Here's something I think I more or less grasp. But as is often the case, I may need some help in one or more areas.
What I've been noticing is a certain historiographic(?) tendency at work, in recent years, in the English-speaking world.
The tendency is for the last third of the Twentieth Century to really beat up on the first two-thirds. Or rather, more precisely, for certain educated people in our century, who read, study or are interested in history, to use the last third of the Twentieth as a stick (or at least a rod of comparison and correction?) with which to beat up on the first two-thirds. Almost as if the earlier part of the century had been everywhere, without exception, so very much stupider, and more evil, and in general more grossly inferior in every respect to the later part that - lo, the period 1900-1966 has virtually nothing at all to teach us wise hypermoderns. Except, of course, by way of negative example. In short, a true and brutal wasteland, from start to finish - and in ways that even dear old Father Eliot (our Age's literary founder?) could never have conceived, much less calculated.
And not just in the world at large. Or in admittedly awful places like most of Europe and Asia at the time. But even - and sometimes especially - in what is nowadays often called the Anglosphere.*
*And perhaps deservedly so? After all, if the penchant for, say, totalitarianism was bad enough in oppressed places like Germany, Russia, China and Japan, think how much worse - how much more insidious and deadly - it must have been in those Anglophone and other white imperialist countries whose oppression drove those poor Germans, Russians, etc, to such madness?
Now I realize that not every apparent bully is wrong. And sometimes the seeming victim fully deserves the beating he gets. All the more reason, it seems to me, why we should try and understand how much more racially, culturally, economically, sexually enlightened times like ours can feel tempted to look down on other eras that are less enlightened. And even feel amply justified doing so. And especially when the previous era's want of enlightenment makes it seem less productive, by today's enlightened standards. Or less efficiency-driven. Or less willing to assign, to those main drivers (as we all know today) of both innovation and customer satisfaction - namely, the Executive Management Levels of Business - a more deservedly central place in the human scheme of things.
So, at least, runs my understanding of the dominant rhetoric of our time.
Now I also realize that any rhetoric - even of an official or mainstream kind - may be at best a very poor mirror of what's actually happening in a culture. At the same time, I think the official rhetoric often reflects pretty accurately what many or most people want to be happening in their culture. Or what they think or believe is happening. Or if nothing else, what they'd like other people to believe is happening.
Anyhow, here is the message I've been getting, concerning a principal difference between two historic Anglospheres: (1) that of our time - including that latter third of the Twentieth Century which, I would argue, we moderns have mostly inherited and maintained - and (2) that of the first two-thirds.
And I have yet to be convinced that the message is essentially wrong.
In the English-speaking world of roughly 1900-1966, business was generally understood to have a key place and a necessary function in society. So it was understood, I take it, by many if not most people - including not a few who disliked capitalism, or at very least thought it ought to be run differently (e.g., by the State, by workers' co-operatives, by management-labor boards, etc). Whereas in the period roughly from 1966 to more or less the present, it became almost axiomatic to most people - including many who didn't especially like or trust business - that the place of business was in fact everywhere. And particularly incorporated business. And that a progressive, dynamic, innovative society was one that did not so much understand business as having a key function within some larger social scheme, but rather understood itself - the society - as being but one of the many places, facets and functions of business.
In the first two-thirds of the century there arose an expectation that was to some extent fulfilled. The expectation was that business would use technology, innovation and growth (TIG) to correspond itself to, and to integrate its products ever further into, the lives, first of its customers, and then of consumers generally, in its host countries. Whereas in the final third of the century the expectation was almost diametrically the opposite. It became more and more widely assumed that business - and in particular global business - would use TIG (technology, innovation and growth) not only to conform but to integrate, first its immediate customers, and then consumers in general throughout the globe, ever more fully into the life, needs, procedures, schedules, products, etc, of business. Alpha and Omega, you know.
Now I'd like you to note two (2) chief points from what I've discussed. The first is beyond dispute. The second is - well, in any case it ought to be beyond dispute.
1) How much more globally egalitarian and non-discriminatory business has become in our time as compared to the earlier period. Because while it may be true that in the earlier 20th century business was expected to conform itself to its clientele, the fact is that the clients themselves were largely drawn from its host (i.e., mostly oppressive white imperialist) countries. Whereas in the period leading up to our time, the assumption is that business will naturally try to conform to itself customers and clients of every description throughout the globe, in a way that does not merely disregard, but overcomes, and indeed dissolves borders.
2) If you've been wondering why business - and our economic culture in general - has in our time become not only so much more dynamic, inventive, innovative and productive (than in that bad old barbarous earlier 20th century), but so much better at improving the real quality of life of both workers and consumers everywhere (and not just in places like China and India) - well, now you have your answer.