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Elegant Technology

Notes for Chapter One

The Hunter and the Farmer


1 The New Testament of the Bible. (King James Version)

There are several ideas lifted from the Bible in this book. This has been done for valid reasons. It is impossible to ignore the impact of Christian thought on industrialization. The vast majority of the pieces of the industrial structure are the products of Christian cultures.

In the future, as Japan becomes even more important to the industrial landscape, the teachings of Buddhism, Confucianism, or Shintoism may guide their development and will become a necessary subject for discussion--I hope someone qualified is already working on such a book.

Japanese social structures affect their industrial organizations--but even here, many important ideas appear borrowed. In many ways, the Japanese social organizations of industrialization are a better representation of Protestant Germany than the Lexus 400 is of the Mercedes Benz. There is an obvious link between what is made and how it is made that spills over into cultural areas such as religion. The more interesting question concerns causation: Do core values produce the culture which can build a Mercedes, or does the ability to imagine a Mercedes create the core values?

The included reference markings apply to all derivations of the King James Bible. The choice of the King James Bible was quite deliberate. There are many Americans who believe these words literally and act upon them--these are important instructions to the devout. In my observations, producers, whether devout Christians or not, believe these ideas. Gay or straight; Buddhist or Jew; mystical or rational: if people work with their hands, this is what they believe. A typical reaction was "Oh! that idea is from the Bible. I didn't know that. Oh well--who cares where it comes from--it's a good idea." These are definitive core values. Producers might not believe in Virgin births or redemption through capital punishment--the taught core values of Christianity, but they do believe in family owned and operated farms, among other passionately held ideas. (return)

2 This quote, attributed to the radical Anglican clergyman Alan Watts, applies not only to Christianity, but to almost any religion. The irony of religion is that virtually all of the major religions were begun by antireligious types. It took Christianity three centuries to go from Jesus as Jesus to Jesus as God. Confucius, another antireligious type, was a deity in five centuries. (return)

3 Roland H. Bainton Here I Stand, Abigdon Press (1955).

There are hundreds of books about the impact of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation on history. Many are very good. What makes Here I Stand more interesting than most is that it is written by a true believer--it is the official version of the history of Luther for Lutherans.

The link between Lutheran cultures and advanced industrialization is a recent, mostly twentieth century phenomena and is not as important as the link between the Quakers and the industrial revolution in England. But it is very interesting because the technological achievements of nominally Lutheran countries are outstanding and all out of proportion to size of their populations. Sweden, with 8 million people, has roughly the same qualitative industrial capabilities (in some cases greater) as the United States with 250 million and could simply bury England in any meaningful industrial comparison.

It should be remembered that Christianity has not been such a force for progress because it was so strong but because it was so weak. One of the criticisms directed at the Protestant Reformation was that it was going to bring on religious (and other forms of) anarchy. This is clearly did. There has never been such a powerful argument for at least a little bit of anarchy. (return)

4 Alexander Hamilton, et al. Federalist Papers.

In many ways, these papers are more important than the Constitution of the United States. They clearly outline the class lines and power arrangements that would operate in the United States social system. Strangely, the Federalist Papers are almost never taught. When the operating blueprint for a society is not taught and the Constitution is taught but only honored occasionally, it is not surprising that citizens are confused. (return)

5 James Burke, Connections, Little, Brown, and Co., Boston (1978).

Burke is British Broadcasting's (BBC-TV) science correspondent, who covered the American moon shots--among other significant efforts. His series about the cultural links between technological development and religion, geography, weather, economics, etc.. are the finest I have found. It is his assertion that the Quakers are responsible for the industrial revolution and he provides ample evidence. (return)

6 Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, Little, Brown, and Co., Boston (1975), pg. 274 (return)

7 Thorstein Veblen,

The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899),
The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts (1914),
Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution (1915),
The Vested Interests and the Common Man (1920),
The Engineers and the Price System (1921).

It is impossible to summarize the great writings of Veblen in a few words. I chose to use the ideas from Imperial Germany only because it is most relevant to the times--modern reunited Germany is close to what Veblen hoped for in 1915.

