Monday, March 1, 2010

The Future of Industrial Man, 2: What is a Functioning Society?

Let’s try to start with the basic concepts of this chapter and see if we can anticipate where he is going. He introduces two basic ideas. First, societies need to provide status and function to each individual. Second, the decisive power of any society needs to be based on the fundamental beliefs of a society in order to be legitimate. “There are always a great many ‘unfree’ institutions in a free society, a great many inequalities in an equal society, and a great many sinners among the saints,” he writes. “But as long as that decisive social power which we call rulership is based upon the claim of freedom, equality, or saintliness and is exercises through institutions which are designed toward the fulfillment of these ideal purposes, society can function as a free, equal, or saintly society. For its institutional structure is one of legitimate power.”

Drucker notes that the thing that he calls the decisive power is not the same thing as the primary political power. He notes that the class of English landed gentry held decisive power in Victorian England even though they were not in a majority and held less wealth than the merchants and manufacturers.

Since I am looking at the world of technology, I should note that decisive power is clearly not held by the engineers and the programmers. They are clearly not able to command society nor are their institutions the ones that shape our community. At the same time, we should acknowledge that we cede a certain amount of decisive power within the technological world to adolescents because they often embody many of the values that we would like to see in technology: mastery of complexity, ability to devote attention to difficult problems, opportunities to capitalize on their knowledge.

Adolescents are the completely decisive power. The power of finance hides behind their activities. Still, we do cede them a certain power when their values are more closely aligned to that of the technology and, of course, when their skills are as well.

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