Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Fundamentals of Industrial Ideologies: Concentration

The Third Wave, A. Toffler

The rise of the market gave birth to yet another rule of Second Wave civilization—the principle of concentration.

First Wave societies lived off widely dispersed sources of energy. Second Wave societies became almost totally dependent on highly concentrated deposits of fossil fuel.

But the Second Wave concentrated more than energy. It also concentrated population, stripping the countryside of people and relocating them in giant urban centers. It even concentrated work. While work in First Wave societies took place everywhere—in the home, in the village, in the fields—much of the work in Second Wave societies was done in factories where thousands of laborers were drawn together under a single roof.

Nor was it only energy and work that were concentrated. Writing in the British social science journal New Society, Stan Cohen has pointed out that, with minor exceptions, prior to industrialism "the poor were kept at home or with relatives; criminals were fined, whipped or banished from one settlement to another; the insane were kept in their families, or supported by the community, if they were poor." All these groups were, in short, dispersed throughout the community.

Industrialism revolutionized the situation. The early nineteenth century, in fact, has been called the time of the Great Incarcerations—when criminals were rounded up and concentrated in prisons, the mentally ill rounded up and concentrated in "lunatic asylums," and children rounded up and concentrated in schools, exactly as workers were concentrated in factories.

Concentration occurred also in capital flows, so that Second Wave civilization gave birth to the giant corporation and, beyond that, the trust or monopoly. By the mid-1960s, the Big Three auto companies in the United States produced 94 percent of all American cars. In Germany four companies -—Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, Opel (GM), and Ford-Werke—together accounted for 91 percent of production. In France, Renault, Citroen, Simca, and Peugeot turned out virtually 100 percent. In Italy, Fiat alone built 90 percent of all autos.

Similarly, in the United States 80 percent or more of aluminum, beer, cigarettes, and breakfast foods were produced by four or five companies in each field. In Germany 92 percent of all the plasterboard and dyes, 98 percent of photo film, 91 percent of industrial sewing machines, were produced by four or fewer companies in each respective category. The list of highly concentrated industries goes on and on.

Socialist managers were also convinced that concentration of production was "efficient." Indeed, many Marxist ideologues in the capitalist countries welcomed the growing concentration of industry in capitalist countries as a necessary step along the way to the ultimate total concentration of industry under state auspices. Lenin spoke of the "conversion of all citizens into workers and employees of one huge 'syndicate'—the whole state." Half a century later the Soviet economist N. Lelyukhina, writing in Voprosy Ekonomiki could report that "the USSR possesses the most concentrated industry in the world."

Whether in energy, population, work, education, or economic organization, the concentrative principle of Second Wave civilization ran deep—deeper, indeed, than any ideological differences between Moscow and the West.

Q&A - 20/6

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