One afterthought here, which is that I did not address the point that Mandi made yesterday about one of my earlier statements (see bold type below.) As she went on to point out in the case of South Africa, the class basis of that society did not really change, even if the crushing injustice of an apartheid system was indeed overthrown (albeit to a great extent by the whites who saw the writing on the wall and wanted to save their privileges.) So I think that Mandi's own example underscores my point that socialism is not something that can be achieved simply by a mass uprising and then sorting things out later, but must be the result of conscious decisions that are made before, during, and after such a revolution. We also have the example of the mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc. These are not going to lead to socialism, as I think we all realize, but simply the overthrow of dictatorships. A necessary first step, but far from the end game.
List members will probably have heard the news that Steve Jobs is stepping down for health reasons (he has been battling pancreatic cancer.)This article in the Times raises some of the classic questions that come up when discussing capitalism vs socialism with people, something that I assume (or hope) many people on this list have been doing for many years. One typical argument against socialism, of course, is that it would stifle the kind of individual initiative that gave rise to companies like Apple, Google, etc, which are generally seen as the brainchilds of "visionaries" like Jobs and the guys who started Google. Much of this fear is based on the experience in the Soviet Union, where I think it is fair to say (but perhaps someone will correct me) that technological advances were often stifled by Communist bureaucracy, and possibly also "Communist" China, which seems to be better at copying and stealing the technology innovations of others than coming up with new ideas of its own (but again perhaps someone will say I am wrong in this impression.)Whether this characterization of Communist technology is correct or not, I will leave others to comment on. However, this is clearly the perception among many people.So as I type this on my fairly new MacBook Pro (having switched from PC last fall after closely observing the MacBooks that 12 out of 15 of my 20ish students brought to class), I too wonder whether this consumer product--which I really, really like and am pretty sure I would want to have even after socialism--could have come about under a socialist system. As a socialist, I really really hope so. And Google, could that have come about? Because I want to have that too, like so many people I can't really live without it in today's world. Can we have socialism and also the individual initiative that led to these innovations, or could it be argued that a much larger group of people could collectively have come up with such innovations--ie, is the idea of the lone visionary a capitalist myth?A corollary question is whether under socialism our needs and wants would change and we wouldn't really desire these things. I don't want to mischaracterize what Michael G. said about such issues earlier--that could lead to me being called a liar and a pimp (the pimp bit from George was a new one, perhaps he would like to explain which prostitutes I have been handling lately)--but I did understand him to say that his own vision of socialism would lead to a radical change in what we felt we wanted and needed. How does he view such things as really beautifully performant (not just in speed and power but in what it is capable of doing) laptops like the MacBook or search engines like Google, from which nearly every member of this list benefits greatly?I'm a socialist, but I also like a lot of the things that capitalism has brought me. Will I be able to convince the "masses" that they should be socialists too?MBhttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/technology/without-its-master-of-design-apple-will-face-challenges.html?_r=1August 24, 2011
Without Its Master of Design, Apple Will Face Many Challenges
By STEVE LOHR
Steven P. Jobs, one of the most successful chief executives in corporate history, once said he never thought of himself as a manager, but as a leader. And his notion of leadership revolved around choosing the best people possible, encouraging them and creating an environment in which they could do great work.
But the Apple team, analysts say, will face a far greater trial in achieving continued success without Mr. Jobs in charge.
Mr. Jobs, who said Wednesday that he was stepping down as Apple’s chief executive, said in an interview shortly after he returned to the company in 1997 that his leadership style had changed over the years, as he matured.
In his early years at Apple, before he was forced out in 1985, Mr. Jobs was notoriously hands-on, meddling with details and berating colleagues. But later, first at Pixar, the computer-animation studio he co-founded, and in his second stint at Apple, he relied more on others, listening more and trusting members of his design and business teams.
In recent years, Mr. Jobs’s role at Apple has been more the corporate equivalent of “an unusually gifted and brilliant orchestra conductor,” said Michael Hawley, a professional pianist and computer scientist who worked for Mr. Jobs and has known him for years. “Steve has done a great job of recruiting a broad and deep talent base.”
At Pixar, with a solid leadership team in place, the studio never missed a beat, and it continued to generate one critically acclaimed and commercially successful hit after another, including “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” long after Mr. Jobs had gone back to Apple.
It is by no means certain, analysts say, that things will go that smoothly for Apple. Mr. Jobs, they note, was far more in the background at Pixar, where creative decisions were guided by John Lasseter. Pixar was sold to Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006.
At Apple, Mr. Jobs’s influence is far more direct. He makes final decisions on product design, if not in detail. No immediate changes, analysts say, will likely be discernible.
“The good news for Apple is that the product road map in this industry is pretty much in place two and three years out,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “So 80 percent to 90 percent of what would happen in that time would be the same, even without Steve.”
“The real challenge for Apple,” Mr. Yoffie continued, “will be what happens beyond that road map. Apple is going to need a new leader with a new way of recreating and managing the business in the future.”
Mr. Jobs’s hand-picked successor, Timothy Cook, who has been the company’s chief operating officer, has guided the company impressively during Mr. Jobs’s medical leaves. But his greatest skill is as an operations expert rather than a product-design team leader — Mr. Jobs’s particular talent.
At Apple, Mr. Jobs has been the ultimate arbiter on products. For example, three iPhone prototypes were completed over the course of a year. The first two failed to meet Mr. Jobs’s exacting standards. The third prototype got his nod, and the iPhone shipped in June 2007.
His design decisions, Mr. Jobs explained, were shaped by his understanding of both technology and popular culture. His own study and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When a reporter asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”
The notion of “taste” — he uses the word frequently — looms large in Mr. Jobs’s business philosophy. His has been honed by a breadth of experience and by the popular culture of his time. When he graduated from high school in Cupertino, Calif., in 1972, he said, “the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there.” He attended Reed College, a progressive liberal arts school in Portland, Ore., but dropped out after a semester.
When discussing Silicon Valley’s lasting contributions to humanity, he mentioned the invention of the microchip and “The Whole Earth Catalog,” a kind of hippie Wikipedia, in the same breath.
Great products, Mr. Jobs once explained, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”
Mr. Yoffie said Mr. Jobs “had a unique combination of visionary creativity and decisiveness,” adding: “No one will replace him.”--
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University
Email: [log in to unmask]
******************************************“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."--John Kenneth Galbraith