From the beginning, observers of these [commercial] societies have been transfixed by two of their most prominent features: their wealth and their spiritual decadence. ... Their self-indulgence has consistently appalled a share of their most high-minded and morally ambitious members, who have railed against consumerism and instead honoured beauty and nature, art and fellowship. But the premises of a biscuit company are a fruitful place to recall that there has always been an insurmountable problem facing those countries that ignore the efficient production of chocolate biscuits and sternly dissuade their ablest citizens from spending their lives on the development of innovative marketing promotions: they have been poor, so poor as to be unable to guarantee political stability or take care of their most vulnerable citizens, whom they have lost to famines and epidemics. It is the high-minded countries that have let their members starve, whereas the self-centered and childish ones have, off the backs of their doughnuts and six thousand varieties of ice cream, had the resources to invest in maternity wards and cranial scanning machines.
Monday, January 03, 2011
Homely Work in A Deep Society
Alain de Botton writes light, thoughtful books about living a meaningful life. In The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, he follows various kinds of work and workers. He explores how the work may or may not lead to a fulfilling life for the worker, and for the society in which they work. One of his chapters is devoted to the creation and marketing of a new British biscuit ("cookie" in American). De Botton uses this homely case to see both how narrow this work seems in itself, but also how it is part of a larger economy of wealth and deeper human value.