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Re: <nettime> Katrina: The Spectre of a Soviet-Style Crisis in the
miranda on Sat, 24 Sep 2005 17:53:04 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Katrina: The Spectre of a Soviet-Style Crisis in the

Thank you for the thoughtful response which I'm still having trouble
entirely agreeing with.

your argument.  the suboptimal response to katrina is due to the fact
that large organizations, such as wal-mart, have people at the bottom
of the organization that are less informed about the world than people
at the bottom of organizations in another time.
i dont agree with this.  id need to see statistics.  id also need to
see statistics that suggest that people stay in these bottom rung
positions longer than they did in another time.  the numbers i see
suggest that mcdonald's and wal-mart positions at the bottom are
transitionary jobs for people.  you do them while in high school or
college then transition to higher lever positions elsewhere.  they are
also final destinations for low-skilled elderly workers.

but really what i need to see is that the advances in logistics and
supply-chain management make reacting to crisis more difficult for the
united states, or the world.  wal-mart has arguably one of the most
sophisticated systems in place for reacting to market conditions.  it
is 'sensitive' to slight changes in the desires of its customers
around the world.  if diapers or peanuts are coming off the shelves in
oscaloosa a little faster than they used to a whole series of
mechanisms kick in to make sure the consumers there dont go w/o
diapers or peanuts.  this is an oft-cited example of wal-mart
innovation.  the never empty shelf.  you dont go to wal-mart to buy x
and not find it.  your time is never wasted.  you may think there is
no value in that, but there is.  it's taken that company decades to
reach the level of market sensitivity that it has.  it's done it by
thinking hard about what customers want.  it's done it by thinking
hard about what low-end customers want.  something no one else was
doing.  the smart ppl werent putting their degrees to work thinking
about low-end consumers.  wal-mart did.  that too was a huge

and you already know the value of low prices, so we'll leave that alone.

none of this makes emergency response more difficult.  im sorry it
doesnt.  wal-mart hasnt created a deficit of smart ppl who know how to
perform triage, or transport large populations, analyze air and water
quality, or provide goods to those who need them.

you arent making the crucial connection for me.

your section about algorithms is fun though.  i suppose the calculator
has prevented society from moving forward by precluding long division
by hand.  or replacing break-bulk shipping with intermodal
conatinerized shipping, since it has made what's inside the container
irrelevent to the person transporting it, has now made society less
smart.  the cotton gin further removed us from the cotton, fingers
arent bleeding all day anymore, but we lost the closeness to the
cotton to be sure.  i take the more conventional approach that such
things are gains not losses.

your argument that the study of management, which is essentially the
study of how to get large groups of diverse ppl with different
interests and skills and backgrounds to work toward common cause, has
devolved into mathematics is an argument that has been popular at
different times.  when the mba thing started it was quickly derided by
the business community for creating only soft skills.  programs
changed to become more quantitative more like a hard science.  this
back and forth has defined these programs histories.  should we have
more psych classes or more statistics classes?  it's an important
dialogue to have as the needs of society change.  the study of
management has been influenced by anthropology, sociology,
engineering, etc.  and folks are always tinkering with the balance.

and the topic is important.  business defines a large part of our
lives.  we go to work 5 days a week.  it's huge.  how should that
experience play out?  what does society want or need from this sector?
 what particular changes in society made the crash of 2000 less of a
shock to our society than the crash of 87 or 87 less than 29 even
though the size of each crash was larger than the one that came
before?  what did we do right to make this the case?  how could we
improve our resistance to these fluctuations? non trivial questions.

i spend several hours with friend last night discussing this, largely
from the context of her job (la casa - san francisco non profit, for
vicitms of domestic violence).  over 50% of her funding comes from
business and a large part of her job is to provide trainings to local
companies in domestic violence.  she spends a lot of time thinking
hard about the work environment, about for profits vs. nonprofits, and
how the work of society is divied up between them.

and you and i agree, i think, that there was a failure of management,
of coordination and communications, that defined the poor response to
katrina.  you seem to be pointing to a neo-taylorism as the problem, a
neo scientific management.  algorithms over other softer skills.

im not seeing that.

> Ricardo,
> Your argument seems to me very wide of the mark, even though I agree
> that industrial production may not be the most necessary or possible
> measure of a country's success.  But when Emmanuel Todd suggests a
> connection between the current state of the American government and
> other trends in our society, you are too quick to deny a connection.
> Citing Wal-mart as an instance of  the "Knowledge economy" strikes me
> as both relevant and ludicrous. It more exemplifies what could be
> called the "ignorance economy," and that is a major part of the
> problem, I think, which pervades politics and much else in our current
> society.

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