Rabu, 25 Mac 2009

Discourse on Philosophy of Industrial Revolution

My Facebook has always been bombarded with discussions and articles tagged by fellow Facebook-ians from numerous part of the globe especially Malaysian students in UK. Recently we had a very interesting discussion on Industrial Revolution. I would like to share our discussion threads here so that fellow readers might be benefitted from this casual Facebook-ing discourse session. 

We are not scholars though, just bunch of amateur philosophers that spend most of our time thinking deeply on various issues. I hope this kind of culture will be introduced widely by Islamic Movement in Malaysian campuses (GAMIS, PKPIM, KARISMA etc.) so that we can sythesize our ideas and experience with our fellow compatriots in overseas. No harm though.

Enjoy it!


Acabeire (someideas.wordpress.com):

i was reading the summary of adam smith work.
he died in 1790
the industrial revolution started around 1830.
is there any correlation between the work of Adam Smith and the revolution?
since, it is a revolution,what was the driving factor and worldview for this revolution to occur, in a short period of time?
what is the impact of the revolution to europe and ottoman empire?



Azmi Nik:


to be frank, no idea. not too familiar with pre-industrial europe. my knowledge (if any) only revolves around the end of industrial revolution, perhaps around when chemical engineering was 'born' (LOL... what a tard i am). but can offer you this perspective (from my behaviour in industrial organisation classes).

1. the empire brought in wealth. there was plenty of capital.
2. an era of peace and prosperity was ushered in, the population grew.
3. for britain, if local population was not enough, there were always overpopulated (and perhaps less liberal, maybe more liberal) mainland europe and colonies' population to import, either as cheap labour or slaves.
4. the empire was a new and developing market, applenty to exploit, hence, hence a strong driving force for industrial growth.
5. the empire's later growth provided even more market.
6. good education (thanks to the muslim world in pre-renaissance), - healthy intellectual discourse, rigorous scholarship, more access to education, etc. helped to produce the 'human capital' needed to fuel the 'revolution'.
7. fruits from earlier scientific development were now being translated into industrial application (later called technological innovation or simply technology).
8. part of intellectual discourse was the development of capitalism. dedicated scholarly activities were channelled towards achieving what capitalism envisions: efficient movement of labour, capital and goods for maximisation of wealth. i guess this is where adam smith came in. i do not know.
9. the fire then feeds itself. business and trade laws, economic research activities, management of labour and capital, modern infrastructure. this gave birth to, and further encouraged, the new middle class: more lawyers, professional managers, scientists, mathematicians and accountants (sorry, less engineers, engineering revolution came much later, LOL) were born. a new middle class emerged to further lubricate the industrial engine.
10. to add some ajinomoto to the article, the birth of chemical engineering allows manufacturing of chemicals in large scale. emphasis is given on fertiliser which allows mass production of food.
11. the fragmented east (muslim world/mongols/persia/etc) can offer no challenge in competition over resources.
12. on top of the ajinomoto, let's add more salt and sugar to hasten the development of chronic diseases. to rival germany's advancement in engineering, albert the prince consort held the great exhibition, which later gave birth to Imperial College (yeahhhh!!!! finally! --- note that this has got nothin to do with industrial revolution)

now that all the important parameters were within their control, the locomotive runs at full power.

the details you have to ask everyone else. the developments above are not according to timeline, but to illustrate the development of the infrastructure that was paramount to a thriving industry and economy.

so to answer your question:
1. adam smith? dunno. but perhaps his works helped shaped modern capitalism, as suggested and supported by many, alan greenspan and gordon brown included. goods-capital-labour - the three main fuel of industry (the rests being technology, management, infrastructure, etc).
2. worldview? also dunno. but inquisitive mind (fueled by renaissance?) and rivalry in all aspects would be the relevant attributes. i think worldview works in the background, although the best way to go about this is to look at artistic and philosophical development. i cannot say more. (eh, acab, why the sudden interest in weltanschauung? syed al-attas' charm works on you, eh?)
3. impact on europe? my spm history textbook talked a bit about this, although i am not sure of the current one (which stench of malay ultra-nationalism is even stronger). i guess on the macro scale it brought a radical shift in all aspects of life - religion, education, social structure, politics, science etc. although i am not sure how this affected medicine.
4. ottoman empire? you can ask sheikh wiki. idk my bff acab.

