The Managerial Clique

The political philosopher James Burnham is usually credited with coining the phrase managerial state. In his seminal work, The Managerial Revolution, he theorized about the future of world capitalism. He was a former communist, like a lot of intellectuals of the period, so he thought about social organization from that perspective. He was mostly wrong about the evolution of capitalism, but he did describe an emerging phenomenon that is with us today. That is the semi-permanent managerial class that runs American society.

Paleocons would later pick up on the phrase and the concept to critique both the conventional Right, as well as Progressives. Sam Francis, Joe Sobran, Paul Gottfried and others would describe the managerial elite as an amorphous collection of bureaucrats, politicians and academics that occupies the important institutions. This class maintains power by not only controlling the institutions, but also public morality. Gottfried described it as a theocratic religion, that uses accusations of impiety as a shield against challenges.

Like most theorists of his age, Burnham had an understanding of capitalism shaped by the materialist philosophy of Marx. Therefore, he could not conceive of an economic model evolving as a weapon used by a new class that formed out of the bourgeoisie. The paleocons understood this as they lived it. Their friends and family were often members of this new class. Paul Gottfried was a college professor, for example. They could see how a hybrid form of capitalism was used by this new class to maintain power in America.

Even the paleocons missed an important aspect of this new class. It’s something rooted in the nature of man and that is the extreme provincialism in the managerial elites. Despite their claims to worldliness and cosmopolitan affectations, these are people with the worldview of burghers. They may pronounce foreign words with a foreign accent, but their knowledge of anything outside their tiny bureaucratic universe is limited. With few exceptions, theirs is a world of small cliques conspiring against others for bits of turf.

We see this in the unfolding conspiracy within the FBI and the DOJ to subvert the last election. Taken in total, the FBI portion of the conspiracy looks like something you would see in high school, where the nerds plotted some caper against the jocks. Like teenagers, they did most of their plotting via text message. This is not the work of sophisticated actors operating on the world stage. This is the work of a small collection of clerks and functionaries. It’s petty provincialism directed at an outsider viewed as a threat.

This last week, this pettiness was underscored by the revelation that Rod Rosenstein was plotting against Trump. It could be a caper run by the neocon loons that are now infiltrating the New York Times and Washington Post. More likely, given the source is FBI memos about meetings with Rosenstein, this is the small group of FBI plotters stabbing at a former ally for personal reasons. Andrew McCabe was more concerned with someone he viewed as a rival in his little world, than he was with the over all plot to subvert Trump.

This is the nature of the managerial revolt we see going on, as well as the resistance to the Trump agenda within Washington. It is not a collection of policy professionals with deep philosophical differences with the White House. It’s pods of overgrown college students throwing tantrums about petty turf disputes and hurt feelings. Look at the nature of the push back against declassifying documents. It’s cliques of coevals operating from purely personal motives. For most of these people, this is just another playground dispute.

That’s the nature of the managerial class now. When you start to look at the people in these various cliques, you see that they often share more than just a cultural and class background. They grew up with one another, went to the same prep schools and worked with one another for years. Once one member of the clique lands an important position in the bureaucracy, he sets about recruiting his friends, classmates and neighbors to join his team. It turns out that the Dunbar number applies to the managerial class too.

The crisis we see in Western liberal democracy may be rooted in this feature of the managerial class. The bureaucratic government of Diocletian was like a super tanker plodding along through the sea. It was hard to steer, but even harder to stop. It’s strength was in the sheer force of its size. The modern bureaucracy has evolved not to defend the secular leadership through sheer force. Rather, it has evolved to serve the narrow interests of the bourgeoisie class who populate it, as a way to defend their interests.

Like all things that evolve within a democratic framework, the time preference of this class is very high. The plotters within the FBI, for example, were more concerned about jostling for status within their clique, than what could happen after the election. Judging by the text exchanges between Strzok and Page, it appears these two had the time preference of the typical ghetto dweller. None of these people thought much about what would come next or what could happen if their emotional needs were not properly satisfied.

Since the dawn of human settlement, the point of the state has been to maintain the power and position of the people in charge by protecting the interests of the people. The king gets to be king, and all that comes with it, by defending his people from threats. This requires a low time preference as the king expects to be king tomorrow and maybe even have his heirs sit on the throne when he is gone. Even a republican form of governance is designed to serve the interests of the property holders, who obviously have long term interests.

The managerial class that has subsumed western public institutions, exists to expand and protect the interest of these petty cliques, at the expense of the public. It’s not just parasitic, in terms of undermining the middle and working classes. It is parasitic within its own institutions. Since what matters is status within the clique, which has a transactional relationship within the institution it occupies. No one within the clique can think long term about the good of the institution. All they can do is borrow the language of the institution.

