August 31, 2016

This past weekend I came across a brilliantly conceived opinion piece by Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, “Hail the Maintainers:  “Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more,” published in AEON.

While the article concerns itself with a broad definition of “maintenance” it certainly applies directly to the individuals who read this post and to the worlds of mechanical maintenance and electrical maintenance that serve the manufacturing and process industries this website serves.

I earnestly hope that you will find the time to read it.

The following are some brief excerpts from the authors’ point of view (opinions that I, and I hope you) share:

“Innovation is a dominant ideology of our era, embraced in America by Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the Washington DC political elite. As the pursuit of innovation has inspired technologists and capitalists, it has also provoked critics who suspect that the peddlers of innovation radically overvalue innovation. What happens after innovation, they argue, is more important. Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations.  .  .  .

 .  .  .is there a better way to characterise relationships between society and technology?

 There are three basic ways to answer that question. First, it is crucial to understand that technology is not innovation. Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology.  .  .  .


.  .  . Second, by dropping innovation, we can recognise the essential role of basic infrastructures. ‘Infrastructure’ is a most unglamorous term, the type of word that would have vanished from our lexicon long ago if it didn’t point to something of immense social importance.  .  .  .

 .  .  . Third, focusing on infrastructure or on old, existing things rather than novel ones reminds us of the absolute centrality of the work that goes into keeping the entire world going. Despite recurring fantasies about the end of work or the automation of everything, the central fact of our industrial civilisation is labour, and most of this work falls far outside the realm of innovation.  .  .  .

 .  .  . We can think of labour that goes into maintenance and repair as the work of the maintainers, those individuals whose work keeps ordinary existence going rather than introducing novel things.  .  .  .”

 The above are merely “bullet points.”  The logic, history and obvious truths behind them are the meat.  I hope you will read the entire piece!

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend.  More next Wednesday –  –  –

         — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)