Man people have noted the similarities, as far as practical application, between 20th century fascism and modern managerialism. The starting place for the comparison is the marriage of corporate power and state power. Instead of harnessing the two in the name of socialism and nationalism, the two sides exist within the managerial state in the furtherance of technological and financial capitalism. The system is also decorated with the language of Western liberalism.
The important difference, of course, is that fascism was in response to the chaos of communist terror and liberal collapse. Managerialism, in contrast, is an American phenomenon that evolved in response to the limits of the political structure in the context of expansion and industrialization. The Constitution was written for a pre-industrial people. After the Civil War it was modified several times, but that just turned the fine balance into a set of irreconcilable contradictions.
What managerialism attempts to do in practice is apply extra-governmental solutions to problems either created by government or beyond the limits of government. The expert class in the other institutions create solutions to these problems. Often these solutions create new problems, which require other experts to solve. Of course, these solutions always require the permanent expansion of institutional power. Managerialism is a self-licking ice cream cone.
The most prominent example of this is the military-industrial complex, which is the clearest example of managerialism. The state is tasked with defense of society, which is why nations have militaries. These are the people trained specifically for the task of war and national defense. During the Second World War, the military relied heavily on private industry and this marriage has endured ever since. Together they seek new enemies to justify new expansion of the system.
During the Cold War, the politicians could always be relied upon to find an enemy for the military-industrial complex to use as a rallying point. When relations with the Soviets were civil, then it was some proxy war in the third world. For forty years there was always a reason to expand the military-industrial complex. Then the Cold War ended and the system needed new villains. A quarter century crusade against Islam has just wrapped up and the hunt for a new villain is underway.
Domestically, this public-private partnership is not so clean. Instead, the relationship is accidental and indirect. For example, the bum problem that has plagued every city in America since the 1980’s was not deliberate. The people who got the asylum system shut down did so for narrow reasons. The bum problem was totally unexpected, because they assumed the state would find a new solution. Instead, “homelessness” became a lucrative private enterprise with no solution.
We are about to see something similar with the new soft-on-crime policies promoted by left-wing politicians. Their motivations are ideological, not practical, but the practical consequences are creating a serious problem. American cities are being overrun by petty crimes like shoplifting and smash and grabs. Since these crimes are not prosecuted, the criminals have become brazen. These scenes are becoming a feature of social media and the local news.
Since this problem has been created by the state, there can be no state solution, so it is left to the private side to fashion a cure. Retailers are now calling on the internet retailers to crack down on the traffic in stolen goods. The thieves apparently put their goods on sites like eBay and Amazon. Here we have the public-private partnership coming up with a solution they created. The state actors get their ideological points and the private actors get to expand their control.
The public-private tyranny Americans are now experiencing is reflected in the mainstream political order. The modern Left, despite its pretensions, exists to create social problems for the managerial elite to solve. Conservatives, on the other hand, are the cheer squad for the private actors tasked with finding solutions. Note that both sides have abandoned economics and focus only on creating cultural mayhem (Left) and proffering technological solutions (Right).
This weird political dynamic is most obvious in libertarianism. In the middle of the last century, libertarians were indifferent to social issues. Their singular focus was on economics, specifically market economics. Today, libertarians like Nick Gillespie spend their days promoting free weed and thinking about what it would be like to wear something pretty under the leather jacket. What started out as an economic movement is now a carnival of weirdos promoting the managerial state.
This is the aspect of managerialism that has gone unnoticed. The whole point of rule by expert is to strip away politics in order to efficiently address the practical problems of human society. Just as libertarianism and conservatism have abandoned practical issues in favor of bizarre social fads, the managerial state is no longer interested in filling potholes and painting classroom walls. Instead, it obsesses over imaginary demons of its own creation.
This shift from practical issues to abstract issues coincides with a growing incompetence and inefficiency in the system. This is where you see a comparison between both fascism and communism. Both of those systems started with great efficiency and energy, but that quickly dissipated. Fascism, of course, was smashed in the war, but communism descended in a tragic comedy of bureaucratic bungling and political corruption, as we see with managerialism.
Just as historical comparisons have narrow limits, ideological comparisons fall apart when taken too far. Managerialism is not fascism and it is not communism, even though it shares practical attributes with both. Like both, however, it evolved for a time and place, one that no longer exists. Much of the chaos we see today is due to a frantic search for something to replace communism as the necessary foil. The system is destroying itself in the hunt for a reason to exist.
What all of this suggests is that we not only need a new narrative of the last century, but a new understanding of managerialism. We are still working with the concepts produced by Burnham and then the paleoconservatives. These are concepts produced when communism was still a real thing and managerialism was seen as the energetic response to it. Instead, managerialism needs to be viewed as one manifestation of something that also produced fascism and communism.
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