Is Mass Production Ethical ?

November 7, 2007 at 9:56 am | Posted in communism, consumerism, economy, free market, industrial evolution, loss of self, mechanisation, redundancy, specialisation | 3 Comments

Successful and well developed economies in today’s world are mostly of the ‘free market’ design. These are economies where a modicum of free enterprise is only slightly limited by government regulation (except in agriculture, but we are not taking that topic up today). The alternative of top down control and no private ownership (communism) has died a natural death.

Both systems were outgrowths of the industrial revolution of the 19C. When looked at from an individual standpoint, by relieving the individual or family unit of the need to accomplish all basic tasks pretty much for themselves, and by introducing the incredible efficiencies of mechanisation, the individual is freed up to do other things, and these things necessarily, will now involve specialisation if one is to fit in to the overall framework. The economy mass produces stuff by mechanised processes that are increasingly automated with as few people as possible controlling as much process as possible.

Work, for an individual, is defined as the specialised, narrow, thing that that individual has been trained to do. The individual has to fit into whatever slots are available in the economy of the day.

So, the training of the individual, education also has to become specialised. Now, in India, there is no more point in getting an ‘arts degree’. There is no utility in it. Job requirements do not include something as impractical and unspecialised as an ‘arts degree’. Furthermore, if one wants to change lines of work, say after five or ten years of experience, one finds that one is starting the new job at the bottom of the ladder- the earnings ladder! The only thing that counts is a proven ability to perform and that comes only with experience.

We know all of these things and they don’t overly disturb us for we are fairly confident that the whole thing hangs together and works pretty durn well. After all, what we need is a job, and some job security, and for prices to remain affordable, and for there to be opportunities and time for recreation and the family. What else does one want from a healthy, sound economy?

I would suggest that we have blinded ourselves to who and what we really are. We do this and allow ourselves to be duped because it is the easiest thing to do. We are comfortable enough, our families are pretty much taken care of, so what could really be wrong?

What we have gained is security.
What we have lost is our SELVES.

What happens to human beings that become redundant? What happens to machines that become redundant? The human has become nothing more than a machine, filling a slot in the endless cycle of mass production.

Mass production is good. Mass production runs the economy. Without mass production there would be no economy and there would be no prosperity.

We have gained the whole world-
But, we have lost ourSELVES.


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  1. Hi,
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  2. This phenomenon was what Karl Marx referred to as the “alienation of man”. Man is alienated from enjoying the fruits of his own labour. Charlie Chaplin captures the problem astutely in his great film “Modern Times”. The recent work of Bourdieu (“Distinctions”) shows how in a particular ‘field’ rank and status emerges – how a particular community of practice is structured and hierarchized based on achievements within the field that gives rank and status. Rank and status, of course, means how much resources you can command in a social setting. Only devout work in a field is the solution to existence within a metro. There are no ‘computer experts’ – there are network engineers, data miners, security specialists, system analysts and so on and so forth.

  3. Very true Mahil. Of course we have painted ourselves into a corner, seemingly with no way now to back out of our situation. At least, this is what our bosses would have us believe.

    But, the fact is that some folks are earning in excess of their real needs. These people also are realising that they can exercise choice, not just in deciding what to consume but also in deciding whether to consume. Culture scarcely tolerates the ones who choose to opt out, but what happens if a significant number stop consuming so rampantly? What happens if folks start shunning their credit cards? What happens if there is growing support for fair trade items?

    I’m not hopeful really, but there is a slender chance that we will choose not to self destruct entirely before it really is too late.

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