Dec 12, 2015


Jumping the Industrial Revolution. Going directly to post-industrial society?

Behind the important similarities already commented, there are significant differences between the 21st century Brazil and the 19th century England. In the classic English case -e.g. Manchester –, a very conflictive situation forced the population to make a very painful and distressing jump -simplifying- from rural and agricultural communities to urban and industrial societies. Now, the challenge that often has to face the population of emerging countries -like Brazil- is one even bigger, almost comparable with the "Neolithic revolution" (according to a famous expression used by Gordon Childe). In some cases the population is forced to jump from degraded situations almost close to the hunter-gatherers communities, to the current post-Fordist and knowledge society.

In those cases, it implies to arrive to the "Post-industrial revolution" coming from the "Neolithic revolution", without stopping at the classical “Industrial revolution”. Despite what it may seem, this is not an advantage of any kind, but a much larger and more difficult challenge in all aspects of life. We need to analyze it in detail, in order to understand it and not to minimize the difficulties that face millions of people nowadays. We must not forget this situation acts in favor of a growing wealth disparity, adds barriers in the frontiers of exclusion and continues to impoverish people, systematically and permanently.

In the following pages, we will highlight some of the most important difficulties that prevents a leveling reaction in the medium term and stronger actions for the empowerment of popular classes.

Virtues and skills demands in the traditional industrialization

Nowadays trained attitudes that society demands for manpower success, are no longer the typical of the Fordism and Taylorism era. Briefly, the following skills are not asked anymore:

- Self-control,

- Discipline,

- Manual work,

- Passive obedience (better than not active),

- Gregariousness,

- Submission to the foreman and sense of hierarchy;

- Patience and social resignation;

- Capacity of suffering in the assembly line (which entails a complex balance between competition and mechanical solidarity with the rest of workers);

- Basic literacy and purely passive (not active literacy which was, as it is known, even persecuted and repressed);

- Physical strength and physical presence in the workplace.

Just listing these "virtues" from the Taylorist-Fordist industrialization era, it is clear that the desired model was defined or imposed on workers from the outside. It was assumed (rightly!) that work was basically an imposition, and therefore the worker was valued above all for his self-control, efficiency, obedience and discipline. As we shall see, this is changing rapidly and not always implies beneficial effects.

Before analyzing the virtues and skills more demanded in the current knowledge society, it must be said that not all occupations of the Fordist industrialization era were equal, just like today all works not always demands the same “new” virtues we will define. But yes –and we insist- those were the production features mainly expected from workers. Together they form the kind of behavior that gave access to better paid occupations, which allowed to break the dire dialectics of exclusion and poverty, and used to be the only possibility of access one could have into the privileged social groups or maintain a place in the management elite.

Precisely for this reason, this was the social model massively divulged and formed the universal idea of the good men. Through such idea, this model caused an undoubted influence over the entire population, becoming a basic element for empowerment and a decisive tool to learn in the fight against poverty and exclusion. On the other hand -let us not deceive ourselves-, probably, it was also a key model to direct the drain of social resources in the "right direction".


Virtues and skills demands in post-Fordism and the knowledge society

Although it can surprise us, the  mentioned self-control and other "virtues" that presided  the Fordist industrialization have changed profoundly in the post-industrial knowledge society. Therefore, they radically transform the current industrial worker which, as we have pointed out - was intended as an amorphous proletarian very similar to the "man without attributes" or "without qualities" (Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften) of the Austrian novelist Robert Musil (1880-1942). They also change profoundly the ideal and the daily reality of the traditional industrial "manpower", who came to be an amorphous and easily replaceable part in the Fordist assembly line.

On the other hand, nowadays it is demanded to the worker much more than proper obedience and self-control to be able to "embody" the "improvements" in his work "performance" that commands him his Taylor foreman. In Fordism, the worker obediently occupied the place and function on the assembly line that was granted for him and assumed the orders and modifications that once in a while where given to him when it was "discovered" how could he be more rentable if he did this instead of that. It was of course expected that the worker did exactly what was asked for without flinching, since otherwise he would be fired. We should note that in the industrial society, the model type of the worker and of correct work was imposed and defined from the outside.

Charles Chaplin visualized brilliantly in his film Modern Times the usual relationship between the taylorist leader, the foremen and the workers in a Fordist factory: the taylorist leader calculated the best production parameters and communicated them to the foremen whom –at the assembly line - communicated them to the workers and watched that they execute them accurately and obediently. Karl Marx analyzed perfectly the kind of alienation and fetishism that this fragmented, repetitive and not at all creative activity caused on workers.

Although not always for the best, this has deeply changed in the post-industrial knowledge and information society. This is a society always in permanent and turboglobalized competition among all companies, banks, productive sectors... and also (which still surprises us!) among all workers and professionals of the entire earth. Since today the homeostatic equilibrium of success and failure, wealth and poverty, effective inclusion and exclusion, etc., is played around the world and at a tremendous speed.

Therefore, and differently from the traditional assembly chain, the current post-Fordist knowledge society requires very different training and attitudes from those we have commented. Today it requires above all:


-Innovation capacity;

-High training and effective literacy, including new technologies;

-Intellectual work even on minor tasks;

-Desire to stand out and differentiate oneself from the rest of workers;

-Autonomy and capacity for self-management of one´s own schedule, effort and tasks;

-Constant competition with each other and with oneself!;

-Ability to foresee and anticipate the relevant tasks without waiting for the order;

-Eagerness and social ambition;

-Appropriate character to conciliate our own and other´s initiative in group work;

-Ability to manage in the long term objectives, training and personal development...
(Trad. Yanko MoyanoComes from the post VULNERABILITY & SOCIAL CHANGE and continue in the post INFINITY SOCIETY TRAINING?


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