Standards, as rules and guidelines to measure against, have been around for as long as man has been. Today, worldwide standards are taken seriously and global industries function based on solid and well-thought standards. US is a large industrialiazed country also with many standards. Some American standards match the international and others are domestic only. The critical point about America and its standards is they can lack in objectivity and integrity. Industrialized society may rely on objectivity in setting standards, for its proper functioning, but US has always operated as a separate universe with rules of its own that may eschew common sense.
Everyone has had some exposure to the idea that America takes pride in violating established norms in all areas of human existence. This is part of American culture. Some may say destruction, in the name of progress and freedom, of what humanity has created has been an implicit objective of American culture. That maybe common knowledge but other significant matters are not discussed as openly. Who sets standards in America since international and objective are not always acceptable? Who decides what standard can change or adjust is a matter that eludes most Americans. The subject is never brought up to their attention. The ordinary people count far less in the American political order of life than they think. They may believe whatever they wish about how America operates but the truth remain unchanged: America exists as an elitist society where few people control as much as they can and the setting of American standards is also influenced, if not demanded, by this elite and not based on the objectivity or the integrity of the standard. What is of interest to us, is that for the sake of their best interests, the American elite have shared the control of American standards with the American public since Information Revolution until today but are taking complete control back once again.
A good understanding of how American corporation functioned before, during and now after the Information Revolution is of great aid in exploring the role of the elite throughout and in America’s possible future. Equally important is the recognition of an elite class that practically own and operate America.
The top layers of American corporations are executives and owners and basically rich people as the public has come to know them. There are many at the top because the country is large but few overall because only 5% of the population lives at those standards. This 5% controls (owns) 89% of all the money in US. The 95% of the population have about 10% of all the money to share. A giant social pyramid is the result. That 5% live at the top of the pyramid and as you descend, the wider and the higher the number of nobodies. This 5% controls about everything in America including American standards. They are recognized as the rich in popular culture but for our purposes the political definition of “the elite” is apt.
America is a universe of its own. It has its own history. It has its own heros. It has everything of its own. It is not that other countries do not but that America chose to throw out what the world had and made up its own. It created and in many cases falsified whatever it needed to be a nation. As long as the creation was only America’s and not another country’s, it was okay. Who made these decisions to make and make up things? Who decided what is American or not? Who but the elite. Who but the 5% that have always owned America.
America has always been a blend of fake and legitimate. It is a collection of lies and great truths. What makes America America and no other place is the kind of decisions that were made in who, where, when, why, and what of America. America did not just happen. It was made. It was crafted. It was manufactured. Regardless of how many people live in America, this country has always been a small place because a few control everything. America is very particular about its standards. The top 5% had determined or influenced decisively these standards always until the Information Revolution.
Large American corporations were born mostly after World War Two and we are interested in GE as an example. General Electric was one such company that had got too large for effective operation. GE sought help and US military was the largest organization in the country and an effective one. GE went to US military asking them how to run a large outfit run effectively and efficiently. US military taught them the “task and command system” and the rest is history. All large US companies followed this approach and many still do.
The traditional US military approach results in a large hierarchy. The importance of personnel increases the higher we go in the hierarchy. The top people are important and the bottom people are nobodies who are lied to so they go about doing their jobs. The people in this structure have rank, functions and roles. The higher you go the more abstract this function becomes. The top people do what they do and send their commands (not wishes) down to the next level who do their own thing and send it down another level. By the time these commands arrive at the bottom levels, they are usually simple enough to be followed as clear instructions. The lowest levels have very little need of doing any conceptual works of their own, unlike the higher levels. They just follow the command. The bottom level is referred to, in business jargon, as “the front line staff” (or first line) staff resembling privates dug in facing the enemy troops. That is the model American corporation adopted to run a huge operation worldwide. This approach proved very successful for the American corporation since World War Two until the Information Revolution.
Personal computers appeared in American business and personal lives. They were eventually connected via modems to a network which gained fame as Internet. Business and personal information flew through this network and became a significant means of communication in short time. The Information Revolution had unique characteristics of its own. One noteable aspect was the very rapid speed that information could travel. For centuries, the traditional communication had created a global work culture in which people worked a morning to afternoon schedule (and from week to week). As the information began to move faster, the distances began to shrink and time zones began to merge. The decisions could be made and implemented very quickly because the information arrived and left very fast. This basic change resulted in a rapid rate of “change.” And the time frames for getting things done began to shrink. The information traveled fast; the decisions were made fast; the decisions were implemented fast; the employees became obsolete fast; the products became obsolete fast and there was no stopping of the changes in sight. Our interest is that this rapid rate of things changing caused the huge shift that gave the ordinary Americans so many lifestyle previledges against the wishes of the elite.
Before the Information Revolution, life and organizations had remained the same for decades, if not more. The large corporations had done quite well in this static culture. Things never changed so the big entities had time to study, plan and get things done THEIR WAY. The bigger they were the less they had to worry because everything went their way. By nature they had the problem that they were big and had trouble making fast business moves. The trouble in quick response was because of their hierarchies which made the decision process slow. It was not a big problem because the big corporations dominated their fields and they were one of the few, if not the only, movers. Today, employees work for a company, for a few years, and their skills become obsolete. During this period, people actually worked for these companies for 30 or 40 years and could remain productive all this time because very little changed to demand newly skilled employees.
