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Bureaucratic alienation

News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Best books about bureaucracy Recommended Links Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition Learned helplessness The Fiefdom Syndrome
Crisis of legitimacy of neoliberal elite Elite Theory The Iron Law of Oligarchy The Deep State Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners" Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite Bosos or Empty Suits (Aggressive Incompetent Managers)
Military Bureaucracy Bureaucratic inertia  Bureauactic ritualism Absurdity of bureaucracies The authoritarian personality Lysenkoism  
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Alienation in neoliberal society occurs because in work each contributes to the common wealth, but they can only express this fundamentally social aspect of individuality through a production system that is not publicly social but privately owned, for which each individual functions as an instrument, not as a social being.

Relationships under neoliberalism become more and more mediated by money. Individuals become estranged to themselves in the quest to stay alive, where “they lose their true existence in the struggle for subsistence”

The resemblance of neoliberal culture with Soviet society is shocking. Soviet society too was based on fear, hypocrisy, double-talk and many lies. The important communist bureaucrats were diabolically able to wrap very pragmatic and selfish  actions in completely irrelevant Marxist-Leninist talk. The major difference from the neoliberalism is that the generations formed in communist times were extremely cynical and bitter, while neoliberal corporatist culture keeps pushing credulity, self-blame and “a positive attitude.” Just like under communism, under neoliberalism the corporate workplace culture refuses to be aware of itself. It wraps a simple and pragmatic set of actions with a complex and irrelevant set of behaviors and justifications, all the while somehow mysteriously passing on the management wisdom over the years.

The American sociologist C. Wright Mills conducted a major study of alienation in modern society with "White Collar" in 1951, describing how modern consumption-driven capitalism has shaped a society where you have to sell your personality in addition to your work. The five prominent features of alienation: powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement (Seeman, 1959). Alienation in the sense of a lack of power has been technically defined by Seeman as “the expectancy or probability held by the individual that his own behaviour cannot determine the occurrence of the outcomes, or reinforcements, he seeks." Seeman argues that this is “the notion of alienation as it originated in the Marxian view of the worker’s condition in capitalist society: the worker is alienated to the extent that the prerogative and means of decision are expropriated by the ruling entrepreneurs".[23] Put more succinctly, Kalekin-Fishman (1996: 97) says, “A person suffers from alienation in the form of 'powerlessness' when she is conscious of the gap between what she would like to do and what she feels capable of doing”.

Perceived in terms of roles, rules, and functions rather than as individuals, many workers feel more like objects than people. Marx termed these reactions alienation, a result, he said, of workers being cut off from the finished product of their labor. He pointed out that before industrialization, workers used their own tools to produce an entire product, such as a chair or table.

Now the capitalists own the tools (machinery, desks, computers) and assign each worker only a single step or two in the entire production process. Relegated to performing partial, highly specialized tasks that seem remote from the final product, workers no longer identify with what they produce. They come to feel estranged not only from the results of their labor but also from their work environment.

Bureaucratic alienation is closely connected with the impersonal, dehumanized nature of large scale  organizations. The leadership everywhere is limited to representatives of the elite which are disconnected from the need and aspiration of the rest of workers. Who as a result face alienation.

Alienation is connected with aspects of bureaucratic structure (centralization and formalization). We can distinguish two major forms of alienation: from work and from human relations (depersonalization)

See also Marx's theory of alienation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alienation (Entfremdung) is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity. The theoretic basis of alienation within the capitalist mode of production is that the worker invariably loses the ability to determine his or her life and destiny, when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of himself as the director of his actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define their relationship with other people; and to own the things and use the value of the goods and services, produced with their labour. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realised human being, as an economic entity, he or she is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximum amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.

In a capitalist society, the worker’s alienation from his and her humanity occurs because the worker can only express labour — a fundamental social aspect of personal individuality — through a privately owned system of industrial production in which each worker is an instrument, a thing, not a person; Marx explained alienation thus:

Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have, in two ways, affirmed himself, and the other person. (1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and, therefore, enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also, when looking at the object, I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses, and, hence, a power beyond all doubt. (2) In your enjoyment, or use, of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature... Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.[1]

The four types of Entfremdung are:

(I) Alienation of the worker from the worker — from the product of his labour

The design of the product and how it is produced are determined not by the producers who make it (the workers), nor by the consumers of the product (the buyers), but by the Capitalist class, who, besides appropriating the worker’s manual labour, also appropriate the intellectual labour of the engineer and the industrial designer who create the product, in order to shape the taste of the consumer to buy the goods and services at a price that yields a maximal profit. Aside from the workers having no control over the design-and-production protocol, alienation (Entfremdung) broadly describes the conversion of labour (work as an activity), which is performed to generate a use value (the product) into a commodity, which — like products — can be assigned an exchange value. That is, the Capitalist gains control of the manual and intellectual workers, and the benefits of their labour, with a system of industrial production that converts said labour into concrete products (goods and services) that benefit the consumer. Moreover, the capitalist production system also reifies labour into the “concrete” concept of “work” (a job), for which the worker is paid wages — at the lowest possible rate — that maintain a maximum rate of return on the Capitalist’s investment capital; this is an aspect of exploitation. Furthermore, with such a reified system of industrial production, the profit (exchange value) generated by the sale of the goods and services (products) that could be paid to the workers, instead is paid to the capitalist classes: the functional capitalist, who manages the means of production, and the rentier capitalist, who owns the means of production.

(II) Alienation of the worker from working — from the act of producing

In the Capitalist Mode of Production, the generation of products (goods and services) is accomplished with an endless sequence of discrete, repetitive motions that offer the worker little psychological satisfaction for “a job well done”. By means of commodification, the labour power of the worker is reduced to wages (an exchange value); the psychological estrangement (Entfremdung) of the worker results from the unmediated relation between his productive labour and the wages paid him for the labour. That division of labour, within the capitalist mode of production, further exploits the worker by limiting his or her Gattungswesen (species-essence) — the human being’s power to determine the purpose to which the product (goods and services) shall be applied; the human nature (species-essence) of the worker is fulfilled when he or she controls the “subject of labour”. Hence does capitalism remove from the worker the right to exercise control upon the value and the effects of his and her labour, which, in turn, robs the worker of the ability to either buy (consume) the goods and services, or to receive the full value from the sale of the product. The alienation of the worker from the act of producing renders the worker unable to specialize in a type of productive labour, which is a psychologically satisfying condition; within an industrial system of production, social alienation reduces the worker to an instrument, to an object, and thus cannot productively apply every aspect of his or her human nature.

(III) Alienation of the worker from himself, as a producer — from his Gattungswesen (species-essence)

The Gattungswesen (species-essence), the nature of a person is not detached from their activity as a worker; as such, species-essence also comprises all of their innate human potential as a person. Conceptually, in the term “species-essence”, the word “species” describes the uniquely human traits that are characterized by a “plurality of interests” and “psychological dynamism”, whereby every person has the desire and the tendency to engage in the varied activities that are practically and emotionally benevolent, by means of social connections with other people. The cognitive value of a person consists in being able to conceive of the ends of his actions as purposeful ideas, which are distinct from the actions required to realize a given idea. That is, man is able to objectify his intentions, by means of an idea of himself, as “the subject”, and an idea of the thing that he produces, “the object”. Conversely, unlike a human being, an animal does not objectify itself, as “the subject”, nor its products as ideas, “the object”, because an animal engages in directly self-sustaining actions that have neither a future intention, nor a conscious intention. While a person’s Gattungswesen, their nature, does not exist independent of specific, historically conditioned activities, the essential nature of a human being is actualized when a person — within their given historical circumstance — is free to subordinate his will to the external demands he has imposed upon himself, by his imagination, and not the external demands imposed upon him by other people.

Relations of production

Whatever the character of a person’s consciousness (will and imagination), the worker’s existence in society is conditioned by his or her relationships with the people and things that facilitate survival, which is fundamentally dependent upon co-operation with others, thus, a person’s consciousness is determined inter-subjectively (collectively), not subjectively (individually), because Man is a social animal. In the course of history, to ensure human survival, societies have organised themselves into groups who have different, basic relationships to the means of production. One societal group (class) owned and controlled the means of production, while another societal class worked the means of production; in the relations of production of that status quo, the goal of the owner-class was to economically benefit as much as possible from the labour of the working class. Moreover, in the course of economic development, when a new type of economy displaced an old type of economy — agrarian feudalism superseded by mercantilism, in turn superseded by the Industrial revolution — the rearranged economic order of the social classes favoured the social class who controlled the technologies (the means of production) that made possible the change in the relations of production. Likewise, there occurred a corresponding rearrangement of the human nature (Gattungswesen) and the system of values of the owner-class and of the working-class, which allowed each group of people to accept and to function in the rearranged status quo of production-relations.

Exploitation and revolution

Despite the ideologic promise of industrialisation — that the mechanisation of industrial production would raise the mass of the workers, from a brutish life of subsistence existence, to the self-respect of honourable work — the division of labour inherent to the capitalist mode of production, thwarted the human nature (Gattungswesen) of the worker, and so rendered each man and woman into a mechanistic part of an industrialised system of production, from being a person capable of defining his and her value through direct, purposeful activity. Moreover, the near-total mechanisation and automation of the industrial production system would allow the (newly) dominant bourgeois capitalist social class to exploit the working class to the degree that the value obtained from their labour would diminish the ability of the workers to materially survive. Hence, when the proletarian working-class become a sufficiently developed political force, they will effect a revolution and re-orient the relations of production to the means of production — from a capitalist mode of production to a communist mode of production. In the resultant Communist society, the fundamental relation of the workers to the means of production would be equal and non-conflictual, because there would be no artificial (class) distinctions about the value of a worker’s labour; the worker’s humanity (species-essence) thus respected, men and women would not become alienated, from themselves and their society.

Powerlessness

Alienation in the sense of a lack of power has been technically defined by Seeman as “the expectancy or probability held by the individual that his own behaviour cannot determine the occurrence of the outcomes, or reinforcements, he seeks." Seeman argues that this is “the notion of alienation as it originated in the Marxian view of the worker’s condition in capitalist society: the worker is alienated to the extent that the prerogative and means of decision are expropriated by the ruling entrepreneurs". Put more succinctly, Kalekin-Fishman (1996: 97) says, “A person suffers from alienation in the form of 'powerlessness' when she is conscious of the gap between what she would like to do and what she feels capable of doing”.

In discussing powerlessness, Seeman also incorporated the insights of the psychologist Julian Rotter. Rotter distinguishes between internal control and external locus of control, which means "differences (among persons or situations) in the degree to which success or failure is attributable to external factors (e.g. luck, chance, or powerful others), as against success or failure that is seen as the outcome of one’s personal skills or characteristics".[24] Powerlessness, therefore, is the perception that the individual does not have the means to achieve his goals.

More recently, Geyer remarks that “a new type of powerlessness has emerged, where the core problem is no longer being unfree but rather being unable to select from among an overchoice of alternatives for action, whose consequences one often cannot even fathom”. Geyer adapts cybernetics to alienation theory, and writes (1996: xxiv) that powerlessness is the result of delayed feedback: “The more complex one’s environment, the later one is confronted with the latent, and often unintended, consequences of one’s actions. Consequently, in view of this causality-obscuring time lag, both the ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’ for one’s actions increasingly tend to be viewed as random, often with apathy and alienation as a result”.

Meaninglessness

A sense of meaning has been defined by Seeman as “the individual’s sense of understanding events in which he is engaged”.[26] Seeman (1959: 786) writes that meaninglessness “is characterized by a low expectancy that satisfactory predictions about the future outcomes of behaviour can be made." Where as powerlessness refers to the sensed ability to control outcomes, this refers to the sensed ability to predict outcomes. In this respect, meaninglessness is closely tied to powerlessness; Seeman (Ibid.) argues, “the view that one lives in an intelligible world might be a prerequisite to expectancies for control; and the unintelligibility of complex affairs is presumably conducive to the development of high expectancies for external control (that is, high powerlessness)”.

Geyer (1996: xxiii) believes meaninglessness should be reinterpreted for postmodern times: "With the accelerating throughput of information [...] meaningless is not a matter anymore of whether one can assign meaning to incoming information, but of whether one can develop adequate new scanning mechanisms to gather the goal-relevant information one needs, as well as more efficient selection procedures to prevent being overburdened by the information one does not need, but is bombarded with on a regular basis." "Information overload" or the so-called "data tsunami" are well-known information problems confronting contemporary man, and Geyer thus argues that meaninglessness is turned on its head.

Normlessness

Normlessness (or what Durkheim referred to as anomie) “denotes the situation in which the social norms regulating individual conduct have broken down or are no longer effective as rules for behaviour”.[27] This aspect refers to the inability to identify with the dominant values of society or rather, with what are perceived to be the dominant values of society. Seeman (1959: 788) adds that this aspect can manifest in a particularly negative manner, “The anomic situation [...] may be defined as one in which there is a high expectancy that socially unapproved behaviours are required to achieve given goals”. This negative manifestation is dealt with in detail by Catherine Ross and John Mirowski in a series of publications on mistrust, powerlessness, normlessness and crime.

Neal & Collas (2000: 122) write, “Normlessness derives partly from conditions of complexity and conflict in which individuals become unclear about the composition and enforcement of social norms. Sudden and abrupt changes occur in life conditions, and the norms that usually operate may no longer seem adequate as guidelines for conduct”. This is a particular issue after the fall of the Soviet Union, mass migrations from developing to developed countries, and the general sense of disillusionment that characterized the 1990s (Senekal, 2011). Traditional values that had already been questioned (especially during the 1960s) were met with further scepticism in the 1990s, resulting in a situation where individuals rely more often on their own judgement than on institutions of authority: "The individual not only has become more independent of the churches, but from other social institutions as well. The individual can make more personal choices in far more life situations than before” (Halman, 1998: 100). These choices are not necessarily "negative": Halman's study found that Europeans remain relatively conservative morally, even though the authority of the Church and other institutions has eroded.

Relationships

One concept used in regard to specific relationships is that of parental alienation, where a child is distanced from and expresses a general dislike for one of their parents (who may have divorced or separated). The term is not applied where there is child abuse. The parental alienation might be due to specific influences from either parent or could result from the social dynamics of the family as a whole. It can also be understood in terms of attachment, the social and emotional process of bonding between child and caregiver. Adoptees can feel alienated from both adoptive parents and birth parents.

Familial estrangement between parents and adult children “is attributed to a number of biological, psychological, social, and structural factors affecting the family, including attachment disorders, incompatible values and beliefs, unfulfilled expectations, critical life events and transitions, parental alienation, and ineffective communication patterns.” The degree of alienation has been positively correlated with decreased emotional functioning in the parent who feels a loss of identity and stigma.[29][30]
Attachment relationships in adults can also involve feelings of alienation  Indeed, emotional alienation is said to be a common way of life for many, whether it is experienced as overwhelming, or is not admitted to in the midst of a socioeconomic race, or contributes to seemingly unrelated problems.

Social isolation

Social isolation refers to “The feeling of being segregated from one’s community”.[33] Neal and Collas (2000: 114) emphasize the centrality of social isolation in the modern world: “While social isolation is typically experienced as a form of personal stress, its sources are deeply embedded in the social organization of the modern world. With increased isolation and atomization, much of our daily interactions are with those who are strangers to us and with whom we lack any ongoing social relationships.”
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, migrants from Eastern Europe and the developing countries have flocked to developed countries in search of a better living standard. This has led to entire communities becoming uprooted: no longer fully part of their homelands, but neither integrated into their adopted communities. Diaspora literature depicts the plights of these migrants, such as Hafid Bouazza in Paravion. Senekal (2010b: 41) argues, "Low-income communities or religious minorities may feel separated from mainstream society, leading to backlashes such as the civil unrest that occurred in French cities in October 2005. The fact that the riots subsequently spread to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, and Switzerland, illustrates that not only did these communities feel segregated from mainstream society, but also that they found a community in their isolation; they regarded themselves as kindred spirits".

Social alienation among returning war veterans

Because of intense group solidarity and unique daily hardships brought by combat, many veterans feel alienated from citizens, family, and friends when they return. They often feel they have little in common with civilian peers; issues that concerns friends and family seem trivial after combat.

There is a clarity of focus and purpose that comes with war that few in civilian life will ever know. Add daily doses of high adrenaline and a kind of pure loyalty among those you fight alongside, and combat is a perfect baptism into tribal brotherhood.

Afghanistan veteran Brendon O'Byrne says, "We were really close. Physically and emotionally close. It's kind of terrifying being in such an emotionally safe environment and then suddenly be expelled into an alienated, fractured society." Feeling alone and alienated—that's scarier than bullets.

They know how to deal with bullets, and in combat they're dealing with bullets together. But now they're dealing with their loneliness, by definition, alone.[36] It is loneliness and normlessness why so many soldiers choose to return to combat.

As filmmaker and war correspondent Sebastian Junger says, "They didn't want to go back because it was traumatic, but because it was a place where they understood what they were supposed to do. They understood who they were. They had a sense of purpose. They were necessary. All these things that young people strive for are answered in combat."[37] War twists and shifts the landmarks by which combat veterans navigate their lives, casting light on darkened areas that for many people remain forever unexplored. And once those darkened spaces are lit, they become part of us. Veterans often see their wartime experience as the most selfless and meaningful period of their lives.[citation needed] In a different perspective, "even in the quiet moments, war is brighter, louder, brasher, more fun, more tragic, more wasteful. More. More of everything."

The experience of the Vietnam veteran was distinctly different from that of veterans of other American wars.[39] Once he completed his tour of duty, he usually severed all bonds with his unit and comrades. It was extremely rare for a veteran to write to his buddies who were still in combat, and (in strong contrast to the endless reunions of World War II veterans) for more than a decade it was even rarer for more than two or more of them to get together after the war.[40] Korean War veterans had no memorial and precious few parades, but they fought an invading army and they left behind them the free, healthy, thriving, and grateful nation of South Korea. No one spat on them or called them murderers or baby killers when they returned. Only the veterans of Vietnam have endured a concerted, organized, psychological attack by its own people. Never in American history, perhaps never in all of Western civilization, has an army suffered such an agony from its own people.[41] The Vietnam War was a long, contentious conflict (1955–75) which in the mid to late 1960s started to lose political and domestic support, most notably in academia and film that often portrayed soldiers of this conflict as ignoble adding to their social alienation. That the Vietnam War was ultimately lost on April 30, 1975, furthered the sense of meaninglessness and malaise.[42] It has been demonstrated that as the perception of community alienation increases, an individual's sense of confidence or mastery in decision making will decrease, and so too their motivation to socially engage.

Political alienation

One manifestation of the above dimensions of alienation can be a feeling of estrangement from, and a lack of engagement in, the political system. Such political alienation could result from not identifying with any particular political party or message, and could result in revolution, reforming behavior, or abstention from the political process, possibly due to voter apathy.[44]
A similar concept is policy alienation, where workers experience a state of psychological disconnection from a policy programme being implemented.

Self-estrangement

Self-estrangement is an elusive concept in sociology, as recognized by Seeman (1959), although he included it as an aspect in his model of alienation. Some, with Marx, consider self-estrangement to be the end result and thus the heart of social alienation. Self-estrangement can be defined as “the psychological state of denying one’s own interests – of seeking out extrinsically satisfying, rather than intrinsically satisfying, activities...”.[33] It could be characterized as a feeling of having become a stranger to oneself, or to some parts of oneself, or alternatively as a problem of self-knowledge, or authenticity.

Seeman (1959) recognized the problems inherent in defining the "self", while post-modernism in particular has questioned the very possibility of pin-pointing what precisely "self" constitutes. Gergen (1996: 125) argues that: “the traditional view of self versus society is deeply problematic and should be replaced by a conception of the self as always already immersed in relatedness. On this account, the individual’s lament of ‘not belonging’ is partially a by-product of traditional discourses themselves”. If the self is relationally constituted, does it make sense to speak of "self-estrangement" rather than "social isolation"? Costas and Fleming (2009: 354) suggest that although the concept of self-estrangement “has not weathered postmodern criticisms of essentialism and economic determinism well”, the concept still has value if a Lacanian reading of the self is adopted. This can be seen as part of a wider debate on the concept of self between humanism and antihumanism, structuralism and post-structuralism, or nature and nurture.

Mental disturbance

Until early in the 20th century, psychological problems were referred to in psychiatry as states of mental alienation, implying that a person had become separated from themselves, their reason or the world. From the 1960s alienation was again considered in regard to clinical states of disturbance, typically using a broad concept of a 'schizoid' ('splitting') process taken from psychoanalytic theory. The splitting was said to occur within regular child development and in everyday life, as well as in more extreme or dysfunctional form in conditions such as schizoid personality and schizophrenia. Varied concepts of alienation and self-estrangement were used to link internal schizoid states with observable symptoms and with external socioeconomic divisions, without necessarily explaining or evidencing underlying causation. R.D. Laing was particularly influential in arguing that dysfunctional families and socioeconomic oppression caused states of alienation and ontological insecurity in people, which could be considered adaptations but which were diagnosed as disorders by mainstream psychiatry and society.(Laing,[1967] 1959).[45] The specific theories associated with Laing and others at that time are not widely accepted, but work from other theoretical perspectives sometimes addresses the same theme.

In a related vein, for Ian Parker, psychology normalizes conditions of social alienation. While it could help groups of individuals emancipate themselves, it serves the role of reproducing existing conditions.(Parker,2007). This view can be seen as part of a broader tradition sometimes referred to as Critical psychology or Liberation psychology, which emphasizes that an individual is enmeshed within a social-political framework, and so therefore are psychological problems. Similarly, some psychoanalysts suggest that while psychoanalysis emphasizes environmental causes and reactions, it also attributes the problems of individuals to internal conflicts stemming from early psychosocial development, effectively divorcing them from the wider ongoing context.[48] Slavoj Zizek (drawing on Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan's psychoanalysis) argues that in today's capitalist society, the individual is estranged from their self through the repressive injunction to "enjoy!" Such an injunction does not allow room for the recognition of alienation and, indeed, could itself be seen as an expression of alienation.(Zizek, 1994).

Frantz Fanon, an early writer on postcolonialism, studied the conditions of objectification and violent oppression (lack of autonomy) believed to have led to mental disorders among the colonized in the Third World (in particular Africans) (Fanon, ([2004] 1961).

A process of 'malignant alienation' has been observed in regard to some psychiatric patients, especially in forensic units and for individuals labeled 'difficult' or who aren't liked by at least some staff, which involves a breakdown of the therapeutic relationship between staff and patients, and which may end in the suicide of the patient.[49][50] Individuals with long-term mental disorders, which may have originally stemmed from social alienation, can experience particular social and existential alienation within their communities due to other people's and potentially their own negative attitudes towards themselves and 'odd' behavior.

Disability

Differences between persons with disabilities and individuals in relative abilities, or perceived abilities, can be a cause of alienation. One study, "Social Alienation and Peer Identification: A Study of the Social Construction of Deafness",[52] found that among deaf adults one theme emerged consistently across all categories of life experience: social rejection by, and alienation from, the larger hearing community. Only when the respondents described interactions with deaf people did the theme of isolation give way to comments about participation and meaningful interaction. This appeared to be related to specific needs, for example for real conversation, for information, the opportunity to develop close friendships and a sense of family. It was suggested that the social meaning of deafness is established by interaction between deaf and hearing people, sometimes resulting in marginalization of the deaf, which is sometimes challenged. It has also led to the creation of alternatives and the deaf community is described as one such alternative.
Physicians and nurses often deal with people who are temporarily or permanently alienated from communities, which could be a result or a cause of medical conditions and suffering, and it has been suggested that therefore attention should be paid to learning from experiences of the special pain that alienation can bring.

