TOFFLER’S WAVES: THE SECOND WAVE
[Alvin Toffler:The Third Wave. 1981. London: Pan Books in association with William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.]
Freedom means many things to many people. For me, freedom means having an understanding of the society in which I live: in particular, the extent to which I voluntarily adopt the various forms of socialization to which I am subject and the extent to which I involuntarily comply with them
My childhood was spent in the last decade of British colonialism and I grew to adulthood in the apartheid era. As a child, I accepted without question my status as an “Indian” (alien, other, not South African), so I questioned the values and norms of the community in which I lived. As a teenager and young adult, under the influence of my uncle MD Naidoo, and Pauline Morel, principal of Dartnell Crescent Junior School and members of her staff, I began to question the norms and values of apartheid. I understood on an obvious level that I lived in an exploitative and unjust system. I even joined in resistance activities against the system. Nevertheless, as I functioned in a racist environment, I complied with the racial division of society – living in a separate area, not mixing with people of other races, and accepting all kinds of inequity. That made me a racist even though I regarded racism as an evil.
My understanding of apartheid was superficial, based mainly on experience of the degradations of racist prejudice (a victim's view). I had no understanding of the forces that had brought about such a system or my collusion in it. We get caught up in in its logic which weÂ do not resist unless we are aware of it. Being unaware, we becomeÂ slaves of the system. I realize now that most of my formal education had simply been a means of ensuring my adaptation to theÂ logic of the society in which I lived. My understanding of existence was totally subjective; I was ignorant of the organisational forces that give rise to societies and determine the way we think and act. I was unaware that these principles are reflected in all our conventions, our norms and values – the way we think and behave.
In 1988, when I went to teach at Giyani College of Education, Tom Swart and Lionel Berman introduced me to the works of Alvin Toffler and I finally woke up and realised I had been living on the surface without a real understanding of what it means to live in society. Now I see differently; now when I read Shakespeare and Dickens I want to understand their world views. When I first read their writings, I focussed on the stories, the events and anachronistically contextualised them in the conventional morality of our times rather than theirs. In a sense I had turned their writings into “who-dunnits” and had missed their understanding of human existence. I am thankful to Toffler for opening up my mind to much wider contexts.
I believe Toffler wants us to understand change, not simply the vicissitudes of everyday living, such as the evils of apartheid, but evolutionary change that impacts on all aspects of living and gives rise to such manifestations as apartheid. He wants us to be aware of the forces that programme the choices and decisions that we make. He wants us to understand that societal change is not arbitrary; it is evolutionary, one development leads to another in a continuous process that gives rise to the logic of a system. And change occurs in highs and lows. Hence his view of civilization as a succession of waves.
In The Third Wave, Toffler presents us with a panoramic understanding of evolutionary societal change – the new organisational principles that change society and impact on all we think, do, say and believe. He describes the progress of human civilization as a succession of waves. The First Wave was a slowly rising incline, that gave way to a tidal wave -- the Second Wave, which is giving way at an even sharper incline to the Third Wave. Each wave of development is defined by the technology it develops and the resulting logic of its systems.
As technology advances, it gives rise to new sets of developments, new systems and logics of processes. The Second Wave is the wave of Integration, like an assembly line in a factory. It is the wave of systems of interdependence, of interlocking institutions making possible more tightly knit control of individual behaviour. And we adopt mottos such as Eendrag maak Mag (Unity is Strength) and uphold teamwork.
Civilization began as a way of life based on agriculture – the First Wave. With the development of machinery it evolved into the industrial era – The Second Wave, and now civilization is in an electronic and nuclear age – the Third Wave. Technology is the engine of worldwide change; it gives rise to new ways of living, to new beliefs and dictates the pace at which life is lived.
In the First Wave, a predominantly agricultural age, technology was at an incipient stage and life was lived at a leisurely pace that lasted thousands of years – from almost the beginning of time to about the middle of the seventeenth century, about ten thousand years. In the Second Wave, energy in the form of electricity gave us superior and continually evolving machine technology and the pace of life became much faster and required a complete reorganization of society in all its aspects from government and economics to family life and individual relations. Industrialization, which replaced the economy based on agriculture, has been the dominant mode of existence for about three centuries. In the twentieth century, the development of computer technology brought in the Third Wave and with it came new principles and worldwide changes. The principles that underpinned the Second Wave are being challenged at all levels and we are into a new logic that dictates new systems and living conditions. And change is occurring at a speed that has led to confusion and conflict. While some move forward, others cling to old ways.
