07 April 2009

Tacit versus explicit knowledge

Tacit versus explicit know-how was the difference between the workshop and the factory. Working to specification via the blueprint eliminated the need for the master craftsman who suffered from the dis-economies of his small scale.

The Industrial Revolution undermined the workshop, and, along with it, the social system that embraced the values of stewardship in the transmission of skills from one generation to the next. The embodiment of surplus into human capital that propelled the crafts and guilds was turned into the system of capitalism where the surplus was embodied in the capital stock.

How society handled the virtue of stewardship morphed over historical time as productive work shifted away from the workshop and toward the factory. How stewardship is being updated is a question that is still being answered today in the 21st century.

Clearly the American system managed for a while to update the virtue of stewardship when it invented the role of the professional manager and the corporate man. The exploitation of that system by the globalized banker coupled to the out-sourcing retailer who have plundered the small and mid-cap business sector in the United States and have devastated the vitality of American big business for the sake of short term gain is threatening the viability of the American system because it betrays the vows of stewardship that serve to shunt the surplus down to the most diverse layer in the society.

When the society is able to digest well the surplus it produces it results not only in greater well-being for the largest number and for the society as a whole, it also enables a creative vitality that permits the upper classes and the middle and lower classes to walk together in covenantal partnership.

Stewardship has an economic and a political side, and it is the political side of stewardship that is least well understood.

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