In art

Alienation is most often represented in literature as the psychological isolation of an individual from society or community. In a volume of Bloom's Literary Themes, Shakespeare's Hamlet is described as the 'supreme literary portrait' of alienation, while noting that some may argue for Achilles in the Iliad. In addition, Bartleby, the Scrivener is introduced as a perfect example because so many senses of alienation are present. Other literary works described as dealing with the theme of alienation are: The Bell Jar, Black Boy, Brave New World, The Catcher in the Rye, The Chosen, Dubliners, Othello, Fahrenheit 451, Invisible Man, Mrs Dalloway, Notes from Underground, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus, The Trial, Waiting for Godot, The Waste Land, and Young Goodman Brown.[55] Contemporary British works noted for their perspective on alienation include The Child in Time, London Fields, Trainspotting, and Regeneration (Senekal, 2008 & 2010b: 102-123).

Sociologist Harry Dahms has analysed The Matrix Trilogy of films in the context of theories of alienation in modern society. He suggests that the central theme of The Matrix is the "all-pervasive yet increasingly invisible prevalence of alienation in the world today, and difficulties that accompany attempts to overcome it".

See also Langman's study of punk, porn, and resistance (2008) and Senekal's (2011) study of Afrikaans extreme metal. British progressive rock band Pink Floyd's concept album The Wall (1979) and British alternative rock band Radiohead's album OK Computer (1997), both deal with the subject of alienation in their lyrics.


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NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

[Apr 19, 2017] Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. Thats whats wrenching society apart George Monbiot

Notable quotes:
"... Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do. ..."
"... A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like. ..."
"... Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction. ..."
"... Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement. ..."
"... It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. ..."
"... Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy. ..."
"... You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. ..."
Oct 12, 2016 | www.theguardian.com

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children's mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.

Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their "beauty" settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing

Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.

If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it. But neuroscientists can. A series of fascinating papers suggest that social pain and physical pain are processed by the same neural circuits. This might explain why, in many languages, it is hard to describe the impact of breaking social bonds without the words we use to denote physical pain and injury. In both humans and other social mammals, social contact reduces physical pain. This is why we hug our children when they hurt themselves: affection is a powerful analgesic. Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction.

Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.

It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.

Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?

Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?

There are some wonderful charities doing what they can to fight this tide, some of which I am going to be working with as part of my loneliness project. But for every person they reach, several others are swept past.

This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.

, RachelL , 12 Oct 2016 03:57

Well its a bit of a stretch blaming neoliberalism for creating loneliness.

Yet it seems to be the fashion today to imagine that the world we live in is new...only created just years ago. And all the suffering that we see now never existed before.

plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness never happened in the past, because everything was bright and shiny and world was good.

Regrettably history teaches us that suffering and deprivation have dogged mankind for centuries, if not tens of thousands of years. That's what we do; survive, persist...endure.

Blaming 'neoliberalism' is a bit of cop-out.

It's the human condition man, just deal with it.

, B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 03:57
Some of the connections here are a bit tenuous, to say the least, including the link to political ideology. Economic liberalism is usually accompanied with social conservatism, and vice versa. Right wing idealogues are more likely to emphasise the values of marriage and family stability, while left wing ones are more likely to favour extremes of personal freedom and reject those traditional structures that used to bind us together.
, ID236975 B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:15
You're a little confused there in your connections between policies, intentions and outcomes.
Nevertheless, Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition.

In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity.

As Monbiot has noted, we are indeed lonelier.

, DoctorLiberty B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
That holds true when you're talking about demographics/voters.

Economic and social liberalism go hand in hand in the West. No matter who's in power, the establishment pushes both but will do one or the other covertly.

All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomised and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in.

, deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:00
The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities. Over the ensuing approx 250 years we abandoned geographically close relationships with extended families, especially post WW2. Underlying economic structures both capitalist and marxist dissolved relationships that we as communal primates evolved within. Then accelerate this mess with (anti-) social media the last 20 years along with economic instability and now dissolution of even the nuclear family (which couldn't work in the first place, we never evolved to live with just two parents looking after children) and here we have it: Mass mental illness. Solution? None. Just form the best type of extended community both within and outside of family, be engaged and generours with your community hope for the best.
, terraform_drone deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
Indeed, Industrialisation of our pre-prescribed lifestyle is a huge factor. In particular, our food, it's low quality, it's 24 hour avaliability, it's cardboard box ambivalence, has caused a myriad of health problems. Industrialisation is about profit for those that own the 'production-line' & much less about the needs of the recipient.
, afinch , 12 Oct 2016 04:03

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat.

Yes, although there is some question of which order things go in. A supportive social network is clearly helpful, but it's hardly a simple cause and effect. Levels of different mental health problems appear to differ widely across societies just in Europe, and it isn't particularly the case that more capitalist countries have greater incidence than less capitalist ones.

You could just as well blame atheism. Since the rise of neo-liberalism and drop in church attendance track each other pretty well, and since for all their ills churches did provide a social support group, why not blame that?

, ID236975 afinch , 12 Oct 2016 04:22
While attending a church is likely to alleviate loneliness, atheism doesn't expressly encourage limiting social interactions and selfishness. And of course, reduced church attendance isn't exactly the same as atheism.

Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy.

, anotherspace , 12 Oct 2016 04:05
So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?

My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices.
We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other.

, notherspace TremblingFactHunt , 12 Oct 2016 05:46
We as individuals are offered the 'choice' of consumption as an alternative to the devastating ennui engendered by powerlessness. It's no choice at all of course, because consumption merely enriches the 1% and exacerbates our powerlessness. That was the whole point of my post.
The 'choice' to consume is never collectively exercised as you suggest. Sadly. If it was, 'we' might be able to organise ourselves into doing something about it.
, Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose. Share Facebook Twitter
, ParisHiltonCommune Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 07:59
Disagree. Im British but have had more foreign friends than British. The UK middle class tend to be boring insular social status obsessed drones.other nationalities have this too, but far less so Share Facebook Twitter
, Dave Powell Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 10:54
Multiculturalism is destroying social cohesion. Share Facebook Twitter
, ParisHiltonCommune Dave Powell , 12 Oct 2016 14:47
Well, yes, but multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labour.

Multiculturalism isn't the only thing destroying social cohesion, too. It was being destroyed long before the recent surges of immigrants. It was reported many times in the 1980's in communities made up of only one culture. In many ways, it is being used as the obvious distraction from all the other ways Fundamentalist Free Marketers wreck live for many.

, Rozina , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
This post perhaps ranges too widely to the point of being vague and general, and leading Monbiot to make some huge mental leaps, linking loneliness to a range of mental and physical problems without being able to explain, for example, the link between loneliness and obesity and all the steps in-between without risking derailment into a side issue.

I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources.

Go on, George, you can say that, why not?

, MSP1984 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
Are you familiar with the term 'Laughter is the best medicine'? Well, it's true. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, yeah? Your stress hormones are reduced and the oxygen supply to your blood is increased, so...

I try to laugh several times a day just because... it makes you feel good! Let's try that, eh? Ohohoo... Hahaha... Just, just... Hahahaha... Come on, trust me.. you'll feel.. HahaHAhaha! O-o-o-o-a-hahahahaa... Share

, ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 04:19
>Neoliberalism is creating loneliness.

Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold?

, totaram ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 05:00
No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning.
, greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 04:20
We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy".

Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life.

Impertinent managers ban their staff from office relationships, as company policy, because the company is more important than its staff's wellbeing.

Companies hand out "free" phones that allow managers to harrass staff for work out of hours, on the understanding that they will be sidelined if thy don't respond.

And the wellbeing of "the economy" is of course far more important than whether the British people actually want to merge into a European superstate. What they want is irrelevant.

That nasty little scumbag George Osborne was the apotheosis of this ideology, but he was abetted by journalists who report any rise in GDP as "good" - no matter how it was obtained - and any "recession" to be the equivalent of a major natural disaster.

If we go on this way, the people who suffer the most will be the rich, because it will be them swinging from the lamp-posts, or cowering in gated communities that they dare not leave (Venezuela, South Africa). Those riots in London five years ago were a warning. History is littered with them.

, DiscoveredJoys greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 05:48
You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. If this results in loneliness then that's certainly a downside - but the upside is that billions have been lifted out of absolute poverty worldwide by 'Neoliberalism'.

Mr Monbiot creates a compelling argument that we should end 'Neoliberalism' but he is very vague about what should replace it other than a 'different worldview'. Destruction is easy, but creation is far harder.

, concerned4democracy , 12 Oct 2016 04:28
As a retired teacher it grieves me greatly to see the way our education service has become obsessed by testing and assessment. Sadly the results are used not so much to help children learn and develop, but rather as a club to beat schools and teachers with. Pressurised schools produce pressurised children. Compare and contrast with education in Finland where young people are not formally assessed until they are 17 years old. We now assess toddlers in nursery schools.
SATs in Primary schools had children concentrating on obscure grammatical terms and usage which they will never ever use again. Pointless and counter-productive.
Gradgrind values driving out the joy of learning.
And promoting anxiety and mental health problems.
, colddebtmountain , 12 Oct 2016 04:33
It is all the things you describe, Mr Monbiot, and then some. This dystopian hell, when anything that did work is broken and all things that have never worked are lined up for a little tinkering around the edges until the camouflage is good enough to kid people it is something new. It isn't just neoliberal madness that has created this, it is selfish human nature that has made it possible, corporate fascism that has hammered it into shape. and an army of mercenaries who prefer the take home pay to morality. Crime has always paid especially when governments are the crooks exercising the law.

The value of life has long been forgotten as now the only thing that matters is how much you can be screwed for either dead or alive. And yet the Trumps, the Clintons, the Camerons, the Johnsons, the Merkels, the Mays, the news media, the banks, the whole crooked lot of them, all seem to believe there is something worth fighting for in what they have created, when painfully there is not. We need revolution and we need it to be lead by those who still believe all humanity must be humble, sincere, selfless and most of all morally sincere. Freedom, justice, and equality for all, because the alternative is nothing at all.

, excathedra , 12 Oct 2016 04:35
Ive long considered neo-liberalism as the cause of many of our problems, particularly the rise in mental health problems, alienation and loneliness.

As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide.

The worst thing is that the evidence shows it doesn't work. Not one of the privatisations in this country have worked. All have been worse than what they've replaced, all have cost more, depleted the treasury and led to massive homelessness, increased mental health problems with the inevitable financial and social costs, costs which are never acknowledged by its adherents.

Put crudely, the more " I'm alright, fuck you " attitude is fostered, the worse societies are. Empires have crashed and burned under similar attitudes.

, MereMortal , 12 Oct 2016 04:37
A fantastic article as usual from Mr Monbiot.

The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead.
We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand.
Although a remainer (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism.
I never understood how the collapse of world finance, resulted in a right wing resurgence in the UK and the US. The Tea Party in the US made the absurd claim that the failure of global finance was not due to markets being fallible, but because free markets had not been enforced citing Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac as their evidence and of Bill Clinton insisting on more poor and black people being given mortgages.

I have a terrible sense that it will not go quietly, there will be massive global upheavals as governments struggle deal with its collapse.

, flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 04:39
I have never really agreed with GM - but this article hits the nail on the head.

I think there are a number of aspects to this:

1. The internet. The being in constant contact, our lives mapped and our thoughts analysed - we can comment on anything (whether informed or total drivel) and we've been fed the lie that our opinion is is right and that it matters) Ive removed fscebook and twitter from my phone, i have never been happier

2. Rolling 24 hour news. That is obsessed with the now, and consistently squeezes very complex issues into bite sized simple dichotomies. Obsessed with results and critical in turn of everyone who fails to feed the machine

3. The increasing slicing of work into tighter and slimmer specialisms, with no holistic view of the whole, this forces a box ticking culture. "Ive stamped my stamp, my work is done" this leads to a lack of ownership of the whole. PIP assessments are an almost perfect example of this - a box ticking exercise, designed by someone who'll never have to go through it, with no flexibility to put the answers into a holistic context.

4. Our education system is designed to pass exams and not prepare for the future or the world of work - the only important aspect being the compilation of next years league tables and the schools standings. This culture is neither healthy no helpful, as students are schooled on exam technique in order to squeeze out the marks - without putting the knowledge into a meaningful and understandable narrative.

Apologiers for the long post - I normally limit myself to a trite insulting comment :) but felt more was required in this instance.

, Taxiarch flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 05:42
Overall, I agree with your points. Monbiot here adopts a blunderbuss approach (competitive self-interest and extreme individualism; "brutal" education, employment social security; consumerism, social media and vanity). Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and lonliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. So, when Monbiot's rhetoric rises:

"So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?"

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

We stand together or we fall apart.

Hackneyed and unoriginal but still true for all that.

, flyboy101 Taxiarch , 12 Oct 2016 06:19
I think the answer is only

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

because of the lies that are being sold.

We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimised. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault.

We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether thats entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday!

I share Monbiots pain here. But rather than get a sense of perspective - the answer is often "More public money and counselling"

, DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
George Monbiot has struck a nerve.
They are there every day in my small town local park: people, young and old, gender and ethnically diverse, siting on benches for a couple of hours at a time.
They have at least one thing in common.
They each sit alone, isolated in their own thoughts..
But many share another bond: they usually respond to dogs, unconditional in their behaviour patterns towards humankind.
Trite as it may seem, this temporary thread of canine affection breaks the taboo of strangers
passing by on the other side.
Conversations, sometimes stilted, sometimes deeper and more meaningful, ensue as dog walkers become a brief daily healing force in a fractured world of loneliness.
It's not much credit in the bank of sociability.
But it helps.

Trite as it may seem from the outside, their interaction with the myriad pooches regularly walk

, wakeup99 DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Do a parkrun and you get the same thing. Free and healthy.
, ParisHiltonCommune SenseCir , 12 Oct 2016 08:47
Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to.

If you don't work hard, you will be a loser, don't look out of the window day dreaming you lazy slacker. Get productive, Mr Burns millions need you to work like a machine or be replaced by one.

, Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:46
Good article. You´re absoluately right. And the deeper casue is this: separation from God. If we don´t fight our way back to God, individually and collectively, things are going to get a lot worse. With God, loneliness doesn´t exist. I encourage anyone and everyone to start talking to Him today and invite Him into your heart and watch what starts to happen. Share Facebook Twitter
, wakeup99 Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Religion divides not brings people together. Only when you embrace all humanity and ignore all gods will you find true happiness. The world and the people in it are far more inspiring when you contemplate the lack of any gods. The fact people do amazing things without needing the promise of heaven or the threat of hell - that is truly moving.
, TeaThoughts Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 05:23
I see what you're saying but I read 'love' instead of God. God is too religious which separates and divides ("I'm this religion and my god is better than yours" etc etc). I believe that George is right in many ways in that money is very powerful on it's impact on our behaviour (stress, lack etc) and therefore our lives. We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this. We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wnated to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected. When I moved house to move in with family and wasn't expected to pay rent, though I offered, all that dissatisfaction and undealt with stuff came spilling out and I realised I'd had no time for any real safe care above the very basics and that was not a good place to be. I put myself into therapy for a while and started to look after myself and things started to change. I hope to never go back to that kind of position but things are precarious financially and the field I work in isn't well paid but it makes me very happy which I realise now is more important.
, geoffhoppy , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Neo-liberalism has a lot to answer for in bringing misery to our lives and accelerating the demise of the planet bit I find it not guilty on this one.

The current trends as to how people perceive themselves (what you've got rather than who you are) and the increasing isolation in our cities started way before the neo-liberals.

It is getting worse though and on balance social media is making us more connected but less social. Share

, RandomName2016 , 12 Oct 2016 04:48
The way that the left keeps banging on about neoliberalism is half of what makes them such a tough sell electorally. Just about nobody knows what neoliberalism is, and literally nobody self identifies as a neoliberal. So all this moaning and wailing about neoliberalism comes across as a self absorbed, abstract and irrelevant. I expect there is the germ of an idea in there, but until the left can find away to present that idea without the baffling layer of jargon and over-analysis, they're going to remain at a disadvantage to the easy populism of the right.
, Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting article. We have heard so much about the size of our economy but less about our quality of life. The UK quality of life is way below the size of our economy i.e. economy size 6th largest in the world but quality of life 15th. If we were the 10th largest economy but were 10th for quality of life we would be better off than we are now in real terms. We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline.
, wakeup99 Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:56
Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality.
, MikkaWanders , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting. 'It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators....' so perhaps the species is developing its own predators to fill a vacated niche.

(Not questioning the comparison to other mammals at all as I think it is valid but you would have to consider the whole rather than cherry pick bits)

, johnny991965 , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Generation snowflake. "I'll do myself in if you take away my tablet and mobile phone for half an hour".
They don't want to go out and meet people anymore. Nightclubs for instance, are closing because the younger generation 'don't see the point' of going out to meet people they would otherwise never meet, because they can meet people on the internet. Leave them to it and the repercussions of it.....
, johnny991965 grizzly , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
Socialism is dying on its feet in the UK, hence the Tory's 17 point lead at the mo. The lefties are clinging to whatever influence they have to sway the masses instead of the ballot box. Good riddance to them. Share Facebook Twitter
, David Ireland johnny991965 , 13 Oct 2016 12:45
17 point lead? Dying on it's feet? The neo-liberals are showing their disconnect from reality. If anything, neo-liberalism is driving a people to the left in search of a fairer and more equal society.
, justask , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
George Moniot's articles are better thought out, researched and written than the vast majority of the usual clickbait opinion pieces found on the Guardian these days. One of the last journalists, rather than liberal arts blogger vying for attention. Share Facebook Twitter
, Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
Neoliberalism's rap sheet is long and dangerous but this toxic philosophy will continue unabated because most people can't join the dots and work out how detrimental it has proven to be for most of us.

It dangles a carrot in order to create certain economic illusions but the simple fact is neoliberal societies become more unequal the longer they persist. Share Facebook Twitter

, wakeup99 Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 05:05
Neoliberal economies allow people to build huge global businesses very quickly and will continue to give the winners more but they also can guve everyone else more too but just at a slower rate. Socialism on the other hand mires everyone in stagnant poverty. Question is do you want to be absolutely or relatively better off. Share Facebook Twitter
, totaram wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:19
You have no idea. Do not confuse capitalism with neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a political ideology based on a mythical version of capitalism that doesn't actually exist, but is a nice way to get the deluded to vote for something that doesn't work in their interest at all. Share Facebook Twitter
, peterfieldman , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
And things will get worse as society falls apart due to globalisation, uberization, lack of respect for authority, lacks of a fair tax and justice system, crime, immorality, loss of trust of politicians and financial and corporate sectors, uncontrolled immigration bringing with it insecurity and the risk of terrorism and a dumbing down of society with increasing inequality. All this is in a new book " The World at a Crossroads" which deals with the major issues facing the planet.
, Nada89 wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
What, like endless war, unaffordable property, monstrous university fees, zero hours contracts and a food bank on every corner, and that's before we even get to the explosion in mental distress.
, monsieur_flaneur thedisclaimer , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
There's nothing spurious or obscure about Neoliberalism. It is simply the political ideology of the rich, which has been our uninterrupted governing ideology since Reagan and Thatcher: Privatisation, deregulation, 'liberalisation' of housing, labour, etc, trickledown / low-tax-on-the-rich economics, de-unionization. You only don't see it if you don't want to see it.
, arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:03
I'm just thinking what is wonderful about societies that are big of social unity. And conformity.

Those societies for example where you "belong" to your family. Where teenage girls can be married off to elderly uncles to cement that belonging.

Or those societies where the belonging comes through religious centres. Where the ostracism for "deviant" behaviour like being gay or for women not submitting to their husbands can be brutal. And I'm not just talking about muslims here.

Or those societies that are big on patriotism. Yep they are usually good for mental health as the young men are given lessons in how to kill as many other men as possible efficiently.

And then I have to think how our years of "neo-liberal" governments have taken ideas of social liberalisation and enshrined them in law. It may be coincidence but thirty years after Thatcher and Reagan we are far more tolerant of homosexuality and willing to give it space to live, conversely we are far less tolerant of racism and are willing to prosecute racist violence. Feminists may still moan about equality but the position of women in society has never been better, rape inside marriage has (finally) been outlawed, sexual violence generally is no longer condoned except by a few, work opportunities have been widened and the woman's role is no longer just home and family. At least that is the case in "neo-liberal" societies, it isn't necessarily the case in other societies.

So unless you think loneliness is some weird Stockholm Syndrome thing where your sense of belonging comes from your acceptance of a stifling role in a structured soiety, then I think blaming the heightened respect for the individual that liberal societies have for loneliness is way off the mark.

What strikes me about the cases you cite above, George, is not an over-respect for the individual but another example of individuals being shoe-horned into a structure. It strikes me it is not individualism but competition that is causing the unhappiness. Competition to achieve an impossible ideal.

I fear George, that you are not approaching this with a properly open mind dedicated to investigation. I think you have your conclusion and you are going to bend the evidence to fit. That is wrong and I for one will not support that. In recent weeks and months we have had the "woe, woe and thrice woe" writings. Now we need to take a hard look at our findings. We need to take out the biases resulting from greater awareness of mental health and better and fuller diagnosis of mental health issues. We need to balance the bias resulting from the fact we really only have hard data for modern Western societies. And above all we need to scotch any bias resulting from the political worldview of the researchers.

Then the results may have some value.

, birney arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
It sounded to me that he was telling us of farm labouring and factory fodder stock that if we'd 'known our place' and kept to it ,all would be well because in his ideal society there WILL be or end up having a hierarchy, its inevitable. Share Facebook Twitter
, EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:04
Wasn't all this started by someone who said, "There is no such thing as Society"? The ultimate irony is that the ideology that championed the individual and did so much to dismantle the industrial and social fabric of the Country has resulted in a system which is almost totalitarian in its disregard for its ideological consequences. Share Facebook Twitter
, wakeup99 EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Thatcher said it in the sense that society is not abstract it is just other people so when you say society needs to change then people need to change as society is not some independent concept it is an aggregation of all us. The left mis quote this all the time and either they don't get it or they are doing on purpose. Share Facebook Twitter
, HorseCart EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:09
No, Neoliberalism has been around since 1938.... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world.

Furthermore, it could easily be argued that the Beatles helped create loneliness - what do you think all those girls were screaming for? And also it could be argued that the Beatles were bringing in neoliberalism in the 1960s, via America thanks to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis etc.. Share

, billybagel wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:26
They're doing it on purpose. ""If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." -- Joseph Boebbels
, Luke O'Brien , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Great article, although surely you could've extended the blame to capitalism has a whole?


In what, then, consists the alienation of labor? First, in the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., that it does not belong to his nature, that therefore he does not realize himself in his work, that he denies himself in it, that he does not feel at ease in it, but rather unhappy, that he does not develop any free physical or mental energy, but rather mortifies his flesh and ruins his spirit. The worker, therefore, is only himself when he does not work, and in his work he feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor, therefore, is not voluntary, but forced--forced labor. It is not the gratification of a need, but only a means to gratify needs outside itself. Its alien nature shows itself clearly by the fact that work is shunned like the plague as soon as no physical or other kind of coercion exists.

Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

, JulesBywaterLees , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
We have created a society with both flaws and highlights- and we have unwittingly allowed the economic system to extend into our lives in negative ways.

On of the things being modern brings is movement- we move away from communities, breaking friendships and losing support networks, and the support networks are the ones that allow us to cope with issues, problems and anxiety.

Isolation among the youth is disturbing, it is also un natural, perhaps it is social media, or fear of parents, or the fall in extra school activities or parents simply not having a network of friends because they have had to move for work or housing.

There is some upsides, I talk and get support from different international communities through the social media that can also be so harmful- I chat on xbox games, exchange information on green building forums, arts forums, share on youtube as well as be part of online communities that hold events in the real world.

