Since the release of the so-called “Twitter File”, in which Elon Musk claims to have gone too far with Twitter’s “awakened” admins before the acquisition, there has been a lively debate about exactly what Musk is trying to achieve. It’s been done.
His statements clearly indicate that he considers himself embroiled in some sort of culture war. as he tweeted Monday morningBut what does Twitter’s very public accusations against its former management have to do with its fight against the ‘woke mind virus’?
To understand how Musk perceives connections, see: Recent Tweets of Antonio Garcia Martinez, is a writer deeply involved in the world of right-leaning Silicon Valley founders. García Martínez describes projects like Class War Rebellion. Revenge against the pride of the capitalist class has awakened their company managers.
“What Elon is doing is an entrepreneurial rebellion against the establishment of a professional executive class that otherwise dominates everywhere (especially including large tech companies),” writes Garcia Martinez.
At first glance, this seems silly. Why should a billionaire who owns an entire company need to “rebel” against anything, let alone his own employees?To explain, Garcia Martinez cite a book As conservative political theorist James Burnham puts it: Management Revolution: What’s Happening in the World.
Burnham’s book, published in 1941, predicted that capitalism had reached its apocalypse. The power of the capitalist class soon declined and was replaced by the rise of the “manager class” — those who commanded industry and the complex running of the state. His examples of this new state were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Russia, which Burnham believed was rooted in a more efficient economic model than liberal capitalism. did.
Burnham’s prediction was wildly wrong in a way that casts serious doubts on the viability of his entire theory of the “management revolution.” But nonetheless, his notions of an inexplicable managerial class have been immensely influential in the right-leaning technological world and in the broader conservative intellectual universe.
Leading technology venture capitalist Marc Andreessen called Burnham’s work “the best way to explain the current social and political fabric.” Julius Klein, a leading intellectual of conservative policy, wrote that Burnham “enjoys something of a revival”. Because “David Brooks, Ross Dasat, Matthew Continetti and others have recently pointed out that his work is essential to understanding the current political moment.”
So while Burnham’s study was grossly flawed, it’s still worth taking seriously. In many ways, he is the progenitor of the right’s current cultural obsession with so-called “awakened administrators” and the godfather of the approach to politics that Musk has spent his $44 billion to advance. .
Who is James Burnham? What is Management Revolution?
Born in 1905, Burnham began his political life as a Marxist of Trotskyist persuasion, but he defiantly broke with this tradition and became a staunch supporter of the American Right. After Burnham’s death in 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan declared that he was “principally responsible for this century’s great intellectual odyssey away from totalitarian nationalism and toward the rising doctrine of liberty. one of his.
management revolutionis one of Burnham’s earliest and most influential works, showing signs of both his youthful Marxism and his later turn to anti-Communist conservatism. It begins with the very Marxist idea that history is fundamentally the story of conflicts between social groups struggling to control society’s wealth and means of production.
“It is a historical law, with the obvious exceptions known so far, that all social and economic groups of all sizes strive to improve their relative positions in society with respect to power and privilege. is,” he writes.
Burnham also agreed with the Marxists that the capitalist class would inevitably lose the modern iteration of this struggle, but disagreed as to who would win. unorganized, it could not overthrow the capitalists as Marxist theory predicted. Instead, he argues, a new group was emerging: the manager class.
In Burnham’s definition, managers are those who are responsible for “the task of technical direction and coordination of the production process.” This does not mean technical experts such as chemists or architects, but the people who direct these technical experts. Or in government…administrators, commissioners, directors, etc. ”
The increasing strength of the managerial class is due to two factors in the modern economy: technological complexity and scope. The tasks required to manage the manufacture of something like a car require very specific technical knowledge, so the capitalist class (in this example, factory owners) cannot do everything themselves. Also, given the size of the car company’s consumer base, these tasks have to be performed on a large scale, so the owners will have to hire other people to manage the people doing the technical work. I have.