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ChrisZ
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ChrisZ

The comparison with student cliques seems right. In the 1990s I regarded the Clinton administration’s obsession with “healthcare” as primarily an extension of the pre-law rivalry with pre-med.

TBoone
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TBoone

Government is just people. But a particular type of people. As you so well describe. Ugh. Most of these arrogant pissants are the people we who enjoy actually getting useful things done choose to ignore whilst mentally stuffing in lockers. Not because we are bullies but because that keeps them from getting in the way.

The clique explanation is quite apt/useful. Sadly when said cliques have actual power & auth-or-i-Tay…. their little dramas have real consequences for useful people….. Well written & powerful as always…..

Clayton Barnett
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One of your best, Z. This is book material.

Member

Yes. I don’t think the aspect of studying elite behavior as reflective of parochial interests has been covered as of yet. The public choice economists told us that bureaucrats would form group interests, and Conquest told us that to understand them requires considering them as if run by a cabal of their enemies, but no one prepared us to deal with them as they really are: a bunch of sniping junior high school girls with synchronized menstrual cycles.

Dutch
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Dutch

On some sort of objective level, the Kavavaugh-Ford fiasco has devolved into levels of juvenile ridiculousness unworthy of a John Hughes movie. These are the days people will giggle about, someday. I hope. If this sort of behavior continues to become normalized, we are in so much trouble.

Never automatically "believe"
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Never automatically "believe"

So correct. And on a macro level, this describes the whole left these days. Females (of which I am one — and kind of ashamed to say so at the moment) have taken control of the left, resulting in a small and petty way of looking at things, relating to others, and expressing themselves. I was a member of the left for a long time. It was nothing like this. I am convinced that it is because of the mostly-female control. Have worked in both civil service and K-12 education, and both are exactly as you have described — the… Read more »

Apex Predator
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Apex Predator

+1 on that. This is a very succinct explanation and crystal clear.

I would only add the caveat that these “high school dramas” while petty in nature, DO also serve the goals of the actual globalist overlords as well. The useful idiots are, well, useful…

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James LePore

What Z is talking about here is the closest we are going to come to understanding the existential problem that the Dirt People/Heritage Americans face. Mencken said that the worst government was the moral one, which Z echoes when he points out that the managerial class uses accusations of impiety as a shield against challenges. Hence Kavanaugh and many others before him and to come. The amorphous blob of elitists that Z describes is going to destroy us if we let it. Here is its current face: https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/09/17/kavanaugh-accuser-christine-ford-attorney-debra-katz-newday-sot.cnn

Member

In other words, bureaucrats.

Severian
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I always wondered why the term “mandarins” never caught on to describe these people. I think Sobran (?) tried it once, but it didn’t take. It’s a perfect descriptor — the whole point of the Imperial exam system, writing those perfect eight-legged essays on a sentence from the Four Classics, is to make sure everyone 100% shares the values and outlook of the existing coterie of palace eunuchs, since everyone will be working, living, and eating together for the next 50 years.

Member

I’m new to Managerial State theory so apologies in advance if this is old news or obvious (or more likely just wrong). I get that as clique size increases unity of interest weakens. But it seems that separate cliques would interlock in a Venn Diagram sort of way and that interests of cliques would align to produce sizeable factions If stable over time this alignment might create a ruling faction. That ruling faction might have an interest in the maintenance of the whole enterprise. The question would be whether that interest could be sustained in the face of requirements that… Read more »

Dutch
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Dutch

To the extent that Z’s podcast description of the Dems as the wymyn faction versus the mi-nor-itee faction, with the occasional white male such as Chuck Schumer the odd one out, is true, I say “bring it on”. Neither the wymyn nor the mi-nor-itees are likely willing to sacrifice for the other. Not to mention the gays versus the straights, or the trannies versus the gays, or the young versus the old. Popcorn time.

Member

Yep that was the result of Hillary’s defeat. She held it all together because, as was said at the time, with her victory every Democrat on the Inside would move up one notch. With her stunning loss, her core group of females all became hysterical , while the other cliques smelled blood.

At the same time Trump ousted the Republican insiders. But they seem to remain a more stable group and hence a greater threat to Trump. Who knows what will be left of the Democrats after their civil war…

Member

Yep, that’s about how it works in every large organization today. Everybody hates “bureaucracy” in principle and all of the obstacles it creates for them; yet everybody fiercely advocates for the preservation and expansion of the bureaucratic system, because it’s where they derive their own power and autonomy from. Arguing against the need for the 24-member Gimplestorp Steering Committee would imply that you should vacate your own position on the 38-member Rebbentwerk Leadership Committee. On and on it goes, the vast machine eventually absorbing and corrupting everyone with even a sliver of authority. I recall once at a meeting, a… Read more »

Member

Committees are beloved for their power to eliminate individual accountability. If everyone is to blame, no one is to blame.

