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The Theory of the Industrial Class, or When Creativity Becomes Important (NOTES)

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Chapter Four



1 Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, Little, Brown and Co. (1975), pg. 116.

This quotation is, in many ways, the theme of this book. If Bronowski is correct in his belief that humans will evolve as they teach themselves to use tools, then a tool-driven culture, such as would please Veblen, is very likely. For those who cannot find Bronowski's book, here is the whole quotation.

We are active; and indeed we know, as something more than a symbolic accident in the evolution of man, that it is the hand that drives the subsequent evolution of the brain. We find tools today made by man before he became man. Benjamin Franklin in 1778 called man a 'tool-making animal', and that is right.

I have described the hand when it uses a tool as an instrument of discovery; it is the theme of this essay. We see it every time a child learns to couple hand and tool together--to lace its shoes, to thread a needle, to fly a kite or play a penny whistle. With the practical action there goes another, namely finding pleasure in the action for its own sake--in the skill that one perfects, and perfects by being pleased with it. This at the bottom is responsible for every work of art, and science too: our poetic delight in what human beings do because they can do it. The most exciting thing about that is that the poetic use in the end has truly profound results.

The hand is the cutting edge of the mind. Civilization is not a collection of finished artifacts, it is the elaboration of processes. In the end, the march of man is the refinement of the hand in action.

The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better. You see it in his science. You see it in the magnificence with which he carves and builds, the loving care, the gaiety, the effrontery. The monuments are supposed to commemorate kings and religions, heroes, dogmas, but in the end the man they commemorate is the builder. (return)

2 Tom Wolfe, The Worship of Art, Harpers Magazine (October, 1984).
From Bahaus to our House Farrer, Straus, Giroux (1981).

Tom Wolfe deserves a great honor for writing these two pieces. In The Worship of Art, Wolfe devastates the art-of-the-latest-theory. He prefers the art-of-the-high-craftsman, and so does most of the rest of humanity. More subtlely, he suggests a huge fraud. A company which plunders the earth, provides dismal working conditions for its employees, and constantly lobbies for lower taxes so the city is a blighted mess--all in the name of profits, and then spends some of those profits for a tangled mass of misshapen steel, and does so in the name of beauty, is really fooling no one. Wolfe gets through the haze of modern art like no other. Moreover, his is about as enjoyable as reading ever gets.

From Bahaus to Our House borders on being, if it is not, a very important work. His critique of modern architecture is devastating. Architecture is incredibly important. To allow egomaniacs to design environmental disasters in the name of their good art is a mistake of monumental proportions. Wolfe blows the facade off the edifice of modern architecture. If architecture can be redirected towards more useful goals because of this work, Wolfe may rank as one of the heroes of the twentieth century. (return)

3 There was a time, not so long ago--before Shriners as clowns and Propaganda Due, (P2) when the Freemasons were the soul of the Enlightenment. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, as well as Mozart and Beaumarchais were all Enlightenment Freemasons.

Because they were a secret society and hostile to the religious establishment, Freemasons have gained a conspiratorial image--a image modern Freemasons do not easily dispel. When they were the guiding force of the Enlightenment, however, they were as socially progressive as any movement in history. Jacob Bronowski records this Beaumarchais sentiment in The Ascent of Man, pg. 268 (Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro--often called the play that spawned the French Revolution)

Because you are a great lord, you think that you are a great genius. Nobility, wealth, honors, emoluments! They all make a man so proud! What have you done to earn so many advantages? You took the trouble to be born. Nothing more. Apart from that, you're a rather common type.

A public debate started on the nature of wealth, and since one needn't own something in order to argue about it, being in fact penniless, I wrote on the value of money and interest. Immediately, I found myself looking at the drawbridge of a prison. Printed nonsense is dangerous only in countries where its free circulation is hampered; without the right to criticize, praise and approval are worthless.

Beaumarchais represented a different aristocracy, of working talent: the watchmakers of his age, the masons in the past, the printers. What excited Mozart about the play? The revolutionary ardor, which to him was represented by the movement of Freemasons to which he belonged, and which he glorified in [Figaro and] The Magic Flute. (return)

4 Joseph Borkin The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. Free Press (1978)

The case of Karl Bosch is an interesting example of an industrial super-mind being a political idiot. Chemistry is Germany's strongest industrial suit. The various chemical industries combined their energies in a conglomerate called I.G. Farben. Karl Bosch helped invent a process called the Häber-Bosch which would allow for the synthesis of nitrate fertilizer. At the time this process was invented, Germany was not interested because they were getting all the nitrates they needed from their colonies in Chile. When the Germans entered World War I, they assumed that it would be a quick war and had provided only enough explosives for six weeks. Nitrates for fertilizer and nitrates for explosives are the same thing and the British Navy, operating out of the Falkland Islands moved to shut off the supply from Chile. Enter Bosch. In less than a year, he was able to take a successful laboratory experiment and convert it into an industry large enough to keep the war going at murderous rates until 1918. This was a phenomenal accomplishment. The distance from the laboratory to full-scale production is usually measured in decades. For this accomplishment, Bosch was elevated to the board of directors of I.G. Farben.

