I’ve just been over at Banksie’s place (no – not the tedious house-wall-painter, the much more civilised MrG’s). He was pondering on managerial bullshit. I’ve just had a couple of months too ill to continue with my book and have satisfied myself with a bit of blogging to learn the ropes. Time to finish the book.
I don’t really enjoy the blogosphere. There’s plenty good around and most stuff is free. My enjoyment is curtailed because I’d rather be doing something effective. I feel much the same about education – maybe we could shorthand it as ‘pissing in the wind syndrome’? Saul Bellow wrote something on the frustrations years back – ‘The Dean’s December‘ – never could stand his prose, but the idea of a college Dean finding the same corruption in Chicago as Soviet Bucharest fitted well with my own life – I even found myself in Bucharest doing what I could for some friends wanting to escape west. Brilliant plans involving a Turkish steamer and jobs in New York and London; but just as the wall was falling amidst all expert opinion it would not! Bellow’s book as seen as subversive in the Romania of that time, though it could be seen as a critique of what was happening in our alleged democracies.
My time in the Eastern Block before and after the fall was undoubtedly tolerated by the authorities, though I had a few narrow squeaks. As in the Middle East, there was a reality to the terror different to experience here. Most of my colleagues and the people in my unofficial sessions asked if I really felt we had genuine democracy. My broad answer was ‘no’. We had a different regime of truth was all – and had somehow got to a point at which it was unlikely that dissenters could be locked up and tortured, disappeared and so on – though we had the ‘Irish problem’ , internment and miscarriages of justice. There was no ‘box of tricks’ I could offer against abuse of power.
There is a box of tricks, of course. A free vote, free-markets and so on. There were plenty around evangelising on this stuff. The key thing for me was to create something not about bullyboy cops or bandits ruling the roost. The key building block was a fair legal system and people in armies, police and legal roles being honest and straight. You had to pluralise the power, build representation for interests and accept people act in their own interests and build systems that mediate this. The big mistake was believing we had a science of any of this, or taking Marxism or whatever as such. It was an even bigger mistake to think counties that had established some civil rights we operating a political science themselves.
MrG produces an example of a decent sergeant who gets promoted inspector in some HQ cubby-hole, turning into a managerial bullshitter and losing all respect. In the transitional Warsaw Pact, one would find similar examples of former Marxist apparatchiks becoming entrepreneurchiks. This sort of Pauline conversion is very common – the bullshit changes and reveals only that the individual was probably always a worthless bullshitter. Political correctness is a particularly malevolent example. There are many examples in sociology of how ‘mannered societies’ are formed (Norbert Elias is a classic from pre-WW2 Germany – you can get most of him free on the Net).
Managerial bullshit (management does not require any) is dire. I still get students who read Tom Peters (a font of much bull) and think they have found something new (main book 1982). They don’t find the material that exposes the whole shebang – most published within a couple of years of the publication. His excellence concept was shown to fail in all his selected companies within 6 months. It was in none of the best 100 companies to work for in the USA. Yet some vapid turd foisted on academic management teachers will still be found spouting it now. The book, in any case, was no more than an application of the method in a UK education report on ’10 good secondary schools’. MrG’s inspector is everywhere – from policing through to the vapid tramps running education and other services into the ground as they build nothing other than bank balances and property portfolios abroad to retire to (I know some who spend 6 months in their villas whilst still drawing full pay).
There has long been a production of simple to learn fairy stories from business. These fashions have been well-exposed by academics. They start in ‘success stories’ that are always positive and retrospective, are written up into ‘patent medicine’ and one can follow their spread into companies and the public and third sector like a plague. Management By Objectives in the 1950s USA via various to Policing By Objectives at a police promotion board in 1976. One can see similar route for idiot forensics (Nico Bento, Frank Scuse) and clown material like ‘ritual abuse’ – once exposed as frauds in one place, the wagon moves on.
What we need to know is how we fall for any of it. My stories on this would start with helium. This gas is essential in such items as MRI scanners. We can’t really make it and hence can’t replace natural stocks. Currently, we piss it out of our atmosphere via kids’ balloons. Free market balloony! At least managerial hot-air seems a bottomless pit!
Missing out several books (already written but not read across our society because we like dumb entertainment), how does this managerial dross get into our public sector? The answer is fashion. We might as well ask how some vile dress gets on the back of a woman. She buys it in a shop run by a successful gawk the government hires to say he could save billions in public sector procurement, paying £20 – £200. It started life on the back of a tall heroin addict strutting a cat-walk and looked vile then. A claque applauded and media worthies wrote it up as chic. Someone took photos and a machine stamped it out in some shrink after 4 washes textile, in various sizes. This material went to various UK sweat shops to be sewed together by illegal immigrants and dole-blodgers on half minimum wages, using dangerous machines in some dire cellar. Then the finished product gets to Gawko’s shop chain via white van man. The man who can save the public sector billions by putting his buying strategies into place has no idea about the sweat shops. He pisses out a book on ‘retail excellence’. Before long, we re teaching this excellence to classes of coppers, wearing these dresses. There is no mention of the sweat shops in the excellence material. You can catch the drift of this on the latest Dispatches at 4OD.
