Friday, 20 October 2017

The manager as Faust: How managers damn themselves by implementing The System

The 1960s Counterculture was spot-on when it talked of The System as The Problem - but the Counterculture hopelessly tried to oppose the System with self-gratifying instinctual goals - mostly sex.

Thus, over the past 50 years, the consequence has been the rise of The Manager as the archetypal Modern Man - the manager is the cocrete terminus and manifestation of sixties spirituality. Indeed, the 60s-type rebels and cynics always become managers; and managers are the servants of The System - indeed managers are the dupes of The System.

The deal is that in return for creating and imposing The System - in return for working as-a-manager to extend the reach and power of The System via the expansion and linking of bureaucracy - the manager personally will be rewarded with wealth, power and status such that he can pursue his (or more usually her) selfish gratifications - sex, holidays, fashion, possessions...

All managers hate their work as such - and it is indeed hateful work; it being to collaborate in the intended long-term and permanent enslavement of others to a totalitarian agenda of materialism and inversion of the Good. (Bureaucracy just is totalitarianism.)

To be a manager is to be a junior demon - to work for the enslavement of others to evil in return for a deferral of one's own enslavement - to strengthen The System in return for a few temporary exemptions from it - yet/ consequently it is by far the commonest job for the educated classes.

More college graduates are managers than anything else; and all jobs of all kinds become increasingly, and then totally, managerial as the ladder of promotion is ascended.

No wonder the Modern world is so evil; no wonder that the inversion of Good (of truth, beauty and virtue) has become normal and official for the first time in history; no wonder that the recognition of this reality is so rare.

Faust is the manager - the manager is Faust. The selling of one's soul for short-term reward has become all-but universal...

Except that Faust knew and acknowledged what he was doing, and fought his damnation - which made him an interesting anti-heroic character capable of repentance. By contrast, the mass of modern managers are lobotomised-deluded-sub-Faustian idiots; in denial of reality, incapable of honesty, self-blocked from insight: insensibly and unresistingly planning and implementing their own damnations.


William Wildblood said...

‘To be a manager is to be a junior demon’ is a great line and so true. Managers, of whom there are more and more, exist primarily to coerce, and to force people into adopting unnecessary routines which serve no purpose other than to justify the existence of whatever bureaucracy the managers are engaged to support. The managers justify the rules and the rules justify the managers but neither have any real value. Your picture of smart (probably in both senses of the word) superficially attractive soulless clones says it all.

Michael Dyer said...

To extend the metaphor a bit, the manager, like the devils in the Screwtape Letters, is also a prisoner of the system. Think trustee, not prison guard.

The modern world of work is so oddly organized and no one feels free to make any changes even though there is no one physically stopping them. Exhausting work and light work both are measured by the hour with no distinction, and you've got to do your 8 whether it makes sense or not at the time. Everyone has to arrive and depart within the same general block of time causing traffic congestion and frustration. Open offices are popular where any peace or quiet is rare and you always have someone coming out of your blind spot.

You may not be aware but these are all known issues in the business community. Enough research has been done that we all basically know what to do to make work more human without compromising effectiveness in the least(there's an author named Cal Newport you might find interesting). But no one can do it. The current system has created enough of a fog that change is extremely unlikely. If you're interested there is more I can impart but would prefer to do it by email.

Bruce Charlton said...


The insights most people currently lack is that 1. all bureaucracies are one - they are linked and symbiotic; the one bureaucracy is actively evil - not just timewasting.

(It needs a whole post, but another factor *of our era* is that all attempts to restore the past - whether 60s style counterculture, yearning for tribalism; or else traditionalist church-orientated religion (including Christianity) - *will* end in bureaucracy; they will be drawn irresistibly into proceduralism, legalism and totalitarianism.)

@Michael - Yes, I am aware of the world of management theory from when I was a public health professional in the early 1990s, and read management theory fairly widely (including Maslow) - and worked part-time for 18 months in the NHS bureaucracy, initially as assistant to Sir Liam Donaldson who later became the national Chief Medical Officer (senior civil servant in the NHS).

Michael Dyer said...


You worked for the NHS? I am truly sorry! For some reason even otherwise soberminded Britons seem to reflexively praise the NHS as "the best in the world" when in fact it's pretty frequently horrific as I'm sure you know. Honestly if you wouldn't mind sharing some of your experience there in a blog post I'd love to hear about it.

Lucinda said...

In defense of the "hers", the managerial mindset is extremely useful in women's work in the home, especially with very young children who really do benefit from lovingly implemented routines while they learn the fundamentals about basic survival (eating, sleeping, washing, dealing with poop), which is why being a manager comes so naturally to women.

Unprincipled men (some psychopaths, mostly deluded short-termist opportunists) are the ones who primarily 'benefit' from the destruction of the sense of women's honorable duty in the home. The other side of the same coin, part of the same reason that the modern world is so evil, is that women have abdicated the role of righteous motherhood that channeled their managerial mindset toward the production of freedom in the next generation. Instead, because of their desire to be relevant in the now, they have sold themselves into a system where their natural talents destroy freedom, now and in the next generation.

