Saturday 1 October 2011

Managerialism and "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchic Collectivism"

Orwell knew about managerialism, giving this knowledge to the fictional author in 1984, Emmanuel Goldstein. The perpetual war manufactured by the Party between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia served the purpose of maintaining inequality. The war is:
"waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact"
Given my thinking about managerialism and Ulrich Beck, I think it is reasonable to suggest that the war is the party's way of continually generating risks, and it is the creation of risk which maintains economic inequality, and which in turn contributes to the conditions for the new creation of risks.

What then of Winston Smith? His first act of defiance is to write a diary. His crime, I think, may be to increase his capability to manage risk, to make himself immune to the risks that were produced by the party. Making communications is the way he does this, just as making communications is the way that all people seek to manage their capability to manage risks. Reading Goldstein's book and discovering his love for Julia are other aspects of this journey of forbidden self-discovery and communication-making. A party member lives a continually anxious life expecting "to have no private emotions and no respites from enthusiasm. He is supposed to live in a continuous frenzy of hatred of foreign enemies and internal traitors, triumph over victories, and self-abasement before the power and wisdom of the Party"

All the mechanisms of the party serve to maintain this state of anxiety. The perpetual historical revisionism continually disrupts the individual's narrative. In the light of HarrĂ©'s thinking about 'storylines', and what I've argued for in terms of the need to establish some sort of 'attachment' to stories as a mechanism of maintaining identity, it's interesting to see how with manipulations like 'crimestop' and 'doublethink' the Party robs individuals of their capacity to establish identities, let alone 'opinions'. In fact, what describes is the party putting the population into complex web of double-binds.

What is presented in 1984 might be seen as two visions of 'education'. On the one hand there is Smith's covert self-discovery; on the other, there is his re-education and re-integration into the Party. What's extraordinary is how one type of education seems to feed the other: the individual struggle for self-discovery makes them more vulnerable to assimilation into the party: the betrayal of Julia, which in a sense is a betrayal of self, being the key moment when the pendulum swings the other way.

Is our education system a journey of self-discovery or propaganda for integration into the 'party' of capitalism? Funding certainly tightens the screws: the anxiety is raised.. self-discovery is shown to have its price, and once locked-in to that enticing journey, do we eventually succumb to the inevitable conformity of capitalism? The risk machine of education is certainly being powered-up. And because our economic models are increasingly failing us, we feel that THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE.

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