Chapter 20 Why and how intangible cultural heritage should be safeguarded
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Should we re-examine La Fable des abeilles? In his first book, La ruche bougonne ou les vauriens devenus honnêtes, Bernard de Mandeville (1705) describes a hive steeped in vice, deceit and pride in which parasitical hornets make the bees work for them. When the bees opt for virtue and chase away the hornets, the hive becomes less efficient as there is no one to force the bees to work hard. Six years later, Mandeville published the second version: La Fable des abeilles. The vices had disappeared with the hornets and the denizens of the hive were left with nothing but their pride – a powerful motive for action – which drove them to seek praise and rid themselves of their shame. From this fable, Smith drew the conclusion that the pursuit of self-interest led to the group’s well-being. In the global economy, this fable is important not only as a paradigmatic view of the invisible hand, but it also shows that rare abilities based on the possession of knowledge and practical skills, which some people think are superfluous or marginal, can be a source of development, encourage creativity and promote diversity.

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Editors: Ilde Rizzo and Anna Mignosa