chapter  24
6 Pages

Rickshaws, treadmills, galley slaves, and Chernobyl

Hamilton focuses this essay on a fundamental distinction emphasized by many institutionalists in the Veblen-Dewey-Ayres line. Hamilton points out that although all human behavior is a whole, much can be learned by distinguishing between two different aspects of the whole: the instrumental and the ceremonial. The ceremonial has to do with status, charisma, power, money – getting the reward for a job well done. Market behavior is ceremonial. The instrumental has to do with planting, harvesting, manufacturing – getting the job done in a skillful manner. Technological behavior is instrumental. Institutionalists downplay the significance of the ceremonial and up-play the significance of the instrumental. So far, so good, explains Hamilton. However, technology is often taken as institutionalists’ shining knight and the market as their bête noire. If such is truly the case, institutionalists should have a very hard time dealing with the current situation in which technology is often blamed for much human degradation (rickshaws), meaninglessness (treadmills), and exploitation (galley slaves). The institutionalist plight would seem to be made even worse by the nuclear devastation caused by Chernobyl. Hamilton addresses these technological issues using his ample wit and wisdom.