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the_new_industrial_state_part_ii

Part II: The Future of the New Industrial State

There are difficulties in talking, at the same time, about what will happen and what should happen. Marx must on occasion have wondered, if revolution were inevitable, as he proclaimed, why it required the passionate and unrelenting advocacy which he accorded it. Should baleful tendencies be predicted when one hopes that popular understanding will bring the reaction that reverses them? –p320

The Industrial System and the Cold War

Everyone who wins a positive score in an intelligence test recognises that the selling of goods – the management of demand for particular products – requires well-considered mendacity. –p323

Nobody believes advertisers' claims about ordinary products, yet this fails to make advertising ineffective. In contrast, the fantasies that are employed in order to advertise military products to the governmental customer are believed with fervour, including those purveying these fantasies although the fantasies are no less contrivances convenient to the industrial system. The industrial system requires a large state market for high-technology waste and the customary image which justifies this expenditures has long been the Cold War. Naturally the origins of the Cold War imagery are real, but it has been groomed to accommodate the needs of the industrial system. It is “relentless, implacable, permanent, but ultimately benign”.[37] Despite similarities in the two societies' accommodations to the imperatives of planning, in the Soviet system the management of the individual is more direct and subject to compulsion. The incompatibility of the two systems and the evangelism that accompanies their differences lead to military competition. “All features of this competition are closely congruent with need.”[38] The conflict is permanent, avoiding the annoying danger in other forms of warfare for a cessation of hostilities to reduce military production – “A war without fighting neatly obviates the danger that fighting will stop.”[39] Obsolescence replaces battlefield attrition. Any agreement to arrest the competition is universally agreed to be far more dangerous than the competition itself. Without the usual large numbers of the poor fighting and dying, the Cold War is not resisted by the working class as previous wars have tended to be.

Even a calculation that the competition may, at some point, lead to a total destruction of all life is not a definitive objection. Liberty, not material well-being, is involved. This is an ultimate value that cannot be compromised in the face of any threat. “I am confident that the vast majority of the American people would passionately reject…ignominious defeatism and, instead, proclaim: 'Rather dead than Red!'”[40] Thus the competition is protected from even the most adverse estimates of its outcome. –p328

Granting a continuation of or slight increase to the military budget is amongst the easiest decisions a president can make.[41]

It is difficult to believe that implacable conflict is inevitable between the two countries. Their economic systems have much in common, indeed the trend is of convergence. The notion that the arms competition is ultimately benign is similarly suspect. Negotiated disarmament seems plausible. Agreements are negotiated in good faith with communists on all other matters.

To eliminate civilised life for all time in response to a short-run calculation that liberty might otherwise be endangered is also irrational. And those who would make such a decision are themselves strongly subordinate to a particular system of belief. They are not themselves free men. –p330

In confronting the dangers involved in the military competition of the Cold War, two changes are necessary: firstly to ensure that sceptical scrutiny of official belief is an important political function and secondly to replace the industrial system's need for support in the development of technology by some less dangerous means. In the past, scrutiny has been a product of conflict – each party to the conflict scrutinised its opponent with vigour. The mature corporation has been able to break down much of this conflict, particularly that between unions and capital. It does not have as natural an enemy as the entrepreneur. However, the educational estate has been encouragingly resistant to the ideas and ideology of the industrial system. “In the last decade there has been a recurrent conflict between the university community and the intellectuals on the one hand and the State Department and foreign policy establishment on the other…this, on the whole, has been an encouraging development.”[42] With its growing size and power, the educational and scientific estate now has the opportunity to take on this role in questioning the imagery and foreign policy which originates within the industrial system. “Nothing in our time is more important.”[43]

