Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Sixth Week of Wonders

This week I wondered if, no matter how nice a particular boss might be, some people are unable to see past the structure the position of "boss" implies. Those people remain obstructive and resentful, not necessarily because they dislike the individual but because they dislike the position the individual fills. Which makes things very tricky.

I then wondered why, when inevitably in any endeavour there always ends up being someone who gives the orders or at the very least coordinates the collective will, it is so appealing to smash up what are seen as elitist structures. Elitism is as ineradicable as couch grass, if you define elitism as a structure where some people have more power than others.

And, in any case, power structures can evolve, without violence, so why ever resort to violence to achieve ideological aims? If you look first at Austria and then at the countries to its east, it is fairly easy to see which approach achieves better outcomes - the non-violent one.

Post-war in both Austria and, for example, Romania, there was a class of landowning gentry. In Romania unspeakable cruelties were practised on the landowners, their estates were smashed, and so forth and now the country has an immense task ahead in rebuilding its economy - not to mention its civil society, to use Vaclav Havel's term. In Austria none of that class-targeted violence occurred. Yet in neither Austria nor Romania do the landowning gentry still dominate; the result was the same in both places, politically. So what was the point of all that brutality?

Then I saw this on and I wondered how some people actually become bosses.


  1. Post pre-war, Romania managed to be not on the losing side (except, of course, in the matter of longitude), while Austria lost for the second time in a generation. I know nothing about the policies of the occupying governments in Austria; yet I suspect that if they did not engage in reform of land ownership they ensured that the post-occupation government should manage it thoroughly but peaceably. And I wonder whether WW II shouldn't be considered in the quantity of violence.

    It strikes me that the whole matter is odd, for agriculture as owned by magnates has for generations required high tariffs or subsidies. Think of the Corn Laws in England, or the shifts necessary to keep the East-Elbian landowners solvent before 1932. Or for that matter think of the complicated bills on agriculture that pass the U.S. Congress and leave all but a few in doubt whether anyone makes money raising crops and cattle. Were it not for the social prestige, the landlords of the old Hapsburg Empire would have seen that it was better to sell out to the tenants and put the money into city real estate or industry.

  2. Your pedagogical style is so polite, George, I almost think you might believe my erudition is such that I know about the East-Elbian landowners. Thus, once again I go meekly away to self-educate

  3. Re: your final sentence, it's something that has always perplexed me. Whenever I read the profiles of leading business people in the Sunday Times, I never ceased to be horrified by their appalling taste in books, music and films - Jeffrey Archer, Dire Straits and Forrest Gump seem to be recurring favourites. Perhaps these people's absence of intellectual curiosity and apparent lack of self-doubt is the secret of their success.

    1. You have to like going to work &, when you get there, you have to like "managing" people, which so often is another way of saying "pissing people off". In other words, you have to be pretty peculiar