Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Francis on the Managerial Revolution.

Francis quoted Whittaker Chambers in explaining how the Managerial Revolution occurred in the U.S.
I saw that the New Deal was only superficially a reform movement. I had to acknowledge the truth of what its more forthright protagonists, sometimes defiantly, averred: the New Deal was a genuine revolution, whose deepest purpose was not simply reform within existing traditions, but a basic change in the social, and, above all, the power relationships within the nation. It was not a revolution by violence. It was a revolution by bookkeeping and law-making. In so far as it was successful, the power of politics had replaced the power of business. This is the basic power shift of all the revolutions of our time. This shift was the revolution.
While the revolution in the U.S. occurred peacefully, Burhnam felt that the type of society it created with similar in "structure" to ones being created in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Contemporary critics were horrified by the assertion and I imagine what beguiled analysts of the time was the fact the revolution as the U.S. was peaceful it was therefore fundamentally different in nature than from the totalitarianisms birthed in violence. But what these analysts failed to see is that with the changes bought about the by New Deal,  the U.S. assumed the "structure" of a totalitarian society even though its "managers" weren't totalitarian.  The checks-and-balances which limited government power still remained on paper but were practically were swept away through a variety of judicial and economic actions which neutered the constitution and vastly expanded government power.

Burnham, and Francis tended to view the "managerial" class along Marxist lines in the sense that class acted to self consciously further its self-interest and power, which in turn implied and ever increasing domain of "management" and hence an expanding government. While I do think that there is an element of truth in this, I feel this is a weak point of Burnham's analysis. At the time he was harshly criticized by both Orwell for this view--correctly in my opinion--and Burnham's thinking changed later in this regard, especially by the influence of Chambers. When Burnham wrote Suicide of the West, it wasn't the parasitic managerial class which was the issue as much as it was the "culture" of that class. Francis wrote;
The ideology of the emerging managerial regime in the United States came to be known as "progressivism" and later as "liberalism," though a more appropriate label might be "managerial humanism." The ideology articulated a view of man as the product of social and economic environment and thus susceptible to amelioration or perfection by a scientifically trained elite with power to redesign the environment. It involved a collectivist view of the state and economy and advocated a highly centralized regime largely unrestrained by traditional legal, constitutional, and political barriers. It rejected or regarded as backward, repressive, or obsolete the institutions and values of traditional and bourgeois society—its loyalties to the local community, traditional religion, and moral beliefs, the family, and social and political differentiations based on class, status, and property—and it expressed an ideal of man "liberated" from such constraints and re-educated or redesigned into a cosmopolitan participant in the mass state-economy of the managerial system.
Francis recognised that the nature of the class would in turn reflect the nature of the society, but Burnham's analysis felt that human dynamics and societal structure would relentless push society in an anti-traditional direction:
Despite the conservative, stabilizing, and establishmentarian appearance of consensus liberalism, however, the managerial system is incapable of stabilization. The dynamic of managerial capitalism involves a continuing erosion of the social and cultural fabric through the mass consumption and hedonism, social mobility, and dislocation that it promotes and through the obsolescence of hard private property, under the control of individual and family ownership, that corporate and collective property and governmental regulation encourage. The managerial state obtains its raison d'ĂȘtre from continuing intervention, activism, and social engineering, as became clear in the War on Poverty, the civil rights revolution, and the Great Society programs. The intellectuals, technocrats, and professional verbalists of the managerial intelligentsia and communications elite—what Kevin Phillips has called the "mediacracy"[ED:Cathedral]—are committed by their material interests and their ideological predispositions[ED] to the design and implementation of continuing social change, the rejection and destruction of the bourgeois constraints on their functions and power, and the defense and extension of the apparatus of the managerial system. The rhetoric of conservatism did not alter the basic reality of the managerial regime and its continuing revolution, and the reality came to the surface again in the utopian imagery of the "New Frontier," "Camelot," and "Great Society" of the 1960s and even in the planning of the Vietnam War. Lyndon Johnson and his advisers projected a "TVA on the Mekong" that would "solve" the environmental problems that, in their view, lay at the root of communism, and the "McNamara Revolution" in the Defense Department carried through the managerialization of war and the technocratic transformation of the military services. Few large corporations supported Senator Barry Goldwater's rather quaint evocation of bourgeois beliefs in the 1964 presidential campaign, and most corporate donations accrued to the Johnson-Humphrey ticket.• The "conservatization" of managerial liberalism in the postwar era was intended to legitimize the managerial regime by lending it the appearance of continuity and respectability and to check the tendencies of the ideological Left to push the regime beyond what the elite wanted and required, but it did not significantly slow or reverse the radicalizing and anti-bourgeois mechanisms of the regime and its system of social dominance by the managerial elite.
It's interesting here to see that Francis thought that "big business" capitalism worked synergistically with the managerial state to erode both traditional society, morality and the protective mechanisms for individual liberty. Francis also saw that the managerial elite could superficially appear conservative but was ultimately radical at its core and unless the managerial "structure" could be disestablished it would pose a continual threat to any nascent attempts of Conservative resurgence.  He regarded the Reagan years as a failure and interesting illustrated how the managerial apparatus managed to deal with upstarts who wanted to change the status quo.
"Reaganism," then, was neither a continuation of the bourgeois conservatism of the Old Right nor one more installment of an eternally recurring William McKinley nor the culmination of a cycle in American politics by which one elite ousted another and then itself succumbed to corruption. It was rather an effort to wed or fuse those destabilizing movements, fed by resentment, fear, and frustration, which gelled in the New Right and the candidacy of George Wallace, with still-dominant managerial elements in the state, economy, and cultural apparatus. Those elements saw their institutional apparatus of power and the "consensus" that rationalized it jeopardized by an insurgency from the right as well as from the left in the 1960s and 1970s and by the whole unraveling of American society that their own efforts at social reconstruction had helped cause. So far from challenging or displacing an old elite, Reaganism simply allowed the leadership of the insurgent forces to crawl into bed with the managerial establishment and sample its favors, thereby effectively decapitating (or, to extend the  sexual metaphor, emasculating the insurgency)[ED]
The formula worked as long as the Teflon President was there, and it has worked for his successor since Good Old Dutch was strapped to his pony and hauled back to his ranch. But it may not work much longer if recession and the economic woes Mr. Phillips discusses pop out of the political woodwork as they seem to be doing. What is surprising in Mr. Phillips's analysis is not his conclusion that Reaganism actually endangered middle-class aspirations but his neglect of the continuing power of the cultural and social frustrations he has so admirably penetrated elsewhere. In his 1982 book, Post-Conservative America, he predicted that what historian Fritz Stern called the politics of cultural despair"—racial, national, and social hostilities and dislocations—would coalesce with economic frustrations to yield a chauvinist, authoritarian, and perhaps overtly racialist political movement on the order of what occurred in Weimar Germany. In his present book, there is virtually no reference to that thesis despite its continuing relevance.
Here we are.

