Thursday 2 May 2019

Why are we blind to the evil of bureaucracy?

Well, we are not truly blind - rather we are self-blinded; which is much worse state - one immune to learning; one which is as bad as any state can be...

Everybody 'feels' the evil of materialist bureaucracy, managerialism, reductionism ('nothing but-ism', the accountancy culture) as it is applied to the workplace, the family, marriage etc. We feel it when in the presence of recent architecture and design; or when filling-in long, tendentious forms that are based-upon assumptions we oppose.

When I say 'feeling' I mean exactly that. It is a cold, suffocating or crushing feeling. We can feel the life being squeezed out of us, our humanity filtered or crystallised. Weber termed bureaucracy the 'iron cage' - that is true, but the worst of the cage is that we know it as a cage yet have chosen to inhabit it, and that we disbelieve in the possibility of a life outside of the cage.   

We all feel this - or have felt it when we were younger (the horror of compulsory schooling is a foretaste), yet fail to recognise its intrinsic evil to the extent that a large majority of people support it by their votes, their arguments, ideology - and their docile compliance.

We feel the iron cage is necessary; and by this simple choice we become self-blinded to its evil - because we are saying, in our hearts, that evil is necessary, and that this fact over-rides other.

We sense evil, but choose not to oppose evil; because we believe a System of evil to be necessary.

If you consider what this decision entails - to feel evil in one's heart, and yet nonetheless to embrace that felt-evil because we want some of its consequences - we can then understand the pervasive and increasing nature of evil in modern societies everywhere. 

The evil of bureaucracy is therefore not so much in the System itself (which is indeed evil, but this mortal life is - after all - full of evils). The evil of bureaucracy is that we have embraced its evil, and built our society, and our lives, upon it. So much that the evil has become invisible.

Is there an alternative? Yes, if we really believe that there is a larger world than that of materialist mortality - then there is no reason why we need to regard this world's 'inevitable' features as also Good.

If Life is measured by eternal and transcendent goals, then there is no irrationality in rejecting bureaucracy even if the probable consequences (so far as we can determine) were deleterious for health and happiness in this world.

The question of bureaucracy is, then, not merely a matter of optimising this-worldly gratification...

By knowing that bureaucracy is evil, by deciding it is inevitable, and then by joining-with The System and 'making the most and best of it in our lives - We have In Fact crossed over to the Dark Side, and chosen the path of active damnation and the corruption, not merely of our-selves, but of our fellow Men. 

So, when it comes to bureaucracy 'the stakes' are as high as stakes can possibly be.


John Douglas said...

I can recommend a book called 'God and Work' by Brian Keeble

These two paragraphs are copied more or less verbatim from that book -
"What began as a way of duplicating human skill on a greater scale will end by replacing skill altogether in order to produce goods regardless of any human intervention. As a necessary part of the process any call for the control of machines, however desirable in human terms, is bound to seem illogical since it amounts to the destruction of the system for generating the wealth needed to perpetuate the consumption that underpins the social fabric."
"Such is the remorseless pressure of this process that it becomes, in due course, a sort of cannibalism, first of all destroying the machine minder through automation then in a further step destroying the machine by an economy based on the virtual reality of computerised information. At this stage the question of human needs hardly arises, having been displaced by the internal demands of the productive system itself. This 'system' possessing no vision of an end other than its own perpetuation, must eventually bring about its own destruction."

I couple of years ago I wrote two blog posts on the subject of work which I think you will find interesting -

Bruce Charlton said...

@JD - Thanks.

In my understanding, the difficulty we now have is that we can't/ won't go back to an earlier stage of lesser (but still present) bureaucracy. And a world without bureaucracy would entail a reversion to the kind of hunter-gatherer arrangements that support only about 100th of current population densities.

So honestly and consciously to oppose bureaucracy nowadays requires a degree of idealism (or radicalism) that could easily be regarded as insane!

On the other hand, to support and favour bureaucracy is to make the positive choice of evil.