, LordMorganofGlossop , 12 Oct 2016 05:11
Increasingly we seem to need to document our lives on social media to somehow prove we 'exist'. We seem far more narcissistic these days, which tends to create a particular type of unhappiness, or at least desire that can never be fulfilled. Maybe that's the secret of modern consumer-based capitalism. To be happy today, it probably helps to be shallow, or avoid things like Twitter and Facebook!

Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives.

Interestingly, the ultra conservative Adam Smith Institute yesterday decided to declare themselves 'neoliberal' as some sort of badge of honour:
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/coming-out-as-neoliberals

, eamonmcc , 12 Oct 2016 05:15
Thanks George for commenting in such a public way on the unsayable: consume, consume, consume seems to be the order of the day in our modern world and the points you have highlighted should be part of public policy everywhere.

I'm old enough to remember when we had more time for each other; when mothers could be full-time housewives; when evenings existed (evenings now seem to be spent working or getting home from work). We are undoubtedly more materialistic, which leads to more time spent working, although our modern problems are probably not due to increasing materialism alone.

Regarding divorce and separation, I notice people in my wider circle who are very open to affairs. They seem to lack the self-discipline to concentrate on problems in their marriage and to give their full-time partner a high level of devotion. Terrible problems come up in marriages but if you are completely and unconditionally committed to your partner and your marriage then you can get through the majority of them.

, CEMKM , 12 Oct 2016 05:47
Aggressive self interest is turning in on itself. Unfortunately the powerful who have realised their 'Will to Power' are corrupted by their own inflated sense of self and thus blinded. Does this all predict a global violent revolution?
, SteB1 NeverMindTheBollocks , 12 Oct 2016 06:32

A diatribe against a vague boogieman that is at best an ill-defined catch-all of things this CIFer does not like.


An expected response from someone who persistently justifies neoliberalism through opaque and baseless attacks on those who reveal how it works. Neoliberalism is most definitely real and it has a very definite history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, what is most interesting is how nearly all modern politicians who peddle neoliberal doctrine or policy, refuse to use the name, or even to openly state what ideology they are in fact following.

I suppose it is just a complete coincidence that the policy so many governments are now following so closely follow known neoliberal doctrine. But of course the clever and unpleasant strategy of those like yourself is to cry conspiracy theory if this ideology, which dare not speak its name is mentioned.

Your style is tiresome. You make no specific supported criticisms again, and again. You just make false assertions and engage in unpleasant ad homs and attempted character assassination. You do not address the evidence for what George Monbiot states at all.

, heian555 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56
An excellent article. One wonders exactly what one needs to say in order to penetrate the reptilian skulls of those who run the system.

As an addition to Mr Monbiot's points, I would like to point out that it is not only competitive self-interest and extreme individualism that drives loneliness. Any system that has strict hierarchies and mechanisms of social inclusion also drives it, because such systems inhibit strongly spontaneous social interaction, in which people simply strike up conversation. Thailand has such a system. Despite her promoting herself as the land of smiles, I have found the people here to be deeply segregated and unfriendly. I have lived here for 17 years. The last time I had a satisfactory face-to-face conversation, one that went beyond saying hello to cashiers at checkout counters or conducting official business, was in 1999. I have survived by convincing myself that I have dialogues with my books; as I delve more deeply into the texts, the authors say something different to me, to which I can then respond in my mind.

, SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56

Epidemics of mental illness are crushing the minds and bodies of millions. It's time to ask where we are heading and why


I want to quote the sub headline, because "It's time to ask where we are heading and why", is the important bit. George's excellent and scathing evidence based criticism of the consequences of neoliberalism is on the nail. However, we need to ask how we got to this stage. Despite it's name neoliberalism doesn't really seem to contain any new ideas, and in some way it's more about Thatcher's beloved return to Victorian values. Most of what George Monbiot highlights encapsulatec Victorian thinking, the sort of workhouse mentality.

Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on.

To domesticate livestock, and to make them pliable and easy to work with the farmer must make himself appear to these herd animals as if they are their protector, the person who cares for them, nourishes and feeds them. They become reliant on their apparent benefactor. Except of course this is a deceitful relationship, because the farmer is just fattening them up to be eaten.

For the powerful to exploit the rest of people in society for their own benefit they had to learn how to conceal what they were really doing, and to wrap it in justifications to bamboozle the people they were exploiting for their own benefit. They did this by altering our language and inserting ideas in our culture which justified their rule, and the positions of the rest of us.

Before state religions, generally what was revered was the Earth, the natural world. It was on a personal level, and not controlled by the powerful. So the powerful needed to remove that personal meaningfulness from people's lives, and said the only thing which was really meaningful, was the religion, which of course they controlled and were usually the head of. Over generations people were indoctrinated in a completely new way of thinking, and a language manipulated so all people could see was the supposed divine right of kings to rule. Through this language people were detached from what was personally meaningful to them, and could only find meaningfulness by pleasing their rulers, and being indoctrinated in their religion.

If you control the language people use, you can control how perceive the world, and can express themselves.

By stripping language of meaningful terms which people can express themselves, and filling it full of dubious concepts such as god, the right of kings completely altered how people saw the world, how they thought. This is why over the ages, and in different forms the powerful have always attempted to have full control of our language through at first religion and their proclamations, and then eventually by them controlling our education system and the media.

The idea of language being used to control how people see the world, and how they think is of course not my idea. George Orwell's Newspeak idea explored in "1984" is very much about this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

This control of language is well known throughout history. Often conquerors would abolish languages of those they conquered. In the so called New World the colonists eventually tried to control how indigenous people thought by forcibly sending their children to boarding school, to be stripped of their culture, their native language, and to be inculcated in the language and ideas of their colonists. In Britain various attempts were made to banish the Welsh language, the native language of the Britons, before the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans took over.

However, what Orwell did not deal with properly is the origin of language style. To Orwell, and to critics of neoliberalism, the problems can be traced back to the rise of what they criticised. To a sort of mythical golden age. Except all the roots of what is being criticised can be found in the period before the invention of these doctrines. So you have to go right back to the beginning, to understand how it all began.

Neoliberalism would never have been possible without this long control of our language and ideas by the powerful. It prevents us thinking outside the box, about what the problem really is, and how it all began.

, clarissa3 SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 06:48
All very well but you are talking about ruthlessness of western elites, mostly British, not all.

It was not like that everywhere. Take Poland for example, and around there..

New research is emerging - and I'd recommend reading of prof Frost from St Andrew's Uni - that lower classes were actually treated with respect by elites there, mainly land owners and aristocracy who more looked after them and employed and cases of such ruthlessness as you describe were unknown of.

So that 'truth' about attitudes to lower classes is not universal!

, SteB1 Borisundercoat , 12 Oct 2016 06:20

What is "neoliberalism" exactly?

It's spouted by many on here as the root of all evil.

I'd be interested to see how many different definitions I get in response...


The reason I call neoliberalism the ideology which dare not speak it's name is that in public you will rarely hear it mentioned by it's proponents. However, it was a very important part of Thatcherism, Blairism, and so on. What is most definite is that these politicians and others are most definitely following some doctrine. Their ideas about what we must do and how we must do it are arbitrary, but they make it sound as if it's the only way to do things.

If you want to learn more about neoliberalism, read a summary such as the Wikipedia page on it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, as I hint, the main problem in dealing with neoliberalism is that none of the proponents of this doctrine admit to what ideology they are actually following. Yet very clearly around the world leaders in many countries are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet because the policy they implement is so similar. Something has definitely changed. All the attempts to roll back welfare, benefits, and public services is most definitely new, or they wouldn't be having to reverse policy of the past if nothing had change. But as all these politicians implementing this policy all seem to refuse to explain what doctrine they are following, it makes it difficult to pin down what is happening. Yet we can most definitely say that there is a clear doctrine at work, because why else would so many political leaders around the world be trying to implement such similar policy.

, Winstons1 TerryMcBurney , 12 Oct 2016 06:24

Neo-liberalism doesn't really exist except in the minds of the far left and perhaps a few academics.

Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. ... Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.

I believe the term 'Neo liberalism' was coined by those well known 'Lefties'The Chicago School .
If you don't believe that any of the above has been happening ,it does beg the question as to where you have been for the past decade.

, UnderSurveillance , 12 Oct 2016 06:12
The ironies of modern civilization - we have never been more 'connected' to other people on global level and less 'connected' on personal level.

We have never had access to such a wide range of information and opinions, but also for a long time been so divided into conflicting groups, reading and accessing in fact only that which reinforces what we already think.

, John Pelan , 12 Oct 2016 06:18
Sir Harry Burns, ex-Chief Medical Officer in Scotland talks very powerfully about the impact of loneliness and isolation on physical and mental health - here is a video of a recent talk by him - http://www.befs.org.uk/calendar/48/164-BEFS-Annual-Lecture
, MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 06:22
These issues have been a long time coming, just think of the appeals of the 60's to chill out and love everyone. Globalisation and neo-liberalism has simply made society even more broken.
The way these problems have been ignored and made worse over the last few decades make me think that the solution will only happen after a massive catastrophe and society has to be rebuilt. Unless we make the same mistakes again.
A shame really, you would think intelligence would be useful but it seems not.
, ParisHiltonCommune MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 07:19
Contemporary Neo-liberalism is a reaction against that ideal of the 60s
, DevilMayCareIDont , 12 Oct 2016 06:25
I would argue that it creates a bubble of existence for those who pursue a path of "success" that instead turns to isolation . The amount of people that I have met who have moved to London because to them it represents the main location for everything . I get to see so many walking cliches of people trying to fit in or stand out but also fitting in just the same .

The real disconnect that software is providing us with is truly staggering . I have spoken to people from all over the World who seem to feel more at home being alone and playing a game with strangers . The ones who are most happy are those who seem to be living all aloe and the ones who try and play while a girlfriend or family are present always seemed to be the ones most agitated by them .

We are humans relying on simplistic algorithms that reduce us ,apps like Tinder which turns us into a misogynist at the click of a button .

Facebook which highlights our connections with the other people and assumes that everyone you know or have met is of the same relevance .

We also have Twitter which is the equivalent of screaming at a television when you are drunk or angry .

We have Instagram where people revel in their own isolation and send updates of it . All those products that are instantly updated and yet we are ageing and always feeling like we are grouped together by simple algorithms .

, JimGoddard , 12 Oct 2016 06:28
Television has been the main destroyer of social bonds since the 1950s and yet it is only mentioned once and in relation to the number of competitions on it, which completely misses the point. That's when I stopped taking this article seriously. Share Facebook Twitter
, GeoffP , 12 Oct 2016 06:29
Another shining example of the slow poison of capitalism. Maybe it's time at last to turn off the tap? Share Facebook Twitter
, jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
I actually blame Marx for neoliberalism. He framed society purely in terms economic, and persuaded that ideology is valuable in as much as it is actionable.

For a dialectician he was incredibly short sighted and superficial, not realising he was creating a narrative inimical to personal expression and simple thoughtfulness (although he was warned). To be fair, he can't have appreciated how profoundly he would change the way we concieve societies.

Neoliberalism is simply the dark side of Marxism and subsumes the personal just as comprehensively as communism.

We're picked apart by quantification and live as particulars, suffering the ubiquitous consequences of connectivity alone . . .

Unless, of course, you get out there and meet great people!

, ParisHiltonCommune jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 07:16
Marxism arose as a reaction against the harsh capitalism of its day. Of course it is connected. It is ironic how Soviet our lives have become.
, zeeeel , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way.
, Drewv , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
That fine illustration by Andrzej Krauze up there is exactly what I see whenever I walk into an upscale mall or any Temple of Consumerism.

You can hear the Temple calling out: "Feel bad, atomized individuals? Have a hole inside? Feel lonely? That's all right: buy some shit you don't need and I guarantee you'll feel better."

And then it says: "So you bought it and you felt better for five minutes, and now you feel bad again? Well, that's not rocket science...you should buy MORE shit you don't need! I mean, it's not rocket science, you should have figured this out on your own."

And then it says: "Still feel bad and you have run out of money? Well, that's okay, just get it on credit, or take out a loan, or mortgage your house. I mean, it's not rocket science. Really, you should have figured this out on your own already...I thought you were a modern, go-get-'em, independent, initiative-seizing citizen of the world?"

And then it says: "Took out too many loans, can't pay the bills and the repossession has begun? Honestly, that's not my problem. You're just a bad little consumer, and a bad little liberal, and everything is your own fault. You go sit in a dark corner now where you don't bother the other shoppers. Honestly, you're just being a burden on other consumers now. I'm not saying you should kill yourself, but I can't say that we would mind either."

And that's how the worms turn at the Temples of Consumerism and Neoliberalism.

, havetheyhearts , 12 Oct 2016 06:31
I kept my sanity by not becoming a spineless obedient middle class pleaser of a sociopathic greedy tribe pretending neoliberalism is the future.

The result is a great clarity about the game, and an intact empathy for all beings.

The middle class treated each conscious "outsider" like a lowlife,
and now they play the helpless victims of circumstances.

I know why I renounced to my privileges.
They sleepwalk into their self created disorder.
And yes, I am very angry at those who wasted decades with their social stupidity,
those who crawled back after a start of change into their petit bourgeois niche.

I knew that each therapist has to take a stand and that the most choose petty careers.
Do not expect much sanity from them for your disorientated kids.
Get insightful yourself and share your leftover love to them.
Try honesty and having guts...that might help both of you.

, Likewhatever , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Alternatively, neo-liberalism has enabled us to afford to live alone (entire families were forced to live together for economic reasons), and technology enables us to work remotely, with no need for interaction with other people.

This may make some people feel lonely, but for many others its utopia.

, Peter1Barnet , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Some of the things that characterise Globalisation and Neoliberalism are open borders and free movement. How can that contribute to isolation? That is more likely to be fostered by Protectionism.
And there aren't fewer jobs. Employment is at record highs here and in many other countries. There are different jobs, not fewer, and to be sure there are some demographics that have lost out. But overall there are not fewer jobs. That falls for the old "lump of labour" fallacy.
, WhigInterpretation , 12 Oct 2016 06:43
The corrosive state of mass television indoctrination sums it up: Apprentice, Big Brother, Dragon's Den. By degrees, the standard keeps lowering. It is no longer unusual for a licence funded TV programme to consist of a group of the mentally deranged competing to be the biggest asshole in the room.

Anomie is a by-product of cultural decline as much as economics.

, Pinkie123 Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:18

What is certain, is that is most ways, life is far better now in the UK than 20, 30 or 40 years ago, by a long way!


That's debatable. Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979.

Our whole culture is more stressful. Jobs are more precarious; employment rights more stacked in favor of the employer; workforces are deunionised; leisure time is on the decrease; rents are unaffordable; a house is no longer a realistic expectation for millions of young people. Overall, citizens are more socially immobile and working harder for poorer real wages than they were in the late 70's.

As for mental health, evidence suggest that mental health problems have been on the increase over recent decades, especially among young people. The proportion of 15/16 year olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years, from 1 in 30 to 2 in 30 for boys and 1 in 10 to 2 in ten for girls ( http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/increased-levels-anxiety-and-depression-teenage-experience-changes-over-time

Unfortunately, sexual abuse has always been a feature of human societies. However there is no evidence to suggest it was any worse in the past. Then sexual abuse largely took place in institutional settings were at least it could be potentially addressed. Now much of it has migrated to the great neoliberal experiment of the internet, where child exploitation is at endemic levels and completely beyond the control of law enforcement agencies. There are now more women and children being sexually trafficked than there were slaves at the height of the slave trade. Moreover, we should not forget that Jimmy Saville was abusing prolifically right into the noughties.

My parents were both born in 1948. They say it was great. They bought a South London house for next to nothing and never had to worry about getting a job. When they did get a job it was one with rights, a promise of a generous pension, a humane workplace environment, lunch breaks and an ethos of public service. My mum says that the way women are talked about now is worse.

Sounds fine to me. That's not to say everything was great: racism was acceptable (though surely the vile views pumped out onto social media are as bad or worse than anything that existed then), homosexuality was illegal and capital punishment enforced until the 1960's. However, the fact that these things were reformed showed society was moving in the right direction. Now we are going backwards, back to 1930's levels or inequality and a reactionary, small-minded political culture fueled by loneliness, rage and misery.

, Pinkie123 Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:28
And there is little evidence to suggest that anyone has expanded their mind with the internet. A lot of people use it to look at porn, post racist tirades on Facebook, send rape threats, distributes sexual images of partners with their permission, take endless photographs of themselves and whip up support for demagogues. In my view it would much better if people went to a library than lurked in corporate echo chambers pumping out the like of 'why dont theese imagrantz go back home and all those lezbo fems can fuckk off too ha ha megalolz ;). Seriously mind expanding stuff. Share
, Pinkie123 Pinkie123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Oops ' without their permission... Share Facebook Twitter
, maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 06:49
As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . This was encouraged and the organisation achieved an excellent record in retaining staff at a time when recruitment was difficult. Performance levels were also extremely high . I particulalry remember with gratitude the solidarity of staff when one of our colleagues - a haemophiliac - contracted aids through an infected blood transfusion and died bravely but painfully - the staff all supported him in every way possible through his ordeal and it was a pivilege for me to work with such kind and caring people .
, oommph maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 07:00
Indeed. Those communities are often undervalued. However, the problem is, as George says, lots of people are excluded from them.

They are also highly self-selecting (e.g. you need certain trains of inclusivity, social adeptness, empathy, communication, education etc to get the job that allows you to join that community).

Certainly I make it a priority in my life. I do create communities. I do make an effort to stand by people who live like me. I can be a leader there.

Sometimes I wish more people would be. It is a sustained, long-term effort. Share

, forkintheroad , 12 Oct 2016 06:50
'a war of everyone against themselves' - post-Hobbesian. Genius, George.
, sparclear , 12 Oct 2016 06:51
Using a word like 'loneliness' is risky insofar as nuances get lost. It can have thousand meanings, as there are of a word like 'love'.
isolation
grief
loneliness
feeling abandoned
solitude
purposelessness
neglect
depression
&c.

To add to this discussion, we might consider the strongest need and conflict each of us experiences as a teenager, the need to be part of a tribe vs the the conflict inherent in recognising one's uniqueness. In a child's life from about 7 or 8 until adolescence, friends matter the most. Then the young person realises his or her difference from everyone else and has to grasp what this means.

Those of us who enjoyed a reasonably healthy upbringing will get through the peer group / individuation stage with happiness possible either way - alone or in friendship. Our parents and teachers will have fostered a pride in our own talents and our choice of where to socialise will be flexible and non-destructive.

Those of us who at some stage missed that kind of warmth and acceptance in childhood can easily stagnate. Possibly this is the most awkward of personal developmental leaps. The person neither knows nor feels comfortable with themselves, all that faces them is an abyss.
Where creative purpose and strength of spirit are lacking, other humans can instinctively sense it and some recoil from it, hardly knowing what it's about. Vulnerabilities attendant on this state include relationships holding out some kind of ersatz rescue, including those offered by superficial therapists, religions, and drugs, legal and illegal.

Experience taught that apart from the work we might do with someone deeply compassionate helping us where our parents failed, the natural world is a reliable healer. A kind of self-acceptance and individuation is possible away from human bustle. One effect of the seasons and of being outdoors amongst other life forms is to challenge us physically, into present time, where our senses start to work acutely and our observational skills get honed, becoming more vibrant than they could at any educational establishment.

This is one reason we have to look after the Earth, whether it's in a city context or a rural one. Our mental, emotional and physical health is known to be directly affected by it.

, Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 06:55
A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'.
An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick. Share
, worried Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:32
The rich and powerful can be just as lonely as you and me. However, some of them will be lonely after having royally forked the rest of us over...and that is another thing
, Hallucinogen , 12 Oct 2016 06:59

We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.


- Fight Club
People need a tribe to feel purpose. We need conflict, it's essential for our species... psychological health improved in New York after 9/11.
, ParisHiltonCommune , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Totally agree with the last sentences. Human civilisation is a team effort. Individual humans cant survive, our language evolved to aid cooperation.

Neo-liberalism is really only an Anglo-American project. Yet we are so indoctrinated in it, It seems natural to us, but not to hardly any other cultures.

As for those "secondary factors. Look to advertising and the loss of real jobs forcing more of us to sell services dependent on fake needs. Share

, deirdremcardle , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Help save the Notting Hill Carnival
http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/teen-disembowelled-years-notting-hill-11982129

It's importance for social cohesion -yes inspite of the problems , can not be overestimated .Don't let the rich drive it out , people who don't understand ,or care what it's for .The poorer boroughs cannot afford it .K&C have easily 1/2billion in Capital Reserves ,so yes they must continue . Here I can assure you ,one often sees the old and lonely get a hug .If drug gangs are hitting each other or their rich boy customers with violence - that is a different matter . And yes of course if we don't do something to help boys from ethnic minorities ,with education and housing -of course it only becomes more expensive in the long run.

Boris Johnson has idiotically mouthed off about trying to mobilise people to stand outside the Russian Embassy , as if one can mobilise youth by telling them to tidy their bedroom .Because that's all it amounts to - because you have to FEEL protest and dissent . Well here at Carnival - there it is ,protest and dissent . Now listen to it . And of course it will be far easier than getting any response from sticking your tongue out at the Putin monster !
He has his bombs , just as Kensington and Chelsea have their money.
(and anyway it's only another Boris diversion ,like building some fucking stupid bridge ,instead of doing anything useful)

, Lafcadio1944 , 12 Oct 2016 07:03
"Society" or at least organized society is the enemy of corporate power. The idea of Neoliberal capitalism is to replace civil society with corporate law and rule. The same was true of the less extreme forms of capitalism. Society is the enemy of capital because it put restrictions on it and threatens its power.

When society organizes itself and makes laws to protect society from the harmful effects of capitalism, for example demands on testing drugs to be sure they are safe, this is a big expense to Pfizer, there are many examples - just now in the news banning sugary drinks. If so much as a small group of parents forming a day care co-op decide to ban coca cola from their group that is a loss of profit.

That is really what is going on, loneliness is a big part of human life, everyone feels it sometimes, under Neoliberal capitalism it is simply more exaggerated due to the out and out assault on society itself.

, Joan Cant , 12 Oct 2016 07:10
Well the prevailing Global Capitalist world view is still a combination 1. homocentric Cartesian Dualism i.e. seeing humans as most important and sod all other living beings, and seeing humans as separate from all other living beings and other humans and 2. Darwinian "survival of the fittest" seeing everything as a competition and people as "winners and losers, weak or strong with winners and the strong being most important". From these 2 combined views all kinds of "games" arise. The main one being the game of "victim, rescuer, persecutor" (Transactional Analysis). The Guardian engages in this most of the time and although I welcome the truth in this article to some degree, surprisingly, as George is environmentally friendly, it kinda still is talking as if humans are most important and as if those in control (the winners) need to change their world view to save the victims. I think the world view needs to zoom out to a perspective that recognises that everything is interdependent and that the apparent winners and the strong are as much victims of their limited world view as those who are manifesting the effects of it more obviously.
, Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
Here in America, we have reached the point at which police routinely dispatch the mentally ill, while complaining that "we don't have the time for this" (N. Carolina). When a policeman refuses to kill a troubled citizen, he or she can and will be fired from his job (West Virginia). This has become not merely commonplace, but actually a part of the social function of the work of the police -- to remove from society the burden of caring for the mentally ill by killing them. In the state where I live, a state trooper shot dead a mentally ill man who was not only unarmed, but sitting on the toilet in his own home. The resulting "investigation" exculpated the trooper, of course; in fact, young people are constantly told to look up to the police.
, ianita1978 Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed.
This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering. Share
, Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
The impact of increasing alienation on individual mental health has been known about and discussed for a long time.

