I see this as the substitution of mechanics for meaning. In agriculture we have soul-less monoculture—overwhelming nature with machines and chemicals to produce a single crop sure to sell in vast quantities. In manufacturing there’s the assembly line—you might call it mono-movement: you will secure these three nuts with an electric drill…for the rest of your miserable life. In institutions we have bureaucracy where even the simplest questions, complaints, or adjustments must be referred “up the line”—for God’s sake do not make decisions on the front line where institution meets its client.
It’s riskier but much more effective, in the long run, to delegate the power to the level where it must be present. This has long been known and preached under the code-word of “empowerment.” But use of that very term reveals the problem. No. People already have the power to make sensible decisions at every level of a complex organization. The power is built in, comes with the employee. We speak of empowerment as if the employee didn’t have it. If the employee doesn’t have it, it is because it has been taken away—by the system. To be sure empowerment is there as a subject in countless “off-sites” and the seminars—but not for actual implementation.
We live surrounded by collectives rather than communities because our leadership, those who control wealth or power, hold on to it and insist on using people as soul-less gadgets rather than employing them as responsible individuals. We don’t walk the talk we talk in our endless training sessions. If we could genuinely humanize the large collectives, all sorts of new demands would arise in society. Our elites would then begin sincerely to insist that we have schools that really work, that all families are “empowered” to raise competent children, etc. Instead we apply the same policy mechanics at every level—and some few lonely voices out in the wilderness, like mine, cry out against and curse the “collectives.”
The way to humanize institutions (or agriculture, or manufacturing, etc.), is always to favor the rational and human side of a situation—even when it is inefficient. Organic, diversified agriculture is—inefficient; but it is adaptive. Enabling employees is—inefficient; but ultimately it will make the organization responsive and more secure. Inefficiency means more costly. This translates into those who control the wealth letting go of some of it willingly to secure an adaptive, moral, and higher order.