I have no time for fashion, throw-away or otherwise. We used to use the term ‘planned obsolescence’ as a pejorative – now it’s a ‘secret’ excellence pillar. I would rather buy all my clothes and shoes from a supplier who could guarantee I could still wear them 4 years from now. I’d pay twice the price they leave the sweat shop at plus reasonable delivery. I can come up with a viable business plan for the business. Klein’s ‘No Logo’ would do, though I’d wear ‘FuckFasion’.
The main “reason” there is so much management fashion is that no one is really interested in efficiency or rationality. They want only profit. The bullshit rationalises a pathological system. We are too scared to change the mad system, fearing we won’t be able to pay our mortgage or rent. The vile people bullshitting their way to benefit paradise over the deaths of Baby P, the Cochranes (could we really list 1000s?), our politicians and so on (current answers about making poor people poorer on the backs of our hatred of the public sector) are no more than sweat shop managers. Their bullshit is no different to the fashionable sweat shop frock.
One might argue, by-the-by, that academics follow fashion – it’s just more haute-couture to fart about with Habermas, Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida and postmodernism than wear frocks – though some artist is doing the latter.
I set a class an essay on the sweat shops this morning. They mostly noticed it is wrong to get people working illegally in crap conditions. Quite a few noticed all the participants were Asian. None have yet come up with the business analysis, which is about speed to market (otherwise the work would go abroad – the delay and cost of the shipping are important) and changes at the ‘cut end’ of cut and sew. I once taught how this could be done legally and helped two coops to do it successfully. They won’t let me run criminal business practices 101, but how long before key financing like not paying workers for three months take on here?
The use of sweat shops in the UK relies in part on them being cheap. We could stop them without losing all the work to sweat shops abroad, which have the advantage of being further from the prying eyes of the dozen or some of our journos who give a damn, who aren’t pisseur de copie on some Cheryl Cole-like bandwagon. This would mean getting supply chain contracts out of the power of men like Gawpo. The government appears to want to hand over the country to the likes of him, a truly excellent man. He looks Jewish – a bit balder and I could pass as him. I’d take offence if anyone thought I was anything like him beyond some genetic pedigree. I’d rather die poor. We have entirely forgotten the virtues. I’m more likely to be accused of anti-Semitism than he of really wrecking people’s lives.
We have known about managerial bullshit for centuries. It’s us that buys the dresses, feels the need to wear the crap. The answers lie in us. We need our own words, but are too lazy, even to invent our own lives. Our cops can’t even keep utter scum from blighting the rest of us. We still know this is true when some brassed-over turkey is rolled out to give the ‘learning lessons’ speech or some IPCC scummo tells us the deaths could not have been foreseen. The truth, like the sweat shops, is swept under this carpet of bull. Why can’t we stand up to it all? What ‘terror’ do they exert and how? Will the sweat shops close because Dispatches has found them? I know of more than a dozen in Burnley and plenty in Portugal still using child labour.
We ought to notice that most business is such bullshit all managers can do is seek to depress wages. Cops and miners found themselves on half-pay after strikes around 1920 – these are very old management techniques. Do we need such imbalance of power? We have been told (i.e. bullshitted) for many years that we need to let the old industries go to cheaper parts of the world and that new, better jobs would replace them. This sounds pretty good to selfish bastards like us – let others do the hard and scut work while we make more money doing financial services, selling guns and so on. Did anyone ever work out how many people this would leave with no jobs, because they can’t do the new jobs? Is there now a flourishing financial services industry across the South Wales valleys? Are we about to find bullshit butters no parsnips?
The bullshit is partly so obvious because they want us to protest it as part of not being able to make positive changes. I look at the BBC godspot occasionally to see how short Susanna Reid’s skirt is. There’s a Muslim guy and an Xtian one I couldn’t argue with on any basics – decent guys. There’s also a homophobic Xtian and Jewess I’d rather not give the time of day to. Vile creatures who would turn away queers from a guest house – but no doubt prosecute me for saying queer. I give tea and sympathy to Jehovahs if I have time – and I usually make it for the poor souls. Why do we have a godspot when there is much important to discuss? Why is 90% of the business curriculum taught 5 years too late and irrelevant to business practices? Why is the religious dross not concerned with sweat shops and ensuring some decent work for people who need it? Why are we still in trance to foundation scrolls that say much the same things about hospitality and peace, knowing we kill each other in droves over them? We are easily bullshitted.