In the field of international relations, especially since the onset of the Cold War, high public officials have invariably been more diligent in instructing other governments than their own. Though often cautious and deferential in their relations with the Congress, Secretaries of State have been bold and forthright in informing the Soviets of their error. The late John Foster Dulles rarely missed an opportunity to advise the Russians on the merits of liberty and the rule of law and the sanctity of freedom of speech. He was much more cautious as regards Senator Joseph McCarthy although the latter, on frequent occasions, attacked freedom of expression and due process and did not omit to concern himself with Mr Dulles' own Department. Mr Dean Rusk, a circumspect man in dealing with domestic critics, especially those who might charge undue liberalism in relations with China, showed contrasting boldness in telling the communist powers of their great and varied shortcomings. Indeed, it may be laid down as a rule of international relations that the lower the probability that advice will be taken, the more firmly it will be proffered. –p333

Mutual disarmament should be lead by the US. This is the country in which we have the influence necessary to enact this policy. It is also by far the richer of the two, and consequently tends to set the pace of the competition. It cannot be known whether an agreement for negotiated disarmament can be reached with the Soviets. We do not fully understand the imagery to which Soviet society is subject. But it must be attempted.

It must be fully recognised that the traditional economic view that military spending can be replaced with private-sector or social spending is false, failing to recognise the important role military spending plays in underwriting new technology. But non-violent alternatives exist, the most obvious contemporary example being space exploration although any form of expensive, high-technology research and development project will serve.

The Further Dimensions

Those features of the state which are not of importance to the industrial system tend to be neglected and regarded as unimportant. These fall into two categories:

  1. Those services which are unneeded by the industrial system – these suffer by competing for public funds with services which are of value to the industrial system, and
  2. Services associated with state goals which are alien or inimical to the industrial system.

In the former category fall services such as healthcare, elderly care, provision of parks, removal of rubbish, provision of decent public buildings and assistance for the poor. The active management of private demand inflates the demand for private goods. The influence of the industrial system inflates the government's perceived need to spend money on those services which benefit the industrial system. By comparison, demand for government services which are of no use to the industrial system is not artificially inflated by any concerted effort. Such services naturally suffer. This is addressed in greater detail in the Affluent Society.

The world of “aesthetic experience” may be contrasted with the world of production. This world is served not by scientists and engineers and thus not by the technostructure, but by artists. Prior to the industrial revolution, a large part of life was devoted to the aesthetic experience – unimaginably large, given the resources of earlier societies and the extreme bias toward production in the industrial state. The truly beautiful cities of the world: “Athens, Florence, Venice, Seville, Agra, Kyoto and Samarqand” are all preindustrial – no city built since The Wealth of Nations can possibly compete, though these cities were infinitely poor by modern standards.

Aesthetic achievement is beyond the reach of the industrial system and is therefore little valued by it. Moreover, aesthetic considerations are often inconvenient to the industrial system – it would be distinctly inconvenient if the aesthetic consequences of positioning a factory had to be considered equally along side questions of efficiency, if the polluting consequences of production were to be as readily considered as the financial implications. Aesthetic considerations are almost never considered in industrial planning – on the few occasions in which they are, their advocates normally have to present a case illustrating that following the aesthetically preferable route will for some reason not be damaging to the economy in the long term.

Advertising relies on a jarring dissonance – a billboard that blends subtly into the landscape is ineffective and this can even more readily be seen in television advertising.

[A]n effort is made to bring this dissonance within the ambit of social goals. It is defended interestingly by the contention that it 'gives the consumer what he wants'. If he did not approve, he would not respond. A man who comes to a full stop because he is hit over the head with an axe proves similarly by his response that it was what he was yearning for. –p344

Aesthetic achievement relies on individuals. It cannot be produced by committee.

The aesthetic dimension being beyond the ready reach of the industrial system, members of that system are led naturally to assert its unimportance. Juveniles who do not like Latin, economists who do not like mathematics and men who do not like women manifest precisely the same tendency. –p345

Any importance accorded to the aesthetic dimension automatically grants a greater role to the state – only the state can protect the rural and urban environment from ugliness or radio and television from “contrived dissonance”. And any such promotion of the aesthetic dimension is bound to come at some cost to GNP.

