"Efficiency" is a keyword in the discourse on East and West. It seems
to characterize one major cultural difference of the former communist
and the long time capitalist worlds. Furthermore, the term is at the
core of life in the ?Modern Age?: efficiency is the first commandment
in a development towards functionality that originated in the
Enlightenment and found wide acceptance since industrialization.
In this issue PLOTKI authors investigate various meanings of efficiency in (post-) communist and capitalist societies.
The political and economic realities of the East and the West
have caused attitudes towards efficiency to take on quite different
forms. East of the Wall efficient working processes remained largely in
the realm of socialist utopian ideals, whereas in the Western world
many aspects of daily life have been shaped by practices of
instrumental rationality [Zweckrationalitaet].
Even though, modernization and the application of bureaucracy in
the communist states has seen its own level of instrumental
rationality, talking about efficiency today means first and foremost
talking about capitalism, which has decisively shaped our concepts of
Photography: Stephanie Endter
The modern efficient production processes made life easier in many ways
and provided material wellbeing. However, another implication of this
development seems to be a cultural or social loss connected to the
rationalizations involved. Ruling principles of ?efficiency? and
?functionality? have liberated us on the one hand from the ideological
oppression of established traditions. On the other they have caused our
world to be regulated by systems that seem impersonal and do not
provide meaning to us as cultural resources. Contemporary philosophers,
like Juergen Habermas, have described this rationalizing process as
?colonization of the lifeworld?. According to Habermas, the
perpetration of the lifeworld by the institutions that regulate our
societies alienates man from himself, and (perhaps more importantly)
prevents the formation of a collective will with regard to issues in
our civil lives.
The focus of this online issue of PLOTKI is on the specific
nature of our lives in the Modern Age, as European societies ?
especially those of the former Eastern bloc ? are rapidly transforming.
The issue also offers you a look into the past: to see how the concept
of efficiency was dealt with under different circumstances.
You will find that some of the articles in this issue focus on
?effectiveness? rather than ?efficiency?. This term is closely related
to efficiency, and only shifts the accent a bit. While efficiency
focuses on the economic character of a process in relation to its
outcome, effectiveness refers to a successful result.