managing Director, as well as Chairman of AUDILAN, SDAD. COOP. From April 1991 to September 1992 he served as Managing Director of SPRI, and that same year, was appointed Deputy Regional Minister for Industry and Energy with the Basque Government and CEO of SPRI. In 1995 he became the Basque Government Regional Minister for Industry, Agriculture and Fishing, a post he retained until 1998. In January 1999 he returned to MCC as Head of the Technological Development and Quality Department and in May of that same year was appointed Chancellor of the University of Mondragón. He continued to hold both these posts until his retirement on 31 January 2002. In December 2002 he was appointed Chairman of the Social Innovation Section of Innobasque, the Basque Innovation Agency.
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