Allah knows best


Wan Rausyanfikir (rausyanfikir.com):

Of course but it is not the only one. Scientific and technology revolution had also played a big role in shaping industrial revolution. Protestant ethics also does help.Its being impregnated with Enlightenment values that is humanist and secular in nature. Plus darwinian spillover effect unto economics thinking. Like Prof. al-Attas said, Western civilization is like broken mosaic. So many pieces that made up the big picture. Suggest you read Braudel's book.



industrial revolution was brought about by the invention of wheel and steam power. That led to mechanisation. You no longer needed single people to produce shoes. Instead you could construct factories to mass produce. steam power allowed trains and ship to move finished products to new markets much easily and faster. Adam smith put together a large body of ideas to understand the economy. Before that the western philosophers were looking at individual aspects of economy. Adam smiths ideas allowed some implementations for industrial revolution in terms of production, trade, consumption etc. More importantly it allowed a new generation of philosophers to think of solutions to the economy to facilitate IR based on assumptions, theories and methods adam smith proposed. 

Worldview for IR:
Several actually
1) definitely one was the assmption made by adam smith that human needs are unlimited and resources are limited giving rise to what he describes a problem of scarcity
2) says law "supply creates demand". When you produce, the labour gets income, wants to buy products, that creates demand
3) secularism that restricted world to physical and non physical world, neglecting the metaphysical. That is why mass production, mass consumption was ideal
4) many other secular philosophies on division of labour, ownership of land and capital, the concept of state where it was no longer about bringing religion to the heathens outside but getting them to improve their welfare through providing western factories raw materials, consuming finished products, exchanging through trade.


Omar Khan (someideas.wordpress.com):

salaam all. I wanted to throw a question here.

My brother's friend is in finance; works for goldman sacs and is studying in finance at NYU. In class, he was told to read "The Art of War" for their future careers.

This, I find a bit shocking, that they teach this at prestigious institutions. I wouldn't be surprised if they teach politicians the same thing... how to be maechiavilian (however you spell it).

So my question is about ethics in finance and ethics in general. Are there any western economics that teach the important of ethics? Does Adam Smith teach any ethics? Why do they not teach ethics? Who is responsible for all of this? These people really anger me.



the world of finance, policy making, economics etc can be cruel and cold. but it varies the country also. in US and singapore where its worse, circles of policy making, finance etc where its more about just purely about the tangible, physical, monetary issues, you will find all this rhetoric.

for instance loss of jobs for the unskilled and less skilled is explained as efficiency improvement though the pain of going through unemployment is only known to that labor.

i mean its just the case from environment to human resource to anything where once the metaphysical, non-tangible phenomenons are discounted, then you will see all this.

even in medicine, how often do people consider things like equity, accessibility, availability, quality etc. emphasis is more on cost effectiveness, efficiency.

adam smith is the one who inspired charles darwin, and also they are all the philosophers who followed the kind of philosophy that imam ghazalli condemned. 

anyway after a certain period in western science evolution, the issue of ethics that used to be of great importance, lost its importance. things were taken cold. its about being value free. though of course they deny that being value free is neither valueless or unethical. 

these are depressing people. to them the realities of this world ends in the physical world. they lack emotions. they cant see further than their own body and soul. empathy is something totally hence absent in them. conscience is something that is dead naturally. the purpose of life reduces to consumption

to these folks when their heart dies, their inner eyes also die.

on the other hand i was impressed by canadians. they had a lot of considerations on equity, accessibility, availability, etc. they were very conscious about space and emotions. they gave a lot of damn for the non-physical,intangible though they did not go into the metaphysical. then again that was because canada was full of immigrants and white canadians who got out of WWII, turbulent political eras in post WWII till 70s, and then turbulent economic eras of 80s and 90s. if you look at the young whites and children of immigrants they enjoyed affluence and stability since birth that they are fast becoming like the earlier group i mentioned.


