That’s How Capitalism Works, Dummy
I recently ran across this news/opinion piece over at ChattahBox.com titled “Hoping Japanese Canon Workers Don’t Become the New Model for the Corporate World.” Here are a few selections:
“Lets rush–if we don’t then the company and world will perish.” Those chilling Orwellian words are printed across the floors of a large Canon Electronics factory in Japan. A stark reminder to factory workers to pick up their pace, as they are nothing more than cogs in a machine who are easily replaced.
… If you think these descriptions are a bit exaggerated, think again. Hisashi Sakamaki, president of Canon Electronics, wrote a book, entitled “A company will do well if you get rid of the chairs and computers.”
… The workers at Canon resemble robotic drones; all wearing the same uniform of non-descript khakis and crisply pressed blue and white striped shirts. Smiles are a rare commodity in this factory, as workers hurry to complete their tasks.
… Even worse, sensors are embedded into the floors to detect the walking speed of workers. If a worker has the audacity to walk slower than 5 meters for every 3.6 seconds, an ear piercing siren and flashing lights are set off, reminding a worker of his or her slothfulness.
… Let’s hope Canon Electronics’ bizarre policies don’t start a trend and become the new model for the corporate world.
First, there’s nothing new or “bizarre” about these policies. Foucault wrote about this stuff forty years ago: it’s called discipline.
Second, stuff like this doesn’t just become “a trend” without there being some sort of incentive. What’s the incentive?
Well, there are millions of Americans going shopping for printers and cameras and other electronic devices, and they can choose between Canon and other brands. Since bargain shopping is apparently America’s #1 virtue, these shoppers will probably choose the cheapest one with the features they want. If Canon doesn’t offer the cheapest one, then those shoppers will vote with their checkbooks, so to speak.
Canon can ensure that their product is the cheapest if they institute policies like these in their factories. Their competition will have to institute similar policies to keep their own prices down. It’s a race for the bottom.
The article concludes, “Let’s hope Canon Electronics’ bizarre policies don’t start a trend and become the new model for the corporate world.” Well, that’s sort of up to you now, isn’t it? Did you write that article on the cheapest computer you could find at Best Buy? If so, then you’re contributing to those “bizarre policies.”
NB: I’m writing this post on the cheapest computer I could find at Best Buy, which is sitting right next to a Canon printer, which I bought because it was the cheapest one with the features I wanted.
Bargain shopping should be a sin.