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December 08, 2005

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Tim

Obviously why the two most famous 'managerialists' Heath and Wilson went to a Public school - oh no, wait a minute...

Simstim

Your description of this "managerialist" class of leader seems a little contradictory in parts. First off, you say that managerialism includes the notion "that government can solve social problems," and that public schoolboys like TB and DC have "a confidence [that] they can achieve anything if they are in government." Yet you also say that the managerialist ex-public schoolboy is "brought up to believe that his first instinct must be the preservation of privilege and the existing order, and thus no change, only repetition."

Jeremy

Dude, every word of that was genius.

andrew duffin

I was almost ready to take this seriously until I got to the bit about Chris Evans not having seven friends.

Come on, now, really. It won't do.

Phil

"Our instinct is: “say something once, why say it again?”"

I can hear it now. "Our three priorities are: education. I tell a lie, actually we've only got one priority, and that's it. Any questions?"

Alex

This is genius.

Chris Williams

This seems about right to me, and I never even went to a grammar school. As for Wilson, the man was a technocrat, pure and simple. Thatch began as a scientist, but rather quickly re-invented herself as a lawyer.

Etonian technocrat Attlee? The world wars did strange things to many people. One effect was to turn out a lot more technocrats for a generation or two. They're dying now, and it's back to 1906. Bugger. Look at the collapse of economic history if you want another illustration of what's going on. In the words of Charlie Stross (of a Magnox): 'Nothing like this will ever be built again'.

As for social mobility, I'm not sure that state education has collapsed (worse than 1960s Sec Mods?). I'm rather more attached to the argument that the lower middle classes are very alive indeed to the fact that social mobility entails downward mobility. For them. So they want none of it, and vote accordingly. Daily Mail readers are reactionary for a reason.

dearieme

How far does your stereotyping spread? Any views on those schooled the madrassas of the Christian Buggerhood, for instance?

Shuggy

"But could a contributory factor be that a vacuous managerialism has conquered both government and companies?"

It's an interesting idea and I suspect it's a contributory factor of some significance. I've been struck by the way in which the public sector has imported pointless and vacuous management techniques from the private sector in recent years. There seems no escape from the vapid anodyne world of management-speak these days. Capitalism is going through a funny phase - it's creating a bloated bureaucracy of its own full of bullshitters in a way that Weber certainly didn't anticipate.

chris

Tim - things have changed since the Heath-Wilson era. In the last 30 years, we've had increaseing evidence that managerialism doesn't work. This is both empirical - the fact that increasing numbers of management and more management training has not significantly increased profit rates since the 60s in the UK or US - and theoretical - the work of Kahneman and Tversky and renewed interest in Austrian economics. These developments mean you need more confidence to be a managerialist these days, because you need to ignore more evidence of its inaequacies.
Simstim - there's no conflict between preservation of the existing order and seeking social improvements; viz, Disraeli.
Dearieme - I'm not stereotypying. I'm just speculating as to a tendency, which admits of loads of exceptions. We all know public schoolboys who lack self-confidence, and state school types who have way too much of it.

Simstim

"Running on the spot" as it were? However, given that the social order is, at least in part, something of a relative nature, any improvements in the economic/cultural/political position of the lower orders would mean a alteration of the social order as a whole. Unless, of course, they're either intentionally or unintentionally using "social improvement" as cover for reinforcing and enhancing the status quo (e.g. the Education White Paper).

chris

Possibly managerialism, as you define it, doesn't necessarily come more naturally to public schoolboys, but is recognised by them as a necessity, because the alternative is politics. Because once you get started with politics you can call into question the assumptions that underly the privilege.

In the 80s government cheerleaders worked quite hard to turn the term "politicisation" into a swear word - it hadn't been before. But in succeeding they eviscerated the polity so that even positive criticism of the status quo by meritocratic oiks is regarded as evidence of general unsoundness.

Jonathan

As democracy matures the masses get what the masses deserve. It's not a peculiarly British phenomenon...

"I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.
'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'"

know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.
'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'"

http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture-e.html


Gerard Daly

Hi Chris, I stumbled on your blog and was pleased to see that your views have not much changed since we were students at Corpus Christi together. I thought you might make it to becoming a senior government economic adviser a la Gavin Davies! But I can see that of those in our time at Oxford who had any talent are now in relative obscurity. I know this is not a forum to reminisce, but I just wanted to say "hi" and wish you all the best.

BTW r u still in touch with A Glyn?

Gerard

the-man-in-black

I think your definition of managerialism is a bit too wooly. Everyone likes to have a go at 'management bullshit'. But there is place for good management and good governance. Lets not throw out all vestiges of competent managers and management, eh?

For instance - we can dismiss the crap that folks like Charles Handy and Tom Peters comes out with, but what about Walter Deming and quality management systems? you can't put all these things in one pot.

The problem I see with TB and DC et al is that they wanna talk the talk about management but don't want to get down to the dirty business of proper effective work and doing things right. For me they are always trying to sound like they are 'doing the right things' rather than actually getting on and doing them.

I work in the public sector and we get lots of management bollocks pushed on us, but do you know what? its actually quite vacuous and can be pushed aside to get on with the real work.

John

What a load of absolute rubbish. Your stereotypes are inexcusable, misleading and inaccurate: take this from a state school pupil who's most intelligent, kind and clear-headed friends come from public schools.

Alistair Mackenzie

I think you're onto something - as a minor public school boy myself, I can agree that it tends to impart superficial confidence, although I seem to be immune to that.
I suspect the real effect is premature separation from your parents, particularly your Mother. It tends to stunt empathy and provide a veneer of confidence - a sociopath in other words.

I actually disagree with almost all of your specific points, though:
1) Cameron and Blair know sound bites are meaningless but accept them as the price to pay for pulling the wool over the eyes of the masses. It take a deep seated contempt to pull this off, the emptiness of the phrases is deliberate.
2) Cameron isn't trying to preserve very much - he's ideologically fairly extreme and wants to privatise education, the NHS in effect. He protects the extremely wealthy (his class). Again repetition is just part of the mask, the masses are stupid so I need to say this 1,000 times.
3) You despise middle class people just because ...? My experience is that decency is fairly class independent.

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