Still, I don't believe it was originally the women's idea, just like eating the fruit wasn't Eve's idea. When confronted with the actual consequences of the choices to be paid managers and to curtail righteous motherhood (which includes faithful marriage to a principled husband), especially when confronted with their undeniable culpability in deliberately making those choices and promoting an environment that rewarded the least principled men, it is my hope that many women will honestly repent the error.

At least that's what I try to hope, because otherwise it's just too depressing.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The essential problem of our managerial society is that we accept as plausible that it is possible for a person to tell others how to do a job without personally having any practical experience of actually doing that job.

If everyone who were applying for a job as a manager were personally experienced in doing the jobs they were supposed to manage, then it would become immediately obvious to upper level employers that having many managers, and especially arranged in many layers of management, is not economical. It would make more sense to have nearly all of those employees actually doing the direct work, and only a tiny proportion overseeing it.

Why is this not done? Because most employers are higher level managers, who have no idea how the basic job is done nor even how to avoid displaying their total ignorance of the job when dealing with the actual workers. They only know how to 'manage' intermediate levels of management. In fact, these upper level management jobs are sinecures.

When a small business is in the first generation of ownership, the owners are generally likely to have direct experience of the fundamental productive work of the business and directly manage those engaged in that work. As the business expands and grows, and especially as the business owners age/mature and have less time and energy to devote to direct management, they must appoint intermediate mangers from those of their employees who have both a clear understanding of the fundamental productive work and the teaching/interpersonal skills to instruct and encourage those still doing it. As the second generation of owners arises, they are often brought into the business with the presumption that they will end up running it, so there is less incentive for them to actually master the basic labor involved. A business that has been built up successfully can survive this just as it survived the decreasing engagement of the original owners. But if this occurs, the next generation of owners are merely major stockholders of the company and owners of the capital investments (buildings, machines, or land and animals). If a business remains profitable without need for innovation long enough, this will happen sooner or later, usually by the third generation.

Thus the development of sinecures in private industry is not a new historical phenomenon. As the earliest governments were also private enterprises (albeit frequently what we should regard as overtly criminal extortion rackets in their origins), the same basic principles applied. The founding warlord knew the business of war from the ground up, but the later heirs often would accept the mantle of 'king' as a birthright. Profitable war demands both fighting enemies and collecting tribute from some client, so it takes more generations to establish a stable model which can survive being managed by a sinecure, but not indefinitely longer.

And governments, because the 'customer' base is essentially captive, can run much longer with an ineffective model by shifting their costs onto the customers, that is, their subjects. A private business cannot do this without losing all their customers to competitors very quickly. So government sinecures have historically been far more common and enduring than private ones. But eventually, breakdown in the effective use of the fundamental military manpower and discontent among subjects bearing too much of the costs of inefficient government will produce a coup, revolt, conquest, or some combination which removes the established sinecures and installs the least incompetent of those competing to take control of the nation.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The unprecedented material wealth produced by exploiting advancing technology in the last century does not change the fundamental dynamic by which modernized nations are filling their economies with sinecures which nominally manage the actual productive work of society, both in government and in 'private' corporate business (large businesses in the modern economy are far to entangled with government to really draw a sharp distinction). What it changes is the scale on which the multiplication of sinecures is happening and how far it can progress before bringing about the collapse of the global modern economy (resulting in revolt against the governments of modern nations). Civilizational collapse is not new, but the scale, scope, and severity of the coming collapse will all be proportional to the peak of wealth from which it is falling.

It is also relevant that the modern civilization has achieved unprecedented success in the fundamental purpose of any civilization, reduction in natural selective pressure on the population. This can be seen as a consequence of wealth, but it is a particular and novel application of wealth, it is to modern people such a commonplace that 'society' will provide advanced medical care that many (and perhaps a majority) of moderns have come to regard such provision as a fundamental human right. Combined with the unprecedented degree of specialization and dependence on technology among even the productive working population, this makes the implications of civilization collapse far more dire than for any previous society.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - I don't think that civilizations have 'a purpose' as such, so I don't follow your analysis. Our current post-industrial revolution society is only about eight generations old and has never reached equilibrium - we have been out-running Malthusian constraints (plague, war, famine) for this time. The scale/ scope etc of the coming collapse will indeed probably be extreme, because of the lack of spiritual resources and dysfunctionality of nearly-everybody. And also because something like 5-6 billion of the current world population are only sustained by advanced technoogical and trade aspects of modernity - which are being actively and systematically undermined and destroyed by the global elite via their Leftist ideology (for a *current* and escalating example, the infiltration and subversion of mathematics and physical sciences - upon which all modernity depends - by political correctness imperatives). However, so far this global demonic elite seems to have aimed at totalitarianism by stages (with intention of imposing the inversion of Good as universally as possible; and the chosen-self damnation of many); and the collapse is continually being averted by massive and increasing internal compulsory transfer of resources between sexes, classes, religions and nations - and by using-up 'capital'.

Chiu ChunLing said...

What I mean is that there is an original motive for the people who found and maintain civilizations. And that motive is overwhelmingly to alleviate the harshness of natural selection operating on their family and friends.

If the people who founded and maintain civilization were not moved by this motive, then civilization would fall and never rise again.

Of course, the typical person living within or attempting to hijack civilization often has different and usually darker motives. But the original purpose of a created thing is established by those who create it, not by others.