Imagine you are interviewing for a job and during the course of the initial interview you learn that the future boss is a big fan of F1 racing. This grabs your attention because you are also a fan of auto racing, especially Formula 1. You mention this to the interviewer who then tells you he is also a big racing fan. He jokes that he got the job because the big boss is a F1 fan. Eventually you get the job and find out that many of your coworkers are race fans, weekend gearheads and so on.
Now, an interest in motorsports has nothing to do with the work of the company or any of the jobs in the company, but the culture of the company, driven in large part by the big boss, has a strong connection with motorsports. Over time, even those with little interest in the hobby get interested because so many people at the company have a strong interest in the topic and talk about it often. As a result, the selection pressure favors gearheads and boils off those who were not gearheads.
This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Every company has a culture, even the largest corporations, and it usually stems from the founding stock of the company. A big part of mergers and acquisitions is to assimilate the acquired company into the culture of the purchasing company. In the case of a genuine merger, one culture eventually dominates the other. Truly merging two cultures is impossible unless they are so close that the differences are superficial.
Something like a company-wide interest in motorsports is a useful way of understanding the much deeper aspects of organizational culture. The sorts of people who into car racing are going to have a set of common personality traits. Race fans will tend to be more risk tolerant and more interested in problem solving. If the big boss was a woman into her church, the company culture would reflect the nature of women who are active in their church. That company would be more conservative.
The culture of an organization is ultimately about how the organism as a whole goes about solving the problems for which the organization was formed. In the case of a company, the primary challenge is profit, but every industry has peculiar challenges when it comes to holding down costs and maximizing sales. The culture of the company evolved to meet those challenges. Successful firms have evolved internal processes upon which it relies to solve these daily issues.
This is important in understanding the nature of a crisis. In business, there are good years and bad years, no matter how well run the firm. The business cycle is immutable, it seems, and it is often industry specific. The firms with a good company culture are built to ride these waves, minimizing losses on the down swing, and maximizing profits on the upswing. The not so well run firms face a crisis in the down years, struggling to hold on, but party like rock stars during the good times.
There are two types of crises. One is the normal challenges that face every organization regardless of its culture. The down times feel like a crisis to the well run business, but they have the tools to manage it, so it is a situational crisis. Getting through it is simply a matter of execution. For the firm lacking a culture prepared to address the down years, the crisis is structural. Their survival does not depend on their execution, because they lack the necessary tools. Instead, it relies on fortune.
Put another way, the crisis that truly threaten the existence of the firm is one with roots that go back to its origin. If in the case of the well-run company the nature of the business changes dramatically, it will face a genuine crisis for which it may not be equipped to solve. It then has a crisis with roots to its founding. The crisis that threatens the viability of an organization is always going to be one that started long before it was noticed and is a symptom of a systemic problem.
This is a useful way of thinking about how the managerial elite of the American empire is prepared for the future. The culture of the elite is, in many respects, a product of a bygone era in the empire. During the Cold War it was a bipolar world, but in reality, it was a unipolar world from the 1970’s until the end. The Soviets had turned conservative and were no longer a realistic ideological threat. The party was just holding onto power by minimizing risk. America was the center of the universe.
What this means is that for a few generations now, the system has been selecting for people who will serve an established system. In the early part of the 20th century, the system selected for creative people, risk takers and those willing to reconsider the old way of doing things. The old order was giving way to a new order. America was on the cusp of becoming a global empire and it needed talent at the top to help reorganize domestically and solve the challenges globally.
In the present crisis, the culture of the ruling class is lacking the tools to address the problems, but it also lacks the sort of people who will look outside the system. It has been selecting for highly conservative people, with respect to the culture of the managerial class, for generations now. It is why the system violently vomited up Donald Trump and continues to dry heave over the memory of him. The culture of the ruling class is built around adversity to change.
The old Hemingway line about bankruptcy is overused, but it reveals the truth about the dynamics of a collapse. In retrospect, the signs were all there, but the modes of thought at the time made it difficult to detect. The collapse of the Soviet Union is a great example of the Hemingway quote. It was happening a little at a time starting with Khrushchev and then happened all of a sudden under Gorbachev. The culture of the system prevented it from meeting the challenges of the age.
This may be what we are seeing today. The culture of the American ruling elite began to adapt to the unipolar world in the 1970’s. That is when the great outsource of the industrial base began as part of the financialization of the economy. It was formalized in the currency arrangements of the 1980’s and has remained static ever since. It is an old system built for an age that no longer exists. The crisis is the conflict between their view of the world and the reality of the world.
It is easy to see that America has a culture problem, but it is not what people think of when they hear the term. It is much deeper than the bourgeois degeneracy we see in the mass media. It is the structure of the ruling class. Their understanding of reality is rooted in a world that no longer exists. Its culture of problem solving is no longer compatible with present reality. Like the poorly run firm hoping to weather a downturn in the business cycle, they are counting on luck to save them.
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