Monday, September 26, 2005


At one time people of color were not treated with respect. They were shown contempt, ruled by fear of punishment and bullied into submission. At one time women were not granted respect. They were shown contempt, ruled by fear of punishment and bullied into submission. At one time children were not treated with respect. They were shown contempt, ruled by fear of punishment and bullied into submission.

Today, the majority of the population think a contemptuous attitude toward people of color, women and children is barbaric. This change in attitude is a definite sign of social progress. However, this is still the situation for most of us in the work place. Our needs are not taken into account and we are ruled by sanctions. Indeed, it is getting worse under the neocon reaction. We are forced to work harder and longer. In the US workers have been stripped of their most basic democratic rights. We are treated like dirt. The only way we can win back our humanity is through self-management. Only then can we become responsible adults, ruled not by fear, but through knowledge and the pursuit of a common goal.

Self management is not only decent, humane and democratic, but is also common sense. Consider the logic behind authoritarian management. "The people who do the job are bossed by people who don't do the job." Following the logic of such a set-up, in a hospital surgeons ought to be managed by nurses and nurses by surgeons. The only people who really understand a job are the people who do it. Even where you have bosses who come up from the ranks, there is often a big time gap between being a line worker and a boss, in which time "what it is like" gets forgotten. Boss ideology also tends to supplant any sympathy that existed for the ordinary worker. Note how quickly the promoted learn to apologize for management's idiocies and crimes

Authoritarian management is ultimately rooted in feudalism. When capitalism developed it brought the irrational authoritarian and hierarchical methods of control along with it. Feudal society was obsessed by title and formality. Thus if someone had the title of "Lord" he was to be respected and obeyed even though he might be the most useless and incompetent creature on the planet. Given this world-view, we must obey our bosses even though they do not understand the job we do, for they have the title. This feudalistic nonsense was re-cycled in late 19th Century pseudo-science as Social Darwinism. (1) This ideology saw capitalists and their allied authorities as winners in the so-called "struggle for the survival of the fittest", thus justifying their exploitation and bullying. Social Darwinist thought is remains a strong undercurrent in ruling class ideology, as perusing any daily newspaper will show.

Authoritarian management is also rooted in psychological problems. For an insecure person to boss others about is a treat for the weak ego. This sort of person needs power, even if highly limited, say, to only bullying a couple of manual laborers. They seek power the way a drug addict seeks heroin. If authoritarian management was eliminated and democratic management introduced, such people would lose out big time - back to being ordinary workers, in fact due to their lack of real ability, lower in scale than the workers they once bossed.

It is said, though this might just be an excuse, that the biggest obstacle to any real form of worker-input is this lower and middle management. You would think it would be far cheaper and less hassle for the capitalists to just farm out the work to self-managed coops. The fact they don't do this is indicative of an obsessive need to control people. It isn't just wealth they seek, but power. Having thousands of employees makes them feel like a feudal lord with his serfs. They are as loony as their stooges and satraps, and if anything, crazier. Once again, a big chunk of the problem is rooted in psychology, and our ability to introduce self-management within capitalism is therefore quite limited. This does not mean we should not try, but in the long run we must eliminate capitalism and create a full-fledged cooperative, and therefore rational, economy.

1. Also one of the main components of Nazism, I might add. No wonder the heads of many major US corporations, including George W's grandpappy, loved Hitler.


Blogger labby22 said...

Hmmn this reminds me of all of those Soviet Leaders telling their very own serfs, "Hold on guys, the workers paradise is just a generation away, almost there."

Boy I bet those capitalists feel stupid for sticking to their system when now they see how great everything turned out in U.S.S.R. ...........wait a minute....the U.S.S.R. is still around isnt it???? Anybody?..........Hello!!!

11:49 PM  
Blogger pman said...

Hey Prof!

Another excellent, informative post. Since we work together, I know exactly what you mean.


4:48 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Have you seen "time management for Anarchists: the movie"? I think you'd like it.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I especially like the last paragraph, on middle/lower management. The British factory system as it developed in the 19th century, was in some ways a fair approximation of the system you describe. Production methods were dominated by skilled workers on the shop floor, with only the most senior management representing the absentee owners. That's the kind of culture that made the Coventry system possible.

In the American system that developed around the turn of the 20th century, on the other hand, the major divide was between blue collar workers and lower management, with strong cohesion between Taylorist management and the capitalists.

7:20 PM  

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