Industry vs Business

Little observation from John Lanchester, author of Whoops! (An excellent, slim 200-page explainer of the banking crisis).

“There is a profound anthropological and cultural difference between an industry and a business. An industry is an entity which as its primary purpose makes or does something, and makes money as a byproduct. The car industry makes cars, the television industry makes TV programmes, the publishing industry makes books, and with a bit of luck they all make money too, but for the most part the people engaged in them don’t regard money as the ultimate purpose and justification of what they do. …

The City views everything as a business. This has always been true … but the thing that changed under Mrs Thatcher was that for the first time the City now had unquestioned supremacy…” [pg 170-1]

The values in British society changed. Instead of being interested in making things, we became interested in just making money.

This seems a shame, if for no other reason, when you make things you have more than one thing to make you happy.

When you’re making something, you get pleasure from that process. If the process is compromised – management interferes, there’s not enough time, or disaster strikes-  and the car/ book / TV programme  isn’t as good as you had wished, you can say to yourself: “Oh well, at least it paid the bills”. Similarly, if you’re not making loads of money, you can derive satisfaction from the thing you’ve created.

Just like an investor might diversify their portfolio so that it’s not overly reliant on stocks or bonds etc, working in an industry – rather than just business – means you diversify your sources of satisfaction.



Filed under Little things

2 responses to “Industry vs Business

  1. Steven Champion

    Pleasure in making things? I concur, I find it satisfying making homemade Christmas Cards. But try persuading the alienated divised labour of Fordist production lines that they’re having a good time!

  2. I’m not saying creative satisfaction is a substitute for wages – just that it helps. And that politicians shouldn’t be seduced by the values of business. All the time we hear that the ‘private sector is more efficient’ and that we need more private sector this or that. The idea that it’s “just about money” is a pernicious one and it’s made its way into the way we talk about the NHS, higher education, everything.

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