Our society is organized like a corporation, with senior management and a large layer of middle-management

Our society is organized like a corporation, with senior management and a large layer of middle-management. By the Z-Man.

Arguably, one of the most important political concepts to come out of the 20th century was James Burnham’s theory of managerialism. It is important mostly because it is a set of accurate observations that allow for a further understanding of what is happening in Western societies since the Second World War. Once you understand that our society is organized like a corporation, with senior management and a large layer of middle-management, things make much more sense.

The trouble is most people do not want to see this. Instead, they indulge in reductionist theories about secret cabals manipulating the system. Others pretend that the system is what is advertised and you just have to vote harder. Still others insist we have drifted into something randomly called socialist, Marxist or communist, not because the system possesses these qualities, but because those words are epithets. …

The managerial class controls access to that which has value in modern society. If you want your ideas to get heard, you must pass muster with the people who keep the gates of the system. Just as in a corporation, you are not going to get to speak your mind around the bosses if they are not going to like what you have to say about them.

Another reason this idea languishes on the fringe is that most political commentary comes from mediocrities excluded from the elite track. The commentariat is populated with people unqualified to run a hotdog stand. As you see in the dreaded private sector, middle-management tends to be a cheering section in this system. Unlike a private company, the managerial class never has to worry about making a profit, so the cheering section can be stuffed to the gills. …

Interestingly, the people at the top of the managerial class and especially those seeking to reach the top are ignorant of the concept. They have achieved class consciousness to the extent that they naturally identify with the others in their class. They mark themselves with their dress, their language and political beliefs. The latter jumps out at the lower ranks where they tend to embrace the most extreme versions of elite opinion as a way to gain attention from the bosses. …

This means the managerial class has achieved class consciousness, in that they consciously identify with those in their class. They see themselves as distinct from the rest of society. On the other hand, they suffer from false consciousness in that they think they are motivated by altruistic reasons, like the spread of liberal democracy, individual freedom and equality.

You’ve got to stand back and laugh at civilization sometimes. So capable sometimes, yet so unaware and so tripping over itself at others.