I'm a philosophy student that tends to post about really serious things unseriously and about really unserious things seriously.
I was once described as a "beautiful, intelligent iguana".
Perhaps, Badiou’s matrix of four basic responses to an Event (the faithful subject; the reactive subject; the obscure subject; resurrection) should be complicated a little bit, so that there are six responses:
1. The responses to the Freud-Event were: (1) fidelity (Lacan); (2) reactive normalization, re-integration into the predominant field (ego-psychology, ‘dynamic psychotherapy’); (3) outright denial (cognitivism); (4) obscurantist mystification in a pseudo-Event (Jung); (5) total enforcing (Reich, Freudo-Marxism); (6) resurrection of the ‘eternal’ Freud’s message in ‘returns to Freud.’
2. The responses to a love-Event are: (1) fidelity; (2) normalization, re-integration (marriage); (3) outright rejection of the evental status (libertinage, the transformation of the Event into sexual adventure); (4) thorough rejection of sexual love (abstinence); (5) obscurantist suicidal mortal passion a la Tristan; (6) resurrected love (re-encounter).
3. The responses to the Marxism-Event are: (1) fidelity (Communism, Leninism); (2) reactive re-integration (Social Democracy); (3) outright denial of the evental status (liberalism, Furet); (4) catastrophic total counter-attack in the guise of a pseudo-Event (Fascism); (5) total enforcing of the Event, which ends up in an ‘obscure disaster’ (Stalinism, Khmer Rouge); (6) renewal of Marxism (Lenin, Mao…).
Slavoj Zizek, “On Alain Badiou and Logiques du mondes”
(this is a really great essay BTW, highly recommended — available here)
Seriously though: I don’t get the motivation behind that #Marxism thing. Like, most of the guys that I follow on here that are self-labeled Marxists tend to have some sort of queer-bent, and would probably be totally okay with all that?
I mean, some of the people I follow are sex-negative and anti-porn, so maybe they’d have a problem with it. But, like, that’s more directed towards problems with playing into women in porn and playing into heteronormative male fantasies. Though, maybe they’re against gay porn too?
(Actually, that’s a decent question: for my followers that are anti-porn, does that extend to “gay porn”? I don’t see why it wouldn’t, but I’m just curious.)
I’m mostly just offended that whoever’s doing that thinks that we’d be offended by such a thing. Or that gay sex is somehow offensive generally.
I just….don’t get it.
Has anyone else noticed that the #Marxism tag is just riddled with gay porn? Like…pages of it?
I’m just letting y’all know just in case that’s your thing: that way you can get your radical politics and gay porn all in one place. It’s actually rather convenient, I’d imagine, for a lot of people.
Morning Star is a California company that is responsible for processing 40% of California’s tomato crop. They also have no management. (Via Reason.tv):
Morning Star has many of the usual positions that one would expect at an ordinary company: there are floor workers, payroll personnel, folks that handle the mail and outside communications, and so on. The difference is that, from a bird’s eye view, no single person at Morning Star is anybody else’s boss. The entire operation appears to thrive on the power of collective expectations, and by giving workers a direct stake in the success of the company. Workers at Morning Star make their own decisions about how to perform their job, what tools they need to keep the machines running, and how to structure their work day to keep production running smoothly. As one employee put it, there is no bureaucracy that he has to fight through if he needs something for his lab. He just goes out and purchases it.
To some, this may seem like a frightfully inefficient way to run a business. If employees can make instantaneous discretionary purchases of lab equipment on the company dime, then where is the cost control? Such a system seems doomed to failure without a hierarchy of some sort to check potentially unwise exercises of indiscretion.
The answer is that these checks are built into the system of collective expectations. As another Morning Star employee put it, Morning Star’s business model presumes that employees who are closest to a particular business process are the most qualified to make decisions about how to keep that process running efficiently. Thus, one would expect an unwise purchase to be met with scrutiny by one’s peers on the factory floor. Morning Star’s firm model thrives by ensuring that one individual is never and uncontested decision-maker solely responsible for decisions related to a business process at the company. Every worker has a stake in the outcome of everybody else’s labor. The threat of discipline from management is unnecessary to achieve desired outcomes.