The large corporations had experienced a revolution of their own because of the Information Revolution. Traditionally, the top layers made decisions and the bottom layers worked or implemented the decisions. This travelling of information up and down the hierarchy took a long time. The large corporations were not agile. They were dinasours and could not move fast to respond to the rapidly changing market. The rapid change of pace meant everything changed rapidly. Industries were born and industries died quickly. Big corporations were destroyed in the chaos of the Information Revolution while new giants were born. The smaller companies also began to make a killing. They lacked the tall hierarchies of the large corporations. The small could make decisions and implement fast.
The large corporations had to adapt to this NEW ECONOMY. The hierarchy was a problem. They moved toward a flatter hierarchy and this move became a trend. Flatter hierarchy means you give decision power to the front line staff. The grunts were given power in the name of competitiveness. They would be the first to come across the changes in the market and they could make small decisions that helped compete with the very agile competition. This huge change in power bears the technical name of “empowerment.” The nobodies of corporate America were given power to be somebody by making small and limited decisions that helped the big corporations compete. However, this empowerment culture spread everywhere and all small people felt making some small decisions were normal. They forgot the elite always “told” them how to live their lives through the dominance of the large corporations without them noticing. The empowerment had crossed over to the consumer side also. Consumers already had more and more access to information (from Internet) and were not as dependent on the large corporations “telling” them how to live by controlling the information. The nobodies of America were empowered to make more “independent” life decisions. Empowerment may have been a very un-American trend, for the elite, but could not be avoided. The world had gotten smaller, because of the Information Revolution, and the big corporations were not the only game in town anymore. Competition could reach the market from anywhere. Empowerment was the only logical response and was here to stay. Empowerment here for the sake of the rich remaining and getting richer, in the first place, anyway.
Empowerment resulted in the formation of more and more “independent standards” as the changing America demanded new standards that functioned though not necessarily in the best interest of the rich as tradition had it. The Information Revolution shoke up the stable foundation of American elite life. The power to make decisions had to be shared, with the public, to maintain the elite status. This sharing of power resulted in the proliferation of new standards. The elite had always made “controlled standards” for their own interests always. These standards, which were designed or influenced in design by the rich, were incorporated into the American culture as All American. The label prevented any questioning of the integrity of the standards. There was no more genuine American than these. The elite controlled American life by using the All American standards until Information Revolution. The grunts (the public) now made “independent standards” as they saw fit. The public had much say in what was what, who was who and how things were done. This was traditionally domain of the elite, the rich, who operated from the top. The public were only “told” these whats, whos, and hows in the past. Today, they decided.
That was a brief history of life and work in America before, and during the Information Revolution as the ordinary Americans and the rich Americans were affected. A potential change of direction maybe taking place slowly that can set things back to pre-Information Revolution. This change could make the elite our overseers, in every area of American life, once again or could evolve into something else.
The economic collapse of 2008 at first appeared as a temporary setback. The expectation was the problem could be managed and life could return to normal. That expectation has changed. Many believe the problems were far deeper and whatever went wrong was not wholly revealed. One “problem” was made public and a “solution” was produced. That solution did not work and many believe the problem introduced was a political version of the real problem(s) hidden from the public. The new expectation for economic life is things are to remain as they have been since November 2008 and possibly worsen. The weak economy has forced the public to be cautious and careful with economic decisions. It is not very hard to know how they will spend money in the near future, if things don’t change. That makes life slow and predictable somewhat. The people and the corporations are careful in what goes on and how. The trend is to keep what one has rather than take risks. If risks bring failure, the possibility of making up the losses is not good. This makes life and business more predictable. Everyone is careful and slow. Empowerment begins to lose its appeal because “change” is not change as before. The big corporations can make slow decisions and little unexpected may come up to deem better decisions. The competition cannot function as before because the markets have become static. A good deal of what may happen can be predicted because of the effects of the economic downturn. This resembles the world before the Information Revolution. The date today maybe 2009-10 but the economic culture is becoming that of decades earlier. There is less money around for the American public though a few people have the most of everything as usual. Whoever is established has a good chance of surviving and the rest are at risk. The big corporations and the rich are very well established. Life is becoming more and more predictable. The information may travel fast but people and business make decisons slow once again.
Does it matter to millions that we are moving backwards? Of course. Do we get to do anything about it? Probably not. We will go with the flow as all humans have in history. The top 5%, however, will behave differently. They once owned the country by themselves. They had to give up some ownership rights and control because of the Information Revolution but it was for their own good and not the benefit of others. Now, business has changed once again. Everything is becoming static and predictable. Decisions can be made by the top 5%, once again, and sent down to the grunts to implement. The slowdown seemed temporary but now it is becoming permanent. That means less need for the “empowered” to do their parts. The shared control can be relinquished and once again the top 5% can run things effectively and efficiently for their own good. They have always owned 90% of the country anyway.
This essay is a general introduction to set the stage for the following four essays. The following essays relate to hospitality and restaurant industries. A good understanding of how a big and permanent shift maybe taking place is crucial to analyzing a few interesting developments during the Information Revolution and today after the economic crash of 2008. These essays relate to the hospitality industry on an abstract level and they are not how-to essays for people who work in restaurants or hospitality functions. These essays are neither political nor training materials. They are hard to read because they were written to be. The intended audience should find them stimulating enough to pursue one’s own lines of thinking. That is the real purpose of these critical essays. I shared what I know, which can always be right or wrong to extents, and if you find the material fit for your mind, you should do your own thinking.
The next essay explores how paper and online reviews have changed since before, during and after the Information Revolution and are in danger of returning to the past today. The third essay looks at the unveiling and downgrading of independent critics to become dependent and subject to the elite. The fourth essay is about objective versus subjective standards for training of hospitality staff and the new standards are also at risk of returning to the past. And the last essay is about the future.