Veblen is really America's only economic philosopher and is widely misunderstood. The Theory of the Leisure Class is a book that should be read first--it is the easiest and most accessible. It is more accurate now than when it was written. It took Veblen seven years of study and thought to come up with his masterpiece. It is not only stunningly perceptive, it is distinctively American. It may be Veblen's easiest work but is not easy to read. It was written in an arcane style even for his day. In 1899, people read and attended lectures instead of watching television. The real industrial expansion in the United States was only 30 years old and people had seen it happen. Veblen assumes all this. A reader who thinks that milk comes from a store may find his writings confusing. To make life even more difficult, Veblen employs a specialized vocabulary.

With a dictionary, some third party commentary especially Robert Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers--and persistence, The Theory of the Leisure Class can be read and enjoyed. It is worth every second of effort. John Kenneth Galbraith's explanation of Veblen in The Age of Uncertainty also provides an excellent introduction.

The Theory of the Leisure Class is probably not Veblen's most important book, that title belongs to The Engineers and the Price System. The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts influenced chapter four of this book and is my personal favorite. The Vested Interests and the Common Man is important for those who would understand the political passions of the 1920s--an era not terribly dissimilar from the 1990s. (return)

8 Jean Ziegler,Switzerland Exposed, Allison and Bushby, New York (1981), pg. 46.

Anyone interested in understanding the reality of commercial Calvinism must read this book. John Calvin was the great Swiss reformer and though today, non-Calvinists are tolerated in Switzerland rather than burned, as was true when Calvin was alive, secular Calvinism is alive and well and dominates the Swiss cultural landscape. Accordingly, pure Swiss Calvinism is manifest in its most famous institution--its banks.

When all accounts are balanced, the Swiss economy is dominated by the banks. All other Swiss commercial ventures from cuckoo clocks to pharmaceuticals are bit players by comparison. Defining Swiss banking are the famous bank secrecy laws. The main reason for secrecy is criminal intent. From corrupt third-world dictators to arms dealers, Swiss banks enable most of the world's truly gruesome behavior. In the chapter "A Nation of Fences" (pp.39-66) it is argued that Switzerland's defining commercial activity is trafficking in stolen merchandise. Forget chocolates.

In one very funny story, a Swiss picture is drawn of the Fall of Saigon. Americans remember the pictures of frantic people fighting to get aboard the last helicopters leaving the American embassy. For the Swiss, it is the story of the controversy surrounding a Swissair jetliner which was asked to transport sixteen tons of gold looted by that great "democrat" Theiu--the same charming fellow for whose rule thousands of Americans died. How much gold made it to those famous Swiss vaults remains a question--that is a secret of course, but the answer is--it was as much as a DC-8 could carry.

For those who do not understand the Swiss economy, much of the reality of her banking is shocking. Most people would rather know the Swiss as those charming people who work for international cooperation--I know I would! Yet there is no denying the contention of his book that secular Swiss Calvinism has an ugly and very dark side. (return)

9 It is fashionable in real-politik-speak these days to discuss the subtle differences between the Sunni and Shiite Moslems. There is a valid reason for this kind of inquiry. Of the available ways to look at the world, the ones people hold most dear-beliefs held most strongly-can be called their religious beliefs--even if those beliefs are rational or atheistic. It is the set of beliefs that people will live and die for. Folks inclined to mysticism tend to hold to the religions with names--Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Shinto, etc.

Folks who insist on rational explanations for phenomena invent secular forms of their old beliefs. Psychology has been kiddingly called "secular Judaism,"Sigmund Freud's attempt to cope with Catholic Vienna. Like the Catholics, Freud believed that dreams have meaning, sex is dangerous and leads to failed behavior the Catholics call sin, and that it is healthy to seek advice on absolution and restitution from someone trained in human behavior. For Catholics, the confessor studies in a seminary--for shrinks, it is science and the university. Not surprisingly, Freudian Jews and post-Vatican II Catholics coexist about as gracefully as is possible to the human condition.

The colossal outbreaks of twentieth century barbarism can be called the Great Protestant Civil War--a battle between the secular industrial manifestations of Lutheran Germany and Calvinist England. The protestant reformation in England was not especially religious--unless Henry VIII's desire for a new sex partner qualifies as a religion. Today, the state church of England is little more than an official art critic--the definition of noblesse oblige. England's reformation did not become religiously defined until the Puritans and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Calvinism flowed into the religious vacuum created by Henry VIII's nonreligious "reformation."