When looking at a way forward, the following article is interesting:

"Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on. The ordinary citizen thus lives in an incredibly deceiving reality. Perhaps this explains the tremendous and persistent gap between the burgeoning of motives to struggle, and the paucity of actual combatants. The contrary would be a miracle. Thus the considerable importance of what I call the struggle for representation: at every moment, in every area, to expose the deception and bring to light, in the simplicity of form which only real theoretical penetration makes possible, the processes in which the false-appearances, real and imagined, originate, and this way, to form the vigilant consciousness, placing our image of reality back on its feet and reopening paths to action."

https://www.marxists.org/archive/seve/lucien_seve.htm

, ianita1978 Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 08:18
For the global epidemic of abusive, effacing homogenisation of human intellectual exchange and violent hyper-sexualisation of all culture, I blame the US Freudian PR guru Edward Bernays and his puritan forebears - alot. Share Facebook Twitter
, bonhee Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 09:03
Thanks for proving that Anomie is a far more sensible theory than Dialectical Materialistic claptrap that was used back in the 80s to terrorize the millions of serfs living under the Jack boot of Leninist Iron curtain.
, RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:15
There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate.

Anyway, the wheel has turned thank goodness. We are becoming wiser and understanding that "ecology" doesn't just refer to our relationship with the natural world but also, closer to home, our relationship with each other.

, Jayarava Attwood RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:37
The Communist manifesto makes the same complaint in 1848. The wheel has not turned, it is still grinding down workers after 150 years. We are none the wiser. Share Facebook Twitter
, Ben Wood RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:49
"The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
R Hunter Share Facebook Twitter
, ianita1978 Ben Wood , 12 Oct 2016 08:13
Yep.
And far too many good people have chosen to be the grateful dead in order to escape the brutal torture of bullying Predators.
, magicspoon3 , 12 Oct 2016 07:30
What is loneliness? I love my own company and I love walking in nature and listening to relaxation music off you tube and reading books from the library. That is all free. When I fancied a change of scene, I volunteered at my local art gallery.

Mental health issues are not all down to loneliness. Indeed, other people can be a massive stress factor, whether it is a narcissistic parent, a bullying spouse or sibling, or an unreasonable boss at work.

I'm on the internet far too much and often feel the need to detox from it and get back to a more natural life, away from technology. The 24/7 news culture and selfie obsessed society is a lot to blame for social disconnect.

The current economic climate is also to blame, if housing and job security are a problem for individuals as money worries are a huge factor of stress. The idea of not having any goal for the future can trigger depressive thoughts.

I have to say, I've been happier since I don't have such unrealistic expectations of what 'success is'. I rarely get that foreign holiday or new wardrobe of clothes and my mobile phone is archaic. The pressure that society puts on us to have all these things- and get in debt for them is not good. The obsession with economic growth at all costs is also stupid, as the numbers don't necessarily mean better wealth, health or happiness.

, dr8765 , 12 Oct 2016 07:34
Very fine article, as usual from George, until right at the end he says:

This does not require a policy response.

But it does. It requires abandonment of neoliberalism as the means used to run the world. People talk about the dangers of man made computers usurping their makers but mankind has, it seems, already allowed itself to become enslaved. This has not been achieved by physical dependence upon machines but by intellectual enslavement to an ideology.

, John Smythe , 12 Oct 2016 07:35
A very good "Opinion" by George Monbiot one of the best I have seen on this Guardian blog page.
I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. Many other areas of human life are also under attack from the Neoliberal, even the very air we breathe, and the earth we stand upon.
, Jayarava Attwood , 12 Oct 2016 07:36
The Amish have understood for 300 years that technology could have a negative effect on society and decided to limit its effects. I greatly admire their approach. Neal Stephenson's recent novel Seveneves coined the term Amistics for the practice of assessing and limiting the impact of tech. We need a Minister for Amistics in the government. Wired magazine did two features on the Amish use of telephones which are quite insightful.

The Amish Get Wired. The Amish ? 6.1.1993
look Who's talking . 1.1.1999

If we go back to 1848, we also find Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, complaining about the way that the first free-market capitalism (the original liberalism) was destroying communities and families by forcing workers to move to where the factories were being built, and by forcing women and children into (very) low paid work. 150 years later, after many generations of this, combined with the destruction of work in the North, the result is widespread mental illness. But a few people are really rich now, so that's all right, eh?

Social media is ersatz community. It's like eating grass: filling, but not nourishing.

ICYMI I had some thoughts a couple of days ago on how to deal with the mental health epidemic .

, maplegirl , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Young people are greatly harmed by not being able to see a clear path forward in the world. For most people, our basic needs are a secure job, somewhere secure and affordable to live, and a decent social environment in terms of public services and facilities. Unfortunately, all these things are sliding further out of reach for young people in the UK, and they know this. Many already live with insecure housing where their family could have to move at a month or two's notice.

Our whole economic system needs to be built around providing these basic securities for people. Neoliberalism = insecure jobs, insecure housing and poor public services, because these are the end result of its extreme free market ideology.

, dynamicfrog , 12 Oct 2016 07:44
I agree with this 100%. Social isolation makes us unhappy. We have a false sense of what makes us unhappy - that success or wealth will enlighten or liberate us. What makes us happy is social connection. Good friendships, good relationships, being part of community that you contribute to. Go to some of the poorest countries in the world and you may meet happy people there, tell them about life in rich countries, and say that some people there are unhappy. They won't believe you. We do need to change our worldview, because misery is a real problem in many countries.
, SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 07:47
It is tempting to see the world before Thatcherism, which is what most English writers mean when they talk about neo-liberalism, as an idyll, but it simply wasn't.

The great difficulty with capitalism is that while it is in many ways an amoral doctrine, it goes hand in hand with personal freedom. Socialism is moral in its concern for the poorest, but then it places limits on personal freedom and choice. That's the price people pay for the emphasis on community, rather than the individual.

Close communities can be a bar on personal freedom and have little tolerance for people who deviate from the norm. In doing that, they can entrench loneliness.

This happened, and to some extent is still happening, in the working class communities which we typically describe as 'being destroyed by Thatcher'. It's happening in close-knit Muslim communities now.

I'm not attempting to vindicate Thatcherism, I'm just saying there's a pay-off with any model of society. George Monbiot's concerns are actually part of a long tradition - Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village (1770) chimes with his thinking, as does DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

, proteusblu SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. For most, it is necessary to submit yourself to a form of being yoked, in terms of the daily grind which places limits on what you can then do, as the latter depends hugely on money. The idea that most people are "free" to buy the house they want, private education, etc., not to mention whether they can afford the many other things they are told will make them happy, is a very bad joke. Hunter-gatherers have more real freedom than we do. Share
, Stephen Bell SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 09:07
Well said. One person's loneliness is another's peace and quiet.
, stumpedup_32 Firstact , 12 Oct 2016 08:12
According to Wiki: 'Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.'
, queequeg7 , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
We grow into fear - the stress of exams and their certain meanings; the lower wages, longer hours, and fewer rights at work; the certainty of debt with ever greater mortgages; the terror of benefit cuts combined with rent increases.

If we're forever afraid, we'll cling to whatever life raft presents.

It's a demeaning way to live, but it serves the Market better than having a free, reasonably paid, secure workforce, broadly educated and properly housed, with rights.

, CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
Insightful analysis...

George quite rightly pinpoints the isolating effects of modern society and technology and the impact on the quality of our relationships.

The obvious question is how can we offset these trends and does the government care enough to do anything about them?

It strikes me that one of the major problems is that [young] people have been left to their own devices in terms of their consumption of messages from Social and Mass online Media - analogous to leaving your kids in front of a video in lieu of a parental care or a babysitter. In traditional society - the messages provided by Society were filtered by family contact and real peer interaction - and a clear picture of the limited value of the media was propogated by teachers and clerics. Now young and older people alike are left to make their own judgments and we cannot be surprised when they extract negative messages around body image, wealth and social expectations and social and sexual norms from these channels. It's inevitable that this will create a boundary free landscape where insecurity, self-loathing and ultimately mental illness will prosper.

I'm not a traditionalist in any way but there has to be a role for teachers and parents in mediating these messages and presenting the context for analysing what is being said in a healthy way. I think this kind of Personal Esteem and Life Skills education should be part of the core curriculum in all schools. Our continued focus on basic academic skills just does not prepare young people for the real world of judgementalism, superficiality and cliques and if anything dealing with these issues are core life skills.

We can't reverse the fact that media and modern society is changing but we can prepare people for the impact which it can have on their lives.

, school10 CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
A politician's answer.
X is a problem. Someone else, in your comment it will be teachers that have to sort it out. Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. Taking kids away from their academic/cultural studies reduces this.
This is a problem in society. What can society as a whole do to solve it and what are YOU prepared to contribute. Share
, David Ireland CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 09:28
Rather difficult to do when their parents are Thatchers children and buy into the whole celebrity, you are what you own lifestyle too....and teachers are far too busy filling out all the paperwork that shows they've met their targets to find time to teach a person centred course on self-esteem to a class of 30 teenagers. Share Facebook Twitter
, Ian Harris , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
I think we should just continue to be selfish and self-serving, sneering and despising anyone less fortunate than ourselves, look up to and try to emulate the shallow, vacuous lifestyle of the non-entity celebrity, consume the Earth's natural resources whilst poisoning the planet and the people, destroy any non-contributing indigenous peoples and finally set off all our nuclear arsenals in a smug-faced global firework display to demonstrate our high level of intelligence and humanity. Surely, that's what we all want? Who cares? So let's just carry on with business as usual!
, BetaRayBill , 12 Oct 2016 08:01
Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools.
No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence.
, Bluecloud , 12 Oct 2016 08:01 Contributor
Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else.

What's the solution? Well if neoliberalism is the root cause, we need a systematic change, which is a problem considering there is no alternative right now. We can however, get active in rebuilding communities and I am encouraged by George Monbiot's work here.

My approach is to get out and join organisations working toward system change. 350.org is a good example. Get involved.

, SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 08:09
we live in a narcissistic and ego driven world that dehumanises everyone. we have an individual and collective crisis of the soul. it is our false perception of ourselves that creates a disconnection from who we really are that causes loneliness. Share Facebook Twitter
, rolloverlove SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 11:33
I agree. This article explains why it is a perfectly normal reaction to the world we are currently living in. It goes as far as to suggest that if you do not feel depressed at the state of our world there's something wrong with you ;-)
http://upliftconnect.com/mutiny-of-the-soul/ Share Facebook Twitter
, HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:10
Surely there is a more straightforward possible explanation for increasing incidence of "unhapiness"?

Quite simply, a century of gradually increasing general living standards in the West have lifted the masses up Maslows higiene hierarchy of needs, to where the masses now have largely only the unfulfilled self esteem needs that used to be the preserve of a small, middle class minority (rather than the unfulfilled survival, security and social needs of previous generations)

If so - this is good. This is progress. We just need to get them up another rung to self fulfillment (the current concern of the flourishing upper middle classes).

, avid Ireland HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:59
Maslow's hierarchy of needs was not about material goods. One could be poor and still fulfill all his criteria and be fully realised. You have missed the point entirely. Share Facebook Twitter
, HaveYouFedTheFish David Ireland , 12 Oct 2016 09:25
Error.... Who mentioned material goods? I think you have not so much "missed the point" as "made your own one up" .

And while agreed that you could, in theory, be poor and meet all of your needs (in fact the very point of the analysis is that money, of itself, isn't what people "need") the reality of the structure of a western capitalist society means that a certain level of affluence is almost certainly a prerequisite for meeting most of those needs simply because food and shelter at the bottom end and, say, education and training at the top end of self fulfillment all have to be purchased. Share

, HaveYouFedTheFish David Ireland , 12 Oct 2016 09:40
Also note that just because a majority of people are now so far up the heirachy does in no way negate an argument that corporations haven't also noticed this and target advertising appropriately to exploit it (and maybe we need to talk about that)

It just means that it's lazy thinking to presume we are in some way "sliding backwards" socially, rather than needing to just keep pushing through this adversity through to the summit.

I have to admit it does really stick in my craw a bit hearing millenials moan about how they may never get to *own* a really *nice* house while their grandparents are still alive who didn't even get the right to finish school and had to share a bed with their siblings.

, Loatheallpoliticians , 12 Oct 2016 08:11
I prefer the competitive self interest and individualism.

Really I do not want to be living under a collectivist state society thanks. Share Facebook Twitter

, poppetmaster Loatheallpoliticians , 12 Oct 2016 08:21
there is a civilised compromise...we just have to keep searching Share Facebook Twitter
, Pinkie123 Loatheallpoliticians , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
There is no such thing as a free-market society. Your society of 'self-interest' is really a state supported oligarchy. If you really want to live in a society where there is literally no state and a more or less open market try Somalia or a Latin American city run by drug lords - but even then there are hierarchies, state involvement, militias.

What you are arguing for is a system (for that is what it is) that demands everyone compete with one another. It is not free, or liberal, or democratic, or libertarian. It is designed to oppress, control, exploit and degrade human beings. This kind of corporatism in which everyone is supposed to serve the God of the market is, ironically, quite Stalinist. Furthermore, a society in which people are encouraged to be narrowly selfish is just plain uncivilized. Since when have sociopathy and barbarism been something to aspire to?

, LevNikolayevich , 12 Oct 2016 08:17
George, you are right, of course. The burning question, however, is not 'Is our current social set-up making us ill' (it certainly is), but 'Is there a healthier alternative?' What form of society would make us less ill? Socialism and egalatarianism, wherever they are tried, tend to lead to their own set of mental-illness-inducing problems, chiefly to do with thwarted opportunity, inability to thrive, and constraints on individual freedom. The sharing, caring society is no more the answer than the brutally individualistic one. You may argue that what is needed is a balance between the two, but that is broadly what we have already. It ain't perfect, but it's a lot better than any of the alternatives.
, David Ireland LevNikolayevich , 12 Oct 2016 08:50
We certainly do NOT at present have a balance between the two societies...Have you not read the article? Corporations and big business have far too much power and control over our lives and our Gov't. The gov't does not legislate for a real living minimum wage and expects the taxpayer to fund corporations low wage businesses. The Minimum wage and benefit payments are sucked in to ever increasing basic living costs leaving nothing for the human soul aside from more work to keep body and soul together, and all the while the underlying message being pumped at us is that we are failures if we do not have wealth and all the accoutrements that go with it....How does that create a healthy society?
, Saul Till , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Neoliberalism. A simple word but it does a great deal of work for people like Monbiot.

The simple statistical data on quality of life differences between generations is absolutely nowhere to be found in this article, nor are self-reported findings on whether people today are happier, just as happy or less happy than people thirty years ago. In reality quality of life and happiness indices have generally been increasing ever since they were introduced.
It's more difficult to know if things like suicide, depression and mental illness are actually increasing or whether it's more to do with the fact that the number of people who are prepared to report them is increasing: at least some of the rise in their numbers will be down to greater awareness of said mental illness, government campaigns and a decline in associated social stigma.

Either way, what evidence there is here isn't even sufficient to establish that we are going through some vast mental health crisis in the first place, never mind that said crisis is inextricably bound up with 'neoliberalism'.

Furthermore, I'm inherently suspicious of articles that manage to connect every modern ill to the author's own political bugbear, especially if they cherry-pick statistical findings to support their point. I'd be just as, if not more, suspicious if it was a conservative author trying to link the same ills to the decline in Christianity or similar. In fact, this article reminds me very much of the sweeping claims made by right-wingers about the allegedly destructive effects of secularism/atheism/homosexuality/video games/South Park/The Great British Bake Off/etc...

If you're an author and you have a pet theory, and upon researching an article you believe you see a pattern in the evidence that points towards further confirmation of that theory, then you should step back and think about whether said pattern is just a bit too psychologically convenient and ideologically simple to be true. This is why people like Steven Pinker - properly rigorous, scientifically versed writer-researchers - do the work they do in systematically sifting through the sociological and historical data: because your mind is often actively trying to convince you to believe that neoliberalism causes suicide and depression, or, if you're a similarly intellectually lazy right-winger, homosexuality leads to gang violence and the flooding of(bafflingly, overwhelmingly heterosexual) parts of America.

I see no sign that Monbiot is interested in testing his belief in his central claim and as a result this article is essentially worthless except as an example of a certain kind of political rhetoric.

, Rapport , 12 Oct 2016 08:38

social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat .... Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people.

Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day:

it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%

Why don't we explore some of the benefits?..

Following the long list of some the diseases, loneliness can inflict on individuals, there must be a surge in demand for all sort of medications; anti-depressants must be topping the list. There is a host many other anti-stress treatments available of which Big Pharma must be carving the lion's share.

Examine the micro-economic impact immediately following a split or divorce. There is an instant doubling on the demand for accommodation, instant doubling on the demand for electrical and household items among many other products and services.

But the icing on the cake and what is really most critical for Neolibralism must be this:

With the morale barometer hitting the bottom, people will be less likely to think of a better future, and therefore, less likely to protest. In fact, there is nothing left worth protecting.

Your freedom has been curtailed. Your rights are evaporating in front of your eyes. And Best of all, from the authorities' perspective, there is no relationship to defend and there is no family to protect. If you have a job, you want to keep, you must prove your worthiness every day to 'a company'.

[Apr 06, 2017] Alienation in neoliberal healthcare system

Notable quotes:
"... The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions. ..."
"... The rest of the items seem more plausible. However absent from the post is consideration of why physicians lost control over work, have been subject to performance measurement (often without good evidence that it improves performance, and particularly patients' outcomes), and have been forced to use often badly designed, poorly implemented EHRs ..."
"... In fact, we began the project that led to the establishment of Health Care Renewal because of our general perception that physician angst was worsening (in the first few years of the 21st century), and that no one was seriously addressing its causes. Our first crude qualitative research(8) suggested hypotheses that physicians' angst was due to perceived threats to their core values, and that these threats arose from the issues this blog discusses: concentration and abuse of power, leadership that is ill-informed , uncaring about or hostile to the values of health care professionals, incompetent, deceptive or dishonest, self-interested , conflicted , or outright corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability , and transparency . ..."
"... We have found hundreds of cases and anecdotes supporting this viewpoint. ..."
"... However, the biggest cause of physicians' loss of control over work may be the rising power of large health care organizations, in particular the large hospital systems that now increasingly employ physicians, turning them into corporate physicians . ..."
"... We have also frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal. ..."
Apr 06, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Here is what the blog post said about the causes of burnout:

The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered work flows and patient interactions.

We dealt with the curious citation of inefficiencies as a cause of burnout above.

The rest of the items seem more plausible. However absent from the post is consideration of why physicians lost control over work, have been subject to performance measurement (often without good evidence that it improves performance, and particularly patients' outcomes), and have been forced to use often badly designed, poorly implemented EHRs . Particularly absent was any consideration of whether the nature or actions of large organizations, such as those led by the authors of the blog post, could have had anything to do with physician burnout.

Contrast this discussion with how we on Health Care Renewal have discussed burnout in the past. In 2012, we noted the first report on burnout by Shanefelt et al(2). At that time we observed that the already voluminous literature on burnout often did not attend to the external forces and influences on physicians that are likely to be producing burnout. Instead, burnout etc has been addressed as if it were lack of resilience, or even some sort of psychiatric disease of physicians.

In fact, we began the project that led to the establishment of Health Care Renewal because of our general perception that physician angst was worsening (in the first few years of the 21st century), and that no one was seriously addressing its causes. Our first crude qualitative research(8) suggested hypotheses that physicians' angst was due to perceived threats to their core values, and that these threats arose from the issues this blog discusses: concentration and abuse of power, leadership that is ill-informed , uncaring about or hostile to the values of health care professionals, incompetent, deceptive or dishonest, self-interested , conflicted , or outright corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability , and transparency .

We have found hundreds of cases and anecdotes supporting this viewpoint.

... ... ...

Finally, the Health Affairs post mention of "loss of control over work" deserves special attention. It could represent a catch-all of more "system factors" as noted above. However, the biggest cause of physicians' loss of control over work may be the rising power of large health care organizations, in particular the large hospital systems that now increasingly employ physicians, turning them into corporate physicians .

In the US, home of the most commercialized health care system among developed countries, physicians increasingly practice as employees of large organizations, usually hospitals and hospital systems, sometimes for-profit corporations. The leaders of such systems meanwhile are now often generic managers , people trained as managers without specific training or experience in medicine or health care, and " managerialists " who apply generic management theory and dogma to medicine and health care just as it might be applied to building widgets or selling soap.

We have also frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal.

... ... ...

Summary

I am glad that physician burnout is getting less anechoic. However, in my humble opinion, the last thing physicians at risk of or suffering burnout need is a top down diktat from CEOs of large health care organizations. The CEOs who wrote the Health Affairs post not have any personal responsibility for any physicians' burnout. However, the transformation of medical practice by the influence of large health care organizations run by the authors' fellow CEOs, particularly huge hospital systems, often resulting in physicians practicing as hired employees of such corporations likely is a major cause of burnout. If the leaders of such large organizations really want to reduce burnout, they should first listen to their own physicians. But this might lead them to realize that reducing burnout might require them to divest themselves of considerable authority, power, and hence remuneration. True health care reform in this sphere will require the breakup of concentrations of power, and the transformation of leadership to make it well-informed, supportive of and willing to be accountable for the health care mission, honest and unconflicted.

Physicians need to join up with other health care professionals and concerned member of the public to push for such reform, which may seem radical in our current era. Such reform may be made more difficult because it clearly would threaten the financial status of some people who have gotten very rich from the status quo, and can use their wealth and power to resist reform.

[Jan 20, 2017] Loss of community, feelings of powerlessness, a sense that politics had been drained of meaning

Notable quotes:
"... At the dawning of the Cold War, a worried Arthur Schlesinger Jr. looked out on a bleak horizon. The Soviet Union was a threat, but Schlesinger concluded that the roots of the crisis ran much deeper. "Our lives are empty of belief," he wrote in his 1949 book, The Vital Center. "They are lives of quiet desperation." ..."
"... So too would the concerns he dwelled upon: loss of community, feelings of powerlessness, a sense that politics had been drained of meaning. Even the poem he selected for his book's epigraph became a touchstone in the turbulent years to come: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world." ..."
"... "loss of community, feelings of powerlessness, a sense that politics had been drained of meaning. " That's called alienation. ..."
"... The American sociologist C. Wright Mills conducted a major study of alienation in modern society with White Collar in 1951, describing how modern consumption-capitalism has shaped a society where you have to sell your personality in addition to your work. Melvin Seeman was part of a surge in alienation research during the mid-20th century when he published his paper, "On the Meaning of Alienation", in 1959 (Senekal, 2010b: 7-8). Seeman used the insights of Marx, Emile Durkheim and others to construct what is often considered a model to recognize the five prominent features of alienation: powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement (Seeman, 1959).[19] Seeman later added a sixth element (cultural estrangement), although this element does not feature prominently in later discussions of his work. ..."
Jan 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. : , January 19, 2017 at 01:19 PM
https://newrepublic.com/article/138915/jonathan-chait-failure-grown-up-liberalism

Dead Center

Jonathan Chait's new book shows the failure of "grown up" liberalism.

BY TIMOTHY SHENK

January 10, 2017

At the dawning of the Cold War, a worried Arthur Schlesinger Jr. looked out on a bleak horizon. The Soviet Union was a threat, but Schlesinger concluded that the roots of the crisis ran much deeper. "Our lives are empty of belief," he wrote in his 1949 book, The Vital Center. "They are lives of quiet desperation." Figures he looked to for guidance-Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Camus-would become staples in the rhetoric of student protesters a generation later.

So too would the concerns he dwelled upon: loss of community, feelings of powerlessness, a sense that politics had been drained of meaning. Even the poem he selected for his book's epigraph became a touchstone in the turbulent years to come: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

...

