Musings

Kelley kelley@interpactinc.com
Sun, 14 Oct 2001 13:21:20 -0400


At 09:16 AM 10/14/01 -0500, Russell Turpin wrote:
>Adam Beberg writes:
> > A. The free flow of information eliminates middlemen.
> > B. The american economy is primarily built on middlemen.
>
>Let's try the 19th century version of this:
>
>A. The industrialization of farming eliminates farmers.
>B. The American economy is primarily built on farmers.
>
>Or the 20th century version:
>
>A. Automation eliminates factory workers.
>B. The American economy is primarily built on factory
>workers.
>
>The difference, of course, is that entire political
>philosophies were built around the importance of the
>independent farmer, not just as the center point of
>the economy, but also as the sine qua non of human
>life. Later, political philosophers were written around
>the factory worker, though these saw factory work
>as necessary rather than as ennobling. I trust we're
>not going to see the emergence of a political
>philosophy built around the middle man.
>
>Russell


This is an interesting point, although I'm not sure that there were really 
any political philosophies built around the factory worker and factory work 
as necessary. If your point is that arguments were raised and many hands 
wrung over the predicted destruction of a way of life, sure. But, at the 
same time that arguments (philosophies) emerged to protect a way of life, 
so too, were arguments heralding (and legitimating) new possibilities for a 
way of life.

an economy ostensibly based on middle men (while factory work declined) was 
the topic of social theorizing during the 50s and 50s for example: Daniel 
Bell's _PostIndustrial Society_ and his "End of Ideology" thesis. The 60s 
and 70s saw an entire debate over the "new class" and what that meant for 
Bell's thesis, for social change, for class relations and politics, etc etc.
Upper middle class professionals--lawyers, doctors, engineers, managers, 
professors--are largely middle men. To some extent they are partly involved 
in the production of knowledge. However, most of the time their work 
involves the application of knowledge. They are middle men who are 
authorized (as opposed to lay people in most cases) to interpret abstract 
knowledge for those who don't have the expertise to do so.  Managers don't 
own the firms they work for, but they are authorized to oversee much of the 
nitty gritty operations that CEOs and stock holders don't much attend to. 
(I can't recall the book that caused a stir in the 40s I think, Burnham & 
??? who wrote about the "revolutionizing" effect of the rise of managers as 
"middlemen" between owners and foremen.

So, I'd say that a defense of a way of life for the middle man has already 
been penned. Just as Jefferson's defense of the ennobling character of 
agrarian life was written long before industrialization threatened it; just 
as Marx's work on the ennobling character of non-alienated labor was penned 
well before automation threatened factory jobs.

Kelley