In the two days of the conference we have had so far, I have already heard 5 times the extraordinarily stupid idea that the concept of hurry was invented by capitalism to make people work harder, faster, and squeeze every ounce of productivity from them. Apparently, some critic said it, and now everybody has to repeat this piece of arrant idiocy.
Here is why this idea is painfully stupid.
In the USSR, the concept of rushed productivity was elevated to the level of religious worship. The Stakhanovite movement was created. Stakhanov was a coal miner who somehow managed to mine over a 100 tons of coal in 6 hours. This was 14 (yes, fourteen) times his assigned daily quota. Immediately, every worker in the USSR had to imitate Stakhanov. People lost their limbs and suffered other terrible injuries trying to work as fast as Stakhanov. Everybody was forced to make a pledge to set their own Stakhanovite record. And this was Stalinism, so by “forced” I mean people were really terrified not to break these ridiculous records.
Of course, Stakhanov’s achievement was fake. The Soviet authorities faked it on purpose. On the one hand, the myth of Stakhanov helped drive workers beyond their breaking point, forcing them to work extraordinarily fast and assist in their own exploitation. On the other hand, the Stakhanovite phenomenon was very useful for the purges. The equipment broke, people suffered injuries, and the authorities explained it by suggesting that the engineers and the highly qualified mechanics who serviced the equipment were Japanese or American spies. This made it easy to whip up a frenzy of hatred for the “evil engineers” and have them executed. This has all been massively studied, so there’s really no excuse for people who want to do scholarship to chirp like dumb sparrows about these things.
The USSR was created in agrarian, semi-feudal countries that had never industrialized and who were about 150 years behind Great Britain and the US in terms of creating a capitalist system. The USSR was a socialist country. This means that referring to rushed labor as particularly capitalist is like criticizing Uruguayans for only having one head. Everybody has only one head but it does sound eerie when you single out Uruguayans as particularly weird in their one-headedness.
As academics, we get paid to read, educate ourselves, and then share knowledge with others. Instead, we often memorize a bunch of idiotic slogans and spend the rest of our lives repeating them like stupid parrots. Then we come to the classroom and deliver these half-baked, shallow pseudo-insights to the young people who pay us to be duped like this. For shame!
OK, rant over. I will now be able to express this idea at the conference without using the word “stupid” in every sentence. I honestly don’t know what I would do without this blog. I get very worked up about this kind of thing and I need to let off steam before I start jumping at people’s throats. Thank you, everybody, for putting up with my periodic rants.