The cultural tension created by a state church that is still not very religious and the more passionate manifestations of Calvinism, limits the possibilities of religious extremism in England. Though it can be argued that Calvinism defines English cultural norms, it is nowhere nearly as purely expressed as it is in Switzerland--or for that matter, in the United States.

The Anglophiles of the United State are from Puritan stock and so tend to exaggerate the influences of English Calvinism. England may only be 51 percent culturally Calvinist in reality, but from the American Puritan perspective--the dominant one on the Atlantic Coast--England appears to be about 95 percent Calvinist. To Veblen, who grew up in a society where farmers and tradesmen were Scandinavian and German immigrants while the towns and banks were owned by New England Puritans, the figure must have appeared to be about 99-100 percent.

The Protestant Reformation in Germany happened in reverse order. It was a purely religious and cultural movement co-opted by commercial and economic interests. Johan Gutenburg was the very embodiment of the secular values that defined Luther's cultural values. In modern Germany, Luther is not much remembered as the founder of a religious movement but as the person who defined the German language--his ultimate contribution to the business of printing. German industrialists can trace their core values to Gutenburg.

The Protestant Reformation was not pretty. Lutheran movements became militarized. Sweden, full of Viking tendencies for a good fight, saved Luther's religion in the Thirty Year's War, but Germany was destroyed for 150 years. Even so, the cultural values of commercial Lutheranism survived--there was a version of Lutheran thought that spoke to the people who worked. Work is important.

The teaching is "Everyone must do his best." The agreement was that "If I the worker give you the factory owner an honest day's work, then it is your responsibility as an owner to protect my job, see to it that I stay healthy and provide for me when I am sick and old, and pay me well enough so that I may marry and raise healthy children."

This is the grand bargain of Krupp's Generalregulativ. (See also note from chapter four on Krupp's General Regulations) It became the heart of Bismarck's social legislation. It is the industrial labor bargain struck to prevent the repeat of the Revolutions of 1848 or 1870. The bargain has held up remarkably well in large measure because it is the Lutheran definition of social order. None of this would mean anything unless the bargain was fair and led to general prosperity. For producing a successful industrial order, it would be difficult to top the German technological prowess. German products are lusted after the world over.

The bargain defused the Socialist challenge which reawakened in 1870. Bismarck's social legislation of 1889 absorbed most of the Socialism's best issues. Medical care became the right of a citizen, old age was protected, children could not work in factories, and the owners would see to it that labor had the best working conditions affordable while still investing in the company. The political mutation of socialism to Social Democrats transformed them into secular Lutherans. In Lutheran Sweden, Lutheran clergymen are part of the government. The line between Social Democrats and Lutherans is visible only to an insider. Social Democracy is the Lutheran-Bismarckian compromise for the worker.

England lacked a religious buffer for worker's rights. Calvinist doctrines of predestination have the effect of telling a person that God shows who he loves by showering him with the blessing of riches. If you are poor, God must be preparing you for the really bad news. Perverting the doctrine further, secular Calvinists believe that being rich and owning land entitles you to make all decisions. Being rich made a person wise as God's agent on earth--other opinions were not required.

English factories were hell-holes. Towns were filthy. Disease ran rampant. Children worked 16-hour days in the mills and ate so badly that growth was severely stunted. Machines were dangerous and if a worker was hurt, he could starve. Calvinism's response to worker unrest was to blame demon rum. As a result, Methodism was little more than a temperance movement.

In to this mess strode Marx, an escapee of German repression. The Germans threw him out for arguing too vociferously for the worker portion of the grand bargain. He looked at English working conditions and came to the conclusion that the only solution was to seize the ownership of factories from the barbarians who created thema prescription that had gotten him booted from Germany and now frightened the rentier class. To their everlasting credit, the English tolerated Marx, but the Marxist influence made labor relations in England much more militant.

Eventually English Marxism would mutate into the Labour Party party whose program became similar to that of the German and Scandinavian Social Democrats. Revolution became a figure of speech as working conditions improved following World War I. Yet, the Labour Party's prescriptions for social justice have always been more Marxist than the German grand bargain--which English Marxists have always viewed as a sell-out of principle.

