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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 17. 19th July 1972

Shaping the System that Shapes Us

Shaping the System that Shapes Us

So we got all these inter-locking features of what I will call, for want of a better word, the system. The children of the depression learned to love the system because it brought them out of the depths of despair, in many cases, and gave them economic security. They were reluctant to tinker with it because they worshipped it. But in allowing full-rein to these non-human goals and non-human aspects of the system-economic growth, increasing productivity, increasing profits, technological advance, bureaucracy, individualism and competition between people-society allowed them to take on a life of their own and run out of effective control. The system, to too great a degree, is now shaping us to meet its needs, and its demands and its goals. What we have to do is reshape it to meet not only our material needs but our deeper, non material needs.

Cartoon talking about old men who rule the world

And the movement has begun. It can be seen at work in a number of different areas in society.

In the industrial field it is under way in the form of job improvement programmes to produce what management theory boys now call occupational self-actualisation. Basically what it consists of is making jobs less grinding and boring and more satisfying, more interesting and more fulfilling. It is something you can apply at most levels of industry but it is making its greatest headway in production line firms overseas. Production line industries tend to produce much worker frustrations and unrest. Docter Fuchs, an American economist, has this to say about the production-line blues:-

page 13

"For many decades, many psychologists and sociologists have maintained that industrialisation has 'alienated' the worker from his work, that the individual is deprived of contact with the final fruit of his labour, and that the transfer from a craft society to one of mass production has resulted in depersonalization..."

It is this depersonalisation that job improvement is attacking and its main thrust, at least on the production line, is in the direction of giving workers more responsibility, more tasks to perform and reducing the monotony of narrow specialisation.