Managerialism 19

There have been two plagues in my life so far.  The first killed my academic career and the second we all currently share. Both plagues are wrapped around each other and are, really, one and the same.  If I said that the first plague was the obscenity of managerialism you’d probably wonder what that has to do with the second plague which is the man-made virus, Covid 19.  They are both manifestations of the same thing. Read on.

I have written previously about the plague of managerialism.  Actually, my fight against managerialism was the core theme of my thirty year career as an academic. So I’ve lived the fight against managerialism rather than just written about it. But if you want a quick summary, a recent post to this blog might suffice: The Managerialism Epidemic

To save lots of space, let me just present three media excerpts (all from the week ending November 5, 2021) for your entertainment.  These might seem a touch unconnected, but they are connected at the fundamental core and all tell the story of the managerialist plague that, in turn, has turned Covid 19 into the greatest plague of all.

Do you see the pattern?

The first is a political cartoon by Michael Leunig.  It was Leunig’s last political cartoon posted in the The Age newspaper in the week ending October 31. Leunig was sacked over this post. (Story P.16, The Weekend Australian, October 30-31, 2021, by Angela Shanahan).

The second is a bit more cryptic but is seriously poignant. So much so that I bet everyone in the governance game won’t be mentioning anything to do with this anytime soon so as to not utterly invalidate the inviolate toxic sludge of bogus plague narrative now enveloping the globe. Let me summarise. The saviour-of-all-mankind vaccines are a king with no clothes. The vaccines are a dud (even if you don’t take into account the ‘interesting side effects’ - like death - that many suffer from taking these vaccines. But don’t let me get too controversial or I will be instantly associated with tin foil hats.  (My hats are fashioned from tweed, not tin).  These vaccines are way way less effective than we have been told (or sold, more to the point).  So much so, that to hold off Covid 19, we all now, apparently, need to engage in an endless followup of booster shots to maintain ever transitory ‘’immunity’ over time. Only the pharmaceutical industry is laughing (all the way to the bank). Let me just surmise that, in ordinary circumstances, (like say, an outbreak of Ebola or other diseases apparently less vicious than Covid 19), any vaccine that proved to be as ineffective as the Covid vaccines and/or had anything like their side effects (blood clots, death, etc), would never be given certified government approval, except, maybe by the Taliban by way of pharmeceutical exports to the West. This second press excerpt was also in the Weekend Australian, October 30-31, page 12, by Rhys Blakely (reprinted from The Times newspaper).  

The last excerpt is a screen shot from an email I received today from NSW Health/Services NSW (the NSW Government information project launched like Covid at the general public by way of ‘communication’).  The bit that really spilt the contents of my spleen and woke my dog was the last sentence. We purposefully intentional non-vaccinated types have been waiting until the promised December 1 time shot for ‘permission from the State’ to enter businesses proclaimed to be not critical (critical businesses we can visit include places like liquor shops (!!!!), grocery places and farm supply stores.  We can't visit bookshops, clothing stores, outdoor supply places, bicycle shops!! or, really, anywhere else. We can visit mobile phone repair shops but not when those shops actually sell mobile phones - just picture the astounding inanity of both the meeting and those attending who came up with that one). Now, for reasons unexplained and, I would suspect, unexplainable, the December 1 date freeing the unwashed/infected/un-vaccinated from hard core lockdown has been pushed out to December 15, or earlier if the 95% double vaccinated target is reached before that date. Two weeks more of detention. Two weeks more of not being able to go to football matches, rock concerts, restaurants, pubs, cafes, funerals, weddings, or shops that repair mobile phones but also sell them...

Well, I hate football, never go to restaurants, don't drink in pubs, and really relish being able to escape any funerals (including my own, presumably - are we the un-vaccinated allowed to go to our own funeral? We need a few more rules to clarify...). I do have a favourite anecdote though. I am a keen classical guitar collector, but I can't go to my local guitar shop under this lockdown. So the shop owner suggested that he brings guitars I might like to see to the local liquor store where we can legally meet to consider. No rule against that one! Yet. Ah the life of a Covid 19 bureaucrat is always busy. Better convene another meeting to patch this loophole... 

Thanks largely to the Bogan Victoria State Premier, Dan Andrews, we un-vaccinated folk have taken on the apparently synonymous persona of ‘the infected’ and need to be controlled like the plague we apparently are now spreading. Contrary to the messages in the second press excerpt above. Go on Dictator Dan, argue with those credentialed researchers. Tell us how we are a greater threat given the statistically insignificant differences we and the vaccinated represent to the spread of and susceptibility to the disease as reported in that research. Tell us again how you have ‘built a post-Covid economy’ and that there is no place for the un-vaccinated in it. Or maybe the West Australian Premier can explain why we un-vaccinated apparently all believe in a flat earth. The real reason why some of us remain unvaccinated is because we don’t find the arguments for vaccination particularly compelling, or that we don’t take health advice from politicians and bureaucrats. Or maybe some of us have actually researched the pros and cons for ourselves and found the arguments to be at least inconclusive. 

So what has all this got to do with managerialism I hear you ask?

Everything. Covid 19 is being managed via the managerialist playbook down to the fine print. Actually, from my perspective as an academic with over 20 years of intensive immersion in the dimension of managerialism, I feel qualified to declare that this global project of Covid management is the most breathtaking, most intense, most all pervading, all-in, thorough and perfect implementation of the managerialist agenda of all time. ‘Leaders’ all around the world have dedicated themselves over the past two years to smashing their communities into the most astonishing manifestation of control this side of a global military junta/Big Brother exercise in abject authorianism any of us will ever see, including the exploits of those driving the previous two world wars. Never before has managerialism been so thoroughly and completely implemented as this. 

