Prof. Earl K Blankenship
Not too long ago, the End of History was proclaimed, and throughout the world, there was rejoicing, of sorts. While a great deal of humanity was bound to remain dissatisfied with their condition, the productive world could hardly believe its luck. Not only was the recognition of class made redundant, but any notion that the Old World of heroes and villains would make a comeback was well and truly obliterated.
So, then – victory is complete?
Well, not quite. Because the job has only been started.
The End of History, heralded by the fall of the Berlin Wall, that symbol of totalitarian insularity, ushered in heretofore unimaginable successes on the part of Wall Street and its subsidiaries around the world (FTSE, Hang Senn, etc). The absolute commodification of everything became not merely a matter of Marxist theory, but a clearly visible reality. "Lifestyle" – the packaging and sale of a "way of life", became an industry in its own right. While, in reality, lifestyle is nothing more complicated than Halloween for adults (keeping in mind, that the costume is as much mental as physical), it has spawned a great mass of "serious" literature, probably using up more column inches (when all newspapers are taken as a whole) than "hard news" stories. It is perhaps arguable that in the place of the muck-racking, campaigning journalism of old, we now have a journalism more concerned with the golf lifestyle, the clubbing lifestyle, the cigar-smoking lifestyle. This situation could hardly be more positive for the future of investment. In the 1970’s we still saw stories such as the Ford Motor Corporation’s conclusion that it would be more cost-effective to pay out compensation for accidents caused by the flawed Pinto - which burst into flames if hit from the rear - than to fix the flaws (this revelation caused a loss in confidence towards corporate power). The world after history sees serious discussion of "UN Ambassador Spice" (former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell’s elevation to the status of UN Ambassador).
The victory of the Individualistic mentality over the various Collective schools of thought has yielded an atmosphere that is more than conducive with profitable speculation. If the main interest of humanity is no longer the "greater good", or "society", but winning the lottery (something which, despite all noises regarding charity, can only benefit a few individuals), then obviously selfishness has become less unfashionable than it was in the Post-war era.
However positive the situation has become, it must be kept in mind that change is undoubtedly the only constant we now live with. Therefore, it must be anticipated that the victory of Individualism is not complete – to win the battle is not necessarily to win the war.
The present state of Wall Street is not as secure as it once was. The collapse of the Asian "Tiger" Economies, the failure of the Austerity programmes to re-make Russia, and the troubles of Long-Term Capital Management – all have shown that potential disaster is more than likely imminent. Perhaps it will not be on the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. But even if the downturn is less dramatic, turbulence must none the less be anticipated. And those seeking to "red-bait" future campaigners for "fairness", "equality" – in short, for the Egalitarian alternative – may find that the public is far too "sophisticated" to fall for such black propaganda. It must be remembered that, if nothing else, the "Left" is extremely knowledgeable about history, and, if given the chance to state their case, could easily demolish any attempts to use McCarthyite tactics. This should not be taken as a prohibition against using such tactics, but merely that it cannot be the only method used.
If the situation becomes dire, with more businesses failing, unemployment rising, etc. then clearly more people will be "in the same boat." There may even be a repeat of that troublesome historical phenomenon, where the working class and the middle class find their interests are not as divergent as they once believed. This is obviously not conducive to speculation in particular or business in general. As the services which both the middle class and the working class use begin to decline (as they have been doing for the past twenty years), along with the economic situation in general, many will feel moved by Egalitarian solutions, which blame wealth creators for wealth destruction. For example, few would argue that the state of Britain’s railways – which are used by middle-class commuters – is better now than before privatisation. Trains leave too early, too late, there is hardly any co-ordination between the rival companies, and it would therefore not take a socialist too argue that this has been privatisation for its own sake. Collectivist solutions, such as the re-nationalisation of essential services, might not sound as "old-fashioned" as they once did. That this would be intolerable is obvious. What is less clear is how to avoid it.
It must be anticipated that the coming economic troubles will make collectivist solutions attractive. While it may be of some use to send out the usual suspects to argue against collectivism, it may be even more useful to accept it, and use it for the gain of wealth creators. In Orwell’s 1984, he anticipated a world in which power was concentrated and held through a collectivist oligarchy. Written at a time (1948) when socialism was not entirely unpopular, at least outside the USA, and also imagining a world torn buy nuclear strife, Orwell’s oligarchy used the language and culture of socialism to justify itself in the eyes of its citizens. Today, however, collectivist solutions of the socialist variety are all but totally marginalised, with more confidence – particularly, on the part of the young – placed in Business. If we consider Orwell’s solution in terms of a "corporate", rather than state entity, this could yield an intriguing solution to any potential action by an organised public, bent on "righting wrongs".
This would necessitate the consolidation of business into a single monopoly, something, which has to this author’s knowledge, never been considered, at least outside the world of satire. This would require all the techniques which modern advertising has developed since the early days of Public Relations. A "buzz" would need to be created about a particular organisation, one that had proven itself to be of interest to the young, who are, after all, the only consumers that matter at this particular juncture in time. Not only are they the consumers of the future, they represent the hopes and dreams of those older consumers who still have credit. And yet the organisation we are here considering cannot be too closely identified with any particular product, fashion or service. They must, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, be everything and nothing, a product of their public’s imagination.
From this author’s own investigations, only one organisation can deliver the necessary consolidation. Lazenbee Industries Limited are certain to become the market leader, and are poised to superseded all organisational structures in the next millennium. Lazenbee have proven themselves, time and time again, to have captured those twin qualities of ruthlessness and duplicity that are the hallmarks of successful organisations today. And they are fully aware of the world they are living in, devoting their efforts thoroughly to the development of all aspects of intellectual property.
Towards the end of World War II, those great theorists of the Frankfurt School, Horkheimer and Adorno wrote:-
In this way, History will be well and truly over.
© EK Blankenship 1998
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