Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Trap

I have just watched the first Adam Curtis film in the new series. As always, it is a curious mix of the interesting and the overblown. The signs on this one are ominous though as it seems to be leading to the 'democracies are really tyrannies' argument, something that obscures a few empirical facts (like the failure to abolish elections, imprison your opponents, murder your rivals, commit genocide, etc.). However, we must wait and see.

Tonight was about 'freedom' but was really an assault on managerialism which was linked to, I kid you not, The Cold War, Game Theory, Public Choice, Friedrich Hayek and R D Laing. Phew!

The film did hint at, though not carry through, a critique of cynical thinking that has leaped the barrier into full blown paranoia, which I see as the root of much conspiracy theory. I liked that but Curtis' picture of market theory is a caricature and his view of managerialism is flawed.

How I hate managerialism! It torments the life out of me and has made much working life miserable, stifling initiative and damaging what it is supposed to promote. But Curtis really doesn't do it justice. It didn't begin with game theory. What were Stalin's 5-year plans after all? They were number and target driven all right. And this points to an important fact. Managerialism has never been about liberation. Only its most optimistic advocates saw it as rooted in some form of liberty. It is about control and is a system of domination. Its roots are to be found on the left and right. It is in Taylorism, in Fabian technocracy, Stalinism, as well as some aspects of 'market' thought that Curtis picks up on. This is what Hayek was writing against, not advocating. It is what Orwell opposed. It is what Braverman wrote about, and libertarians of left and right railed against. This isn't a curious by-product of ideas that promised more liberty, but a systematic attempt to impose central control for whatever purpose. It is about centralised authority breaking the power of the autonomous.

Right target Adam, wrong analysis.


I posted this before reading Norm's exquisite parody. He clearly has psychic powers as he described the programme I watched without having seen it.


Madeleine Bunting liked the programme. I knew I had been too kind about it.

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