Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Future of Industrial Man, 3: Mercantile Society of the 19th Century (pt 4)

I’m dwelling on this chapter because it seems central to Drucker’s argument but I want to talk about Adams for a bit. Adams wrote about visitors to a World’s Fair worshipping a dynamo. It is hard to understand what that meant to people at the end of the 19th century. The dynamo freed them from the natural world. They could have light any time they needed it – day or night – they could have heat and the power to run tools. To exploit this technology, they would have to develop a relationship to it. This relationship would be different than the relationship with land and the production from land. It could provide wealth and social status and purpose, but such provision would not be permanent. Furthermore, it put individuals in a new relationship with those who owned the dynamo and those who operated it. Those who owned the dynamo might get status and function might get status and function from the market in traditional ways. Those who operated the dynamo got their positions from knowledge, knowledge that might have a market value but was substance very different from that of land or other assets.

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