Magazine article Management Today

Red in Tooth and Claw; in Succumbing to the Lure of Short-Termism, We Have Reverted to Our Role as Predators and Betrayed a Still Earlier Ancestry as Nurturers

Magazine article Management Today

Red in Tooth and Claw; in Succumbing to the Lure of Short-Termism, We Have Reverted to Our Role as Predators and Betrayed a Still Earlier Ancestry as Nurturers

Article excerpt

RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW

The development of agriculture was one of mankind's most significant achievements. The transformation of the nomadic hunter-gatherer into the farmer is the foundation of our history. The farm - essentially the first energy-harvesting technology - was, by definition, static. It was an essential precursor of the settlement, the town, the fortification, the church, the university. These institutions were brought into existence and nourished by an agriculturally based economy.

Much of our early industrial and commercial history also has a strangely agricultural aspect; the sense of nurturing, of husbandry, of pride was always evident. Ownership brought with it an unquestioned responsibility for the style, the character and the quality of the enterprise. Though the profitability was crucial, it was only one part of a range of concerns. When the messenger came to say, `There's trouble at 'mill, Mr' Ardcastle,' he certainly knew where Mr' Ardcastle lived. The mill was probably called 'Ardcastle's. 'Ardcastle possibly inherited it, certainly hoped to pass it on and devoted his life to it. It was a relationship curiously similar to that of a farmer to his land.

Without this long-term commitment and optimism of vision, the Industrial Revolution could not have occurred. It took three generations of Darbys to produce the blast furnace. It took both George and Robert Stephenson to develop the Rocket. Yet hunting was always a quicker way to obtain protein and, though few modern societies need to hunt now, the urge has remained with us. No country seems to have abandoned hunting entirely, though it has become a cultural rather than a functional pursuit in the industrialised world. I have no axe to grind here about hunting, and less about meat eating.

I draw the distinction simply between that part of our heritage (and psyche) which has hunted for food and that part which has nurtured crops and reared beasts (to kill for food).

Now if these parallel facets, the hunter and the nurturer, are shifting constants in our history, they might also be shifting constants in our business, investment and industrial life. This would help to explain the change in nature of our business practices. How would Hardcastle's Mill be in the '80s? The name might have been retained if the London consultants felt it was sufficiently well-known, though it would be unlikely that a Hardcastle remained personally involved. If he did, it would be under a service contract or retainer fixed at the time of the acquisition. Employees would rarely see the boss (Hardcastle or not) and would certainly have no idea where he lived; he might not even have an office in the building. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.