Dutch
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Dutch

Yes, and DC is this lack of accountability writ large. That is why they absolutely refuse to stop redacting things, because exposure of the truth creates personal accountability. When one person there is held accountable, thousands more will start worrying.

Member

There are plenty of ways to dodge accountability. What’s unique about committees – and democracies in general – is that they provide a (small) quantum of authority with apparently zero accountability and negative consequences diffused over a much larger group and time period. This not only causes bad decisions, it corrupts the people on them. I like the analogy of a sailor drinking seawater. It temporarily satisfies his thirst, but afterward he must piss out more than he drank in the first place. Without a source of fresh water, this turns into a literal death spiral due to dehydration. Substitute… Read more »

Simon
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Simon

Just watch Yes Minister, an old BBC political comedy. Still relevant to today’s public sector troughers.

Joe H
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Joe H

Yes, Minister and the follow up Yes, Prime Minister are more realistic than any other political TV shows ever. The books are also great!

Member

In The Putin Interviews that Oliver Stone did he ask Putin about the Trump presidency and Putin’s response was close to, I’m paraphrasing ” America has a very large bureaucracy, it will be difficult for him” that was pretty much it. But somehow he did manage to convey something similar to what z-man just did.

I found the interviews and Putin interesting. Oliver Stone was pretty vacuous but that was to be expected

TBoone
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TBoone

Clearly the mandarin/bureau_clique has mutated repeatedly at a negative increasing rate.

WWII the services had to clear the rot from the command corps. They did reasonably well. But never to the full extent required. EX: The Naval code breakers at Hawaii that were doing near miraculous work ‘reading’ the Japanese Naval code were always under fire from the DC Naval group that wasn’t nearly as good…

How do we rid ourselves of these mediocre, petty tyrant, MandarinHigh school girls with guns and Author-i-Tay?

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

TB; Vast and rapid growth helped a great deal in clearing the rot. . Of course, Gen. Marshal still had to separate the wheat from the chaff of the small pre war US Army, so the process wasn’t automatic. It could still have been screwed up. The other key was ruthless removal of incompetents and sidelining of the merely ordinary. Growth created the slots that allowed the mid-wits to be shunted off to garrison command in some non-vital spot. This maintained some sense of equity for those who had toiled in obscurity for decades and who were not incompetent but… Read more »

Cerulean
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Cerulean

This essay really encapsulates the moment.

I appreciate the matter-of-fact reference to the obvious “unfolding conspiracy within the FBI and the DOJ to subvert the last election.”

A question: In historical perspective, is the current managerial clique thing just more of the same, or unique? If unique, how?

Cerulean
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Cerulean

I noticed this in Fabin-Forge’s comment upthread. it’s one answer to my question.

” The management structure of both sides of the uniparty collapsed in 2016. Which makes these times very interesting.”

dad29
Guest

By the way, Z, note how Burnham’s Managerial Class fits the Catholic Church’s Lavender Mafia. Sad, ain’a?

Moran ya Simba
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Moran ya Simba

You see the equivalent in academia and science; there questions of tenure, funding, promotion etc are more driven by cliques and fights for privilege than who does the better work to further the field. In some departments, whose subjects will not easily be manipulated, like math, are affected to one extent. The less precise the field gets, the more open this becomes because there is more room to mask fights that are about preference instead of sympathies, ideologies etc. 99.9% of the time, the people in the field, cannot themselves see that their understanding of ‘merit’ is not merit in… Read more »

Lester Fewer
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Lester Fewer

At the end of the opera “Nixon in China,” after the two egotists Mao and Nixon have hobbled off to bed, the last word goes to a pensive Chou En-lai, who asks himself, “I wonder how much of what we did/Was good?” Seems like the New Class is incapable of such reflection; if they even have any notion at all of “what is good?” it’s an idee recu — a mishmash of soupy leftist Goodthink, a blob of “change the world” pieties, unwittingly in service to the greater project, which is (((soft genocide))). One could almost bear a permanent Administrative… Read more »

Member

Most of the behavior of the managerial class and its acolytes can be explained by combing Tom Wolfe’s observation that human behavior is a competition for status and the reality that for most people human development – vertical and behavioral – ends in high school. Much of the #Resistance is just PMSing like teenage girls about a lower clique winning class president and homecoming king and queen over the rightful owners of those positions – the cool, popular elite clique. Hillary and Bernie supporters view the Deplorables as just that – deplorable. They are looked down on as dumber, less… Read more »

Member

One key difference is that the managerial elite were not the cool kids in high school. They were the losers who wanted to be the cool kids in high school. Not the nerds, who continue to get trampled on; not the football chads who have nice lives doing electrical work and the stacies who married them; not the brainiacs who all started their own companies or got scooped up by the DoD; not even the class clowns or the potheads who end up stuck with entry-level jobs. No, the managerial elite are the former preppies and goths; the weird foreign… Read more »

Member

The open, adolescent disdain expressed by the rulers for the ruled in what should be the grown up sphere of governance seems to be a particularly Modern Problem. Maybe it’s the fault of democracy. An elite that is sure of its righteousness would not behave this way. It’s usually just the nouveau riche who abuse the servants. This behavior shows the deep, painful and dangerous insecurity of the people in charge.

