“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, August 10, 2007

the jitters

In his book, Capitalism, Social Privilege and Managerial Ideologies, Ernesto Gantman cites a story told by the pioneering organizational psychologist, Elton Mayo, who is associated with the famous Hawthorne experiments in which workers were encouraged to form self organizing units in a Western Electric factory – the seed of the teamwork idea that has crept like kudzu over the work environment. Mayo was very concerned with anomie, and puzzled over the very existence of such repulsive things as Leftists and unions. In one of his books, he tells about an experience he had with some union members who opposed the adult educational initiative of the Workers Educational Association in Australia:

“The greater opposition always came from a particular group of individuals, affiliated to a Leftist party, and Mayo affirmed that he came to know them well enough to be able to outline their psychological profile. According to him, they lacked friends, except at the party level; they seemed unable to easily relate to other people; they lacked coversation skills; ‘all action, like social relationship, was for them emergency action’; and finally, ‘they regarded the world as a hostile place’ … - in sum, a profile that matched Janet’s neurotic individuals. When one of these of [sic] union members received a psychological clinical teatment, ‘he made a good recovery and discovered, to his astonishment, that his former political views had vanished.’ … For Mayo, this example offered a clear lesson that social adjustment was obtained at the expense of the abandonment of antisystem political ideas.” (53)

Gantman’s prose is painful. Sorry about that. But the story is wonderful. One of the great diffusers of psychological science in the twentieth century was the corporation. One of the great diffusers of psychological jargon in the twentieth century was the business consultant class. But, oddly, this fact seems never to have been given the play it should have been given. While much attention has been devoted to the morganatic marriage between Marxism and psychoanalysis – a problematic marriage, since neither partner was willing to play the role of the bride – the much smoother course of love between capital and the bending of the mind, as categorized and organized by the experts, is demonstrated in one horrible management school tract after another.

But there is one thing we are all aiming at – that is, to see our former political views, that nest of vipers, vanish. Actually, it is true that there is a small group of people for whom all action is emergency action. They are celebrated in films like Terminator II, but only in their rightwing militia phase. Yet LI has, perhaps, more in common with those rightwing militia types than the sunny buyer of products guaranteed, on the package, not to have been used in experiments on animals. The world puts us on edge.

6 comments:

northanger said...

pray. which emotion (positive or negative!) generates this world on edge feeling?

roger said...

North, this is what in the old psych books they called a "feeling tone". Now my apocalyptic feeling tone comes from, let's see, a combination of despair, solitude, hopelessness, anger. Mix well, add mustard, flour and vinegar and generous portions of crow. Put in an oven and bake for twenty five years. Serve at your next Timon of Athens party!

northanger said...

oh. so that's your undigested bit of beef. you will never get to any kind of moment Roger (much less a glenfiddich one) with shit like that.

roger said...

North- I'll improve my shit with Timon's words:

"Why, I was writing of my epitaph;
it will be seen to-morrow: my long sickness
Of health and living now begins to mend,
And nothing brings me all things."

There you go, saturnine to the end. Hey, do you really think I am headed for a glenfiddich moment? That would be cool.

northanger said...

{looking at watch} any minute.

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