Monday, March 15, 2010

The Future of Industrial Man, Chapter 4: Industrial Reality of the 20th Century (marching away)

This is a long and difficult chapter. I will be grateful when this is over, though I am a bit concerned that the next one is about Nazis. I have read plenty of Drucker on Nazism.
Here’s his basic point. Modern industrial society is not legitimate because it does not provide status or function to industrial workers. Workers – and by this he means unskilled workers – are just an automatic element in a big production machine. In this role they gain nothing that integrates them with society.

First, according to Drucker, they do not understand the process of production and hence do not know their place in it.

Second, without an understanding of the process, they cannot take initiative.

Finally, they can add nothing personal to the work.

Based on these three things, Drucker argues that industrial work does not give unskilled workers a place or a true function in society.

A week or so ago, I went to the staff appreciation ceremony at school. The staff are far from being unskilled workers, so the parallels with Drucker’s observations may not be that good.

The event impressed me two ways. First, it was a large activity with people from every part of the school. Not a one there could have understood how their contributions fit into the entire organization. Still, most had a local context that allowed them to understand how their job fit into some well-defined activity.

Next, it surprised me with the reliance on video presentations. The first was understandable. It came from the President who was out raising money. The remainder came from leaders who were there. They relied on the vocabulary of modern television advertising and had the production values that one normally associates with commercials for local automobile dealers.

I didn’t doubt the sincerity of the videos but they left me feeling distant from the event rather than closer. They didn’t seem to do any thing that a lunch with the immediate supervisor and a few friends couldn’t have done better. But perhaps that is the point. The division lunch looks more like an artifact from pre-industrial society and this big event is more closely linked to mass production.

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