Morning Star is not the first company to adopt this business model. Valve Corp., a wildly successful Video Game company that currently dominates the Video Game industry through it’s Steam platform, also has no formal management. Gore Inc., the makers of Gore-Tex, are an 8,500 strong company that has no company organization chart. Though Gore does retain a few corporate officer titles for various purposes within the company, those officials have little direct power over other employees in the corporation. Those same officers are also not unilaterally chosen by the Board of Directors, but rather, in a more democratic fashion:
In Gore’s self-regulating system, all the normal management rules are reversed. In this back-to-front world, leaders aren’t appointed: they emerge when they accumulate enough followers to qualify as such. So when the previous group CEO retired three years ago, there was no shortlist of preferred candidates. Alongside board discussions, a wide range of associates were invited to nominate to the post someone they would be willing to follow. ‘We weren’t given a list of names – we were free to choose anyone in the company,’ Kelly says. ‘To my surprise, it was me.’
Other firms have shown that “non-management management” approach is feasible. At IDEO Corp., a Palo Alto engineering company responsible for such ubiquitous inventions as squeezable toothpaste tubes, or the mouse you are using to point & click things on your computers, there are no bosses, and no management structure. Sun Hydraulics is a $170 million dollar manufacturing firm with no job titles, no organization chart, and even lacks job performance criteria for its employees. There is a Plant Manager, but their job is not to supervise employees: it’s to water the company’s plants.
How are so many companies, in areas as diverse as tomato farming, hydraulics production, and video game production, running successful businesses without traditional management? In a society built on Capitalism, the common wisdom is that productive firms require managers with coercive authority to motivate people to do their jobs. Most ordinary people are shocked when they learn that there are companies who stay profitable with no bosses. How can this be an efficient way to run a company?
As it turns out, there’s a lot of evidence that top-down management is an inefficient form of firm organization. Gary Hamel, writing for the Harvard Business Review, noted several reasons to abandon traditional management hierarchies, one of which is the fact that managers add both personnel costs and unnecessary complexity to a firm:
A small organization may have one manager and 10 employees; one with 100,000 employees and the same 1:10 span of control will have 11,111 managers. That’s because an additional 1,111 managers will be needed to manage the managers. In addition, there will be hundreds of employees in management-related functions, such as finance, human resources, and planning. Their job is to keep the organization from collapsing under the weight of its own complexity. Assuming that each manager earns three times the average salary of a first-level employee, direct management costs would account for 33% of the payroll.
Top-down management also centralizes risk-taking in the hands of fewer decision-makers, which increases the likelihood of a disastrous event:
… As decisions get bigger, the ranks of those able to challenge the decision maker get smaller. Hubris, myopia, and naïveté can lead to bad judgment at any level, but the danger is greatest when the decision maker’s power is, for all purposes, uncontestable. Give someone monarchlike authority, and sooner or later there will be a royal screwup. A related problem is that the most powerful managers are the ones furthest from frontline realities. All too often, decisions made on an Olympian peak prove to be unworkable on the ground.
The personal whims of managers can also kill or disincentivize ideas that are good for the company, especially when ideas have to be filtered through multiple levels of management:
…[A] multitiered management structure means more approval layers and slower responses. In their eagerness to exercise authority, managers often impede, rather than expedite, decision making. Bias is another sort of tax. In a hierarchy the power to kill or modify a new idea is often vested in a single person, whose parochial interests may skew decisions.
Then there’s “the cost of tyranny:”
The problem isn’t the occasional control freak; it’s the hierarchical structure that systematically disempowers lower-level employees. For example, as a consumer you have the freedom to spend $20,000 or more on a new car, but as an employee you probably don’t have the authority to requisition a $500 office chair. Narrow an individual’s scope of authority, and you shrink the incentive to dream, imagine, and contribute.
The success of these business models demonstrate one of the fundamental criticisms of traditional Capitalist modes of production that Marx attempted to illustrate when he was writing Das Kapital. While Marx was wrong (in my opinion) about quite a few things, the success of the companies above demonstrates that Marx was correct to point out that divorcing employees from management decisions related to their own labor is an inherently inefficient means of production. Divorcing employees from the product of their labor separates them from one of the primary motivating forces to perform that labor. This process of alienation itself is what creates the necessity for “bosses”—employees whose primary purpose is to oversee & discipline other employees in their assigned tasks.