That one must pause to affirm that beauty is worth the sacrifice of some increase in the Gross National Product shows how effectively our beliefs have been accommodated to the needs of the industrial system. –p345

When urban spaces are managed by democratic governments they are usually rather ugly. “Although the world owes more to public architecture than to private, it owes more to the taste of talented despots…than to democrats.”[44] The only outcome substantially worse than planning by a democratic authority is that created by no planning. Politicians generally deem their own tenure a success if they can leave office knowing that society is richer than when they arrived. Even the most incompetent succeed by that measure. A much more severe test would be whether they leave their country more beautiful than before.

None in this country would have passed. The fact of universal failure is another reason for insisting on the importance of the aesthetic dimension. No one likes an examination which he surely flunks. But far more than the test of production, which is far too easy, the test of aesthetic achievement is the one that, one day, the progressive community will apply. –p348

The Planning Lacunae

The myth that the market efficiently regulates our economy creates many dangers. One is the tendency for efforts to correct a failing market, when it happens to fall outside of the industrial system, to be weak and half-hearted. If, instead of assuming that by default the market will efficiently allocate resources it were properly recognised that in some instances the market is successful and in others planning is more appropriate, then cases in which a powerful state planning machinery is required to solve major problems would be much more easy to recognise. At present there are gaps (lacunae) in what should rightly be the planned sector of the economy, with the consequence that the public's needs are poorly met. There are two particularly clear contemporary examples in the United States.

Firstly, mass urban and inter-urban transportation. This requires a single overarching corporation with the competence and power to plan a unified mass transit system of trains, buses and trams. The piecemeal and competing systems current in the US are simply very poorly suited to a market which would benefit enormously from a single planning unit. Such a unit, if it was large enough to satisfactorily control its labour needs and retain its own earnings to meet its capital needs, transferring the cost and risk of major technological improvement to the state under the traditional excuse of urgent defence need, with its own technostructure and active inflation of consumer demand similar to that by airlines and automobile manufacturers, would be a far more effective and successful provider of public transport than we now have. Although the comparison is imperfect, the telecommunications sector is similar in some ways, and has benefited enormously from AT&T's monopoly – this sector could not have survived in a useful form if a similar market structure to that for transport systems had been imposed on it.

Although less obvious, the second is more important – the market for urban and suburban housing. This fails abjectly to meet human need, and continual interference by government through subsidies and building regulations have long been insufficient to make any real difference. The failures are recognised, but assumed to be isolated failures of the market. But the only means of truly solving the problem is to have a strong planning, housing and development authority which could buy up land where necessary.

There should be no default assumption that either the free market or a planned solution is more appropriate for any given industry. This requires a sharp rejection of the traditional economic approach, and a revised attitude towards the concept of consumer sovereignty. If the market prevails, it is supposed, then the principle of consumer sovereignty implies that whatever is produced is wanted – only an elitist hater of democracy could argue that production priorities ought to be changed. But if the revised sequence is accepted, then the observation that too many automobiles are produced and there is insufficient inter-urban transport infrastructure may just as easily indicate that the automobile industry has a greater power to control the preferences of the public.

Consumer sovereignty by making questions about too many automobiles, too few houses, an elitist and undemocratic interference with consumer choice, excludes questions about the power of the automobile industry to impose its preference on the public. This, in effect, is the result of existing economic theory. It gives high moral and scientific sanction to social indifference. –p356

Of Toil

Don't mourn for me friends, don't weep for me never,
For I'm going to do nothing forever and ever. –Traditional Epitaph of an English Charwoman