At present we are in a clash of waves as the Third Wave overtakes the Second Wave and the conflicts and turmoil that we are experiencing are a result of the clash.
Toffler states, “The precondition of any civilization, old or new, is energy.” (The Third Wave, 39).“All societies – primitive, agricultural or industrial – use energy; they make things; they distribute things. In all societies the energy system, the production system, and the distribution system are interrelated parts of something larger. This larger system is the techno-sphere, and it has a characteristic form at each stage of development.” (41)
In the First Wave (39 - 41)
Energy The energy that powered The First Wave was from “human and animal power ...sun, wind and water” power. All these were renewable sources of energy.Production: Goods were handmade, created on a custom basis, one at a time for individual and personal consumption.Distribution. Goods were distributed to individuals by pedlars or by wagon or from tiny shops with very limited stocks. As communication (there were no post offices and telephones) and transport (animal-drawn vehicles) were very limited, markets remained localised catering for small communities.
In the Second Wave
ProductionÂÂÂ was split fromConsumption.
A Schizophrenic Society?
Society reflected a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, the breaking up of wholes into parts that were then reintegrated into new wholes.
The Split led to the fastest rise in living standards.People were sucked into the money system; commercial values became central, economic growth became the primary goal of governments – implementation of GNP (Gross National Product). Paradox: demands of managers and workers for higher profits, wages, benefits contradicted demands of consumers (who include managers and workers) for lower prices.
Social, Cultural Tension
[It seems that in the First Wave, there was an understanding of dichotomous good and evil. In the Second Wave, it seems, that the split between consumption and production led to a kind of schizophrenic society. There was no longer the clear separation of good from evil, good became integrated and that gave rise to such works as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and more complex characterizations in novels. And it seems that psychology and psychiatry developed as a consequence of the split. Both psychology and psychiatry depend on standardized notions of human behaviour.]
The Sexual Split
The Sexual split follows from the split between production and consumption.
In other words, everyone in the home worked and all work was considered equally valuable.
“The Second Wave shifted work from field and home to factory. And introduced a much higher level in interdependency. Work now demanded collective effort, division of labour, coordination, the integration of many different skills....
The home, the place of work of women, remained a place of low-interdependency. Housewives produced for the home, for personal consumption, not for the market so “the home remained a decentralised unit engaged in biological reproduction, ... childrearing ... cultural transmission.” (58)
Men were identified with production and women with consumption. Women were relegated to the First Wave while men were promoted to the Second Wave and considered superior.
[Colonialism extended this understanding of superiority and inferiority to races. Colonialists were of the Second Wave while the people they conquered were of the First Wave, limited to consumption rather than production, with no market or interdependent institutions, and, therefore, considered inferior.]
The Hidden Code of the Second Wave
The Six Principles of the Second Wave.
1. Standardization (Ibid., 60-2)Standardization was the production of identical products and processes.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Products made in factories, clothes, food, light bulbs, and soÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ on. Processes. Systems were created that followed identical routines with identical requirements, rewards and penalties: i.e. government bureaucracies, the postal service, medical procedures, patent medicines, weights and measures, the currency, wages and hiring, working conditions (tea breaks, lunch hours, vacations), the mass media that reported the same news, displayed the same advertisements; the development of statistics and opinion polls and education – children were placed in standards, curricula were standardized, so were exams and promotions.
2. Specialization (62-4)Division of labour and assembly lines where each worker performed the same task over and over, a task which was one part in a process, led to specialization and specialization to professionalization, i.e. expertise in one aspect of knowledge and practice.
3. Synchronization (64-6)Division of labour and assembly lines led to synchronization of tasks, and to the need for punctuality. Work and Education were controlled by the whistle or the bell. There were set times for work and study. Work came to be standardized as a 9-5 occupation. Synchronised work required punctuality and clocks and watches became part of everyday life. Social life was driven by the clock, set times for rising and sleeping, meals, vacations etc. Mass transport was controlled by time -- bus and train schedules. Broadcasts followed a time pattern; prime time, news time, children’s programs etc.
Women and country folk, seen as people of the First Wave, not programmed by time, became associated with unpunctuality and unreliability.