Never automatically "believe"
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Never automatically "believe"

In other words, their whole tantrum is a warning to the lower classes not to get uppity. It’s like they’re going “Sigh. Okay. We’ll straighten it out this once But don’t let it happen again — never again. ” And just to emphasize that, they’ll make it as uncomfortable as possible even for those of us only watching the attempted destruction of good people — not to mention a system of government. One of the main differences in the “in group” and the “out group,” it would seem, is that the “out group” does not want to exclude, upset, or… Read more »

Lester Fewer
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Lester Fewer

Boy howdy, even the well-worn ghost of the semi-saintly Uncle John Hughes finds your half-arsed attempt at snarking the Zman to be unworthy of his cut-pass.

That snoot of your’n is so long, well-used and curlicued, the landing-pad winds up somewhere purty-well south of Key West. Recall that when Stevens gave back-talk to Frost, he got put in the playpen; when he tried it with Hemingway, he got put straight on his backside.

Don’t presume to talk down to the Zman, snobbit. His Auckland is yer Oslo.

Lester Fewer
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Lester Fewer

For purposes of sheer intelligibility: the above comment was posted as a reply to some amateurish clown-douche who took a snotty and lame swipe at the host, evidently now deleted however.

Sic transit Gloria Al-Bundy.

sirlancelot
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sirlancelot

Okay, this is one of those threads where I know everyone’s speaking English but it still sounds like Chinese . Forgive me for bringing down the intellectual level a couple of notches, but as Z points out it’s amazing our government is run by such petty little factions. It’s always frustrating when the right takes the high road never pointing out the lefties childish behavior. The left has had great success painting the Right as slack-jawed rubes. And in true high school fashion nobody wants to be associated with the kids that get picked on. Never understood Americans fascination with… Read more »

Unwashed Mass
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Unwashed Mass

A clue perhaps, as I loath my teenage reminiscences in that institution: all bound to do this as all are imprintined from it in some of the most formidible socializing years, but the lack of any extention, growth, or achivement after the reiease from said institutions lock the reference forever in the mind.

Noted Underground
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Noted Underground

Bureaucracy will always be with us. That “Government Is The Problem” bit of Reagan’s worked fine as a bumpersticker but is shit as a political program.

We should be encouraging Our Guys and Gals with DD214s from Iraq and AfPak to use Veteran’s Preference to obtain positions in every state and federal agency, in all areas and at all levels, but especially HR.

Zigzagging one’s way through the boredom and pain of career civil service is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of racial survival.

Chiron
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Chiron

“It could be a caper run by the neocon loons that are now infiltrating the New York Times and Washington Post.“

What the Neocons wants? Trump has giving everything to Israel, nothing short of WWIII with Russia will satisfy them, I think is not that they don’t like Trump but don’t like the people who likes Trump.

Never automatically "believe"
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Never automatically "believe"

There’s a difference between neo-cons and globalists.

bob sykes
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bob sykes

Over at the Unz Review, Godfree Roberts has a long article commenting on the vast superiority of the Chinese leadership, managers and workers over their American competitors. http://www.unz.com/article/trade-war-iii/ He concludes that within a decade the 450 million urban Chinese will enjoy a quality of life and incomes higher than that of the average American. He also argues that because of the innate inferiority of American managers and workers (IQ, training, competence, reliability, creativity…), modern manufacturing cannot be repatriated to the US. We simply cannot do the work. Having taught engineering at a major research university for 35 years, and having… Read more »

TomA
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TomA

Most of the DOJ/FBI players in the spygate scandal are owned by the Clintons lock, stock, and barrel. All were compromised by corruption and extortion, and had no choice but to act at the behest of their masters. This was no Keystone cops caper either. It began in 2015 well before Trump won the nomination, it enlisted covert UK & Ausy uncover ops & EC surveillance, and involved dozens of senior Executive Branch bureaucrats committing overt felony criminal acts. This was and is a deadly serious Game of Thrones, not a high school pissing match.

Member

Yes, in other words we are essentially talking about a conspiracy, or a group of interlocking conspiracies.

Even though the people who are involved in the conspiracy do not see that they are in it because it is the medium they exist in, like a fish in water.