One of the great promises of the industrial system has been the replacement of work with leisure. In the early stages of the industrial system, toil was dreary, repetitive and physically painful. It was also very long. It is perfectly natural that a labourer working an eight-four hour week to earn the barest living will choose to realise any improvement in productivity in increased leisure rather than income. This is no longer true. Over the last thirty years, working hours have remained constant whilst before-tax real income has doubled.[45] “On the evidence, one must conclude that, as their incomes rise, men will work longer hours and seek less leisure.”[46] Although there are exceptions, work within the industrial system is no longer as painful or boring as that which preceded it, and it can no longer be assumed that work is less pleasant than not working – “Presiding over the console that regulates the movements of billets through a steel mill may be as pleasant as sojourning with a connubial fishwife.”[47] If leisure is to be voluntarily chosen over work, then two prerequisites must be satisfied:

  1. They must find the uses of leisure more interesting or rewarding than those of work, and
  2. They must have sufficient independence from the management of their wants to be capable of making a choice contrary to the wishes of the industrial system.

Education seems to be the most plausible way of meeting these prerequisites: those most closely associated with academia conform readily to the stereotype of the man whose demands are not managed by advertising and who actively manages his free time creatively:

Excessive attention to goods is considered gauche; an elderly automobile or a Volkswagen, casual and shabby clothing, undistinguished by ostentatiously comfortable furniture, self-designed entertainment, unluxurious travel, the absence of a television receiver, and functionally clothed women are sources of distinction [for the typical academic]. –p359

Most people will consider that the greatest possible emancipation of the individual from the management of the industrial system will be a worthy goal, even at considerable cost to the industrial system by its own standards. The opportunity for such emancipation lies in education.

It would also be of great benefit if the individual worker were able to mould the working week and year to his personal needs, permitting those who wish for a reduced income in exchange for a ten-hour week or four months of paid vacation per year to achieve that. It would be inconvenient to the industrial system to do so, but would make the opportunity of the individual to fashion his own existence the primary social concern, rather than the needs of the system. All who speak of liberty ought to approve.

Perhaps those most burdened by work in this age are those at the centre of the technostructure, of whom is required a much greater commitment to his career than the production worker, both in terms of hours and mental subordination to organisational purpose. Throughout a long career his employer remains the focus of his existence, and then in one day at the age of 65 he loses the entire purpose of his life.

Having become wholly habituated to group activity, he is now alone. It is not a beautifully scripted arrangement. Millions since the dawn of man have led a less inspired existence but never on comparable income. –p362

It is possible that a response is already visible. Business schools are losing their distinction, and failing to attract the most able students. Business courses and careers are increasingly held to be “excessively disciplined, damaging to individuality, not worth the pay, or dull.”[48]

We reach an interesting if speculative result. Emancipation could be the salvation of the industrial system. Its discipline will be worse but only thus will it attract people who are sufficiently good. –p363

Education and Emancipation

The estate of higher education is the organisation that is in the best position to improve this situation. Further, it now has the power to do so, if it were confident enough to asset it. The industrial system is entirely dependent on its output, yet this is little recognised. Higher education has traditionally been dependent on charity from the rich or from government at the behest of the rich and remains obsequious to its traditional benefactors. It must now recognise that it is of vital important to the industrial system and is in a position to make irresistible demands. The most important of these should be that it be permitted to reclaim control of its budgets. At present universities in the US are funded in an ad hoc manner, with individual chairs and projects being financed by industry and government, so that the direction of research and the balance of funding (particularly between the hard sciences and arts) is dictated by the industrial system. Nobody refutes the current bias in funding towards those subjects most closely beneficial to the industrial system. By regaining control of its budgets, higher education ought to offer equal support to students irrespective of their chosen discipline. Those working in science departments who work closely with industry and receive regular financing from a variety of industrial sources will identify closely with the needs and ideology of the industrial system. The more independent of the industrial system academia becomes, and the more funding and emphasis is given to education with no relevance to the industrial system, the more it will be possible for students to develop a critical understanding of society and view the industrial system in perspective. If those in control in universities lead, students will happily follow.

