Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sutch speaks

They do not design, spin and weave fine textiles
in cotton and wool just because they have textile
institutes or industrial design schools. They are
eminent in these things because they also stress
their essential concomitants—fine architecture,
sculpture, ballet, fine printing, film production,
ceramics, operas, music, drama, research, higher
learning, anthropology, science, philosophy,
literature, respect for and knowledge of man’s
achievements.


It is impossible to imagine these words—uttered in 1963
by public servant W B Sutch when he was secretary-
general of the Export Development Conference—by
anyone remotely connected with the levers of political
power today. He was referring to the desirability of
New Zealand's emulating the way that the Scandinavian
countries, especially Denmark, added value to their
exports. The phrase 'essential concomitants' is, to me,
like a shaft of light from a time when it was still possible
—and perhaps, even then, only by a few individuals like
Sutch—to grasp the connections between all parts of
an economy, to see how the whole is formed by them,
and, above all, to take political action accordingly. For all
its drawbacks the concept of the state by which Western
nations functioned through the middle of the 20th
century tended to foster such thinking; the market
model by which we have lived since the 1980s rewards
the opposite kind of thinking: that all is fragmented,
discrete, competing rather than complementary, and of
worth only insofar as it can be quantified, categorized
and monetarized. Margaret Thatcher summed up this
view most infamously when she said, 'There is no such
thing as society.' Give me Sutch's philosophy any day.

1 comment:

Giovanni said...

What's more depressing is that we can't come up with that sort of exquisitely distilled thought even when we talk about the 'knowledge economy'.