I think the important things to take from Burnham are;

Firstly, the Managerial Revolution transformed the U.S. (and other Western Societies) structurally so that they resembled societies with '"totalitarian" power structures.

Secondly, the "culture" of the managers, reflected the nature of that society and the nature of that totalitarianism. And contemporary events bare this out. As our elite culture drifts relentlessly leftward and atheistic the legal protections afforded to Christians have vapourised and a "soft Left" totalitarianism is taking its place.


Giant Bean said...

G'day SP,

As a fellow Australian admirer of James Burnham (can't imagine there are too many of us), thought I'd leave a comment to say that I've really enjoyed your recent posts prompted by the Sam Francis book. Yet to get a copy myself, but have read Francis' book on Burnham in the "thinkers of our time" series.

In this country Turnbull provides a good illustration of the cooption of the leadership of the centre-right party by the managerial elite covered in this post. For years, while Abbott was the Liberal leader, its mouthpieces (principally the ABC) promoted Turnbull as the more acceptable option to lead the party. Since the leadership change last September there's been a considerable softening of the coverage given to the government, and in exchange the new PM has cooperated with the managers on, for instance, the 'clean energy fund' and some of the senior public service appointments in PM&C.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Giant Bean

Thanks for dropping by. It's always nice to see intelligent life her in Australia!

The book is actually worth getting and I would recommend it. Francis is a serious thinker and I think he needs to be given more credit than he is due. I'm going to order his Essential Writings on Race and see what to make of it. Till then I'm reserving my judgement on that aspect of his thought.

I agree, Turnbull is part of the ruling managerial class. I like to think of him and his group as "Davos Men". Most of the Managerial class here in Australia are enthusiastic supporters of him and much like the situation in the U.S., the average working Australian seems disconnected from their ideals. However, he still is a "conservative" and I feel that their--(ABC and their ilk)-- main objective was to remove a paleo like Abbott and replace him with someone who, while still offensive to the left, is less likely to cause it damage. Abbot's problem was that he was too damn nice. He was given power and he dropped the ball.

Are you in Melbourne by any chance?

Giant Bean said...

No mate, I'm in the belly of the beast (Canberra). Just about the entire city is disconnected from the Australian mainstream! Too much time here will give one a very warped perspective on things.

For instance, a few weeks ago I discovered this piece of public 'art':

Agree with the criticism of Abbott's time in office. Never before have I seen a man so conciliatory to those who clearly hate him, and so determined to hide what we all knew he really was (that is, a conservative).

MK said...

This is a really important post. Almost the Rosetta Stone of American liberalism. I clearly need to read a lot more. A flood of new information, the type that once you hear it for the first time, it all clicks.

Clear Waters said...

"As our elite culture drifts relentlessly leftward and atheistic the legal protections afforded to Christians have vapourised and a "soft Left" totalitarianism is taking its place."

I would also say this general trend towards totalitarianism is a direct result of technology creating mediums that the left cannot control. With the success of the 'AltRight' Twittersphere, the coming crackdown on the internet is likely to be ruthless. Don't believe me? Consider that it is today's UNIVERSITY STUDENTS who will be making the next set of societal changes. Just look at these safe space fanatics. They WILL NOT have any sense of shame as they flush free speech on the internet down the crapper.

The Social Pathologist said...

@GB My commiserations, I don't imagine that there are many Burnhamites there. Still if you're ever in Melbourne let us know.

@MK Thanks


Once this current generation realises how screwed it's been by the baby boomers I think there's going to be a violent backlash to the right. As I say to my friends, we're in the late 1920's again.

Ken S. said...

Nice to see the thought of my late friend Sam Francis being recognized so any years after his death.

The Social Pathologist said...


Thanks for dropping by. I must admit that I've been very impressed with his thinking. I hope to expound on it some more.
How did you know him?