Education that accords with the needs of the industrial system does not have a natural aspect of interest, plausibility or importance. Much of it is dull. The learning that enables an individual to participate effectively in the development of the monogramming toaster described heretofore does not have an intrinsic air of social urgency. Nor does the preparation or the manufacture of automobiles in a world gorged with vehicles, or of a more potently, precisely and diversely destructive missile in a world which has already arranged extensively for its own incineration. Against this, education that serves purely intellectual and aesthetic interests, and encourages the resulting detachment from the goals of the industrial system, is by no means unattractive. –p367-8
The price that the industrial system must pay for its people and the conduct of its research is the support of general enlightenment. –p367

The Political Lead

At this moment there is a considerable if rather unfocused atmosphere of dissent amongst younger people. As yet it has no coherent political leadership. This ought to come from the scientific and educational estate. It has the required scepticism about the industrial system's objectives and current trends in foreign policy under the guidance of the industrial system. Since World War II, scientists have already emerged as an independent political force, especially where science imposes on foreign policy. The nuclear test ban treaty of 1963, for example, would not have been achieved without the initiative of the scientific community.

General public and political awareness of the dangers of nuclear conflict, the desirability of détente with the Soviet Union and the technical possibilities for disarmament owes a great deal to the scientific community. It owes very little to the military, diplomatic and industrial community. –p375

Economists are more or less useless in this role. Where economic goals are of central importance, economists are useful – in a wider debate that considers production against goals which cannot by analysed using the economist's toolbox, he ought to be marginalised, even if his technical understanding is greater than those with a more balanced perspective. Economists are the natural ally of the industrial system. Recently, so has the liberal been – to be a liberal in recent times has meant to be an economic liberal, espousing increased production, employment, management of aggregate demand and greater equality of wages. These are no longer an appropriate liberal platform – they need no liberal advocacy to be enacted, the industrial system is more than capable of fighting their corner unaided. The liberal economic programme, in other words, has run its course – it is time to find a new one.

Members of the educational and scientific estate have little confidence, and perceive their role in society to be passive. This reflects their earlier existence as a partly decorative appendage of the industrial system. They were unable to challenge the hand that fed in any substantial manner and an ideology grew up to provide a rather more high-minded justification for their enforced passivity:

Commanding power lay with the capitalist and entrepreneur. It made sense not to affront it. If a righteous commitment to science or art could be adduced as the justification for this discretion, it was ideal – the equivalent of a priestly indulgence for cowardice. –p377

Perhaps most importantly of all, within intellectual circles the belief persists that it is intellectually corrupt to subordinate oneself to a wider organisational structure for the purposes of achieving a political result. Staunch individualism makes such action distasteful. But it is absolutely necessary for political efficacy. Persuasion is also important, and a task of which the intellectual establishment tends to tire quickly:

Condescension, impatience and the suffering ungladly of seeming political obtuseness have all been damaging. Much worse has been the failure of novitiate members of the scientific and educational estate, students in particular, to see that political persuasion is a slow process and one that is not served by jumping rapidly from one issue to another – from war in Vietnam, to the environment, to the Military-Industrial Complex, to the liberation of women – but requires continued, patient and persistent effort on all error. And most of all persuasion has been damaged by those who have made violence a catharsis for impatience. The popular preference for peaceful process may be regretted but it cannot be denied. –p378

The Future of the Industrial System

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, discussion of the future of capitalism is rife; the present system was assumed to be an unstable and developing state. Such discussion no longer continues. The industrial system in particular is assumed to have reached some natural zenith, to remain as it presently exists in perpetuity. This seems unlikely, but to consider the ongoing changes in the industrial system would invite unwelcome analysis of various aspects of its activity, not least the trend of convergence between the Soviet and Western economies.