Working-class Lutheranism had adjusted its expectations to the new reality of industrialism far better than their Calvinist comrades in England. Even so, they could not control the impulses of the upper classes.

The insanity of World War I has no higher justification than a juvenile pushing match. Germany was the new kid on the industrial block. She reasoned that her industry had become better than England's. Krupp makes better guns than Vickers, Nah! Nah! Na Na-Nah!

The German and English royal families were related and interbred down to the level where the definition of an insult was an important issue in life. Royalty's toys were their armies. "If I say my chaps can lick your chaps and you say no, the only way to find out is a sporting proposition--so let us have at it. Oh and, bye the bye, let us have a wager of, let us say, my empire against yours?" And so a generation of men were slaughtered over a wager. Fear, anger, and hatred would create an encore as soon as a new generation of boys could become soldiers.

Militaristic, upper-class Calvinism would define imperialism. Colonialism's perfect logic would dictate that if a person stole a whole country he is rich, ergo God must really love him and we should give him a title and bow to him. There were no checks on colonial mayhem, anyone thwarting God's plans should be exterminated. Cecil Rhodes, an upright preacher's son, would kill thousands of innocent people in the process of stealing Rhodesia. His plundered wealth would endow scholarships for the advancement of the ideals of English civilization.

In part because of secular Lutheranism, Germany never mastered the art of grand imperial theft--not that she did not try. Her failure is best attributed to the fact that England had all the imperial prizes before Germany could learn the imperial pretensions.

English secular Calvinism is individualistic: the high priests are the economists and bankers. German secular Lutheranism is directed to the possibilities of the group: their high priests are the sociologists and industrialists. In either case, the high priests determine the social direction by defining the operating assumptions.

Until the onset of World War I, Germany appeared to offer Americans the superior model for industrialization. When North Dakotans named their capital in 1889, they chose Bismarck so as to attract investment and industrial expertise from Germany. The middle of the United States was settled by Germans who escaped the repression following the Revolution of 1848. Wisconsin became a state in 1848 and the political landscape has been dominated by the descendants of some of the best thinkers of German socialism--it is no accident that C. Wright Mills, America's best known sociologist, is part of the history of the University of Wisconsin. They were joined by Scandinavians who shared the German belief in the grand social bargain. The folks who owned the banks and railroads did not. The battle between the cultures was bitter.

With the coming of World War I, the progressive outbreak was crushed in the Midwest. The teaching of German was outlawed in schools and the members of the political organizations agitating for an American grand bargain were jailed for sedition. The horror of World War II would do more than end the practice of naming American cities after German ones.

German social ideals became badly stained. Fascism tore a gaping hole in the hull of German idealism--exposing a need for careful limits. Even the high-minded notions of shared provision, the strength of the group, and virtue of doing one's best, could turn mutant. The grand bargain assumes that everyone will do his or her best work, therefore questioning another's activities is a disrupting insult. I don't tell you how to do your job and you don't tell me how to do mine--is an important sentiment of the grand bargain. No one questions it because it usually produces a tranquil social order.

Hitler, who had lived with the working class and understood their commitment to the grand bargain, played this sentiment like a drum. Care for the group was perverted into militarism: shared provision--heroic sacrifice: quality work--superior weapons: intolerance to disruptions in the social order--efficient sanitation. Death camps were sold as a public health benefit catering to the German need for cleanliness. No one was to question decisions--no one was supposed to ask the questions. Those few Lutheran clergymen who dared to question the morality of mass extermination as a version of the grand bargain, were themselves killed. If German industry needed the resources of Russia and the Ukraine, then the most efficient methods of seizure should be used. If death camps needed an excellent way to kill people, the chemical industry would be happy to provide the necessary material that would meet all design specifications.

German-Americans, like all other civilized creatures, reacted with outrage at the value perversion. These people came from radical German utopian socialists. Many were pacifists. To this day, progressive American Germans react to Hitler's monstrous mutation of the grand bargain with stunned silence. Their silent cultural vote for the grand bargain is buying a German car. Otherwise, no one wants to talk about it.

