|Message from Jakob Ehrensvärd
What are these galleries all about, I have been asked - trains, mines and decay - strange interests indeed... Well, strange or not, I won't comment, but I guess there is a something like a red thread here.
I spend most of my "intellectual hours" in developing technical stuff - new stuff, in slightly different ways that it usually done. That's at least my own impression of it.
After some years in trying to put the finger on it, I actually think what joins it all together – my interests in this abandoned stuff and the state-of-the-art things I’m doing for living is very well summarized by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. The common denominator is "The capitalist art of creative destruction" – the progressive way that new things are developed at a stunning speed, without any mercy to the heritage or old ways of doing it. When staying at the ruins of an old mine, which prosperity once was created by just this power and surprisingly – it also killed it when someone else took another step forward elsewhere. Sic transit Gloria mundi...
I was born during the record years in the 1960s (in 1966 to be more precise) but as I grew up there was an apparent shift in the society's mood from "boom" to "bust". Maybe a banal anecdote, but I very clearly remember when our school teacher told that we could not just grab a new pencil when the old was used up - the supply was limited to one pencil per month! Some years later, we had to bring our own pencils. Don't get me wrong here - maybe you've never had pencils for free in school and I guess my parents did not have that either. My kids don't. What I want to visualize is the fact that given some basic simplifications of things, there was a short time window when "everything was just fine"... Well, at least sort of...
Let's call this little anecdote and the reflection over the subject the first pieces in an interest of mine that has grown over the years. I have as long as I can remember been fascinated by the modern history, in particular the time when nations transformed from rural peasants into modern industrialized societies. Take Sweden for an example, a country where people starved to death as late as around 1870. One hundred years later Sweden reached the world top in terms of GDP per capita - quite an achievement.
Sweden is small in terms of population but it is a large country area-wise. I really think what made sense for the modern world here was the national consensus in the 1850s to build a nation-wide trunk rail network, funded with government money. With the ability to move goods and people around and a simultaneous shift in the laws for establishing enterprises, some key ingredients were there. With a long background both in timber/wood, iron ore and steel manufacturing, it was obvious starting points for growth. After a slow start, a tremendous journey upwards began and sustained until the end of WWI.
Let's notice that there are some distinct driving factors here - a technological, a political, an ideological and finally a commercial one. Interestingly enough, these powers have not always been in sync and they all seems to have had their ups and downs over the years.
But there are no evergreens and this spectacular journey surely had its underlying structural deficiencies and a forward-looking person probably understood already in the early 1960s that the dark clouds were forming. It is fair to say that the driving factors all ran out of gas around 1970. It's a bit like driving a company - when your vision is gone, it is hard to successfully drive your business further, whatever your incentive.
Although we're by no means down in the gutter again, the re-structuring of the industry which started during the 1960s was probably almost as overwhelming as the boom hundred years earlier. Established enterprises with hundreds of years were shaken by their foundations - some reinvented themselves and survived the 1970s and the first oil crisis and some d