Well, I can hear people cry, we needed to address the global terror of Covid 19. What else could we do? Nothing else would work, our leaders might claim. Nothing less than complete authoritarian control could have contained the disease with anything like the effectiveness achieved thus far. Really? I reckon that full-on planned extinction/extermination of the human race would have been a more effective plan if Covid Zero is to be the only goal that matters. But that would take too much ammunition. Managerialism is an easier pathway. What will future researchers say about the Benefit/Cost results for the current Covid Control Project over the past two years? I can imagine a retinue of PhD projects themed around exactly that over the decades to come. As someone who has successfully supervised over 20 PhD research projects myself, I would just love to supervise a few of these explorations once all the data is in. 

Let me preempt a cache of studies that have yet to be done. This Covid Control Project has been the most perfect demonstration of the abject failure of the managerialist agenda that anyone has ever seen or will ever see again. In perfect coherence with the managerialist playbook, our world leaders (and their oceans of public servant minions) have dedicated themselves to managing the plague by treating the world and its people like a machine. A machine where all the cogs and chains are under and in control (mainly, we the people) by the political/bureaucrat mechanics in charge. Once their victims have been smashed into compliance (George Orwell could relate to this), our leaders could then get down to the business of commanding and controlling the disease to either its eradication - or ours. This playbook of command and control management (managerialism) is always the paradigm of choice by leaders without vision or intellect. It is the favourite perspective of local government and failed business enterprise everywhere. But never before has managerialism been attempted at the global scale. And nowhere on Earth has the machinery of managerialism been so completely applied as has been the case in the Australian State of Victoria under the director of Premier Dan Andrews (with a pretty close followup by the Premiers of Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, and now as per the latest efforts in NSW). Yes, Australia (and New Zealand) are leading the world. 

So, I hear you ask, what’s the alternative? Well, how do I summarise the advice from an entire dimension of contemporary best practice management and governance? I can refer you to the 22 PhD theses my own group produced over the past twenty years. That would be a start. But that sounds arrogant. Let’s start by identifying the Organisational Learning perspective. The Systems Thinking perspective. The Transformational Change perspective. The Critical Thinking perspective. And the illustrious and extraordinary Institutional Economics perspective with roots back to the late 1800’s. All these perspectives are related around the common ground of NOT contemplating the world as a machine and its management as being tractable to machine-like control by policy makers, politicians and bureaucrats who more resemble failed mechanics than leaders. The world does not work like a clock. It does not progress like a bunch of cogs. You can’t control a machine that is incompletely understood, and all human social and economic systems, and then social-economic-environmental systems are so inescapably dynamic as to render them always beyond complete understanding. Whether our Engineers-In-Charge want to admit to this reality or not. Covid is an environmental-economic-social dynamic interactive phenomenon. It’s progress through time is shaped by all the depth of complex interactive dynamics that always characterise systems of this kind. Dynamic systems (like plagues) can NOT be controlled by enveloping them with ever deeper and deeper layers of rules and regulations. This Covid Control Project has been nothing more than a cascade of control routines and regimes thrown like a fire hose by governments at all and every level, all at once, in utter confusion and to the inevitable outcome of self-destruction from which we will all suffer for decades to come. 

The key outcome from dynamic management (the antithesis of managerialism) is learning and the evolution of understandings. An inspired management regime would construct governance systems that maximised communicative interaction and learning across all levels. Learning creates collective responses owned by all. Our creative intelligence as a species could then be energised to adapt, react and organise always evolving and ever more informed responses to diseases like Covid (and Climate Change). One possibility for those governance systems would be to pull off a world first: to seriously and genuinely catalyse connection between the dimensions of science and community. That’s called transdisciplinary interaction and is at the core of my cherished paradigm of Ecological Economics. Nothing has characterised our actual experience with Covid to date more than the attempts of politicians and bureaucrats world wide to insert themselves between science and community along the lines of the Chinese Great Wall. This has been an exercise in exclusive divisiveness rather than the exercise of communicative learning that we actually needed. Personally, I have been frustrated to the degree of apoplexy by the astoundingly inappropriate efforts of our politicians to destroy the creative possibilities that could have otherwise ensued through science-community learning. Our politicians have destroyed our chances rather than delivered on their intentions to control the plague. 

And finally, the Covid Control Project has also put the possibilities for addressing Global Warming/Climate Change back by 100 years. What we needed as the foundation for addressing Climate Change is exactly the same foundation as we needed to address Covid 19. We needed our leaders to focus on catalysing the very necessary reconfigurations of social-economic-environmental-governance arrangements that have caused both these contemporary challenges. We need new paradigms through which to reconsider and reconfigure. We don’t need yet more layers of bureaucratic rules as some kind of manic fix. The layers and layers of rules these old school managerialist bureaucrats and their political chain haulers have applied to both Covid 19 and Climate Change are now so deep and convoluted that the project of control now resembles an exercise in patching rather than understanding and moving forward. Soon, there will be none left alive that can recall all the details of the controls that have been buried in the swamp our bureaucrats have applied. All we see now is confusion and contradiction. That’s the endgame of managerialism out of control.