A Social Ecologist
For me the tension between the need for continuity and the need for innovation and change was central to society and civilization.
I consider myself a “social ecologist,” concerned with man’s man-made environment the way the natural ecologist studies the biological environment. The term “social ecology” is my own coinage. But the discipline itself boasts and old and distinguished lineage. Its greatest document is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. But no one is as close to me in temperament, concepts, and approach as the mid-Victorian Englishman Walter Bagehot. Living (as I have) in an age of great social change, Bagehot first saw the emergence of new institutions: civil service and cabinet government, as cores of a functioning democracy, and banking as the center of a functioning economy.
A hundred years after Bagehot, I was first to identify management as the new social institution of the emerging society of organizations and, a little later, to spot the emergence of knowledge as the new central resource, and knowledge workers as the new ruling class of a society that is not only “postindustrial” but postsocialist and increasingly, postcapitalist. As it had been for Bagehot, for me too the tension between the need for continuity and the need for innovation and change was central to society and civilization. Thus, I know what Bagehot meant when he said that he saw himself sometimes as a liberal Conservative and sometimes as a conservative Liberal but never as a “conservative Conservative” or a “liberal Liberal.”
ACTION POINT: Are you and your organization change agents? What steps can you take to both change and balance change with stability?
The Discipline of Management
If you can’t replicate something because you don’t understand it, then it really hasn’t been invented; it’s only been done.
When I published The Practice of Management, fifty years ago, that book made it possible for people to learn how to manage, something that up until then only a few geniuses seemed to be able to do, and nobody could replicate it.
When I came into management, a lot of it had come out of the field of engineering. And a lot of it had come out of accounting. And some of it came out of psychology. And some more came out of labor relations. Each of those fields was considered separate, and each of them, by itself, was ineffectual. You can’t do carpentry, you know, if you have only a saw, or only a hammer, or if you have never heard of a pair of pliers. It’s when you put all of those tools into one kit that you invent. That’s what I did in large part in The Practice of Management. I made a discipline of it.
ACTION POINT: Are you management practices as hoc or systematic?
“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
“Everyday is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor, we’ve got 24 hours each.”
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
shouted Moist. “You can’t just go around killing people!”
“Why Not? You Do.” The golem lowered his arm.
“What?” snapped Moist. “I do not! Who told you that?”
“I Worked It Out. You Have Killed Two Point Three Three Eight People,” said the golem calmly.
“I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr Pump. I may be–– all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer! I have never so much as drawn a sword!”
“No, You Have Not. But You Have Stolen, Embezzled, Defrauded And Swindled Without Discrimination, Mr Lipvig. You Have Ruined Businesses And Destroyed Jobs. When Banks Fail, It Is Seldom Bankers Who Starve. Your Actions Have Taken Money From Those Who Had Little Enough To Begin With. In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs. For Sport, Mr Lipvig. For Sport. For The Joy Of The Game.”
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.”
“Gringotts was the safest place in the world for something you wanted to hide — except perhaps Hogwarts.”
“He tried to read an elementary economics text; it bored him past endurance, it was like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid dream. He could not force himself to understand how banks functioned and so forth, because all the operations of capitalism were as meaningless to him as the rites of a primitive religion, as barbaric, as elaborate, and as unnecessary. In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
“Rather than justice for all, we are evolving into a system of justice for those who can afford it. We have banks that are not only too big to fail, but too big to be held accountable.”
Joseph E. Stiglitz
“The drug war is a total scam, prescription drugs kill 300K a year, while marijuana kills no one, but they spend billions/year ‘fighting’ it, because pot heads make for good little slaves to put into private prisons, owned by the banks who launder the drug money, and it’s ALL DOCUMENTED.”
Alex E. Jones
“When they took a young man into Tellson’s London house, they hid him somewhere till he was old. They kept him in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him. Then only was he permitted to be seen, spectacularly poring over large books, and casting his breeches and gaiters into the general weight of the establishment.”
“The rich run a global system that allows them to accumulate capital and pay the lowest possible price for labour. The freedom that results applies only to them. The many simply have to work harder, in conditions that grow ever more insecure, to enrich the few. Democratic politics, which purports to enrich the many, is actually in the pocket of those bankers, media barons and other moguls who run and own everything.”
“All the mega corporations on the planet make their obscene profits off the labor and suffering of others, with complete disregard for the effects on the workers, environment, and future generations. As with the banking sector, they play games with the lives of millions, hysterically reject any kind of government intervention when the profits are rolling in, but are quick to pass the bill for the cleanup and the far-reaching consequences of these avoidable tragedies to the public when things go wrong. We have a straightforward proposal: if they want public money, we want public control. It’s that simple.”