Such is our situation. It's not really a 'dilemma', because the right path is obvious enough -- nonetheless it requires a high degree of 'unworldliness' and a 'consider the lilies' level of faith.

dearieme said...

I was asked to complete a form in the hospital, volunteering myself for a study of some sort. As I read through the questions I had the feeling you allude to: the questions were framed in a way that I disliked intensely . How to react?

I reached a point where it asked me about my race so I was able to hand the form back to the nurse saying "I don't answer Nazi questions like that".

Of course now, a couple of years later, I could just scribble down "I identify as a Nepali female" and the nurse would doubtless put the form in the bin. Or so I'd hope.

David Balfour said...

So presumably almost everyone including yourself are mired in the inevitable bureauocracy of the modern world, since, as you point out, to opt out entirely would mean being unable to continue living in a house and paying the bills, driving a car, etc, etc. and you would have to go and live in the woods to die of starvation or sepsis from a simple wound...or fill in some more paperwork when you are arrested for camping in an unacceptable location and your children are taken into care for neglect/abuse/awol from school...and then, more paperwork to be completed for all of these reasons...I dont know of anyone who has ever done that!

Jamesy said...

"If Life is measured by eternal and transcendent goals, then there is no irrationality in rejecting bureaucracy even if the probable consequences (so far as we can determine) were deleterious for health and happiness in this world."

Thank you Bruce. This is my position exactly. I live life according to this principle and the result is that I'm a total loser in his 30's who refuses to work a job. Trying the online thing but damn is it hard to make a dollar. Angels gave me a business idea, but I need about 10k to make it happen. Why do they give us ideas we cannot realise? I don't get it.

Bruce Charlton said...

David - As I've said elsewhere - we can be compelled in our actions. But thought is free.

We are responsible - absolutely - for how we think; not that anybody 'holds us' responsible, but that how-we-think defines us.

The spiritually-lethal-problem with bureaucracy is not that people obey it per se; but that they agree with it, want it, *think* it Good.

This relates to the pseudo-sin of modern-hypocrisy. For secular moderns, hypocrisy is supposedly the worst of sins; which means there is nothing wrong with doing anything wrong, so long as you are prepared publicly to state that It Is Actually Good (for reasons).

Then you are not regarded as hypocritical, but are seen as living in accordance with your 'beliefs'. Many modern celebrities are famous/ rich/ high status/ showered-with-homoursexactly because they are prepared *openly to advocate sin*: to proclaim and argue that their sins and weaknesses, illnesses and addictions are virtues/ strengths/ healthy choices.

*Then* we have moral inversion and the triumph of evil.

Bardsey said...

Much agreed. I am struck by how much sin and evil, once we strip away the paint and texture of the times, is just a repetition of the moment in the Garden. We repeat ad infinitum Adam and Eve's choice, to know of good and evil. This means we reject being dependent on God's grace, which entails risk, and instead choose to become Controllers, Managers, and ultimately our own gods.

Perhaps I am an outlier, but the fundamental evil of bureaucracy seems a truth that everyone has access to and the capacity to choose whether or not they will endorse it. I did not set up the system of bureaucracy and management that I was born into, but from the earliest age a world dictated by the power-grubbing demands of the administrative mindset was apparent to me. If it was just a few oddballs why would it be such a common trope in comedy, or fodder for artists everywhere? Yes, I suspect deep down (or not so deep down), we all know that this evil is not incidental but intrinsic to the management mindset. The real manipulations come in when we blame critics of the system as being impure, but the point is that we're all in the box. It is critical to the gatekeepers to silence those who maintain the box is a prison and no good can come from it, even as those critics recognize they are in the box with everyone else. At least their thoughts are free.

David Balfour said...

You are right, we retain freedom of our thoughts and so I am trying now to focus on developing that capacity further. Overturning a life time of bad thinking patterns is extremely difficult. I agree that the bureaucracy we live in is evil and I wish I could be removed from having to be subjected to it ever again or for my loved ones to be subjected to it! Since that is not entirely possible for the reasons we have already discussed, then I chose to reject it in my heart and minimise my compliance with it as much as possible short of the scenario I described in my last comment.