Though invisible in modern American culture, the grand bargain lives on under other names. The Germans have renamed it as well. Today, it is most often described as German corporate culture. A German company like Mercedes-Benz will brag that it survived two wars, bombings, military occupation, marketing to an angry and traumatized world, runaway inflation, and if the speaker is young, Hitler. Mercedes is making more people happy with their production in 1992 than in 1942. The moral cover is, "Foreign policy is not my department, nor is history. My job has always been the same--make the best possible product."

In over forty-five years, secular German Lutherans have proved quite capable of preventing another collective insanity. In the process, they have confronted major moral dilemmas. Occasionally, this still turns violent. The Germany Red Army Faction, composed of otherwise serious young scholars--many Lutheran preachers' children, have been labeled terrorists for assassinating the barely-changed Nazis who retook control of some industries after World War II.

For whatever the cultural problems of Germany's past, recent history has shown that the grand bargain is still a powerful and useful industrial strategy. Germany's industrial equal, Japan, uses a modified version of the grand bargain with great success. In Scandinavia, where militarism died long ago and Lutheranism is the state religion, it exists in its purest form. If secular Lutheranism could be called "Gutenburgism," the Scandinavian version proves that their religious manifestation of a social bargain has historically very little for which to apologize. Few societies have less innocent blood on their hands. (return)

10 Connie Bruck, The Predators Ball, Simon and Schuster (1988).
James B. Stewart, Den of Thieves, Simon and Schuster (1991).

I really had written about the producers and predators before Predators Ball was published. I liked the alliteration. Never has an idea been so thoroughly confirmed, however. There will be scores and probably hundreds of books written about 1980s Wall Street corruption. (return)

11 Pehr Gyllenhammar, People at Work, Addison Wesley Publishing Co. (1977).

There is no better description of Swedish commercial values than those shown by the man who changed the nature of work at Volvo. There is a reason why Volvo workers are treated as well as they are, and why anyone who worries about worker exploitation should buy a Volvo to avoid guilt. Gyllenhammar caused the assembly line to be reinvented for health and safety reasons--an outstanding example of enlightened management. (return)

12 Edwards Deming books are about the arcane world of quality control using statistics. The public Deming is much more interesting. His most memorable social remark may be "The only way we will ever compete with the Japanese is to send them all the graduates of the Harvard and Stanford business schools." (return)

13 William Manchester, America's Caesar, Little, Brown, and Co. (1978).

Lovers of history love the writing of Manchester. He is a very hard working writer who researches his topic thoroughly, analyzes carefully, and writes beautifully. America's Caesar could easily be his best work.

Manchester fought in a war run by MacArthur--reason enough to take the man very seriously. For the purposes of this book, chapter eight, The Last Post, devoted to MacArthur's duties as Military Governor of Japan from 1945-50 is most interesting. If MacArthur could only see the industrial giant he created when he disarmed Japan, he would be astonished and/or proud. Most likely he would be frightened! (return)

14 The Japanese are beginning to understand their cultural power and are proclaiming it to the rest of the world. Shintaro Ishihara, a man characterized by the American press as "right-wing" in his now famous The Japan That Can Say No! (Simon and Schuster, New York 1991, pp. 80-81,) is quite certain that Japanese culture has things to teach others.

Underlying Caucasian racial prejudice is their intense class consciousness, a bias against people of the same race or ethnic group but of different social strata. The European nobility despised commoners and the lower social orders just because they were not of their privileged level, while the hoi polloi both hated the nobility and aspired to their prestige and social standing. Eventually, a democratic fiction that everyone is created equal obscured the obvious hostility between the upper, middle, and lower classes. The nobility prided themselves on a life of ease. Gentlemen did not go into commerce, much less work with their hands. Disregard the fact that they also benefited from the toil of the masses, the aristocracy viewed the other classes with contempt simply because they worked.

This class consciousness has persisted into the modern era. Western societies have extraordinary disparities between strata and there is ubiquitous discrimination against the working class. In the United States, for example, fast-track members of the corporate elite will not even type a letter or do secretarial tasks for themselves. To go into the factory and get dirty and sweaty learning how products are made is beneath them.

Class background largely determines the quality of education an American receives. Highly trained U.S. top management do not ask blue-collar personnel for suggestions about how to improve factory operations. Even of they did, the worker would probably have little to say."

RETURN TO--Elegant Technology: Chapter One

GO TO--Elegant Technology: Chapter Three

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