Any book published in the last month of a president's tenure is forced to reckon with the political scene that will form in his wake. While Chait was prescient on Trumpism in 2012, he underestimated its force in 2016, and was similarly blindsided by the success of Bernie Sanders's campaign. According to Chait, "The case for democratic, pluralistic, incremental, market-friendly governance rooted in empiricism-i.e., liberalism-has never been stronger than now." It is an odd claim to make in a season of populist upheavals. As the most bloodless technocrat should have long ago recognized, no policy achievement is complete without political legitimacy.

Deference to the status quo has always been a consequence of vital centrism. So is a propensity for self-important monologues on pragmatism. Schlesinger described his politics as "less gratifying perhaps than the emotional orgasm of passing resolutions against Franco, monopoly, or sin, but probably more likely to bring about actual results." But sentimental realists are never more utopian than when they try to banish idealism from politics. Democratic leadership does not consist of lecturing voters on what they should want. The intersection of politics and policy, briefing books and ideology, is where transformative candidates stake their claims.

Obama understood that in 2008, and it made him president. The passions inspired by his first run for the White House long ago slipped out of his control. A right-wing version of that democratic spirit gave Trump the presidency, but it could not have happened without Clinton's antiseptic liberalism-Obamaism minus Obama. Now Republicans are poised to eviscerate the achievements Chait celebrates. Reality has broken the realists.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , January 19, 2017 at 01:19 PM
" But sentimental realists are never more utopian than when they try to banish idealism from politics."
libezkova -> Peter K.... , January 19, 2017 at 06:38 PM
"loss of community, feelings of powerlessness, a sense that politics had been drained of meaning. " That's called alienation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_alienation

...German sociologists Georg Simmel and Ferdinand Tönnies wrote critical works on individualization and urbanization. Simmel's The Philosophy of Money describes how relationships become more and more mediated by money. Tönnies' Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (Community and Society) is about the loss of primary relationships such as familial bonds in favour of goal-oriented, secondary relationships. This idea of alienation can be observed in some other contexts, although the term may not be as frequently used. In the context of an individual's relationships within society, alienation can mean the unresponsiveness of society as a whole to the individuality of each member of the society. When collective decisions are made, it is usually impossible for the unique needs of each person to be taken into account.

The American sociologist C. Wright Mills conducted a major study of alienation in modern society with White Collar in 1951, describing how modern consumption-capitalism has shaped a society where you have to sell your personality in addition to your work. Melvin Seeman was part of a surge in alienation research during the mid-20th century when he published his paper, "On the Meaning of Alienation", in 1959 (Senekal, 2010b: 7-8). Seeman used the insights of Marx, Emile Durkheim and others to construct what is often considered a model to recognize the five prominent features of alienation: powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement (Seeman, 1959).[19] Seeman later added a sixth element (cultural estrangement), although this element does not feature prominently in later discussions of his work.

[Jan 18, 2017] Open offices are a real nightmare to work in IMO.

Notable quotes:
"... Open offices are a real nightmare to work in IMO. ..."
"... So that management can spy on employees (which is ironic because studies show that people are more productive when they think people are not looking at them) ..."
"... What about the phone yakkers? I've been in the cubes, and some of the folks had quite a hearty style on the phone, being in sales or service type positions. Fine people, no animosity with them but loud continuous phone calling distracting. And it was their job, after all! ..."
Jan 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Altandmain , January 15, 2017 at 12:44 pm

On that BBC article, it's no surprise about open offices. Open offices are a real nightmare to work in IMO.

Study after study shows that open offices are terrible.

1. High worker anxiety
2. Easier to spread illnesses (so higher sick leaves)
3. Distractions (hard to focus with noises)
4. They communicate the idea of lack of trust
5. Those who get closed offices are resented
6. Terrible for introverts

They are terrible for that reason.

Regarding open offices, the reason why management likes them is because:

1. Save real estate costs
2. So that management can spy on employees (which is ironic because studies show that people are more productive when they think people are not looking at them)
3. Management needless to say can retreat to privacy where needed

This is a trend that needs to be killed with fire IMO, but won't die because management is frankly, more interested in domineering than productivity.

Jay M , January 15, 2017 at 2:04 pm

What about the phone yakkers? I've been in the cubes, and some of the folks had quite a hearty style on the phone, being in sales or service type positions. Fine people, no animosity with them but loud continuous phone calling distracting. And it was their job, after all!

[Jan 05, 2017] ECONOMISTS IN AN ALIENATED SOCIETY

Notable quotes:
"... "The social power, i.e. the multiplied productive force", wrote Marx, appears to people "not as their own united power but as an alien force existing outside them, of the origin and end of which they are ignorant, which they thus cannot control." ..."
"... This leads to the sort of alienation which Marx described. This is summed up by respondents to a You Gov survey (pdf) cited by Earle, Moran and Ward-Perkins, who said; "Economics is out of my hands so there is no point discussing it." ..."
Jan 05, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. : January 05, 2017 at 08:05 AM , 2017 at 08:05 AM
http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2017/01/economists-in-an-alienated-society.html

January 05, 2017

ECONOMISTS IN AN ALIENATED SOCIETY

by Chris Dillow

"The social power, i.e. the multiplied productive force", wrote Marx, appears to people "not as their own united power but as an alien force existing outside them, of the origin and end of which they are ignorant, which they thus cannot control."

I was reminded of this by a fine passage in The Econocracy in which the authors show that "the economy" in the sense we now know it is a relatively recent invention and that economists claim to be experts capable of understanding this alien force:

As increasing areas of political and social life are colonized by economic language and logic, the vast majority of citizens face the struggle of making informed democratic choices in a language they have never been taught. (p19)

This leads to the sort of alienation which Marx described. This is summed up by respondents to a You Gov survey (pdf) cited by Earle, Moran and Ward-Perkins, who said; "Economics is out of my hands so there is no point discussing it."

In one important sense such an attitude is absurd. Every time you decide what to buy, or how much to save, or what job to do or how long to work, economics is in your hands and you are making an economic decision.

This suggests to me two different conceptions of what economics is. In one conception – that of Earle, Moran and Ward-Perkins – economists claim to be a priestly elite who understand "the economy". As Alasdair MacIntyre said, such a claim functions as a demand for power and wealth:

Civil servants and managers alike [he might have added economists-CD] justify themselves and their claims to authority, power and money by invoking their own competence as scientific managers (After Virtue, p 86).

There is, though, a second conception of what economists should do. Rather than exploit alienation for their own advantage, we should help people mitigate it. This consists of three different tasks:

The difference between these two conceptions has been highlighted, inadvertently, by Jeremy Warner. He says economists have had a "terrible year" because their warnings of a Brexit shock were wrong. Maybe, maybe not. But this allegation only applies to economists as priests. In our second conception, economists have had a good year. For example, most actively managed UK equity unit trusts have under-performed trackers, which supports our longstanding advice in favor of passive management.

I should stress here that the distinction between economists as priests and economists as dentists is separate from the heterodox-orthodox distinction. Orthodox economics, when properly used, can both serve a radical function and help inform everyday decisions.

You might object here that my distinction is an idiosyncratic one. Certainly, economists as dentists earn less than economists as priests: I know as I've done both. But there are reasons for that, which have little to do with economists' social utility.

* OK, I do it sometimes – but only to keep my editor happy.

[Aug 27, 2016] Capitalism, neoliberalism excellence

Notable quotes:
"... We must, however, distinguish between capitalism and neoliberalism. One of the examples John Kay gives of how excellence can be profitable was ICI. When it was a chemicals company, it became great. But when it tried to maximize profits, it soon failed. The old ICI was a capitalist firm. The later ICI was a neoliberal one. ..."
"... neoliberalism , in the sense of chasing money and (managerialist) power is more totalitarian. For this reason, among others, we should distinguish between the two. ..."
"... ** Or has it? The old USSR also produced many great athletes, albeit perhaps through less than laudable methods. Perhaps any system that produces a surplus facilitates excellence. ..."
stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com

So, for me it is unclear how far capitalism facilitates the pursuit of excellence.

We must, however, distinguish between capitalism and neoliberalism. One of the examples John Kay gives of how excellence can be profitable was ICI. When it was a chemicals company, it became great. But when it tried to maximize profits, it soon failed. The old ICI was a capitalist firm. The later ICI was a neoliberal one.

The point perhaps generalizes. Capitalism gave us Citizen Kane and Ella Fitzgerald. But neoliberalism gives us Simon Cowell and mindless sequels.

Free markets might well provide some space for the pursuit of different ends and of excellence – especially if accompanied by some judicious state interventions. But neoliberalism, in the sense of chasing money and (managerialist) power is more totalitarian. For this reason, among others, we should distinguish between the two.

* Here's a brief explanation of alienation by Gillian Anderson. I'm in love.

** Or has it? The old USSR also produced many great athletes, albeit perhaps through less than laudable methods. Perhaps any system that produces a surplus facilitates excellence.

What are the problems of bureaucracy and bureaucratic alienation

Yahoo! Answers

What Is bureaucracy

What is bureaucracy?

Claude Lefort Telos #22

Although the concept of bureaucracy has fallen into the common domain of political sociology, theory of history, and public opinion, and has been sanctified to the success it has today, it has nevertheless remained so imprecise that it is still meaningful to question the identity of the phenomena it claims to describe. At first one is astonished at the diversity or ambiguity of the responses. But this is only a first impression. Bureaucracy appears as a phenomenon that everyone talks about, feels and experiences, but which resists conceptualization. Thus, rather than immediately attempting to provide a new definition or description, we will measure the difficulties encountered by theory, assume that they have a meaning, and from the very beginning critically examine what both motivates and perpetuates these difficulties.

Outline of The Problem of Bureaucracy

Already in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Marx draws attention to the specific nature of the social stratum in charge of the administration of public affairs. To corporations dedicated to particular activities and attached to particular interests, this stratum appears to represent a universal interest. We will follow the development of the theory of the state in Marx's later works, then in Lenin's State and Revolution, and its application to post-revolutionary Russian society by Trotsky, together with an examination of the role that the bureaucracy plays as a stratum inextricably bound to the structure of a class society. From this viewpoint, the bureaucracy is neither a class nor a stratum. It is a result of the division of society into classes and class struggles, since its function is to secure the acceptance of the rules of an order (an order undoubtedly connected with relations of production, but in need of being formulated in universal terms and maintained by force). Bureaucracy is "normally" at the service of a dominant class since the administration of public affairs within the framework of a given regime always assumes the preservation of its status. But since it is not simply a section of this class, when the balance of social forces permits it, it can run counter to some of its interests, thus acquiring a relative autonomy. The limits of power are always determined by the configuration of social relations. In short, bureaucracy is a special body in society because its function is such that it supports the established structure and its disappearance would mean the end of bourgeois domination. (Marx said that the Commune's first revolutionary measure was the suppression of the bureaucracy through the lowering of functionaries' salaries to that of the average worker.) Since it is not a key to social stratification, its role in the society is ascribed by the real historical agents-classes in struggle.

The viewpoint changes as soon as one observes the growth of the stratum devoted to administrative tasks in the various sectors of civil society. Thus, it is tempting to look for criteria defining a type of social organization that recognizes the similarities between the bureaucracies of the state, industry, party, unions, etc. Comparison encourages research into the conditions for the emergence of bureaucracies in order to define a type which would pull together various characteristics.

From this viewpoint, very close to Weber's thesis, the bureaucracy appears again as one particular mode of organization corresponding to a more or less extended sector within society. In other words, the social dynamic doesn't seem to be affected by the development of bureaucracies. The mode of production, class relations and political regimes can be studied without reference to a phenomenon designating only a certain type of organization.

A qualitative change in the theory of bureaucracy takes place when it is used to refer to a new class considered to be the dominant class in one or several countries, or even seen as destined to displace the bourgeoisie all over the world. This is suggested by the evolution of the Russian regime after the rise of Stalin, with the disappearance of the old proprietors and the liquidation of the organs of workers' power along with a considerable extension of the Communist Party bureaucracy and the state, which took over the direct administration of society. Similarly, social transformations connected with the development of monopolistic concentration in large industrial societies (notably in the United States) also generate reflection on the development of a bureaucratic class. This necessitates a change in the theory since, because of its role in economic and cultural life, the bureaucracy is now understood as a stratum able to displace the traditional representatives of the bourgeoisie, thus monopolizing power.

Finally, we believe that a completely different conceptualization is required if the phenomenon of bureaucratization is seen as a progressive erosion of the old distinctions linked to private property. Bureaucratization here refers to a process seeking to impose a homogeneous social form on all levels of work-at the managerial as well as the executive level-such that the general stability of employment, hierarchy of salaries and functions promotion rules, division of responsibilities and structure of authority, result in the creation of a single highly differentiated ladder of socio-economic statuses. This last thesis refers to a social dynamic in bureaucracy, and lends it a goal of its own, the realization of which engenders an upheaval of all of society's traditional structures. If this is what the problem of bureaucracy boils down to, it is important to examine each of these theses and explore their contradictions.

The Marxist Critique of State Bureaucracy

As in Hegel, the Marxist account of bureaucracy is conditioned by a theory of history. In fact, when Marx criticizes Hegel's Philosophy of Right, his own theory is still in gestation. Yet, the philosophical viewpoint still takes absolute precedence, and it is remarkable that Marx could sketch out a description of bureaucracy.

According to Marx, Hegel's error consists in having accepted the bureaucracy's self-image. It claims to embody the general interest, and Hegel decides that it does so. Marx argues that the general interest is actually reduced to the bureaucracy's interest which requires the permanence of particular spheres, i.e., the corporations and the estates, in order to appear as an imaginary universal. The bureaucracy assigns its own goals to the state. It maintains the social division in order to confirm and justify its own status as a particular and privileged body in society. As real activities take place in civil society, the bureaucracy is itself condemned to formalism since it is completely occupied with preserving the frameworks in which its activities are carried out and in legitimating them. This critique reveals a series of empirical traits of bureaucracy whose relevance remains concealed to those who cling to appearances

Marx's analysis applies to nineteenth century Germany, i.e., to a backward society. Its relevance, however, is not thereby diminished. When he elaborated his theory of the state as an instrument at the service of the dominant class, through the study of a nation where bourgeois development had erased particularism and destroyed the corporations (the France of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte), Marx kept the idea already developed against Hegel: that the state bureaucracy is essentially a parasitic body. Thus, in dealing with Bonaparte's regime, he writes: "This executive power, with its enormous bureaucratic and military organization, with its ingenious state machinery, embracing wide strata, with a host of officials numbering half a million besides an army of another half million, this appalling parasitic body, which enmeshes the body of French society like a net and chokes all its pores, sprang up in the days of the absolute monarchy, with the decay of the feudal system, which it helped to hasten."3

In Marx's eyes. the Paris Commune's most revolutionary measure was to have installed cheap government and to have suppressed the privileges and hierarchy characteristic of state bureaucracy. In State and Revolution, Lenin only reiterates what Marx had said on these points. The bureaucracy and the standing army considered as two typical institutions of the state are seen as parasites engendered by the internal contradiction which tears this society apart, but parasites which block its vital pores." To be sure, he clarifies this notion of parasitism, and points out that the recruitment of the bureaucracy from the middle and lower strata detaches part of their members from the rest of the people and allies them to the dominant class. Furthermore, the state bureaucracy is the "stake" in a permanent battle between the large parties fighting over the administrative domains. Particularly during a change of regime, these parties tend to appropriate a substantial part of the booty for their clients.

What is the relevance of the Marxist analysis and what difficulties does it encounter? In the first place, taken as an empirical phenomenon, it presents the state bureaucracy in a light which continues to clarify it today as it did a century ago. It is a critique that resembles common opinion but gives it its reasons. It is still the case that bureaucracy is a circle out of which no one can escape, that subordinates rely on their superiors to take the initiative and to resolve difficulties, while the superiors expect their subordinates to solve particular problems which elude the level of generality where they have been conceived. This solidarity in incompetence goes quite far in tying the employee, situated on the bottom of the ladder, to the system of which he is a part. As a result, it is impossible for him to denounce this system without simultaneously denouncing the vanity of his own function, from which he derives his own material existence. Similarly, bureaucrats seek the highest positions and work itself is subordinated to the gaining or maintenance of personal status, such that the bureaucracy appears as an immense network of personal relations. Actually, relations of dependence displace the objective relations outlined by the division of labour, while internal struggles are superimposed on the formal hierarchy and constantly tend to remodel it according to their exigencies. Today, more than ever, the distribution of the most important positions between the large parties appears as a division of booty whenever there is a change in regime. These observations are worth stressing. Such traits are well-known, but what is not explained is why they are not investigated: Marx, and Lenin after him, gave an account. Even if they were wrong, that should not be an excuse for not considering it. But in recognizing its relevance, it is not sufficient to stop at a superficial account of bureaucracy which retains only its official image. In this regard, Marxism preserves a freshness of approach which fares well when contrasted with the vision of certain contemporary sociologists. As already indicated, Marx only sketched out a description which was subsequently smothered by a theory.

From this comes the treatment of state bureaucracy as a general category without any attempt to explain its functioning. If the bureaucracy includes all of its members, it still remains stratified (it is, in its essence, stratification) and all of its members do not participate in it in the same way. What is the location of the bureaucrat's power? Why does the bureaucracy always grow in size? Does the very life of the bureaucratic organism include a principle of proliferation? Clearly, state bureaucracies are usually staffed by middle-class elements. By becoming bureaucrats, do they remain part of their class? Do they change their mentality? Do they become sensitive to new interests?

Marxism does not answer these questions: its conception of society as completely regulated by the class struggle does not encourage a study of bureaucracy for its own sake.

Today the state is the largest capitalist and the largest investor. In addition to what it administers directly through fiscal and economic policy, it tends to direct investments on a national scale. Although the state is a battlefield between large political parties which include representatives of private capital, and its policies are often the result of countervailing social forces, tile struggle between these groups is not the same as that which unfolds in civil society. When joined to the requirements of public administration, the division of interests creates a space for its own decision-making -a space which grows and develops as the process whereby the state increasingly drains larger amounts of capital and takes over an increasing number of tasks previously left to private initiative. The defence of the established order which guarantees the position of the rulers over those who are ruled, creates and recreates everyday the foundations of this sovereignty. In this perspective, the previous conception of state bureaucracy cannot be held any longer. In particular, the concept of parasitism seems inadequate, or at least inaccurate: why does the bureaucratic mode of organization as such multiply parasites? The thesis that, on the whole, bureaucracy is a parasitic phenomenon threads its way into Marxist theory.

Actually, the bureaucracy is necessary in the context of capitalist society. In order to be effective, the critique must be located at the same level as that of capitalistic organization. If this is the case, does it not seem as if there is a dialectic of domination in modern society whereby a social stratum meant to plan and improve conditions of domination grows in proportion as industrial work invades all sectors of social life, and that the life of the masses must be subordinated to it? When all is said and done, does this process of bureaucratization, so visible in the framework of the state, also obtain within what the young Marx called civil society?

The Bureaucracy as a Type of Organisation

Let us provisionally skip these questions in order to deal with another perspective which uncovers the multiplicity of bureaucracies in modern society and draws attention to their common function and similarity. Here Max Weber is the starting point. He lists certain traits he considers typical of modern bureaucracies:

  1. (I) The duties of functionaries are officially fixed by laws, rules, or administrative dispositions;
  2. (2) The functions are hierarchical and integrated into a system of command such that at all levels lower authorities are controlled by higher authorities;
  3. (3) Administrative activity is spelled out in written documents;
  4. (4) These functions require a professional apprenticeship;
  5. (5) The work of functionaries demands complete devotion to the office;
  6. (6) Access to the profession is at the same time access to a particular technology, jurisprudence, commercial science, administrative science, etc.

From this analysis some conclusions can be drawn concerning the bureaucrat. His office appears to him as the exercise of a profession to which a determinate ensemble of knowledge is attached. Moreover, it is neither de facto nor de jure the source of fees any more than it is the object of a contract in terms of which the employee sells his labour power. The particular nature of the office implies that in exchange for certain material guarantees (the assurance of a suitable standard of living), the functionary contracts a specific duty of fidelity to the office; he is in the service of an objective and impersonal goal, not of a person. This goal is inherent in the enterprise to which he is attached-state, commune, party or capitalist enterprise. Secondly, the bureaucrat enjoys a certain prestige with those he dominates. This prestige is usually guaranteed by a special status which confers on him certain rights sanctified by rules. Thirdly, the functionary is normally appointed by a superior authority. If it is true that there are certain bureaucracies whose members are elected, the pure type requires the principle of appointment. Hierarchical discipline is undermined when the functionary derives his power from the approval of electors, i.e., from below and not from above . Fourthly, the stability of employment is normally assured, even though a right of possession over the office is never recognized. Fifthly, the bureaucrat normally receives a remuneration in the form of a salary determined by the nature of employment and, possibly, by seniority. Sixthly, parallel to the hierarchical order of the bureaucracy a hierarchy of salaries is established: the majority of functionaries desire that promotions be made as mechanically as possible. Max Weber also indicates the role of certain factors in whose absence the bureaucracy would not completely develop. For example, its structure is not definitively established until the natural economy has been eliminated, i.e., until capitalism dominates society. Furthermore, the emergence of democracy allows the substitution of an administration of anonymous functionaries, detached from every particular social milieu and devoted to tasks of universal significance, for the traditional administration by notables, provided with local authority. Finally, Weber goes so far as to identify the movement of bureaucratization with the process of capitalist rationalization. More than the quantitative development of administrative tasks, what appears decisive is their qualitative change, the necessity for a large enterprise, whatever its nature, to envisage its activities from a strictly technical viewpoint and to obtain a predictability or a calculability of results as exact as possible. Bureaucracy in this sense is the social form most adequate to the capitalist organization of production and to a society based on it. The elimination of personal relations, the subordination of all activities to the application of a norm linked to an objective goal, makes it into a model of economic rationality established by industrial capitalism. Here, from a technical viewpoint, Max Weber does not hesitate to judge modern bureaucracy as superior to all other forms of organization.

It does not follow, however, that the development of bureaucracies must affect the nature of a political and economic regime, no matter how necessary they might seem once certain conditions are fulfilled. On the contrary, Weber claims that the numerical importance of this form of organization does not in any way determine its relation to power. The proof is that the state bureaucracy accommodates itself to diverse regimes - as demonstrated by France, where the state bureaucracy has remained remarkably stable. The proof lies also in the fact that during war, the bureaucratic staff of a conquered country is used by the foreign power, and continues to carry out its administrative tasks. In principle, bureaucracy is indifferent to the interests and values of a political system, i.e., it is an organ at the service of rulers located somewhere between the rulers and those who are ruled.

These analyses do not reveal their full meaning until they are located within a certain methodological perspective. Weber sees bureaucracy only as a type of social organization. Actually. bureaucracies do not necessarily realize their pure form: certain empirical conditions are needed in order that the various characteristics be simultaneously present. But once defined, the type makes the impure forms intelligible. Even when Weber states that the process of bureaucratization and of capitalist rationalization are closely tied together, this could be misleading. Historical explanations are something different from the determination of a social type. Thus, the method partly determines its results. If bureaucracy is seen as essentially neutral in relation to an economic and social system, and it appears as having no historical goal, it is because Weber sees it from a purely formal viewpoint. as a type of organization, and not as a specific social stratum which, in establishing a certain set of relations between its members, generates its own history. Consequently, Weber cannot deal with "state socialism" without prejudice. According to him, bureaucracy can adjust more easily to state socialism than it can to bourgeois democracy. Yet, the history of state socialism is alien to that of bureaucracy. Strangely enough, Weber's conclusions on this point are similar to those of some Marxists, although inspired by different principles. In the eyes of these Marxists, state bureaucracy is alien to the social dialectic obtaining at the level of relations of production. For Weber a sequence of events can be reconstituted to make sense out of the development of state socialism. Although favored by these events, however, bureaucratization does not generate them. Yet, certain historical developments can be adduced to refute this thesis even more easily than Marx's account which is concerned with an empirical description. In the system resulting from the Russian revolution, which Weber calls "state socialism" (an expression which need not be criticised here), bureaucracy is not actually alien to power. The future state leaders come out of it: Stalin made a career in the party bureaucracy. For a long time he sought the highest position before obtaining it; he added to his functions of party secretary those of the state bureaucracy before becoming the master of power. Just because his rule had a charismatic character does not mean that he was independent of the bureaucracy: the latter was the permanent foundation of his power. While charisma can disappear or change its character with the death of the dictator, the new power will reconstitute itself on the basis of the bureaucracy. The political battles concerning the direction of the state take place in the upper reaches of the bureaucracy.