Azmi Nik:

one thing abt capitalism is that it recognises the need to achieve efficiency, as for the 'unlimited' demand that we get, we will always have 'limited' resources. that, we can say 'noble'.

what is not 'noble' is the objective behind it. profit maximisation at all costs, in 'classical' capitalism proves problematic, hence you have issues like exploitation of labour, disregard for society, deterioration of the environment etc. An interesting example is this: BP (and also Shell), which practices 'modern' capitalism includes other 'costs' into consideration, thus look at the socio-economic and environmental impact of its operation. ExxonMobil (read: Rockerfeller) is a traditional capitalist company, putting profit above everything. The goodwill they enjoy is evidently less. we have names to call these ppl, but let's put it as American vs European comparison.

what is also interesting to note is that even ethical issues are still considered 'costs'. but i look at it the positive way: at least it is in the equation, and it yields positive results. as for further improvemnts, it relies solely on the public/consumer to pressure these companies to change. as usual the burden lies on the society. if the society is truly ethical, companies that are not simply cannot survive. and vice versa.

back to the question of ethics. i guess in finance there is little room for ethics at 'higher level', since the mgmt are usually only accountable for the shareholders. and if the likes of Rockerfellers are them, you only need to worry abt feeding them money (gross generalisation). they are only accountable to the society because governments are afraid to lose in the election if they do not take any action against these financiers/bankers.

however, i will still refrain myself from going after 'them' because there are simply too many and you risk shootin down the wrong party. i am generally satisfied with 'traditional' values of banking, which is to be conservative in their duty as 'stewards' of ppl's money (borrowing Gordon Brown's words). it is when they become 'agressive' we have these problems: going for higher returns by gambling on ppl's money. going for short-term gains with blatant disregard for sustainability. in fact, they usually make the bucks and then retire in one of the Carribean islands and leave the mess for others to deal with. a classical example would be when HSBC tried to ride the wave by hiring investment bankers (IBr) from rivals to build its own investment banking division (IBD). the result was catastrophic. the conservative 'values' within HSBC clashed violently with the IBr's aggressive attitude. the move was abandoned, and HSBC was spared from the onslaught facing other banks now.

to me, this pursuit for 'unlimited' gains that is problematic. in their quests in doing so, they search for 'tools' - any tool - to help them to get what they want. the likes of Goldman Sachs, perhaps, are interested in winning a few battles (and make millions) before fleeing with their loots, and don't really care abt winning the war. 

Hence, they take Sun Zi Bingfa (Philosopher Sun's Philosophy of War) and turn it into 'Art of War' or worse, 'Art of Short-Term Battle'. They strip it of its bushido (Way/Ethics of the Warriors) and replace them with animal instincts. This has always been the criticism of Eastern philosphers when responding yo how Westerners translate such works into English, especially for use in business. they are useful, but only as much as the users' intentions are concerned.

ethics is there. it is a matter of ppl paying heed to it or not. most ppl do MSc finance or the likes to land a job in the IB's and make money. They go to uni for that objective! Even if they learn a good text like SunZi Bingfa, if their objective is to use it as a 'tool' for worldly gains, ethics will simply be flushed down the toilet. No amount of ethical education can open the 'eyes' which have been 'deliberately' closed.

who is responsible for this? the society, i believe. If we were to be vigilant about this before, hell they'd ever do this! why did they make multi-billion dollar 'profit' before, and now making multi-billion dollar loss? the profit was never real. it was a bait to make the public give the IBr's more money. after they ran away with all the money, we found out that there was never profit. to 'undo' the 'false' profit, you have 'writedowns', hence the loss. How could they do this? Because we never questioned them where did the 'profit' come from. we were interested in the 'return' without knowing the 'source' i.e. seeking gain without the underlying backing or 'surplus value without counterpart' (credit to Thameem). With all regards, this is riba. The 'Hong Kong pensioners' case is the best example, where they invested in Lehman's 'mini-bond' thinking that they are 'safe'. Hello? Where is this 'safety' coming from? how do they 'invest' the money? What generates the 'return'? Did we ever ask these questions?

they wanted to make more money, we simply gave them the money. So, i cannot see if these is any other ppl to blame but our own careless self.

to summarise my view:
1. a tool is only as good as the intention of the user. SunZi Bingfa, if used wisely, will bring peace, since it was never an 'art of war'. when abused, the rest is history. the same goes with capitalism, socialism etc.
2. of this catastrophy we face now, it is our fault. if we are prudent, and do not practice riba, this would not have happended. as usual, we always forget. that's part of being human, i guess.



i find the whole scarcity assumption questionable. unlimited needs? limited resources? (benignly infinite) profit maximization? 

Islam shows the way of simplicity, active and real redistribution of wealth. with that the needs of society can be satisfied. 

otherwise the consumer will always keep assuming that unless he chronically borrow he can never live the "life", unless the company chronically keep making profits they can never prosper, unless if the governments chronically keep borrowing they cannot achieve economic development or unless if the governments chronically keep saving they can never be ready for rainy days, unless if the banks lend only through interest, they can never make money. the whole worldview here ignores the existence of God, His Divine Destiny and His Benevolence.