It seems unlikely that the industrial system will be regarded as independent for much longer. It has already been described as the 'semi-nationalised' branch of the economy.[49]

Men will look back in amusement at the pretence that once caused people to refer to General Dynamics and North American Aviation and AT&T as private business. –p386

Once the industrial system is recognised as being in the penumbra of the state, it can no longer resist public goals on the basis of its claims to being regulated or controlled by the market. “There may well be danger in this association of public and economic power. But it is less if it is recognised.”[50]

Two primary questions frequently asked of an economic system are: does it meet physical need and does it allow personal liberty? The industrial system certainly meets the first. Concerns regarding the implications of the close collaboration of public and economic power on personal liberty are sound. But it must be recognised that the danger is not of the all-powerful state seizing control of private business, but an organic process in which the industrial system has become gradually closer to the state bureaucracy quite willingly. Inherent in this process is a voluntary, even enthusiastic, abdication of their freedom.

The president of Republic Aviation is not much more likely in public to speak critically, or even candidly, of the Air Force than is the head of a Soviet combinat of the ministry to which he reports. No modern head of the Ford Motor Company will ever react with the same pristine vigour to the presumed foolishness of Washington as did its founder…Manners may be involved. But it would also be conceded that 'too much is at stake'.[51] –p389

The danger, instead, is that belief becomes subordinated to the industrial system – that the goals of society reflect its needs too strongly. If we continue to hold the needs of the industrial system as the highest social goals then all other avenues of human endeavour will continue to be subordinated to it, and we will continue to be managed as consumers and as employees to fits its needs – as will government policy and the educational establishment. If the industrial system is seen instead as a part – and a diminishing part – of life, then the danger is much less great.

The foregoing being so, we may, over time, come to see the industrial system in fitting light as an essentially technical arrangement for providing convenient goods and services in adequate volume. Those who rise through its bureaucracy will so see themselves… If other goals are strongly asserted, the industrial system will fall into its place as a detached and autonomous arm of the state, but responsive to the larger purposes of society.

We have seen wherein the chance for salvation lies. The industrial system, in contrast with its economic antecedents, is intellectually demanding. It brings into existence, to serve its intellectual and scientific needs, the community that, hopefully, will reject is monopoly of social purpose. –p391

Footnotes

[37] p326.

[38] p327.

[39] p327.

[40] Thomas Power, General, USAF Ret, 1964, “Design for Survival”, New York: Coward, p69.

[41] ”[A]n established tradition…holds that a bill to spend billions of dollars for the machinery of war must be rushed through the House and the Senate in a matter of hours, while a treaty to advance the cause of peace, or a programme to help the undeveloped nations…guarantee the rights of all our citizens, or…to advance the interests of the poor must be scrutinised and debated and amended and thrashed over for weeks and perhaps months.” –Senator Gaylord Nelson, United States Senate, February 1964; quoted by Julius Duscha, 1965, “Arms, Money and Politics”, New York: Ives Washburn, p2.

[42] p332.

[43] p333.

[44] p347.

[45] “In 1941 the average work week in manufacturing was 40.6 hours; in 1969 it was 40.6 hours. In between it was a shade lighter” –p357, citing the Economic Report of the President, 1970.

[46] p357.

[47] p359.

[48] p363.

[49] Murray Weidenbaum, “The Defence-Space Complex: Impact on Whom?”, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, April 1956. Professor Weidenbaum, formerly of Boeing, has been Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for economic policy under Nixon.

[50] p386.

[51] Further: ”[I]t can be laid down as a rule that those who speak most of liberty are least inclined to use it. The high executive who speaks fulsomely of personal freedom carefully submits his speeches on the subject for review and elimination of controversial words, phrases and ideas, as befits a good organisation man. The general who tells his troops, and the world, that they are in the forefront of the fight for freedom is a man who has always submitted happily to army discipline. The pillar of the foreign policy establishment who adverts most feelingly to the values of the free world is the man who extravagantly admires the orthodoxy of his own views.” –p390.

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