A general article on Gelateria Sociale project on Souq magazine by Ambrogio Manenti



Inequity is as old as humanity. The Gini index (a commonly used measure of inequality shows that global inequities have steadily increased over time: from 1820 (Gini = 50) to 1910 (Gini = 60), to 1950 (Gini = 64) to 1992 (Gini = 66). (Milanovic, 2011).

The trend towards acceleration of the increase of inequity is part of recent history. Over the last 20 years, a redistribution of wealth from public to private, from labour to capital and from poor to rich has contributed to the “widening equity gap”. This phenomenon has generally spread all over the world.

In 2014, the 85 wealthiest individuals in the world have a combined wealth equal to that of the bottom 50% of the world's population, or about 3.5 billion people. (Oxfam, 2014)


’“Equity depends vitally on the empowerment of individuals to challenge and change the unfair and steeply graded distribution of social resources to which everyone has equal claims and rights. Inequity in power interacts across four main dimensions – political, economic, social, and cultural – together constituting a continuum along which groups are, to varying degrees, excluded or included.” (www.who.int/social_determinants/thecommission/en/)

Particularly in the last decades, global development policy, has been dominated by neo-liberal macroeconomic and social policies.[1]

Globalization and the “deregulation of international capital flows and trade has considerably narrowed the scope of governments to pursue expansionist and redistributive policies, forcing all governments to cut social and public expenditures and deregulate labour markets in order to make their countries competitive.” (Navarro, 2009)

In addition, the difficulties of maintaining a welfare system have increased all over the world as a result of the current financial crisis.

In general, inequity is the consequence of the standard economic doctrine, based only on mathematic and econometric parameters. “Rational fool” or “social idiot” economists and politicians have been promoting a unique model of capitalism inspired to iper-utilitarism, iper-individualism, iper-rationalism. That which is oriented to pursue specific self-interest is considered rational; it does not foresee goals of a different nature. Self-interest is rational. Fairness, civic conscience, solidarity and generosity are not. (Sen, 1977, 2009)


The increasing inequality is clearly shown by the differences in income among and within different countries and the possibility for the single individual to change the situation is limited.

In fact citizenship and income of parents are the two factors that explain more than 80% of the income of an individual. The remaining 20% results from other factors over which the individual does not have control, such as gender, age, skin color and fortune, as well as factors that on the contrary are under his/her power, such as strength of character and personal initiative. (Milanovic, 2011)[2]


There is an anthropology summarized by Hobbes (1642) with the words “we do not look for friends by nature, but we go close to people from whom to get honors and advantages”. According to this idea, man is moved only by motivations towards competition, diffidence and glory, applying the motto: homo homini lupus and conducing a solitary, miserable and unpleasant life.

However, there is another anthropology, linked with the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle, which is based on superior motivations. A human being has a natural social nature and his moral constitution is a combination of reason and feelings. The nature of human beings is also oriented to sympathy, sensibility to suffering and humiliation of the others, open to freedom, capable of reasoning, arguing, disapproving and convening. (Pennacchi, 2012)


The human development concept , which refers to this second anthropology, challenges narrow economic approaches that consider money and possession of goods as ends instead of means. The paradigm of human development is that it has not been proved that more (wealth and income) is necessarily better. The human development approach gives relevance to freedom, equity and fraternity. Freedom is expressed not only as an individual attribute but as social commitment, an idea of equity as equity in the essential capabilities[3], an idea of solidarity not as charity but as a responsibility of all men and women towards other human beings and towards society.

Human development with rights, labour and citizenship as central aspects of development.


The welfare state has been “the most extraordinary invention of social engineering of the last 150 years.” (Pennacchi, 2006). Through it, social protection, previously delivered by religious institutions, extended family and feudal traditions, was gradually institutionalized under the main responsibility of the state.[4]

Welfare states have therefore contributed to the development and wellbeing of millions of people all over the world by redistributing wealth and promoting social rights.

However, subsequent to this important development after the second world war, the welfare system has in the last 20-30 years started a critical phase under an increased influence of neoliberal policies.

The crisis of welfare states is at the central of the current economic and political debate. The welfare system has been in several cases redesigned in a pluralistic way with a mix responsibility framework among public sector, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders .

“Only a social planet can get the heritage of the welfare state”. The vehicles of the social planet could be the non-governmental organizations and associations, which are extraterritorial and cosmopolite entities, and can target directly people in need who will be the beneficiaries of their initiatives. The principle of collective solidarity and collective insurance against misery and bad fortune (linked to utopist theories of the last two centuries) should be raised, on a global scale, to benefit the humanity as whole. (Bauman, 2011)


This intellectual jump is possibly too wide. However, the experience of the community project Gelateria Sociale in Cairo is following the patterns suggested above in relation to an open mind anthropology and the role of the NGOs.

The social ice-cream shop, recently opened in Cairo, promotes equity and solidarity. A solidarity that comes with offering the ‘better-off’ an opportunity to subsidize those less able to pay.Homemade ice-cream is offered to people, who only need to pay what they can. The Gelateria offer a physical and virtual space for social activities that bring people together.

The basic principles of the initiative:

- Quality gelato for all

- Who has more, gives more, for an equal product for all

- From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

( www.gelateriasociale.com)


Bauman, Z. 2011. Vite che non possiamo permetterci. Laterza.

Milanovic, B. 2011. The Haves and the Have-Nots. A brief idyisincratic history of global inequality. New York, basic Books. (Italian version: Chi ha e chi no ha. Il Mulino, 2012)

Navarro, V. 2009. Neoliberalism and its Consequences. The World Health Situation Since Alma Ata. Global Social Policy 2009.

OXFAM. 2014. www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2014-01-20/rigged-rules-mean-eco....

Pennacchi L. 2008. La moralita’ del Welfare. Donzelli Editore. Roma.

Pennacchi L. 2012. Filosofia dei beni comuni. Donzelli Editore. Roma.

Sen, A.K. 1977. Rational Fools: A critique of the behavioural foundation of economic theory, Philosophy and public Affairs, 6

Sen, A. 1984. Rights and Capabilities. in Resources, Values and Development, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sen, A.K.2009. The idea of justice. Penguin Book. London.

UNDP. Human Development Report 2010. UNDP. 2011

WHO. 2008. Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Closing the gap in a generation, WHO

WHO. www.who.int/social_determinants/thecommission/en/

[1] This ideology of neoliberalism claims that, 1) the state is part of the problem rather than the solution and it needs to be reduced. 2) labor and financial markets need to be deregulated in order to liberate what is defined as “the enormous creativity of the markets”, and, 3) commerce and investments need to be stimulated by eliminating borders and barriers to allow for the full mobility of labor, capital, goods and services. (Navarro 2009)

[2] The role of personal initiative is limited. In addition nobody can influence the growth of his/her own country in a significant way. The only alternative that is left is the emigration. (Milanovic 2012)

[3] The capability approach is a theoretical framework that entails two core normative claims: first, the claim that the freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance, and second, that freedom to achieve well-being is to be understood in terms of people's capabilities, that is, their real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value. (Sen, 1984)

[4] Funds collected through a fair tax system (people paying proportionally to their wealth) are utilized to deliver effective public services, equal for everybody, which can ensure universal health, education, social protection coverage.


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