Monday, March 14, 2011

The Fundamentals of Industrial Ideologies: Specialization

The Third Wave, A. Toffler

A second great principle ran through all Second Wave societies: specialization. For the more the Second Wave eliminated diversity in language, leisure, and life-style, the more it needed diversity in the sphere of work. Accelerating the division of labor, the Second Wave replaced the casual jack-of-all-work peasant with the narrow, purse-lipped specialist and the worker who did only one task, Taylor-fashion, over and over again [..].

By the time Henry Ford started manufacturing Model Ts in 1908 it took not eighteen different operations to complete a unit but 7,882. In his autobiography, Ford noted that of these 7,882 specialized jobs, 949 required "strong, able-bodied, and practically physically perfect men," 3,338 needed men of merely "ordinary" physical strength, most of the rest could be performed by "women or older children, and, he continued coolly, "we found that 670 could be filled by legless men, 2,637 by one-legged men, two by armless men, 715 by one-armed men and 10 by blind men." In short, the specialized job required not a whole person, but only a part. No more vivid evidence that overspecialization can be brutalizing has ever been adduced.

A practice which critics attributed to capitalism, however, became an inbuilt feature of socialism as well. For the extreme specialization of labor that was common to all Second Wave societies had its roots in the divorce of production from consumption. The U.S.S.R., Poland, East Germany, or Hungary can no more run their factories today without elaborate specialization than can Japan or the United States—whose Department of Labor in 1977 published a list of twenty thousand identifiably different occupations.

In both capitalist and socialist industrial states, moreover, specialization was accompanied by a rising tide of professionalization. Whenever the opportunity arose for some group of specialists to monopolize esoteric knowledge and keep newcomers out of their field, professions emerged. As the Second Wave advanced, the market intervened between a knowledge-holder and a client, dividing them sharply into producer and consumer. Thus, health in Second Wave societies came to be seen as a product provided by a doctor and a health-delivery bureaucracy, rather than a result of intelligent self-care (production for use) by the patient. Education was supposedly "produced" by the teacher in the school and "consumed" by the student.

All sorts of occupational groups from librarians to salesmen began clamoring for the right to call themselves professionals—and for the power to set standards, prices, and conditions of entry into their specialties. By now, according to Michael Pertschuk, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, "Our culture is dominated by professionals who call us 'clients' and tell us of our 'needs.'"

In Second Wave societies even political agitation was conceived of as a profession. Thus Lenin argued that the masses could not bring about a revolution without professional help. What was needed, he asserted, was an "organization of revolutionaries" limited in membership to "people whose profession is that of a revolutionary."

Among communists, capitalists, executives, educators, priests, and politicians, the Second Wave produced a common mentality and a drive toward an ever more refined division of labor. Like Prince Albert at the great Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, they believed that specialization was "the moving power of civilization." The Great Standardizes and The Great Specializes marched hand in hand.