Monday, January 31, 2011

Industrial age economics and education

First, the dark side ...
Proceduralism - requires individuals to comply with the outcome of a dimly democratic procedure (we all agree to do it when we join the body corporate), even if that outcome is substantively undemocratic.
Instrumentalism - is the view that a concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective reality.
Efficiency - the objectified study of work/labour to eliminate wasteful practice as begun by Frederick Winslow Taylor 
Nation – factors of belonging by birth or choice to a group with socio-cultural constants and similarities that promote a sense of belonging recognizable to those within and to those without as distinct from one another.
Formal nationalism – citizenship via political recognition of belonging to a politically decreed set of socio-cultural constants usually exemplified by a constitution of incorporation, be it the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 or the corporate mantra of the mission statement.  
Social institution - complex social forms that reproduce themselves and are deemed important to the life and structure of society from manners and norms to government. They are socially constituted and reconstituted as essential and are adaptive over the long term requiring participation of individuals within the society.
Corporate institution - a legal abstraction and the objectification of a form of social institution where certain rights are granted by governing authorities for a business to be given certain rights such as legal personality, right to own property, taxation.
Subject - interpretive dialectic towards reaching an understanding, may not necessarily remain static over time and is qualitative in nature, it is what we talk about.
Object - scientific understanding (rationalism) requires an objective perspective (turning subjects into objects- things) to knowing what it is we know (materialism) and is quantitative in nature.
To begin: An organisation creates its end goals, be it a superior product, universal appeal or final profitability. In their own right, these ends are laudable, after all who wants to stay the course alone and not reach to achieve? However, in order to achieve the desired outcomes, the ends, layered institutionalised procedures, methods and practices must to be devised to get from A to Z. From the ground up to the top of the organization all levels are expected to have goals in place to achieve the larger ends. What begins as a flexible answer to creating and making something perceived as needed by the society becomes inflexible as proceduralism locks process into the rigours of efficiency, measurement and accountability.
The business model, with its history traced back to ancient Roman political and economic organization and then consequentially adopted by the Catholic church of the Middle Ages, adding theology into the mix, is seen as the most practical, pragmatic means to accomplish these ends. Command and control of the organisation falls downward from the unapproachable top, tier by tier, to the ‘workers/citizens/followers’ at the bottom. The process of operation at every tier then becomes decidedly undemocratic under the control of motivated and ambitious managers from the top down, selected and continually evaluated by some formalized process, who desire to show their stuff and move up the ladder of command. 
The single purpose of these managers is to encourage greater performance of those under their responsibility in the accomplishment of the shorter term goals aimed towards the final ends of the corporatusInstruments of measurement are required to ascertain and then predict improvement. Strict procedures are then required to attain and maintain the improvement and to ‘show’ it to superior managers, who will then demonstrate their prowess by collecting their ‘data’ and show it further and further up the chain of command. Within the procedures are rewards, usually by prestigious gain through either monetary increase or corporate advancement, and punishment by demotion and in severe cases banishment. 
Cold dispassionate, perhaps even psychopathic, levels of oversight are required of managers in order to implement perceived needed changes without the emotional baggage of the effects on the personal lives of those below them over whom the manager has control (see works of Dr. Robert D. Hare).  The emotional toll is not of concern within the larger goals of the corporation and a sympathetic manager cannot be expected to make effective rational decisions if their judgment is 'clouded' by the concerns of individual people and the effects that business decisions may have beyond the 'office' or 'plant' (Hammer, The Restructuring Revolution, 1995)
The Church had done well in the past through adopting this ancient model as do modern corporations today. Some dictatorial governments have tried to do the same thing, the fortress economy and politics of Nazi Germany and the Syndicalist economy and government of Fascist Italy as well as the 'communist' governments of the old Soviet Union, with little success because they limited individual choice.

Modern neo-liberal economics embodies choice while maintaining all the other aspects of the ancient model of command and control of the corporation. Indeed, individual choice has now become the mechanism through which control of the masses is maintained. One can choose to belong or not, if one has failed it was their decision to not succeed or if a bad decision was made, it was a bad decision on the part of the individual. In all cases the social circumstances are left from the rational what is scenario. Blame for poor choices is laid at the feet of the individual not the organisation. Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand', though rarely mentioned in polite company, is central to the notion that individual choice and decision making will produce the best results for all of society. Social control is maintained then, through political neo-conservative means of fear and praying on the needs of humans towards the herd mentality of belonging through what I call neo-nationalism. A hyper-active form of patriotism, neo-nationalism requires a zealous attachment to one’s nation, fierce competitiveness for all things perceived and important and necessary and a healthy fear of the ‘other’ (George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism, 1945). To maintain further control of the working populace, both lower and middle classes, keep them poor and in debt respectively (see the works of Tony Benn, former British Labour MP).

Formal nationality (citizenship within the body corporate) becomes the order of the day and to attain these same ends/outcomes, individual difference is 'lost' (probably on purpose) as the ends are required of everyone. It is a form of assimilation. Assimilation into the nation of economics, the non-denominational if not atheistic, apolitical, amoral, profit oriented equality of opportunity, but not outcome, machine. Multiple belonging to multiple nationalities (of home, religion, race, ethnicity, language) becomes lost, desensitized and demoralized in the unifying ends of classical liberal economics. Notions of other cultures where social ideas of sharing, egalitarianism and spiritual faith, morality and ethics are severely undermined or lost to assimilation by the greater classically liberal entity as seen as the economy with its profit motive.
All of the notions mentioned above and many others not mentioned are seen as the core of our economically globalizing world today. As Margaret Thatcher said ‘There is no alternative” (TINA), but the global downturn of 2008 through 2010 and slow recovery, the widening income gap between the rich and the poor as well as a significant portion of the world’s population in the 20-35 year old range, well educated for the most part, unemployed and without prospects for the future, has awoken.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A new beginning

A new beginning. A colleague suggested that I needed a venue for my writing and my thoughts, some way to get it all out and to further distill them. I intend to write often on a variety of topics. I hope doing this, with the responses and guidance of readers, will enlighten me further. Perhaps this may enlighten others as well.

Democracy and freedom are inherently and constantly in danger for there is always someone who wishes to take all or portions away. There are the obvious avowed enemies needing no explanation as to their clear and present danger. And then there are the less than obvious legitimately appointed people from within who, citing security as an obvious good, would curtail freedoms by instituting measures of control in the name of the maintenance of democracy to achieve that good. A slippery slope indeed. Both forms of danger to democracy and freedom are equally bad and require no less vigilance and courage on the part of the people young and old to maintain hard won rights and freedoms. Well meaning people lose sight of the overall significance of democratic notions and lacking the courage to fight fear itself fall victim to the reaction to it, and the inevitable fall from democracy, by enabling fear and the tension associated in attempting to aleve it.