Azmi Nik:

More like laughable, if I may say it.



once a turkish friend of mine, who is a cultural studies prof in washington asked, what kind of human will have unlimited needs?
that was funny


Azmi Nik:

As much as I despise it, that "unlimited need/demand/wants" is a fair observation of human nature, to want more than to want less. Give them a mountain of gold, they'll still want more. Of course, the "traditional" solution to this would be to continue to feed man's carnal desire.

The "change" that Islam brought was to subdue this desire, lest destruction befalls upon those who remain ignorant - Quran 25:43-44.

Two diagnoses agree on the same symptom. Of what solution being prescribed - starkly different.

Of whatever academic view out there, no matter how ridiculous, I will respect as it is, for the sake of knowledge. Whether it is agreeable or not....... Allah knows best.


Omar Khan:

speaking of unlimited needs etc., Sh. Hamza Yusuf said somewhere that religion should, ideally, lower the standards of the believer, that they should be satisfied with less.

I'm curious of you alls thoughts on Obama's bill to jump start the economy. I listened to his speech in congress with some interest. He said America, basically, is a consumer-based economy and, even though he doesn't want to reward the banks, he needs them to start loaning again so new jobs can be created etc. etc. I think the very problem with America is that it is consumer culture... I didn't relate to a lot of Americans because their life was about dating, movies, video games, gadgets, sports, etc. Besides that, consuming is not exactly good for the environment and it is unsettling to see the abuse of workers that goes on to produce cheap products for the sake of competition and profit.

Back to ethics though. Ethics, to me, is a way a validating actions. In Sharia, actions are valid, invalid, disliked, recommended, or indifferent. And this is determined by the jurists.

In the West, they got rid of their religion as a source of knowledge. So religion is not a way of validating actions in the West (generally speaking). Now its secularized knowledge. Kant tried to come up with a moral system based 100% from Western rationalism (his categorical imperative etc.). Others westerners tried to do the same, like utilitarianism etc. It's not surprising that nihilism -- that there is no purpose and ethics is not absolute -- was subscribed by Nietzche (however you spell his name.)

Anyways, about ethics and validating actions. Without religion you can validate some pretty sick stuff. Just like the way these thinkers from University of Chicago who then work for the IMF and validate the economic destruction of entire countries. In the name of market 'justice' and efficiency.

One of the objectives the Sharia is the protection of Reason. And I think the way Al-Ghazali destroyed the Philosophers is symbolic. The Philosphers believed in some strange things, like the Universe exists for eternity and that God only knows universals, not particulars. But they validated those beliefs with their philosophy... a philosophy fraught with technical terms and jargon (not unlike todays grandiose theories). So it was difficult to say the Philosphers were deviants in these issues.

Anyways, the way Al-Ghazali destroyed them was by learning their works inside out. Then he summarized their works. When his summarized their works he put it all in simple straightforward language... the Philosophers accused Al-Ghazali of making their philosophy accesible to the layman. And then he destroyed them in his Incoherence of the Philosophers.

I think a lot of Western thought is similar. Western thought is 'simple', but it is fraught with complex jargon and grandiose theories... the gradiose theories sort of fill the hole that used to be christianity.


without prophetic tradition, revealed knowledge mankind can attempt to create his own code of ethics as how he has been trying to do since the rise of secularism... but it will just be a shifting goal post...

homosexuality will be a sin or crime in one time and an accepted social norm in another time... cohabitation will be a taboo at one time and a freedom of choice in another time... euthanasia will be cruelty at one time and a humane thing in another time... the list goes on. 

isnt that why the world hates Islam... for not shifting goal posts unlike other religions... when the modernists insist that Muslims should cultivate a culture of self-criticism for their religion etc the whole purpose is to break down the attempt to adhere to prophetic tradition and revealed knowledge


2 ulasan:

Gukha Siang berkata...

"Are there any western economics that teach the important of ethics?"

Yes. Look up ecological economics.

Rausyanfikir berkata...

Yes I do agree.

Western scholars like EF Schumacher, Theodre Roszack, Paul Hawken etc have already elucidating many good points about it.

But if you go deeper to the root cause, one will find the problem of worldview that can never be solve merely by introducing ecological economics.