Extended to the limit, the state bureaucracy comes to take over final political and economic decisions, i.e., it becomes the focus of a new system. Had Weber accepted this, he would not have formulated his definition of the bureaucratic type as he did. Given the nature of his thought. he refused to regard bureaucracy has having a dynamic goal of its own. Thus, he was unable to investigate its constitutive traits, i.e., how it is rooted in social being and increases its power. The enumeration of criteria can be useful, but as long as what holds them together remains un-investigated, the phenomenon described remains indeterminate. It matters little if one adds or subtracts a criterion: nothing allows one to decide if, in the absence of certain selected traits, a social complex is or is not bureaucratic. In order to decide, it is necessary to grasp the source of bureaucratisation.

The above does not apply only to Weber, but to every attempt at a formal definition. Thus, Alain Touraine writes: "I call bureaucracy a system or organization where status and roles, laws and duties, conditions of access to a position, controls and sanctions, are defined by their location in a hierarchical line and thus by a certain delegation of authority. These two characteristics assume a third; that the fundamental decisions are not taken within the bureaucratic organization. the latter being only a system of transmission and of execution." This definition, obviously inspired by Weber-although more concise-can readily find many applications. It is easy to agree with Touraine when he claims that a ministry is a bureaucratic organization. The same cannot be said when he adds that an industrial enterprise is only partially so. If only the first characteristic of bureaucracy is found here, how can one claim that the enterprise is a partial bureaucracy? Does he not mean that a system of organization functioning according to fixed rules and in an impersonal manner already entails bureaucratization? If, on the other hand, it is admitted that the delegation of authority is decisive, and that workers do not participate in decisions, does it make sense to speak of a "bureaucratization of work"?

This ambiguity grows when Michel Crozier, in elaborating on Touraine's definition, decides that "the Western workers in general, and French workers in particular, have already largely entered the channels of bureaucracy. He tells us that "delegation of authority is not necessary for participation in a bureaucratic system." It is characterized primarily by the existence of hierarchy. Does this mean that it is possible to participate in a system without possessing authority? In such a case, however, the problem would only be displaced, because relations within the bureaucratic system, between the authority and the executive sector dedicated to the manufacturing tasks and subjected to external authority, remain to be defined: the problem of knowing what role the relations of authority play in the constitution of the bureaucracy would remain. If it is necessary to admit, on the other hand, that a bureaucratic system on the whole does not necessarily locate these relations and that it is essentially characterized by the existence of a hierarchy. it is still necessary to determine the meaning of a bureaucratic hierarchy. The notion is vague enough to be applicable to very different structures: nothing is more hierarchical, for example, than the court of an hereditary monarchy. What is, then, the basis of hierarchy in bureaucracy? What justifies a vertical classification of functions and roles? The question is always reintroduced to evaluate the import of this or that criterion functioning in the conception of bureaucracy.

If Weber enumerated certain precise characteristics of bureaucracy without wishing to privilege any one of them which could have designated another social reality, it is because he had a strong feeling of its specificity. What is interesting in his analysis is what he links to this feeling, i.e., the multiplicity of bureaucratic forms of organization in modern society. Even if he fails, he at least forces us to confront his examples and types, and to come up with a new account.

Let us return to state bureaucracy, in order to ask what stratum of functionaries Weber dealt with. His definition surely applies to ministerial personnel, or at least to those functionaries whose duties carry certain responsibilities and whose 'office' entails a loyalty to the goal of the enterprise. It is a professional formation having specialized knowledge in relation to subordinates assigned to purely executive tasks and whose labour-time is rigorously checked. But, strictly speaking, does this definition apply to all the functionaries who hold 'office'? Can one say, for instance, that according to Weber's framework, secondary school teachers are part of the French bureaucracy? The professor's personal position corresponds to Weber's characterization of the bureaucrat. Only on one point is the definition inadequate: participation in a system of authority. Access to a certain position or a level in the hierarchy does not give him power over subordinates. Similarly, his relation to his superiors is special. Obviously, he is subjected to administrative power.His lot depends on decisions taken at the managerial level. Yet, he largely escapes this power; the content of his activity is only very partially determined. His professional activity has its own goal. It is not justified in terms of a transformation of the object-which cannot be confused with the objective goal immanent in the ministerial enterprise. Finally, and above all, the secondary teacher is not in the process of making a career out of a job. He can hope for a change from one grade of seniority to another by the most rapid route. But, unlike bureaucrats, he does not seek a new function which will carry with it a higher social status, expanded responsibilities, and increased power over subordinates. The secondary school teacher remains largely an isolated individual. Undoubtedly, his activity is social, since it necessarily brings him into contact with a public, but it is not socialized. The division of labour can oblige him to specialize in a branch of teaching and thus to relate his activity to those of other teachers, without, however, generating a unity of production. rn short, if we try to apply the concept of bureaucracy in the way Weber himself did (neglecting the value judgements implied in his description), we are led to exclude certain levels of functionaries from the framework of bureaucracy while also reforming his system of interpretation.

Since Weber did not integrate French high school teachers into his type, it follows that most of the characteristics, which he considers typical and which apply to our example, acquire an import only in certain precise cases. On the other hand, the absence of certain traits makes it difficult to speak of bureaucracy. In the first place, we see a connection between a certain hierarchy and a system of authority (of command-subordination, according to Weber), such that progression in the hierarchy corresponds to amassing a higher status, new responsibilities, and more power. In the second place, Weber's idea that bureaucracy expects its members to identify with the undertaking appears at first glance to have only an apologetic function, but proves to have some sociological content. Such an identification assumes some professional activity linked to a role, itself determined through relation to other roles within the enterprise.

The bureaucracy expects a subordinate to say "the Ministry" or "the Service" instead of "I," and by this act of identification, this person exists as a bureaucrat. But this act has no meaning for those whose work renders them strictly anonymous or for those who are individualized to the point where work as such becomes a sufficient justification of existence. In other words, what Weber calls the identification with an office is something other than professional consciousness. The latter finds its end in the act of production; the former, in the occupation of an office. This professional consciousness calls for a behaviour conforming to the interest of the bureaucracy, in response to the expectations of hierarchical superiors-a behaviour proper for each member of the bureaucracy in a similar situation. Thus, the activity of bureaucrats has two characteristics: it is technical and bureaucratic. It can lose the first, not the second. For example, the intense circulation of reports or of memos in offices serves only to express the necessity of each manifesting his function to others, and the bureaucracy functions only by virtue of a mutual recognition, constantly renewed according to determined ceremony. The volume of paper internally consumed by an administration allows one to measure its coefficient of bureaucratic integration. Stripped of ~l malevolent intentions, this shows that the bureaucracy can only act by constantly reflecting its activity in the mirror of its constitution. Finally, because of the place it gives to the system of command-subordination, Weber's analysis presupposes the existence of a geographical unity-a spatial framework determined by bureaucratic activities. Of course, all the members of a bureaucracy are not necessarily assembled in the same place, but their relations, the discipline that unites them, the control of each by the others, tends to circumscribe a specific world of offices. A second example mentioned by Weber, that of the industrial enterprise, will allow us to test out his ideas and to specify ours. In the first place, we are again led to ask whether bureaucracy is only an organ of transmission and execution. Although an industrial enterprise is never autonomous and its functioning must take into account the interests of a financing capital on whom it depends, or the directives of a ministry if it is a question of a nationalized economy, the fact remains that management has a considerable power of decision. For the totality of decisions is not the action of an individual. Whatever the personality of the general manager, the power of decision is necessarily distributed among the different services and is concretized at the heart of each service only through a more or less collective participation in the solution of problems. To ask whether the direction is or is not distinct from the bureaucracy, is to pose a false problem. In every organization in which hierarchy results in delineating a function of direction -this transcends all those subordinatedd to it. Yet, the fact remains that, if the power that it formally holds was actually composite, i.e., if the decisions which fall to it by virtue of officially fixed allotment had actually been partially elaborated at various lower levels, it is still part of the framework which it dominates.

On the other hand, as with state bureaucracy, the most important thing concerning the bureaucracy of an enterprise is its boundaries. Who are the bureaucrats? Who can be assimilated into the bureaucracy? Finally, who definitely falls outside this category? Clearly, for Weber, the definition of the capitalist enterprise as a bureaucratic organization does not specify which sector, within the enterprise, could be designated as bureaucratic (although he goes so far as to claim that the capitalist enterprise offers an unequalled model of bureaucratic organization). To maintain, with Crozier, that workers are part of a bureaucracy as soon as they are placed with engineers and directors under a single hierarchical ladder, would have seemed extravagant to Weber, not because some of his criteria would have been contradicted, but because the position of a social group cannot be established only by considering its juridical status. The fact that some workers find their work assimilated to that of functionaries, says nothing about the specific nature of their work, or of their relations with other social strata within a given enterprise. The question of establishing the real situation of workers is not automatically answered if the enterprise is nationalized, the stability of work is guaranteed, or the workers are integrated with the cadres in the same hierarchical system-although these conditions could have important effects. In the industrial enterprise, the mass of workers is confined to purely operational tasks. The ordering of workshops, the number and distribution of positions, the rhythm of production, the duration and the intensity of work-all is prescribed by an administration functioning at a distance from the place of production and constitutes an alien and closed world with respect to it.

On the other hand, is it possible to consider all those who work in offices as the bureaucracy? First of all, technical services should not be confused with services of administration and exploitation. Although both share certain common norms of organization, it remains that the social relations are different by virtue of the different work performed. In short, the relations of authority and the connections with the enterprise are not similar. In technical services the engineers and the technicians, the draftsmen, have a relative autonomy by virtue of their professional knowledge. Control over labour can only be effective if the boss has a technical competence at least equal to that of his subordinates, i.e., his control must be considered a technically superior function. Social control could be practically non-existent where the work requirements were of fixed duration, sufficing to establish a normal rhythm of output. Moreover, the technicians' autonomy is also measured by their ability to move from one enterprise to another by virtue of their knowledge. Generally speaking, the position of technicians depends more on the work performed than on his place in the social organization of the enterprise.

The functioning of administrative services is something else. Here, at the bottom of the ladder, we find unskilled employees whose professional competence is rudimentary or non-existent. Between them and the general management of the enterprise, the hierarchy of positions is a power hierarchy. The relations of dependence become determining and having a function defines one against a higher level, whether it is that of the departmental supervisor, a boss, or a director. Here the double nature of employment reappears. It answers to a professional activity and expresses an established social order in which the enterprise finds its concrete existence. In fact, from the top to the bottom of the ladder, relations are such that they always serve to reiterate the authoritarian structure of administration. This does not mean, however, that those located at the bottom of the ladder participate in the bureaucracy in the same way as those at the middle or upper levels. In certain respects, the employees are like workers, deprived of any authority. They are often paid less than certain hourly labourers. Thus, their work cannot be described as an 'office' and we cannot assume that they could identify with the goals of the enterprise. Nevertheless, they are not alien to the bureaucracy: they are the dependents . They often enter into the enterprise only when provided with references certifying their "good character." They cannot advance unless they prove their aptitude to obey commands: they live in the hope of moving to a higher status. Thus, the situation of the employee is ambiguous. He is not integrated into the bureaucratic system. lie only endures it. Yet, everything tends to make him adhere to it, and he does so effectively when he accepts his superiors' ideal: promotion. Moreover, he is even less able to detach himself from the bureaucratic milieu since his work is determined by the social organization of the enterprise, and in extracting the resources that assure his subsistence, he perceives it as being as necessary as the organization itself.

Bureaucracy thus overflows the active core of middle and upper level functionaries tied to administrative and exploitative tasks: it is a hierarchy which plunges its roots even into the productive sector, where supervisors and foremen control the work of labourers. These functionaries hold real authority. Not only do they hold positions with official duties defined by a certain division of labour and submit to a certain discipline, but their function makes them participate in the power of management and leads them to identify with the enterprise as such. To say that they identify with it does not mean that they necessarily have a correct idea of the enterprise's interests nor even that they are led to place this above their own interests. In their eyes, the horizons of the enterprise are absolutely confused with those of their employment. They see the social order immanent in the enterprise as both natural and sacred, their own function as something other than a mere source of remuneration or of professional activity, but as the backbone of a system which needs their co-operation to subsist and expand.

To possess a status apparently differentiating his position from that of mere labourers, to enjoy a prestige generating others' respect, to obtain a remuneration and material advantages assuring a privileged condition of existence, to belong to a milieu from which authority flows, where subordination is the other side of a command, with opportunities for promotion-all these are the traits of the bureaucrat.

Finally, the bureaucracy of the enterprise exemplifies the mystification implicit in a purely formal description. The latter assumes that bureaucratic organization is identical with the rational organization of the enterprise, insofar as it is technically required by production itself. For, as soon as we seek to locate the strictly bureaucratic sector and to emphasize a specific type of conduct, we discover a dialectic of socialization different from the dialectic of the division of labor. This does not mean that we can determine what an adequate social organization of the enterprise would be like at a given stage of the division of labor, since this depends on historical conditions resulting from technical evolution and class struggle, but rather, that bureaucratic organization has its own ends which cannot be deduced from the necessities imposed by the organization of production. Once it is recognized that, in addition to the manufacturing and the technical sectors, every large enterprise must deal with tasks pertaining to the administration of personnel, to the sale of products and to the purchase of primary materials and machines, to the determination of production costs, etc., it does not follow naturally that the specialized services function as they do in the real framework of the modern capitalist factory. The requirements of planning, coordination, and information do not necessarily create a determined social order. This order is instituted by virtue of a social activity. From this viewpoint, it is essential to grasp how the bureaucracy creates its order. The more activities are fragmented, services diversified, specialized and partitioned, the more numerous the structural levels and the delegations of authority at each level, the more co-ordination and control sectors multiply because of this dispersion. Thus, the bureaucracy prospers. The status of a bureaucrat is measured by the number of secretaries and employees who depend on him, by the number of telephones and machines at his service, more generally, by the authority allocated to his domain of organization. As soon as conditions allow, he seeks to expand his sphere of influence and to preserve it. This tendency engenders the formation of cliques and hidden wars between departments which is stimulated by their separation. Each department is quick to blame others for errors or delays in carrying out a program. But at the same time, since this tendency responds to a common aspiration, it works itself out. The more the bureaucrats multiply, the more complicated the system of personal dependence becomes, the more the bureaucracy as a whole becomes a rich and differentiated milieu. As this process intensifies, bureaucrats derive a growing sense of their own objectivity. The bureaucracy loves bureaucrats as much as bureaucrats love the bureaucracy.

The consequences of this situation can appear paradoxical. Weber is right in claiming that the capitalist enterprise offers bureaucracy a privileged framework for development, that the latter finds a motive for its organization in the process of economic rationalization: the need for rigorous calculability and of a predictability favoring the emergence of a special stratum of administrators and imposing on them a certain kind of structure. Yet, this stratum elaborates its conduct, actively intervenes in the structuring, and, located in historically created conditions, develops while following its own interests. Thus one can see what is behind the mask of law and impersonality, the proliferation of unproductive functions, the play of personal relations, and the folly of authority.

Our third example will provide a kind of counter proof, since it presents a bureaucracy which is apparently extremely different from what we have just seen: the mass party. It is not surprising that Weber also refers to this example. Weber did not fail to observe that there is a close connection between the party and state bureaucracy since he had witnessed the emergence of a state bureaucracy in Russia under the Communist Party. Yet, one wonders why this did not lead him to revise his definition of bureaucratic organization. Actually it is not sufficient to claim that the mass party is led by a body of "professionals" in order to associate them with state functionaries or with managers. Most of Weber's criteria do not apply to them. In the first place, if one considers the organization of the party, it becomes obvious that the bureaucracy is not only an organ for executing and transmitting orders: the management becomes part of the Politbureau or a general secretary emerges from the bureaucracy. It matters little that an individual or a handful of individuals holds all real power. They have obtained it only by rising through the hierarchy of the party and keep it only because they are supported by a stratum of bureaucrats who direct party activities according to their directives, justify their decisions and apply them, while ousting all opposition. If this stratum falls apart, the power of the leaders dissipates. In the second place, the functions of bureaucrats are well fixed by rules, but they do not form a whole as in the structure of a state administration or an enterprise. There are no strict rules regulating the passage from one position to another; there is no hierarchy of salaries. The bureaucrats do not enjoy a special, officially defined status distinguishing them from the rank and file. Access to the highest positions does not depend on technical knowledge linked to a profession, and if the principle of nominating leaders by the main organs is recognized, it coexists with a principle of election, since these organs themselves are assemblies composed of delegates elected by the rank and file. Finally, it is not even necessary to be remunerated by the party in order to have an important central function in the hierarchy. This particular characteristic of the party bureaucracy follows from the position that it occupies in society as a whole. Its function is not defined by the division of labor. Rather, it is an institution based on voluntary participation which attempts to influence power-either to participate in it, or to capture it by rallying a mass of individuals around a program of demands. That a group of professionals is formed in the party in the process of coordinating its activities changes nothing in the formal definition and ascribes to this sector characteristics apparently very different from those found in industrial enterprises.

If so, how can one speak of the mass party as a bureaucratic institution? This question leads us closer to what we have sought to formulate since the beginning of our analysis: what is the social nature of the bureaucracy? If we characterize mass parties as bureaucratic institutions, it is not because we can define the parties by criteria equally applicable to industrial enterprises. Things are more complicated. In the party, we distinguish a specific sector where functions are hierarchical by virtue of participation in power; where decisions are taken in the absence of any control from below, where respon-sibilities are distributed in an authoritarian way, where organizational discipline detracts from the free examination of decisions, where a conti-nuity of roles, actions and persons is institutionalized, thus making the ruling minority practically permanent. In other words, in the party bureau-cracy appears as the antithesis of democracy. But this does not make much sense until we understand how the bureaucratic organization is constituted. Its genesis is all the more comprehensible when it does not immediately depend on economic conditions. As previously mentioned, the party is based on voluntary participation motivated by an ideological agreement on a program. This entails no particular form of Organization. The technical organizational requirement comes about only when the party attracts large masses. But the coordination of the activities of small, local sections, of assuring the best propaganda, of properly managing the assets gathered among the militants, does not necessitate any specific social milieu. It is as a result of choice that this milieu turns out to be bureaucratic. Choice here need not mean that individuals deliberately decide to create a bureaucratic organization. It only means that a certain behavior becomes predominant, with certain requirements coming to take absolute precedence, others fading. Since the party adherence is a function of voluntary participation based on the shared acceptance of some ideas, it would seem to follow that the maintenance of this participation and agreement is essential to the life of the organization. Since the party claims to articulate a collective will, and presents itself as a locus of cooperation, it would seem to lose its raison d'tre if it used coercion with its members. Furthermore, formally it could not do so since the members are not dependent on the party for their livelihood. Yet, the party must operate within society as a whole as a coherent force, maintaining continuity of action, permanently binding those who participate in it, and finding a structure which guarantees its unity, independently of the uncertain participation of its militants.

Now, if the existence of the mass party generates this alternative, bureaucracy comes about by giving the latter considerations absolute primacy over the former and it does so in a way that makes its existence increasingly more necessary and its choices irreversible. From the very beginning, bureaucrats come into being as those whose work safeguards the party's existence and unity, while their activity in the party makes them indispensable. But this activity is peculiar. This becomes clear as soon as one compares it with the activity of ordinary militants: it is based on the very institution. It is what is usually called an organization activity. But the term is imprecise because it hides essential features: that it is always a question of directing the militants' work in a way that reinforces the party's existence and power. The organization's fundamental aspect is the multiplication of party organs: the more cells and sections there are, the more the life of the institution is differentiated, the more is its power materialized, the more the leaders appointed to be in charge of coordinating each sector. Thus, the efficiency of bureaucratic work is measured by the leaders' ability to preserve and extend the field of activity that they organize. This measurement, however, can be formulated in objective communicable terms if one considers only the formal aspect of the bureaucrat's activity. This is what gives rise to the fetishism of the agenda at party meetings, festivals or commemorations. This is why what is called activism-a feverish and vain agitation~has become routine. The number and diversity of the ceremonies from which the institution derives its daily justification goes hand in hand with the proliferation of bureaucrats. If they are entirely at the party's service, they become professionals, although they need not be that in order to act as such. It is only necessary that their activity be precisely specified, that their aim be mainly party preservation and that it be carried out according to the leaders' instructions, which makes it seem as a form of employment. On the whole, bureaucracy is this milieu for which the party structure is both necessary, sacred, and irremovable. But this milieu generates its own structure: in identifying with the goals justifying the party's existence, it makes the party-to paraphrase Marx-its private property: it sees itself as necessary, sacred and irremovable. The defense of the party is the bureaucracy's self-defense. But this implies a particular interpretation of the party's goals which results in the distortion of its original vocation. In fact, the party cannot intervene directly in the social struggle as it should according to its principles, nor can it be the locus of ideological discussion without running the risk of self-transformation or even self-destruction. Thus, the bureaucratic group feels threatened as soon as a principle of change is introduced in the party: it is naturally conservative. This conservatism inspires all inter-bureaucratic relations: the cult of authority, the will to control all activities, the value of prestige around the functions of responsibility, etc. All these are too well known traits to require further elaboration, In the last analysis, the bureaucracy's behavior has its logic. The party, in fact, is not a purely artificial organism, born out of ideological motivations. It exists as a mass organization within society as a whole. Not only does it seek power, but presently it penetrates, in various degrees, all sectors of society. This penetration assures it the allegiance of an important part of its militants who are employed in services where the party controls recruitment, either directly, or through a friendly union. Although it can appear as an incomplete bureaucracy if seen as an isolated institution, the party reveals certain material determinations of bureaucratic stability, when considered within society as a whole.

Of course, the examples which have been chosen and purposely borrowed from Weber present common traits. Most of all, however, they allow us to deal with the phenomenon in a certain way. In our eyes, the bureaucracy is a group which makes a certain mode of organization prevail, develops under certain conditions, expands along with certain states of the economy and technology only by virtue of a social activity. To attempt to grasp bureaucracy without focusing on a type of specific behavior is condemned to failure from the very beginning. Bureaucracy exists only through bureaucrats and their common aim to form a milieu apart from those whom they dominate, to participate in socialized power, and to interdefine each other in a hierarchy which guarantees them either material status or prestige.

To stress the phenomena of social behavior is not to reduce bureaucracy to a sum of similar actions. The activity of the isolated individual is unintelligible: it becomes meaningful only when placed in the context of a group. In fact, the bureaucracy comes about in an immediate socialization of activities and behavior. Here the group is not a category of activity or of socio-economic status; it is a concrete milieu where each draws his own identity. It is here that we can locate the link between bureaucracy and mass institutions. It is in ministries, unions, parties and industrial enterprises that the bureaucracy finds its adequate form because of the structural unity, the interconnection of the tasks, the number of jobs, the proximity of men within each sector, the perspective offered by a growing institutional development, the volume of capital engaged, etc. All of this defines a field of social power. It follows that the bureaucrats' identification with their enterprises is a natural mediation in consciousness whereby a group acquires its own identity. But this identification must not conceal the fact that in reality the bureaucracy does not have its destiny strictly defined by the technical structure of the mass institution. It also makes its own destiny. As the agent of a particular stratification, it multiplies positions and services, partitions various activities, generates artificial controls and coordinations, and reduces an ever growing mass of workers into merely mechanical functions in order to exercise its authority at every level.

