Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

The power of positive thinking

Owen wrote a great post on “Jobseeker Mandatory Activity,” the latest attempt to adapt the welfare state to the needs of post-fordist industry. For his troubles, he got attacked in the comments by some idiot who appeared to have stepped out of a 19th century philanthropic society.

Anyway, Owen’s post reminded me of a locally popular cult, the Landmark Forum, which seems to be based on a slightly odd combination of CBT and Heidegger; I’d say more, but I don’t want to infringe on the trademarks they’ve cleverly registered on all their technical terms (Derrida should have done that, he’d have made a killing). A couple of my friends are fans, and invited me along to an “introduction” session. It was quite an uplifting experience, in a way; being asked to spend $500 on a course intended to sort out my life made me realize I actually don’t have $500 worth of problems. Never have I experienced the icy waters of egotistical calculation more cheerfully. Owen’s post also reminded me of an excrutiating management training course I once went on, designed to teach me to become an “Investor in People.” I posted my notes from the course on an earlier blog that’s gone the way of all immaterial flesh, so I repeat them below for posterity.

  • “Success is 20% skill, 80% attitude.” Good to know it’s been rigorously quantified.
  • M-C-M′: “The most important element of management is continuous improvement.”
  • Why are there two Norfolk accents? My colleague Hannah (Goth Civil Servant, to my left) has a King’s Lynn accent, which is lovely. The course leader, Sarah, has a posh Thetford accent, which is fucking horrible (I think the answer is class, and so, inter alia, capitalism).
  • Post-Taylorisation is hyper-Fordism: Ironically, a greater focus on training is actually a sign of de-skilling. Look at the style/content of training courses – micro-managed, full of activities/group-work which give individuals no responsibility for actually learning stuff.
  • Real subsumption: “You spend as much time at work as you do outside, so why not have fun while you’re there?”
  • ‘Statistics’ show that 20% of workers are disengaged and entirely demotivated. These workers are “dangerous.” See Dangerous and lazy: A manifesto for the 20% (Désœvré, Forthcoming).
  • Republicanism in the workplace: It’s no good to give people responsibility that’s responsibility that could be taken away (cf Deleuze and Guattari on the society of control – it’s a kind of immaterial tyranny).
  • Giving people crappy jobs “is, if anything, demotivating.” You think?
  • Maslow’s hieararchy of needs: 50 year old bourgeois psychology is great. It’s also impressively proletarianised, assuming that money is only required for the reproduction of labour power (or physiological need, as Maslow cutely calls it), rather than allowing for an element of freedom outside the workplace.
  • Capitalist domination and working class sabotage: A case study teaches us how to deal with desertion. Also, the Stanford prison experiment, which didn’t need to happen, just watch industry/management for the last about 100 years: “Discipline can actually be a very motivating tool.”
  • Communication: “The passing on or receiving of information between individuals so that it is understood.” Unfortunately, Derrida has yet to penetrate management training.
  • Is Sarah fucked on speed? This morning she was all impossibly wide eyes and ludicrous enthusiasm. Now she’s fidgetting wildly, eyes darting around the room, snapping whenever she’s asked a question. Great.
  • Metonymy: The curious resentment towards e-mail. “Oh, it stops us communicating. E-mail has become a master, instead of a tool.” Presumably a redirection of proper anti-capitalist feeling.
  • Yay gratuitous ableism: An exercise involving someone pretending to be blind. Also, apparently, to have the vocabulary of a 5 year old, and to be very stupid.
  • Is there any circumstance in which ‘this is really common sense’ is not an exact synonym of ‘I’m an idiot (and probably a fascist)’?
  • Yay racism: “The blacks are great listeners, but they miss the body language. It’s like autism.”
  • A crowded field: Is the aggressiveness/assertiveness/submissiveness triad the stupidest piece of management theory? It’s like an Aristotelian analysis of virtue for the really dumb.