4. Concentration (67—68)
The Second Wave depended on concentrated energy (factories, offices) and that led to concentration of populations in urban centres and then to other forms of concentration: prisons, schools, old age homes, asylums etc. Concentration of capital led to the development of large industrial corporations such as car, food , cigarette, transport companies.And the Central Bank
5.Maximization (68-70)The greater the production, the greater the profits.Bigger factories, companies, workforces, bigger buildings, skyscrapers, bigger cities.Bigger economies – development of the Gross National Product to increase production
6. Centralization (70-74) In the following excerpt from The Third Wave, Toffler gives us an example, using the development of railroads, of how the Second Wave principles led to the centralization of power in societies.
The six principles that underpinned Second Wave civilization, “in turn each reinforcing the other, led relentlessly to the rise of bureaucracy. They produced some of the biggest, most rigid, more powerful bureaucratic organizations the world has ever seen, leaving the individual to wander in a Kafka-like world of looming mega-organizations.” (74)
The Integrators (75-77)
Industrialism ... broke society into thousands of interlocking parts – factories, churches, schools, trade unions, prisons, hospitals, and the like. It broke the line of command between church, state, and the individual. It broke knowledge into specialized disciplines. It broke jobs into fragments.ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ It broke families into smaller units. In so doing, it shattered community life and culture.
Functions of Integrators (Managers):
define roles; allocate jobs; decide who gets rewards; make plans; set criteria; give/withhold credentials; link production, distribution, transport and communications; set the rules of the organisation
Integrators (Managers) were the new élite.
Out of this need for the integration of Second Wave civilization came the biggest co-ordinator of all – the integrational engine of the system: BIG GOVERNMENT.(78)
Governments quickened the development of the railroad. They built harbours, roads, canals, and highways. They operated postal services and built or regulated telegraph, telephone, and broadcast systems. They wrote commercial codes and standardized markets. They applied foreign policy pressures and tariffs to industry. They drove farmers off the land and into the industrial labour supply. They subsidized energy and advanced technology, often through military channels. At a thousand levels, governments assumed the integrative tasks that others could not, or would not do. (78)
The Power Pyramids (79-80)
The New Élites
“The technicians of power were ... organized into hierarchies of élites and sub-élites.” (79)
Though representation in government, promised ‘government by the people’
Indust-reality 110 -
I understand Toffler’s word “Indust-reality” to mean the ways in which we adapted our thinking, beliefs and behaviours to the logic of mechanical integration. Toffler states that in our new mechanised thinking, we redefined God, justice, love, power, beauty, time, space, matter and causality. (110)
*[Imperialism flowed from Social Darwinism: “... once torn out of self-sufficiency and compelled to produce for money and exchange, once encouraged or forced to reorganize their social structure around mining, for example, or plantation farming, First Wave populations were plunged into economic dependence on a marketplace they could scarcely influence. Often their leaders were bribed, their cultures ridiculed, their languages suppressed. Moreover, the colonial powers hammered a deep sense of psychological inferiority into the conquered people that stands even today as an obstacle to economic and social development.” (103)]
New Perceptions of Existence (114-122)
Coda: the Flash Flood 127 -136
Industrialism led to:
Here Toffler indicates how individuals become programmed (machined) to take their places in industrial society. Whether we are men or women we can recognize in ourselves our compliance to the industrial man image described by Toffler.
Industrialism did not only alter technology, nature and culture, it altered personality and created a new social character – industrial man who was:
His Changed Environment.
(131) Industrialism “clearly improved the material standard of living of the ordinary person. Critics of industrialism, in describing the mass misery of the working class during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain, often romanticized the First Wave past. They picture that rural past as warm, communal, stable, organic, and with spiritual rather than purely materialist values. Yet historical research reveals that these supposedly lovely rural communities were, in fact, cesspools of malnutrition, disease, poverty, homelessness, and tyranny, with people helpless against hunger, cold and the whips of their landlords and masters.”
Second Wave culture as is the culture in which we still function even as it is becoming obsolete. As most of us are conditioned to Second Wave modes of functioning, some of us are very resistant to the evolutionary changes that are happening. This has resulted in the clashes that we see everywhere in the world – clashes between second and third wave cultures.
In South Africa, we have a tendency to be nostalgic about our First Wave past and while we, through colonization and apartheid, became a Second Wave society and are now moving into the Third Wave, we still have a romantic attachment to First Wave values. We look at Second Wave developments in terms of its classist and racist ethos but we accept all the benefits of its technological, economic, political and social advancements. So we are constantly involved in contradictory moral struggles.
This has been an attempt to summarise Alvin Toffler’s description of Second Wave Civilization (Industrialism) taken from his book The Third Wave. For a better understanding, I recommend that you read The Third Wave.ÂÂÂÂÂÂ