As a result, the capitalists unintentionally made themselves irrelevant. Managers actually control the means of production. Managers are theoretically employed by the capitalist class and may therefore obey their orders, but this is an unsustainable situation. Ultimately, those who actually control the means of production will seize power from those in name only. .
how does this happen? Mainly through the nationalization of key industries.
“An economic structure based on state ownership of production provides a framework for the social control of managers,” he writes. “This is clearly that’s all An economic structure that can strengthen the social control of managers. ”
Burnham argues that given the complexity and scale of modern economic challenges, it would simply be more efficient for the state to take over from individual capitalists. The United States hadn’t made the leap, but the rise of the post-New Deal executive state proved it was headed there.
Hence the “managerial revolution”: the inevitable decline of capitalist democracy and the rise of a new social regime defined by managerial control of the economy using the “unlimited state” as a means.
How James Burnham Explains Elon Musk and the Right-Wing Obsession
At first glance, Barnum’s theory is not a particularly promising candidate for explaining today’s world.
virtually all management revolution Major predictions such as the collapse of capitalism, the victory of the Axis powers in World War II, and the superior efficiency of state-owned enterprises have been proven wrong. Since the neoliberal revolution of the 1970s and his 80s and the accompanying surge in inequality, the power of the capitalist class has become more and more entrenched. The rise of technology capitalism, with firms founded by individual innovators and technical experts, seems to disprove his theory that capitalists themselves are incapable of carrying out large-scale technical and administrative tasks.
But in reality, Burnham’s early thought has undergone a recent renaissance, including in unexpected areas such as Silicon Valley’s right-wing giants and allied political thinkers. why?
The answer, simply put, is the culture wars. The new Burnhamite on the right revived his theory of managerial positions as distinct social classes. In their view, they are most responsible for imposing the malevolent ideology of “Awakening” on the American people.
Malcolm Keyne wrote in the City Journal, a publication of the right-wing Manhattan Institute, that “Awakened managers want to impose a new political and social order.” It has achieved what it never set out to do: it serves as an all-encompassing, flexible, and ruthless ideology that can justify almost any act of institutional subversion and excess.”
Modern Burnhams have come to see their most basic enemy not as the Democratic Party, but as a set of institutions they believe are utterly captured by this ideology. It constitutes what the home and anti-democratic political theorist Curtis Yervin called the “cathedral.” So the true power of America he is the elite, using his cultural hegemony to impose far-left values on everyone else. (Not coincidentally, Yarvin is heavily influenced by Barnum.)
The brutal reality of economic inequality poses some difficulty to this theory. In America today, the billionaire class has far more power to shape society than random college professors and most celebrities. Right-wing billionaires can do things that 99.999% of Americans would never think of, like buying Twitter, shutting down Gawker, and funding Senate campaigns. It doesn’t seem reasonable to describe the Harvard offices or Twitter’s Trust and Safety team as real places of societal power when there are people out there.
Barnum’s theory helps modern right angles make this circle a right angle. If power is increasingly moving away from capitalists and to the managers they employ, it’s hard to believe that even the richest people in the country are victims of the “awakening virus” that infects middle and senior management. Totally coherent. This is how we get the strange spectacle of people like Musk lamenting the alleged censorship carried out by their own company. They see their staff not as subordinates whose behavior is an internal matter, but as rivals to be defeated in a struggle for power.
“In Burnham’s formulation, this new managerial class replaces the bourgeoisie who owned the previous business, and may even capitalize as an elite ruling class,” writes García Martínez. “Most of the ‘labor’ scandals in the tech industry are the qualified middle management class at odds with founders. ”
Burnham in 1941 would not have agreed with this analysis. In his view, a management revolution could never happen as long as capitalists still owned the companies they worked for.
“In a capitalist society, the power of the administrator is… thwarted and limited by the capitalist and capitalist economic relations,” he writes. “A manager is never safe. He can be fired at any time by someone or some group with capitalist ownership.”
The real lesson to be learned from Musk owning Twitter is that this is still true today.