As Hitler prepared for World War II, the German chemical industries figured to play a major role. They were critical. The Lüftwaffe and Wehrmacht would roll on tires made of synthetic rubber, powered by synthetic gasoline, and kept going with synthetic lubricants. Bosch viewed these assignments from a technical perspective and tried to ignore the politics. In his defense, the ordered mindset necessary to accomplish what Bosch had done made the madness of Hitler utterly incomprehensible. He heard what he wanted to hear. When Hitler talked about the "Jewish Problem," he thought of the effect of the currency collapse on industry, not the Jewish chemists who worked for him. An epic story.

Selective hearing is still a major problem of industrial interests. American farmers voted for an administration in 1984 which fostered policies that would bankrupt most of them. When Reagan attacked the Welfare State for breeding social parasites, they all cheered. They weren't parasites, they were producers--and damn hard-workin' ones at that! Many used to be millionaires and Reagan talked like a proud millionaire. They thought he was talking like a producer. (return)

5 William Manchester, The Arms of Krupp, Little, Brown and Co. (1964).

The House of Krupp dates from the sixteenth century. They made steel. In 1870, heavy guns supplied the Prussians by Krupp effectively blew up the French army thereby ending the Franco-Prussian War. Krupp made, and makes, extremely fine Kruppstahl. His guns were better the the General Staff could understand. Hitler understood their frustrations and promised to let them build the best guns they could. (In the end, this was part of the undoing of the German army. Give industrial types their head and they can get fancy. Simple Russian guns beat complex German guns in the mud of Russia.)

Happy with this arrangement, Krupp interests backed Hitler. They were rewarded with the spoils of war. They were provided with forced labor and built a plant at Auschwitz. The heavy irony of the Krupp experiment with Fascism was that it did not pay. The Krupps feared the Social Democrats and to keep them out of their facilities, they used repression and a compensation package that many German workers found quite acceptable. If you worked for Krupp, your children were born in a Krupp hospital, educated in a Krupp school, played on a Krupp playground, etc. You shopped in a Krupp store. It was cradle-to-grave security of sorts. Women advertising for husbands would specify employees of Krupp. During World War II, these "expensive" employees provided the Krupp works with steady profits. The forced labor of Auschwitz always posted a loss.

Leaving aside the lessons of Nazism, the Krupp industrial model is interesting. It might be called "industrial paternalism." By provided the services necessary for life to employees, the industry can grow irrespective of the money games that swirl around it. Since industrial growth has often been hampered by shortages of currency, this is a useful tactic. The problems with industrial paternalism is that not everyone likes this arrangement and further, it is very sensitive to the quality of the top manager. Even so, there are American examples. Phillips Petroleum, arguably the most innovative in the business, was for years, a shining example of industrial paternalism with many essentially contented employees. There are many ways to organize industry.

The Krupp industrial doctrines were summed up by Manchester as follows: pp. 146-47 (Interior quotes from the Generalregulativ itself.)

For nearly a century the Generalregulativ was to remain the Konzern's basic constitution. It is not too much to call it a blueprint for all of German industry. Everything that was to emerge in the decades ahead--the rigid chain-of-command system, vertical and horizontal integration, the establishment of cartels--was tersely set forth in its fine Gothic script.

The full force of authority must be used to suppress disloyalty and conspiracy. Those who commit unworthy acts must never be permitted to feel safe, must never escape public disgrace. Good, like wickedness, should be examined through a microscope, for there truth is to be found.

Employees are expected to render "full and undivided energy, loyalty, a love of good order, and a freedom from "all prejudicial influences." This last included a "refusal to work or inciting others thereto."

What may strike the Ausländer as odd is that Alfred's (Krupp) General Regulations were regarded--and in Essen are still regarded--as liberal. For the first time a German firm was spelling out it duties to its men. Kruppianer could lay claim to "a health service, a relief fund, a pension scheme, hospitals, a homes for the aged," and though this would not come into effect until 1877, Krupp's "Life Insurance Institution." Nothing remotely resembling this may be found in the archives or the other titans who were emerging from the industrial revolution.

Low cost housing, a bread factory, a wine store, a butcher plant, a hotel, and a charity fund for families left destitute by the flooding of the Ruhr, soup kitchens and public works were provided for the unemployed during the Great Depression. Konsum-Anstalt--a non-profit chain of cooperative stores served all Krupp employees.

Such paternalism, Norman J. G. Pounds pointed out in his study of the Ruhr, "was contrary to the social and political development of the time." Krupp meant it to be. Alfred sent the Kaiser a copy, which survives in the Krupp family archives; on the title page, in his bold, jagged hand, is the inscription, Originally determined for the protection and flowering of the works. Besides that, it is useful for the prevention of socialistic errors. Among those who saw the moral was Wilhelm's chancellor. The parallels between Alfred's text and Bismarck's social welfare legislation of 1883, 1884, and 1889 are unmistakable. (return)

6 Business Week is a publication with many industrial class values. There are those who may wish to contest the point but the issue of September 16, 1985, with its cover story "The Casino Society," clearly put Business Week in the camp of those who abhor the money games intruding on the real workings of the economy. That is "industrial-class" enough for this book. Of all traditional business publications, only Business Week lifted its voice in protest over the plunder of industry in the 1980s. (return)


GO TO--Elegant Technology: Chapter SIX 

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