Thus, what we really see in Marx’s Theory of Labor Alienation was, inter alia, an argument about firm management: the need for “bosses” in the workplace only arises when employees are completely divorced from the means of production. When workers have a direct stake in the final product of their labor, they no longer need the threat of coercion from superiors to do their job. An employee’s direct interest in the outcome, combined with the power of collective expectations of their peers in the workplace, replaces the threat of, and need for, discipline from above.
With all this being said: I am not attempting to argue here that the success of non-managed firms proves that stateless socialism is viable, or validates Marxism writ large. Indeed, I’m sure that the folks at Reason have a much different view on Morning Star’s success than I do—and moreover, I remain, as I have always been, a fan of mixed economies.
What I think is clear, however, is that Marxist theorists are right to point out that there is nothing inherently “natural” or “necessary” about the way the workplace is organized in most Western societies today. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that top-down hierarchies in the workplace are neither necessary for profitability, nor an extension of natural human activities. Indeed, if Gary Hamel’s observations about the inefficiency of management are true, we appear to have been doing it wrong for quite some time. Though perhaps we could have come to the same conclusion more easily by just reading Dilbert comics:
I bet the reason you never hear about these sorts of companies is that they essentially disprove the entire myth of the ‘job creator’
Oh, holy fuck, this is so awesome.
Every time I do economics homework I just remember that Marx figured out in the 1800s that all of my work is just a way to oppress the proletariat.
Every time I find an equilibrium, I find a way for the bourgeoisie to appropriate surplus value from labor.
ummmm it’s a little more complicated than that. basically marx was saying that the point of what he calls “bourgeoise economics” is deriving laws about how capitalism works and conflating them with descriptive statements of Fundamental Laws of Reality and How The World Actually Works instead of just how the world works under capitalism
I sometimes feel like libertarians-and-stoya is just a fantastic troll, created to turn logicallypositive slowly away from Libertarianism.
Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art Of Failure
She goes on to say that “Zizek uses popular culture and film in particular only to keep proving his Lacanian take on everything as good and true and to accuse others of being bamboozled by the shiny candy wrappers of Hollywood cinema,” which she contrasts to her own method of taking the same cinema as a site for “rethinking collectivities, transformation, identification, animality, and posthumanity.” That about sums it up I think.
[I had to go search this quote out once I saw you recommended hollovv go look at it at one point. Sorry to bring it up again.]
I’m sorry Pritch, but this is a horrible misreading of Zizek. It seems disingenuous to categorize someone who’s always revisiting that “try again, fail again, fail better” quote as “[situating] failure as a stopping point on the way to success”. And isn’t taking “failure apart…as a category levied by the winners against the losers and as a set of standards that ensure that all future radical ventures will be measured as cost-ineffective” exactly what he does when he problematizes the use of ‘totalitarian’ in ‘radical’ philosophy (via “Did Someone Say Totalitarianism?”). Like, that was the entire subject of a book he wrote.
And is no one paying attention to the fact that the pop-culture part of his works are the smallest, most insignificant part? He’s said before that if he can’t translate the work of some theorist or another into the ‘dumb’ level of pop culture references, he feels he probably doesn’t understand that person enough to use them. Why is it so wrong to try and revisualize the ideas of another author through the lens of pop culture? Seriously, it like as soon as he does that, everyone goes “this is just some cheap trick” and pays him no mind. It’s sad how bad of a misreading he CONSTANTLY gets. No, he’s not the end-all be all of theory as people pretend, but he’s worth some actual engagement.
And finally, it’s not like there’s this opposition in his work between “dupes of culture, misreaders of history, and brainwashed contemporary politics” and “him”. There’s the opposition between people who believe in an actually consistent, Kantian “thing-in-itself” prior to our perceptions of it, and the actual Hegelian move of realizing that our inability to access the in-itself is due to our own ontological inconsistency that gets placed upon other objects. Apperception being ontologically prior to perception, and the non-All of apperception being constitutive of subjectivity itself.
That’s the thing, if you don’t keep that ontological move in mind, Zizek’s works get read as really bad, shallow politicizing that just coasts along the gleaming surface of pop-culture.
Just, ugh, again, this is such a bad (common, unorignal, prepackaged) critique of Zizek. We really need better work being done on the guy before we actually dismiss him in any way.
And there was one from his wife, Jenny, that said she would “lay down [her] head as a sacrifice to [her] naughty boy…”
I don’t know why, but I find that to be the funniest line in regards to Marx.