In the 1950's Business was seen as solidly pro family, compared to today it's quite amazing how little they engaged in either politics or social issues. They believed in making money and in supporting the society in which they were a part. There were exceptions of course, Advertising being one, although even here it was more an indirect attack than in your face. Today much of Business is anti family, although they always deny it. But we can see for ourselves the real picture, in advertising, in company hiring policies and in the things it will not defend. How did one thing change into another?
One of the things I always find interesting about business before the 1970's is how much Big Business and local business had in common. They believed in broadly similar ideals, a free market economy with protectionism, minimum subsidies and minimum regulations, and finally they were both socially Conservative. That included the idea that men and women were different and that they had different roles to play in the economy and within society. As far as Business was concerned it had no business interfering in that and neither did the Government. It worked, it made money and it should not be changed. That all changed with the the death of Classical Liberalism in the 1950's.
At first hardly anyone noticed, it took until the 1960's and then everyone seemed to notice it all at the same time. Society seemed to become more radical all at once and neither society at large or Business liked what it saw. It saw direct attacks upon the very foundations of society, including the very idea of Business. Both became not more Conservative, but Reactionary. They felt very threatened and they wanted these upstarts put in their place. But the ground under their feet had already moved, they lost the fight before they could even begin to fight back. And the reason is that the 1950's were not a time of Conservatism, socially yes, but not politically, politically the 1950's were totally dominated by Liberals. Every major political party in the Western world was a party that supported Liberalism. So when they tried to fight against Liberalism they allied with Liberals to do it. It was doomed to failure.
But even worse was the the Parliaments were already dominated by Liberals, so the fight wasn't really about whether Liberalism should spread but it was a question of how much could society, and by extension Business accept? In the United States this was greatly assisted by the Supreme Court which was even more Liberal than Congress was. And around the world the United Nations, a much respected institution at the time, was used to give prestige to Liberal ideas that would help set the future direction of "reform".
But these things also alienated a Branch of Liberalism, the Right. The Right rejected the way Liberalism was going and the thing they rejected was any Socialist or Communist influence upon the economic "truths", as they saw it, of Liberalism. But now they felt less inhibited and went back into Liberalism's past and started bringing out ideas that had seemed dead. Free Trade instead of Protectionism. Open Borders and Mass Immigration to create an open labour market, as opposed to the closed Union controlled labour market. Less regulation of money and currency, instead of very tight controls. Slowly, each of these ideas spread and were popularized within the Business community.
During this time Conservatism suffered two massive defeats, both self inflicted in many ways. First of all we sort Allies to help us fight Liberalism and who did we ally with? Liberals, Right-Liberals but not Conservatives, so that in time it was inevitable that we would be betrayed, and we were..... and still are being betrayed!
Secondly we trusted that Business was on our side, that Business was much too practical to fall for Liberalism's lies. But the problem was that Business is far too practical, it is much more interested in money that principle. So if principles cost money, they cut costs.
But to be honest Business was also put in a most difficult position. The law changed, what was once normal and legal was now made illegal. Feminists, the third leg of modern Liberalism pushed for women to be treated to all the advantageous that men enjoyed, but not so much the disadvantages. The difference between men and women was now illegal, or at least noticing the differences was. It meant that Business whether it liked it or not had to hire more women and therefore less men. It had to promote more women and therefore less men. And Business found out something it never expected, there were advantages to hiring women over men.
Women were very loyal and very well organised, they were disciplined and compliant, they respected authority and demanded less money. As a workforce women were much easier to control, sure they had disadvantageous as well. They were physically much weaker, with less stamina which meant that women became rarer the more physical or dirty the job. They were less fit and took more time off work, And while relations between Management and worker improved, Management spent more time dealing with inter staff issues than ever before. As the 1970's wore on another issue arose, women were much more traditional than they let on. When they got married or had children they tended to leave, after the Business had invested years into them, they were gone. That had a serious affect on how Business looked at the family.
Now that Business was legally compelled to recruited and promote women, it hated the fact that all that experience and training was wasted after 5 or at best 10 years in most cases. And the problem women were those that married as they tended to take on more traditional roles, which also meant that if they stayed they didn't want to be promoted. That practical side of Business kicked in, if women getting married is a problem for Business than marriage is anti business. Business pushed the idea that it was pro women, that it loved female employees and much of that was true. Slowly it pushed the idea that the ideal Businesswomen is single, a single women can devote everything to the Business. But a married women has a divided loyalty, at best. Slowly, not all at once, not in a rush, but a long slow mantra. The only mantra in town and slowly things changed. Once a Single man was seen in Business as a failure, a man who couldn't even get a wife was a bad bet. But now the married man or women was viewed with suspicion, if they were truly dedicated to the company they wouldn't have divided their loyalty and gotten married. And each step they took they said it's because it's wrong to discriminate, but of course at each step they did discriminate, against the old idea and in favour of the new idea.
But as they accepted one Liberal idea, they also came to accept other Liberal ideas. They found out that if they played the game they could profit. They could get Government, via the taxpayer, to subside them, to pay for all kinds of Business expenses. Something Classical Liberalism would have regarded as obscene, but neither Left or Right Liberalism really objected now, they had come to accept that that was the price of business. Today Business can be quite open in it's hostility to the family, it is not universal, not all of Business thinks the same. But nearly all obey the rules. It is no longer unthinkable for a company to support Homosexual marriage, it is no longer unthinkable for a company to lecture us on our environmental "responsibilities". It is no longer unthinkable for a women to run a company, or a country, and to still tell us about how she is discriminated against.
The idea that Business is Conservative was always untrue, it's even more so now.
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Very interesting Mark. I'm glad you put it this way " But now they felt less inhibited and went back into Liberalism's past and started bringing out ideas that had seemed dead." because business did some damage in America in the 1800s by insisting on the free movement of labour.ReplyDelete
1) hedonism is good for business. Restraint and thrift are not.ReplyDelete
2) The rise of the MBA..MBA's are manufactured in universities, and universities have a liberal social mores.
It is strange that so many conservatives support big money and big business, when that big money and big business push Liberal values and work against conservatism (and are often hostile to conservatism).ReplyDelete
Do the conservatives who support the LNP, or the Tories in the UK not realise this? While the champion traditional, Christian values, these same businesses they speak up for dump all over these values and push Liberalism, consider family and social ties as a burden?
Do the conservatives who support the LNP, or the Tories in the UK not realise this?Delete
They really don't realise it. They have a child-like faith that even though those parties have betrayed them time and time again somehow next time they won't betray them. But they will.
The idea that Business is Conservative was always untrue, it's even more so now.ReplyDelete
Big Business used to be suspicious of the Left because the Left was seen as a threat. The Left has now abandoned economic issues. Leftists pursue "social justice" but they have no interest in economic justice. Therefore they are no longer a threat to either the power or the money of Big Business. And since the Left is now stronger than the Right Big Business supports the Left. If the Right becomes stronger they'll switch their support to the Right.
In the US, the Supreme Court Case Griggs v. Duke Power, was very important in subordinating corporate culture to academia.ReplyDelete
Business desires the free movement of capital, which has a way of resulting in demands for the free movement of labor. Conservatism should maintain ties to the family and land. One thing Confucius got right was the distrust of merchants. All too often they are agents of liberalism.
I also look at the hours businesses kept in years past as opposed to today. Not only do businesses keep employees later, but they also commonly work Sundays and holidays. I, myself, (when I used to work outside the home) have worked Thanksgiving and even Christmas. I'd say that's pretty anti-family. Good post.ReplyDelete