Bureaucracy or Class

At this point, we can examine the thesis that the bureaucracy is a class. Undoubtedly, there is a ruling class in the USSR. Those who persist in denying it do so by reiterating quotations from Marx according to which the abolition of private property entails the disappearance of the ruling class, without seeing that at a deeper level a class opposition has been reintroduced in the relations of production. Here, the ownership of the means of production is no longer decisive. What determines the proletariat as an exploited class is its exclusion from the administration of production and its reduction to merely mechanical functions.

What determines the position of a ruling class facing the proletariat is the fact that all decisions concerning economic life (i.e., concerning the volume and distribution of investments, wages, intensity and duration of labor, etc), are made by a particular social stratum. What is relevant here is not to discuss the class nature of the USSR, but to emphasize that bureaucracy cannot be seen as a class without analyzing its dynamics within the context of traditional capitalist society and the mass institutions where bureaucracies develop. To merely define it there as a parasitical organ, or as a simple economic category, is to overlook ho'," through its specific behavior, it creates a power base , and how it uses circumstances to consolidate and grow. On the other hand, to recognize its historicity and to establish the horizons of its activity is to locate a world which it has made in its image and where it is the ruling class. In the last analysis, the genesis of the bureaucracy in Russia is intelligible only if it is related to the social type which, in different forms, obtains in all modern countries.

But this observation concerning the conditions leading to the formation of a ruling class after the Russian revolution applies only to a special case where the bureaucracy has built its power through a specifically social activity. If it is claimed that today this class is what it is only because of its function in production, planning and the nationalization which guarantees its material basis, then it becomes difficult to claim that it results from a political bureaucracy whose earlier versions were not concerned with the extraction of surplus value within the context of modern industry, but with the concentration of authority in the hands of a ruling minority, the exclusion of the masses from decision-making and from the information pertinent to these decisions, the hierarchization of functions and the differentiation of wages. the rigorous division of competence's; in short, the scientific organization of inequality such that it becomes the principle of a new form of class oppression. Certainly, the party bureaucracy has not artificially created a whole new world. Yet, it would be inadequate to simply say that it has been served by circumstance. The new type of class domination was prepared by the destruction of the political and economic powers of the old owners, the state's taking over large sectors of production, the existence of an already concentrated industry with a modern administration, and the example of large industrial capitalist countries with a growing fusion of capital and the state. But this domination forced its way through only with a party which, by means of ideology, terror, and privilege, melted elements torn from all the classes of the old Russian society into the same mould.

It is inadequate, however, to point out the existence of a privileged class in the USSR, or even to examine its own genesis, in order to comprehend what bureaucracy actually is within the whole society that it dominates. An analysis limited to exploitation within relations of production altogether misses the nature of the bureaucratic class. Such an analysis would locate the privileged strata. But the factory managers and the planners are not the only members of the ruling class and all those who are privileged are not necessarily part of these groups. As in the industrial enterprise, a mere foreman, as opposed to an engineer, can be considered a bureaucrat because he has authority and he identifies with management against workers, Similarly, on a social level, some union or political functionaries can be considered members of the bureaucracy while some technicians, although earning higher salaries, are not members of the ruling class and do not share their values or lifestyle. The social nature of the bureaucracy cannot be deduced from its economic function. In order to be understood, it must be observed. In the absence of an observation, the question dealt with here prevents a schematic conception of history. Undoubtedly, in the USSR, as in Western countries, there is more than one class facing the industrial and agricultural proletariat. The bureaucracy is not composed either by the ensemble of the working class nor simply by some thousands or tens of thousands of leaders supported by the political police: one can only define it by pointing to the solidarity which unites its members and crystalizes them in the exercise of domination.

It is possible, however, to indicate certain traits of this class both by examining its constitution as well as by extrapolating from the testimonies of observers, or of political leaders aware of the difficulties that the regime must confront. Here two remarks are in order. First of all, the bureaucracy involves a mode of social participation different from that of the bourgeoisie. Bureaucrats do not derive private power from a professional activity which allows them to develop as a ruling class. They do not have a common interest which could generate a power to manage society in their name. They are immediately members of their class, and their personal attributes are a function of this connection: they are what they are only by virtue of their dependence from the state power which grounds and maintains the social hierarchy, i.e., political power and economic power are merged within the bureaucratic class. To participate in the appropriation of surplus value for them is the same thing as participating in the system of domination. What this means is that the bureaucracy is the privileged terrain of totalitarianism, i.e., of a regime where all social activities are measured by the same criterion of validity dictated by state power. Here pluralism of systems of behavior and of values immediately constitutes a menace not only to the ruling minority but to the ruling class itself whose integration depends entirely on its submission to the established power. Secondly, in spite of the reinforced tendency to make a single authority prevail at all levels, as already indicated, the bureaucracy cannot avoid conflicts which not only contrapose groups against each other, but also contrapose bureaucracies against each other. If the above is correct, bureaucracies exist full-fledged within mass institutions: in parties, unions, in various branches of production and various cultural sectors.In each of these contexts they attempt to grow and monopolize an increasing part of social capital in order to expand in as broad a field as possible. There is no pre-established harmony within the bureaucracy, and the unity of the class does not 'naturally' prevail: it involves a constant activity of unification. The rivalry of bureaucratic apparatuses reinforced by the struggle of inter-bureaucratic cliques is only managed by the intervention of a political principle at all the levels of social life. But the party which applies this principle is itself the broadest and most complete bureaucracy. If class unity is inconceivable without it since its mediation "politicizes" all of society so that the state tends to merge with civil society, its presence and its natural tendency to control and subordinate everything to its own power generates the sharpest tension within the ruling class. Thus, the bureaucratic system is unceasingly torn by internal conflicts, certainly different but not any less dreadful than those typical of bourgeois regimes.

To maintain that the bureaucracy is the ruling class in the USSR does not settle the question of its status in large industrialized Western nations. From one viewpoint, the formation of a bureaucratic class seems to be an extension of bureaucratic organizations: they blossom within mass institutions because technological developments make human activities increasingly more interdependent and impose a socialization of administrative tasks parallel to that of production. From another viewpoint, this class requires such a political integration and subordination to state power that it cannot operate without instituting a system of total domination. Yet, these two viewpoints are not incompatible; they allow us to see bureaucracies as a type of social behavior whose success or failure is not preordained but is a function of a complex of historical conditions. Bureaucratic organizations have an affinity for regimes where the definitive elimination of private property assures the broadest possible development and their integration within a new class structure.

Similarly, rooted in bourgeois society and fettered in their development by their natural conservatism, as well as by the profits they derive from the established mode of production, they prove incapable of doing more than invading bourgeois society, i.e., incapable of transforming the system of power. In other words, nothing warrants the claim that, in the absence of a radical social upheaval which would sweep away old regimes (as happened in Russia by workers' and peasants' revolution, and in the peoples' democracies by war), bureaucratic organizations would naturally overcome their division and become integrated within a new state apparatus as parts of a ruling class. Furthermore, bureaucracies exhibit an indeterminacy which is the source of the difficulties encountered by theory. The bureaucracy is not a class as long as it is not the ruling class, and when it becomes so, it remains essentially dependent on a political activity of unification.

To maintain that bureaucrats are already a class within all of society, would mean that they are distinguishable because of their particular interests, values, or lifestyle. Actually, they are different only in terms of their aggregation and by how they gain their status as members of a collectivity. Surely, this trait is important. The interrelations of bureaucrats within each institution correspond to a specific social model and outline a new global structure. But so long as this structure is not realized, the bureaucracy does not constitute a separate world: bourgeois society assimilates it. It is inadequate to point out that high state functionaries are members of administrative councils, or that important groups derive part of their income from the stocks that they own, since this phenomenon of embourgeoisification is comparable to a similar phenomenon of aristocratization of the bourgeoisie, who, during certain epochs, rushed to buy land and nobility titles. What is important is that the difference in the appropriation of wealth is not linked to production relations, while in the context of society as a whole the various bureaucracies split along traditional lines thus remaining heterogeneous and unaware of their identity-at least in the absence of a social crisis. Moreover, polycentrism, which is part of the essence of bureaucracies meant to crystalize into particular institutions prevents the development of class unity.

From another viewpoint, the bureaucracy retains a principle of indeterminacy even when this unity is attained: it does not exist apart from a social form of power. It is not an economic category but comes about by participating in a system of domination. Thus, there is a great temptation to deny that the bureaucracy is a class where it is seen to rule or, in specific social contexts, where it multiplies within bourgeois societies. If, on the contrary, it is claimed that it is a ruling class in the USSR, there is a tendency to neglect or underemphasize its basic constitution, the change in the function of the political in bureaucratic society, the heterogeneity of organizations, the intra-bureaucratic battles, and the differences of integration of the various strata within the class. Most of all, this class could be seen as a general model in the process of realization throughout, as if bourgeois society must naturally turn into a bureaucratic society because of capital concentration. Economic rationalization and bureaucratization are then associated, and the latter is seen as the adequate expression of the former, forgetting that rationalization obtains within a regime based on exploitation and that bureaucratization is part of a system of domination. By stressing the phenomenon of bureaucratic parasitism, it is possible to ignore that the bureaucracy simultaneously penetrates social life and poses itself as an end: it responds to technical needs but also subordinates them to power imperatives.

The study of bureaucracy, and the discussion that it calls forth, become fruitful only if these simplifications are rejected. Then the true questions can be asked, and advances toward their solution can be made on the condition that the following principles are observed: (I) Attention must be paid to the various bureaucracies instead of immediately swallowing up this image in a concept which can then be handled with such an ease that it deprives bureaucracy of all content; (2) Bureaucracy must be seen as a social formation, as a system of meaningful behavior, and not merely as a system of formal organization. This implies a historical definition of the phenomenon as a human enterprise with its own goals; (3) Special emphasis must be placed on the relations of the bureaucracy with other social strata and particularly among various bureaucratic groups within a given institution; (4) From the social nature of the bureaucracy (its sociality) no deduction should be made concerning a future based on a whole series of historical conditions which are extensions of established structures and events; (5) The question concerning the class nature of bureaucracy must be posed. The answer must avoid a comparison between the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy. There must be a description of the specific participation of bureaucracy in society as a whole, along with the connection of its political, economic, and cultural determinations instead of relying on an a priori definition (having alleged universal significance whereas it is actually an abstraction from the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie) of the essential and the accidental features of a class; (6) In studying a particular bureaucracy, the self-image of top bureaucrats must not be uncritically accepted. The whole bureaucratic milieu must be considered in order to define the bureaucratic mentality and behavior, by relying on the workers who are most directly affected by the bureaucrats and who, as a result, cannot be easily misled: those people whom the bureaucrats dominate.4

Postscript (1970)

The above text deals with a theme which seems distant from present concerns. For young readers, who are often the ones most engaged in political struggle, this distance is even greater, since they cannot remember the proper context. Those today who are between twenty and thirty years old, have not experienced the overwhelming influence of the Communist Party during Stalin's life. The 1953 workers' insurrection in East Berlin, for some, the first to shake up the image of socialism as it existed in the popular democracies, Krushchev's de-Stalinization begun at the Twentieth Congress, the Hungarian and Polish uprisings-these are merely part of one's personal pre-history, unable to enter into lived experience, thus permitting one to assimilate them. These young people do not remember how progressive intellectuals rallied around the Stalinist banner, returning for the audacity of an independent gesture a redoubled fidelity-a time when the Left was almost entirely limited to Trotskyists, some branches growing into three or four tiny "groupuscles," or when the Communists labelled the Trotskyists fascists, treating them accordingly when they had the chance, with the result that the leftist press did not give them even the slightest mention.

Does this mean that the 1950s can awaken only the interest of the historian and that what we wrote twelve or twenty years ago has only documentary value? Does it mean that, in order to comprehend the present and to attenspt to set the landmarks of change, it is necessary to look at Czechoslovakia rather than to Hungary, to study Brezhnev's last speech rather than Krushchev's Report, to challenge the Sartre who supports La Cause du Peuple rather than the one who, in 1952, gave an apology for Communist politics in France?

The questions posed at that time have not become obsolete and, in spite of changes which occasionally modify the practice and mentality of social actors, or the interpretation of ideologies, a considerable part of the historical context remains, along with the same choices and conflicts.

The distinction between what constitutes the present and the past, of what belongs to new horizons and what is lost in the distance is subtler than we are tempted to believe when considering only the generation gap or in pointing to some major signs of change-which can effectively designate the novelty of a conjuncture while hiding the continuity of the traits of a socio-historical structure. The past is not really past until it ceases to haunt us and until we have become free to rediscover it out of curiosity. But so long as the images and the words continue to fill our thoughts and excite our passions, at a distance from men and events that we have not experienced, they fully participate in the present, whether they serve to destroy, or whether we need them to preserve the framework of our life.

Thus, perhaps Bolshevism, or its Trotskyist variant, and the history of the Russian revolution no longer have any 'real' efficacy. Maybe they only provide fighting symbols for leftist militants whose goals escape them, or an identification to an imaginary community of revolutionaries, in the absence of which their opposition to the regimes in power disappears. Maybe the concept of revolution itself now passes through unprecedented paths. Maybe the USSR Communist leaders themselves need not only Stalin's ghost, but the Bolshevik legend as well, in order to successfully carry out the prosaic tasks, impossible to enumerate, of a new ruling class. What is certain is that today, the glorification of heroes and the repetition of old speeches, always accompany action and mobilize faith.

After twenty years the sources of inspiration have not spoiled. At least for a fraction of the new generations in Western societies, they are much more alive than for their elders. And in Eastern countries, the same references support both the opposition as well as the politics of the masters of power. It follows that the temptation to dissipate certain illusions by examining the great revolutionary politics of the past, to reveal what has been hidden (most often to protect its imitation) is even more necessary in the present than when they had such a great importance for those of us in Socialisme ou Barbarie. I discovered how Trotsky, who for so long we considered the guarantor of the revolutionary attitude, combined the fetishism of the party, the fetishism of the state's 'socialist bases,' and the repression of worker oppositions. Thus, we speak for a tiny number. The circle has expanded and has also intensified the equivocal nature of militancy where the will for emancipation joins the narrow subjection to tradition and the taste for the sacred. Of course, the critique of Bolshevism and Trotskyism has gained ground: the documents of the Workers' Opposition in Russia are better known, we can read Voline, Archinov and Pannekoek while the Kronstadt revolt sometimes has the value of an archetype. But it is too easy to believe that it is enough to substitute a 'good' tradition for a 'bad' one. Too often we are satisfied with changing the symbols without renouncing the authority imputed to the pure image of a founder. Even those who see how the party separates itself from the exploited strata, thus creating the kernel of a new social formation, end up by transferring to the class as such the sacredness hitherto invested in an institution or in men. Thus, questions which emerged when there were militants in the Communist Party, and which burst their system of beliefs, are suddenly extinguished under this new certitude that evil is intrinsic to organizations, while obstinately refusing to look for the conditions of their genesis in the history of the proletariat.

Thought could well free itself of certain images. What prevents it is the relationship we entertain with the representation of the past. It is the mythic function which we force it to play in order to assure ourselves of a truth already given which will not betray us, in order to finally exorcise the indetermination which is reborn ceaselessly in our living history.

In vain one relies on the movement which separates us from our old beliefs. Of course, we have managed to destroy some illusions. But the soil on which these illusions grew nourishes other germs. When we taste the bitter ecstasy of overturning our first theses, it is perhaps then that we remain the most captive of their principles. In any case, so many desires are invested on the political level that the progress of knowledge displaces its own boundaries instead of suppressing them, and each time new doors open before us, we must assume that elsewhere others are closed.

We can easily see limits in others. We are struck by their inability before a troublesome event to draw the inevitable conclusions that we have long since reached. Thus, only recently there were the militant Communist intellectuals, indignant at the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia. For once, they condemned USSR policies and even labdled them imperialist. But it was to denounce a "tragic error" and to proclaim that a socialist state cannot act like a great power, without disavowing its principles. Their audacity was great. They rose against a hitherto unchallengeable authority. They exposed themselves to exclusion from their party. Yet, they never asked themselves whether it makes any sense to speak of socialism in the case of a state that oppresses its neighbors on economic, political, military, and cultural levels. They defended the "democratic" demands of Czech Communists and they criticized the governing group in the USSR, along with their servile managers in the other countries. They did so, however, only in order to oppose liberalism to authoritarianism, innovative methods to conservatism, as if the conflicts were not rooted in social relations and the political police terror was an accidental trait of the workers' state-the effect of a bad interpretation of revolutionary strategy or, even better, the sign of the ambitions of an intolerant clique. They deplored an error, but were quick to limit it to the case of Czechoslovakia. These ardent defenders of national communism, who still applaud the entrance of Russian tanks into Budapest, shamelessly maintain that the Hungarian insurrection was the work of reactionaries and American agents. Besides, while condemning Moscow, has it not been pointed out by others that opposition to the USSR carries the germs of counter-revolution? flow could they explain that a regime of popular democracy was able to last twenty years almost entirely withdrawn from exchange with capitalist countries and fused into the socialist bloc while preserving a bourgeoisie so strong as to endanger it at the leaders' first error? While supporting Dubcek, they were worrying about the consequences of reforms. They based all their arguments on the defense of soesalism, whileb they saw present everywhere under Brezhnev, Novotny, Dubcek or Husak. The Counter-revolution was seen sprouting everywhere so that they would not dare take a step in one direction without immediately beating a retreat. But one should also consider the position of certain non-party leftists: they also surrounded themselves with strange hesitations. The Czechs' taste for liberty raises their suspicion. What in bourgeois society they consider the most precious acquisition-however fragile, insufficient, and falsified in practice-they are ready to brand as a sign of corruption in Czechoslovakia. They themselves evoke anti-socialist forces, forgetting that they do not believe in the reality of socialism of the peoples' democracies. Thus, they remain caught in the representations which they thought they had discarded. So powerful and so widespread is the idea that the world has been divided into two camps since the Russian revolution, that they take it up again, in spite of all they have learned about exploitation and oppression in the USSR. They seemed to be certain of the fact that the abolition of private property ends in the fusion of Capital and State. But then they mechanically repeated that all that American imperialism profits from is reactionary, and that relations between East and West ultimately decide the revolutionary significance of an event. Thus the whole casuistry elaborated by Sartre and other progressive intellectuals at the time of the Hungarian insurrection has not lost its effectiveness. Its terms are disjointed, the interpreters are ideologically displaced, but the essence of the old position is preserved, the captive imaginary has not really been released.

Undoubtedly, it is difficult to discover in one's own mind the forces which draw it backwards. At least with time I have acquired a certain power, and if I still conceal a part of what guides my judgments, I feel less disarmed before old writings. It is useless to pretend a modesty which has no place when an author must stand aside before the questions of knowledge; the essays which I have written after I left the Trotskyist party are, in my opinion, better equipped to explain the phenomenon of bureaucracy than most of the analyses presently circulating under the label of the Revolution. What is interesting about them is that they were guided by the desire to apply to the labor movement or to the forces which claim to be part of it, the principles of analysis that Marxism had elaborated in the critique of bourgeois society. To be sure, this was not the result of an intellectual decision. It was the experience of militancy, lasting several years, that taught me to scrutinize the strange logic whereby a group (weak, numerically and, because of the inefficiency of its actions, relatively free of political and economic constraints), reintroduced the rules, practices, and inter-personal relations typical of the organizations which they wished to fight, reweaving the same kind of social fabric, cultivating the principles of frag-menting sectors of activity, segregating information, making its existence an end in itself and finally, presenting a cloudy account closed to reflection. Such an experience indicates some of the reasons why Trotskyism, in spite of all its critiques against Communist Parties, did not really succeed in distinguishing itself from them. Although it formulated different objectives in its program and it insisted on the decisive function of mass mobilizations, the social relations that it instituted were ordered according to a similar model. This was best shown in its inability to confront the essential question of a sociological definition of Stalinism, i.e., of inquiring into its social basis. At best, Trotskyists reproduced Lenin's account of the degeneration of social democracy in terms of the emergence of a labor aristocracy. Ordinarily, they stuck to the pure and simple denunciation of leading groups judged opportunist or incompetent, and associated their prestige to the Russian revolution, in the conviction that the isolation of the socialist state left the revolutionary enterprise in shambles, thus favoring the temporary advent of a bureaucratic caste. But their failure was symbolic, for the same conceptions ultimately pervaded all the analyses of the non- Stalinist Marxist Left. Of course, this Left distinguished itself from the Trotskyists on many issues, beginning with their insistence on remaining in the immediate vicinity of the Communist Party. But this Left was Trotskyist in its ignorance, by virtue of its double conviction that party policies were explainable in terms of methodological errors or in terms of a deformed representation of the revolutionary task, and that these policies were the result of unexpected "accidents" after the October revolution, i.e., disturbances in the 'normal' development of socialism.

It is not by chance that, in a polemic with Sartre, I developed an argument which, although it was seen as "Trotskyist," was largely directed against Trotskyism. I discovered that progressives and Trotskyists could not help but meet as soon as they eliminated some social phenomena from Marx's critique. Marx had stressed the divergence between ideology and praxis. Moreover, he knew how to do a critique of economic, political, religious, or philosophical ideologies as a privileged means of unveiling contradictions operating at the level of praxis. For the progressives and Trotskyists. this route was lost as soon as what they were dealing with was no longer the bourgeois class or the Western capitalist system. They limited their critique of Communist Parties and of the social strata from which they drew their force to the level of ideas. They attacked these ideas head-on as if they were without depth, self-sufficient, and did not occlude social relations. Yet, Marx distinguished historical from sociological analysis. His study of capitalism, so rich in references to events, focused on the specific logic of a system and on the articulation of oppositions which develop once the division of capital and labor is carried out on a large scale. Aware of the need to describe the capitalists' actions, the correctives they needed, the resistances that they awakened, and thus to outline certain sequences of an empirical genesis, he nevertheless sought to decipher in apparently contingent facts the signs of a necessity which was not the conscious product of peoples' activities, but was imposed by their ignorance and often even at the cost of their immediate interests. Our epigones, on the other hand, cling to the level of historical development. When analyzing the USSR, they can only grasp the chain of events invoking the consequences of the civil war, the revolutionary defeats in Europe, or the capitalist blockade. It would have been scandalous for them to admit that the course followed by the past revolutionary regime was inevitable (a limited hypothesis having only heuristic value) and that the social system that emerged had properties which had to be studied in themselves. Furthermore, the powerlessness to detach themselves from an explanation in terms of events coincided with the powerlessness to discover, beneath the representations and institutional forms, the social relations which support them. Convinced that state ownership of the means of production and the institution of the plan were the result of the revolution, they located in them the bases of socialism without ever asking how these institutions modified the relations established in the process of production, their real function in the socio-economic system, and the oppositions in which they were embedded.

No doubt, we would not have been able to base the critique of workers' organizations (emerging from our experience in a small and militant party) and their concomitant mode of representation (i.e., to measure the reversal of the Marxist problematic) if we had not simultaneous]y learned to recognize the USSR-thanks to Castoriadis' enlightening studies of the traits of a bureaucratic capitalism. The two analyses bolstered each other. But with ideas, it is advisable to move beyond historical descriptions. What is important is that knowledge of a bureaucratic phenomenon involves reflection on the social conditions which give rise to it. As long as these conditions remained hidden and we naively accepted the norms of our milieu, we were unable to give free reign to our questions. We continue to believe that an analysis of the USSR will be fruitful only if it is connected to an analysis of the organizations of the labor movement in Western countries and of their mode of insertion in the capitalist system -just as an analysis of revolutionary undertakings at the turn of the century (in particular, Bolshevism), assumes that we examine the divorce of practice and ideology in these organizations. However, as legitimate as it may seem, the critical movement in our earlier essays today seems to suffer from the obstinate prejudice of remaining in the strict framework of the Marxist interpretation. Fidelity turns into equivocation when it looks for pregiven answers to new questions.

Since we are only interested in fixing the stages and limits of our analysis of bureaucracy, it should be noted that it was conducted in such a way as to leave intact the image of the proletariat as a revolutionary class-as the carrier of universal historical goals. When we saw in the USSR the existence of a ruling class whose power was based on collective ownership of the means of production, believing that the whole economic system was ordered in such a way as to maintain the division between a mass of mere "doers" and a minority monopolizing managerial tasks, we assumed-without even making any explicit hypothesis-that the new class antagonism reproduced the contradiction denounced by Marx in his examination of bourgeois society. We substituted the bureaucracy for the bourgeoisie, although it had come about through a different process. At any rate, the proletariat's position remained unchanged. The only difference was that now it was in a position to discover the true nature of its goals, until then concealed under the necessity of the struggle against private property. Only now could it recognize the basis of socialism in the workers' administration of enterprises and collectivities. We imagined that in contemporary bourgeois societies the process of bureaucratization, which was becoming increasingly evident in spite of the maintenance of old forms of ownership, created for the working class an analogous consciousness of its goals-a consciousness that would not fail to operate during periods of crisis when labor Organizations would be forced to openly uphold the capitalist system. In other words, we assumed that the world proletariat had reached a stage in which the task that Marx assigned it could be carried out. When we attacked the development of bureaucracy in the West as well as in the East, we considered the trans-formations in the industrial mode of production-the concentration of enterprises, the rationalization of tasks due to technological change, and the class struggle, the growing intricacy of productive and organizational functions - as affecting only the structure of the ruling class. Finally, our analysis of the genesis of bureaucracy in the organization of the working class and the institutionalization of its forms of resistance, did not challenge but, on the contrary, made even more evident, the proletariat's vocation to install a society freed from all domination. We believed that one needed a trial of alienation, even in the process of emancipation, for the critique of all alienations to be carried out.

In retrospect it seems that we lacked audacity. We were afraid to admit that the transformation of the mode of social domination could involve a profound modification of the antagonistic terms described by Marx and, consequently, would call for a revision of his model. Even when considering the economic sphere we would have had to inquire into the changes affecting the nature of social labor.

Similarly, the process of bureaucratization results in a tendency towards homogenization of models of action, social relations, and norms. Formerly this tendency was limited to workers' labor within large industry. At present this tendency has expanded to strata of technicians, planning agents, and beyond. Not only has it extended to state administrations on which the productive apparatus depends, production of services and to large scientific laboratories, but also into domains which would seem naturally not amenable to such assimilation-public health, education, juridical institutions, etc. At the same time, the relation of workers to the enterprise has been modified. This relation can no longer be encapsulated in the clauses of the contract analyzed by Marx, but has expanded to encompass a network of obligations covering the workers' social life, e.g., through institutions of social security, housing, education, and leisure. Moreover, the evolution of technology and the rationalization of tasks has the consequence of changing the proportion of skilled and unskilled labor in industry, the productive tasks in the old sense of the term, and organizational tasks. In examining these phenomena, it is futile to maintain that the proletarianization of society spreads, according to the schema outlined by Marx, for the mass of men separated from the means of production do not resemble the image that he had of them. Ultimately, those factors resulting in heterogeneity are no less powerful than the forces of resistance. In short, it is no longer possible to mix together in the same, simple social stratum the most dispossessed, the most exploited and the most frustrated in their creativity. The last are precisely those in whom the capacitiy of knowledge and of intervention in the milieu of labor is most stimulated by their training and the quality of their tasks. But they do not suffer the most from exploitation, which remains the lot of the factory workers, nor do they fail to benefit, sometimes substantially, from the growth of revenues. As for the most dispossessed, those who presently perform unskilled labor, they are not the most exploited in the sense that it is not from their production that capital extracts the maximum surplus value that it needs to reproduce itself. It does not follow from this that the working class has been erased: the specificity of blue collar labor remains, along with the division of manual and mental labor, in spite of modifications-especially in the latter. Nevertheless, one should not reestablish the classic antagonism between technicians and professionals, on one side, and administrators and technocrats on the other. This opposition surely exists, but it does not imply, as Marx believed, a class which is excluded from the process of socialization instituted by capitalism: a class condemned to discover itself as alien to bourgeois society, a class which is not a class, witnessing in its very existence-when it escapes the status of an economic category from which it receives its definition from outside-its vocation for communism.

With the expansion of bureaucracy, several contradictions converge: between leaders and led, between the strata which receive only scraps from economic growth and the strata which ceaselessly increase the size of their advantages, and between a minority in control of the means of knowledge and information, the production and diffusion of representations, and the masses who, in spite of their formation and their increasing importance, are deprived. In addition to these contradictions in the labor process, there is another one, which contraposes collectivities in all sectors of social life and culture against rules which determine behavior in every minor detail and plugs it into the planned circuits of giant organizations. But this opposition spreads in several directions. It mobilizes various modes of Opposition. One of these takes place within the system and is the result of bureaucratic impotence to satisfy recognized needs that are even intensified by the multi-plication of organizational apparatuses. Another mode of opposition translates the desire for collective control of resources while a third places the fringes of the Population-essentially youth-in a position of deviance, makes them into outcasts, tends to destroy symbolic references without which the relation to reality dissolves.

In considering the ambiguous characteristics of this revolt that strikes at the very heart of the system of domination by revealing the mechanisms which guarantee the combined functioning of exploitation, oppression, and ideology while at the same time shaking up all symbolic references to socialization, we can measure the distance which separates us from the world analyzed by Marx. In this world, the proletariat was the outsider and at the same time the carrier of productive forces-itself being the greatest productive force. Thus, it was designated as the revolutionary class.

Presently, the producer is not the outsider. It obtains, rather, in the rejection of the models and norms of industrial society. Strategies ordered according to realizable objectives cannot be based on conflicts between owners, means of production, and workers. Thus, it becomes impossible to make everything converge toward a single revolutionary focus to preserve the image of a society centered around the praxis of a class, to maintain, in paraphrasing Marx, that bureaucracy necessarily tends toward its own destruction by raising against itself as in a single man the mass of the dispossessed. The locations of conflicts are many and the revolutionary demand par excellence of collective self-management is gaining ground.

Undoubtedly, all of this applies primarily to Western capitalist societies, but it would be a mistake to imagine that the problems are posed in radically different terms in the popular democracies and in the USSR. Certain indications suggest that these problems are only masked by repression which comes down on any and every opposition. The force of this repression, the visible figure of power, has the effect of crystalizing revolutionary energies as soon as authority vacillates. The insurrections of East Berlin, Poland, Liungary. and Czechoslovakia provide ample evidence. Thus, one can expect in the USSR-in some unforesecable future-a crisis of the regime, whose consequences will have an unheard of impact in Eastern Europe as well as in the Western world. But this eventuality should not lead us to forget the complexity, and indeed the heterogeneity, of conflicts at work in modern industrial society-conflicts for which only the lazy imagination of the little heirs of Leninism can delight in foreseeing the solution in a "good" dictatorship of the proletariat.

A study of the peculiar traits of bureaucratic regimes where nothing remains of bourgeois institutions must inquire farther than I have done in order to discover where the critique of totalitarianism leads. It will not do to refer to the logic of bureaucratic organizations, the new mechanisms whereby the state tends to penetrate all the details of the productive process, in all the representations and relations between people in civil society and culture. Nor is it sufficient to recognize in the party the opposite of what it pretends to be-the pivot of a totalitarian integration. Nor can one point to a fundamental contradiction between control and parasitism. In light of this analysis, it is advisable to carry the critique into the home ground of Marxist theory.

An examination of the Russian regime challenges nothing less than the definition of social reality and, with it, the distinction between base and superstructure. Even if one notes that social relations are generated at the level of production, and that property relations are only their juridical expression-as Castoriadis has shown-one still remains too close to the Marxist problematic. What escapes us is what distinguishes bourgoeis society from bureaucratic society. To be sure, it is possible to point to a pertinent structural trait but it should not be forgotten that it alone cannot characterize it. The very definition of relations of production, reduced to the Opposition of means of production and labor power, remains abstract as long as it does not clarify what it deals with, as long as this relation remains purely within economic space. Rather, it must be acknowledged that it allows this space to come about, that it is at the source of a system of operations (specified in terms of production, exchange and distribution), which are in turn dependent on a specific institutional structure, where modes of power and representation are articulated according to various political and symbolic schemas. In a sense, Marx allows one to think with the concept of mode of production, of a structuring of the social field which locates various features of the economy, of the policy and of the system of representation, as well as their articulations. This structuring, however, assumes and does not generate the referents of the economy, politics, or the symbolic. Indeed, we need only consider the advent of capitalism to note the impact of extra-economic factors. Even when it is characterized by a particular order of economic Operations and regulated by specific mechanisms, the logic of a social system can only be grasped by connecting the network of relations under the triple heading of production, power, and representation. Seen in this fashion, it is certainly possible to distinguish between what comes from the base and what comes from the superstructure. However, this cannot be expressed in terms of the distinction between the economic and the political. It obtains on two levels: it acts on the level of representation where the function of imagination cannot be confused with that of symbols which establish the possibility of social communication and make up the shell of the economic-political field. Otherwise, how is it possible to indicate the originality of the modern bureaucratic system? Plow is it possible to escape the alternative of a bad sociology which sees in it either a variation of industrial Society, or a variation of an a-temporal formation such as Asiatic despotism? To move forward in the analysis, we must ask how, with the destruction of the bourgeois regime, are the articulations of a social field reproduced on all levels, how power relations, and the operations of production and representations combine according to a new model of socialization. If, unable to do so, we preserve, e.g., the classic Marxist conception of the state, or if we dismiss a priori the political or symbolic function, the traits of totalitarianism will always appear accidental.

Such an analysis would have at least one practical consequence. So long as we remain prisoner of the Marxist schema, all signs of oppression-no matter how quick we are to denounce them-turn out to have no Importance. Similarly, as we have noted, democratic demands do not constitute an object for sociological interpretation, if they are seen as expressions of the influence exercised by bourgeois regimes, or a reflection of a-temporal humanist values. A new examination of the social system would have to persuade us that with democracy we are in the midst of a fundamental process of socialization-if we can read beyond the forms to which it is attached in bourgeois regimes.

Lastly, it was by reexamining my views concerning the degeneration of the "workers" parties and unions that I became aware of a critique too faithful to the spirit of Marx. Without doubt it is important to observe the structural homology between "revolutionary" organizations and of the organization of the industrial system that they hope to destroy. Lenin's views in What Is to Be Done? bears witness, in an exemplary and explicit manner, to the transfer of norms from the industrial enterprise (the militarization of labor) to the model of the party. Yet, the problem is not exhausted by invoking the alienation which leads the exploited to reproduce in their own organization the constraints that they suffer in bourgeois society-or which leads them to divest themselves of their ability to direct their emancipation after having been dispossessed of the ability to direct their production. Nor is the problem exhausted by emphasizing the role of an intelligentsia quick to transform into power the superiority that knowledge gives them. These answers are not false, but they leave in darkness the mechanisms which determine the repetition. The adherence to models of authority and hierarchy, the belief in the knowledge of the leader, the tenacious fidelity to a tradition, the attachment to symbols, the fetishism of the institution, do not point only to the inability of the working class to discover its own identity. These phenomena take on the investment of energy-both individual and collective-in the service of a socialization about which Marxists wish to know nothing, although they are actually very good at mobilizing it. Like bourgeois regimes, the bureaucratic regime would crumble if it did not nourish identifications which conceal servitude and antagonisms, and which keep the large majority under the authority of the leaders. By wanting to ignore the import of the 'imaginary,' one only exposes oneself (under the good colors of revolutionary optimism-itself mystifying and mystified) to the maintenance of an exercise in repetition. These remarks on bureaucracy are far from attaining their goal. My hope is that the reader, like myself, finds here the inspiration to continue.

Notes

I. This article originally appeared in Arguments, no. 17 (1960); reprinted in Elements dune Critique de la Bureaucratie (Paris: Droz, 1971). The "Postscript" was written in 1970.English translation by Jean L. Cohen.

2. Karl Marx, The Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 47.

3. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (International Publishers, ~969), p. 121. Emphasis added.

4. The analysis of bureaucracy by the Socialisme ou Barbarie group differs from that of Trotsky and Burhoam as follows (this section originally appeared in Arguments, no.4l]une-September, 1957]): "The ideas of Trotsky and Burnham differ qualitatively from those of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group. Trotsky always saw the bureaucracy as a parasitic transitory formation typical of a particular historical juncture-as a fungus grown on the socialist organism that a new revolutionary wave would readily sweep away. He always rejected the idea that it represented a social class and a new social type. The existence of the bureaucracy did not alter the nature of productive relations: the Russian proletariat simply had to chase it away as one does with a bad manager, since there already were socialist relations. Socialisme ou Barbarie denounced Trotsky's formalism by showing the absurdity of a socialist society where the producers are expropriated from all managerial tasks. It substituted the idea of a bureaucratic society for that of a bureaucracy in society, i.e., a society which produced and reproduced itself by separating the producing masses from a social stratum which collectively expropriated surplus value. Such a bureaucratic society was made possible by the rigorous integration of all bureaucratic strata by the state apparatus. Furthermore, Socialisme ou Barbarie also pointed to the function of the official ideology-borrowed from Marxism-Leninism-in the interests of the bureaucracy. Finally, Socialiame ou Barbarie claimed that Trotsky's inability to analyze the bureaucratic phenomenon was linked to his general notion of revolutionary struggle (the absolute pre-eminence of the party) and of socialist society (state centralization) which inadvertently facilitated the advent of a new society of exploitation.

Burnham's merit, on the other hand, is to have pointed out the separation in modern capitalism between production and ownership, and the formation of a new type of society. But this is where the analogy with Socialisme on Barbarie ends since the latter rejects Burnham on the following points: (1) Burnham considers the factory managers as the members of the new class and the real masters of society. He fails to see the changes in the phenomenon of management which now comes to engulf society as a whole. He merely substitutes the managers for the private capitalists without realizing that the process which places power within the context of the enterprise and in the hands of managers tends to dispossess every sector of its autonomy and subordinate everything to the state apparatus.

Furthermore, he fails to see that the bureaucratic mode of social domination generates new relations between its members whose power no longer flows from their private economic activity. They are able to pose themselves as a separate class by rigorously subordinating themselves to a control organ which guarantees a permanent integration through the police and ideology. Hence, Burnham's acrobatics in trying to explain two otherwise inexplicable phenomena: in the USSR the bureaucracy is staffed by a stratum of political functionaries and the factory mangers, whatever their lisiluence, do not hold power. (2) Burnham believes that the rise of industrial managers is a result of their scientific knowledge, against which the mass of producers are seen as ignorant. Accordingly, the managers are indispensable and without them the factory could not function.

Against this view, Socialise ou Barbarie claims that (a) the continuous socialization of work has exploded the managers' old tasks since now the working of the enterprise is guaranteed at all levels by collective organs, and that the existence of a separate managerial apparatus answers the social need of exploitation rather than technological requirements,- (Is) constant conflicts tear factory organization apart, with the social hierarchy destroying cooperation and generating an irreducible irrationality; (c) managers confront these basically insurmountable conflicts daily in the attempt to facilitate cooperation and initiative among producers while keeping them in coercion, isolation and inertia. In other words, Socialisme ou Barbarie explains the existence of bureaucracy in terms of the class struggle and not as a function of technological progress. (3) Against Burnham, Socialisme ou Barbarie sees the contradictions of earlier capitalism to have been transposed and even intensified within the bureaucratic society. Actually, the advent of the bureaucracy is the result of a fundamental historical tendency described by Marx as "the socialization of society." The bureaucracy seeks to coordinate all of the activities that it deals with, have all individuals participate in the social totality by formally denying all class distinctions, while radically contradicting this tendency by its very existence, its system of oppression, its hierarchy, and its fragmentation. It itself pays for this contradiction with an unrelenting internal struggle. This double movement is the reason why bureaucracy exists only in the horizon of communism, and generates the need for its own destruction. In other words, for Socialisme ou Barbarie bureaucracy is a total social phenomenon which is intelligible only in the perspective of modern history and class struggle. The theory of bureaucracy is the theory of revolution."

What are the problems of bureaucracy and bureaucratic alienation

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Although the concept of bureaucracy has fallen into the common domain of political sociology, theory of history, and public opinion, and has been sanctified to the success it has today, it has nevertheless remained so imprecise that it is still meaningful to question the identity of the phenomena it claims to describe. At first one is astonished at the diversity or ambiguity of the responses. But this is only a first impression. Bureaucracy appears as a phenomenon that everyone talks about, feels and experiences, but which resists conceptualization. Thus, rather than immediately attempting to provide a new definition or description, we will measure the difficulties encountered by theory, assume that they have a meaning, and from the very beginning critically examine what both motivates and perpetuates these difficulti. The Problem of Bureaucracy
Already in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Marx draws attention to the specific nature of the social stratum in charge of the administration of public affairs. To corporations dedicated to particular activities and attached to particular interests, this stratum appears to represent a universal interest. We will follow the development of the theory of the state in Marx's later works, then in Lenin's Stale and Revolution, and its application to post-revolutionary Russian society by Trotsky, together with an examination of the role that the bureaucracy plays as a stratum inextricably bound to the structure of a class society. From this viewpoint, the bureaucracy is neither a class nor a stratum. It is a result of the division of society into classes and class struggles, since its function is to secure the acceptance of the rules of an order (an order undoubtedly connected with relations of production, but in need of being formulated in universal terms and maintained by force). Bureaucracy is "normally" at the service of a dominant class since the administration of public affairs within the framework of a given regime always assumes the preservation of its status. But since it is not simply a section of this class, when the balance of social forces permits it, it can run counter to some of its interests, thus acquiring a relative autonomy. The limits of power are always determined by the configuration of social relations. In short, bureaucracy is a special body in society because its function is such that it supports the established structure and its disappearance would mean the end of bourgeois domination. (Marx said that the Commune's first revolutionary measure was the suppression of the bureaucracy through the lowering of functionaries' salaries to that of the average worker.) Since it is not a key to social stratification, its role in the society is ascribed by the real historical agents-classes in struggle.

The viewpoint changes as soon as one observes the growth of the stratum devoted to administrative tasks in the various sectors of civil society. Thus, it is tempting to look for criteria defining a type of social organization that recognizes the similarities between the bureaucracies of the state, industry, party, unions, etc. Comparison encourages research into the conditions for the emergence of bureaucracies in order to define a type which would pull together various characteristics.

From this viewpoint, very close to Weber's thesis, the bureaucracy appears again as one particular mode of organization corresponding to a more or less extended sector within society. In other words, the social dynamic doesn't seem to be affected by the development of bureaucracies. The mode of production, class relations and political regimes can be studied without reference to a phenomenon designating only a certain type of organization.

A qualitative change in the theory of bureaucracy takes place when it is used to refer to a new class considered to be the dominant class in one or several countries, or even seen as destined to displace the bourgeoisie all over the world. This is suggested by the evolution of the Russian regime after the rise of Stalin, with the disappearance of the old proprietors and the liquidation of the organs of workers' power along with a considerable extension of the Communist Party bureaucracy and the state, which took over the direct administration of society. Similarly, social transformations connected with the development of monopolistic concentration in large industrial societies (notably in the United States) also generate reflection on the development of a bureaucratic class. This necessitates a change in the theory since, because of its role in economic and cultural life, the bureaucracy is now understood as a stratum able to displace the traditional representatives of the bourgeoisie, thus monopolizing power.

Finally, we believe that a completely different conceptualization is required if the phenomenon of bureaucratization is seen as a progressive erosion of the old distinctions linked to private property. Bureaucratization here refers to a process seeking to impose a homogeneous social form on all levels of work-at the managerial as well as the executive level-such that the general stability of employment, hierarchy of salaries and functions promotion rules, division of responsibilities and structure of authority, result in the creation of a single highly differentiated ladder of socio-economic statuses. This last thesis refers to a social dynamic in bureaucracy, and lends it a goal of its own, the realization of which engenders an upheaval of all of society's traditional structures. If this is what the problem of bureaucracy boils down to, it is important to examine each of these theses and explore their contradictions.

Allienation of bureaucracy means a bureaucracy that over the years have grown big and insensitive to the needs of the citizens and the civil society, it becomes corrupt, far from acting as the servant of the citizens. The larger the bureaucracy the more rigid, inflexible, insensitive and corrupt it tends to become. Instead of serving the citizens, they manipulate the elected ministers or allow cartels to form to exploit the citizen's.

Bureaucratic Alienation Alienation is a problem within bureaucracies as they tend to dehumanize those they serve through their impersonal operation.

Bureaucratic Inefficiency and Ritualism The problem of inefficiency is captured in the concept of red tape. Bureaucratic ritualism signifies a preoccupation with rules and regulations to the point of thwarting an organization's goals.

Bureaucratic Inertia Bureaucratic inertia refers to the tendency of bureaucratic organizations to perpetuate themselves. An example from the federal government is used to illustrate.

Source(s):

Readt at http://www.generation-online.org/h/fplef…


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[Nov 12, 2016] Socialism or Barbarism

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Socialism or Barbarism is a book about globalism, U.S. socialism and capitalist systems by Hungarian Marxist philosopher and Professor Emeritus István Mészáros. It was published in 2001 and is composed of two parts, the first part is an expanded version of an essay of the same title originally published in 2000[1]; the second part consists of an interview conducted in 1998.[2]

Mészáros' is convinced that the future of socialism will be decided in the U.S.A. and sees its main obstacle to be the globalization of Keynesian liberal-capitalism. He reckons that the 21st century will coincide with the third stage of capitalism which Mészáros characterizes as the barbarous global competition for domination between a plurality of free-market capitalist systems.[3] His examination of the history of American capitalism predicts several eminent ramifications to this struggle: imperialist driven territorial expansion in the Middle East, the continuation and increase of NATO aggression,[4] increased infrastructure weakening with major degradation in the quality of life for the lower class[5], and eventually a proxy war with China via U.S.A.'s defense treaties with Japan.[5]

Much of the book is devoted to applying Marx's nineteenth century theories to current events, such as the environment:

“ Marx was to some extent already aware of the "ecological problem," i.e. the problems of ecology under the rule of capital and the dangers implicit in it for human survival. In fact he was the first to conceptualize it. He talked about pollution, and he insisted that the logic of capital - which must pursue profit, in accordance with the dynamic of self-expansion and capital accumulation - cannot have any consideration for human values and even for human survival. [. . .] What you cannot find in Marx, of course, is an account of the utmost gravity of the situation facing us. For us the threat to human survival is a matter of immediacy.[6] ”

What Mészáros prescribes is a labor union socialist solution, specifically the syndicalist form of socialism that Samuel Gompers had abandoned when the AFL provided the a workforce for the U.S. involvement in World War I. He advocates a marxist form of socialism:

“ What is of primary importance is that under all conceivable varietties of the capital system surplus labor must be appropriated by a separate body superimposed on, and structurally dominating, labor. Here, as you can see, the fundamental category is surplus labor, and not surplus value, as people often erroneously assume. [. . .] In order to do away with the labor theory of value, you have to away with the extraction and allocation of surplus labor by an external body of any sort, be that political or economic. [. . .] In other words, we can only speak about socialism when the people are in control of their own activity and of the allocation of its fruits to their own ends.[7]

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