But the editors and writers at AA demonstrate heft and depth in the content of this debut.
I particularly recommend Julius Krein's essay "James Burnham's Managerial Elite." Longtime LITD readers know that I have always felt that Burnham's works, at each point of his post-Trotskyite growth as a thinker, were among the most prescient contributions to twentieth-century cultural observation. Not only does Krein review the evolution from 1941's The Managerial Revolution to 1964's Suicide of the West, but he examines how subsequent thinkers, such as Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell, dealt with Burnham's concept of a technocratic class pervading all sectors of society. He then looks at the current state of managerialism (what Burnham saw as the takeover of society by an administrative class with a bureaucratic mindset) through the lens of Burnham's enumeration of its pitfalls:
But still we have negotiating tables on one side of which are managers from large corporations asking, "Why should we come to your community?" and on the other side economic-development people saying, "Because we have bike trails, a human-rights council and good restaurants."In describing the transition from bourgeois capitalism to managerialism, Burnham outlined nine fundamental challenges leading to capitalism’s failure. Capitalist society’s inability to resolve these structural problems heralded, for Burnham, the inevitable collapse of the old order. And nearly all of them—the sole exception being a decline in agricultural productivity—apply to the current economic and political conditions.(1) The inability to reduce mass unemployment: although headline U.S. unemployment figures are low, labor participation rates are also at their lowest levels in decades. Broader measures of unemployment that account for labor force participation remain unusually high (from the U6 at 9% to independent estimations at 20+%) almost a decade after the financial crisis. Significant portions of the population have essentially been excluded from the labor force and have no realistic prospects for rejoining it. Furthermore, the few rapidly growing employment sectors are in the low-value service economy and are generally of lower quality than the jobs that have been lost. To quote Burnham, a social organization has broken down precisely when “it cannot any longer provide its members with socially useful functions even according to its own ideas of what is socially useful.”(2) Economic cycles are no longer trending higher: boom-bust cycles are economic inevitabilities, but when cycles overall trend downward, as the post–financial crisis recovery would suggest, it is a sign that the society “can no longer handle its own resources.” Perhaps an even greater problem of this type at present, however, is the fact that median real wages have barely risen in decades. Neither a capitalistic nor a managerial elite can maintain its popular legitimacy if it cannot provide for increasing consumption.(3) “The volume of public and private debt has reached a point where it cannot be managed much longer,” at least not by any ordinary means. Explanation of this point today seems unnecessary, but it is worth adding that even if capitalism’s moral or economic frameworks concerning debt no longer apply in managerial society, the system’s increasing dependence on borrowing is indicative of deeper imbalances.(4) Instability and manipulation of foreign exchange: many of the world’s major economies are effectively engaged in an undeclared currency war against each other. In addition, an economy as large as China’s operating under a pegged currency regime is a unique development in recent times that causes further strain on the global system.(5) Excess uninvested cash: the “mass unemployment of private money is scarcely less indicative of the death of capitalism than the mass unemployment of human beings. Both show the inability of the capitalist institutions any longer to organize human activities.” The same is true for managerial institutions. The inability of corporate or financial investors to find productive uses for increasing cash hoards—especially in light of unusually low interest rates—signals profound and systemic economic dysfunction.(6) Failure of advanced nations’ policies toward developing economies: in recent decades, the managerial model for economic development has been “globalization,” or the offshoring of labor-intensive industries to geographies with lower wages and employment costs. This model is now breaking down and not only because of political resistance in Western nations. The so-called low-hanging fruit has already been harvested. Emerging countries are increasingly competing with each other for low-wage manufacturing and many are facing the “middle income trap.” Globalization of this type is unlikely to generate accelerating growth in the manner it once did in either advanced or developing economies.Meanwhile, developed and emerging nations are no longer converging politically. The failure of “democracy promotion,” both of the hard and soft varieties, is part of a broader failure of managerial foreign policy that both indicates and itself creates a deeper destabilization of the system.(7) The inability to exploit technological advances: this failure applies not only to hypotheses concerning a slowdown in innovation but also to the likelihood that fully exploiting available technological advances would not positively “disrupt” but rather destabilize society. For Burnham, the fact that capitalism would be unable to implement new technologies without significantly increasing unemployment was a further indication that a new social organization had become necessary. Today the situation is similar. The introduction of self-driving vehicles alone will add meaningfully to unemployment rolls, and automation will continue to erode blue-collar jobs and is beginning to replace high-paying, white-collar professions as well. All of the happy talk about education and innovation offers little of substance concerning the unemployment of an increasingly larger mass of society that is being rendered economically superfluous. Such “technological unemployment” shows, in Burnham’s words, “that capitalism and its rulers can no longer use their own resources. And the point is that, if they won’t, someone else will.”(8) In place of the 1930s agricultural depression that Burnham described, consider the systemic challenge to managerial society posed by the collapse of the universities. They face two crises. The first is the frequent abandonment of genuine academic inquiry in favor of rigid ideology and mindless political correctness, which progressively degrades the quality of the elite. Moral fanaticism and paranoia are not inherently signs of imminent societal decline, however. The more significant crisis threatening the system is the explosion of student loan debt, a clear indication that the universities are creating more would-be managers than are useful, or at least too many of low quality. Since the main purpose of the universities today is to credential the managerial elite, such failures signal that managerial institutions can no longer organize their human resources.(9) Ideological impotence: “no one who has watched the world during the past twenty years can doubt the ever-increasing impotence of the bourgeois ideologies,” wrote Burnham, “The words begin to have a hollow sound in the most sympathetic capitalist ears.” This is as true of managerialist ideologies now as it was of capitalism then, as anyone who has listened to Mitt Romney or Hillary Clinton speak can attest.
As both Burnham and Irving Kristol understood, the legitimacy of the managerial elite is not derived from constitutional or democratic or any traditional authority. It is based, rather, on its ability to satisfy the desires of a hedonistic society, its competence in increasing consumption and “quality of life.”A school in California finds out that one way to lose out on federal gravy is to be too pale:
For a long time, Hamas lacked the powerful rockets that Hizbollah has used to menace Israel. Well, they have them now.
Talk about moving goalposts. There's no satisfying these people:
Speaking of federal largesse flowing to various locales, Attorney General Jeff Sessions serves notice that if a city wants Washington's help with law-enforcement resources, it has to actually adhere to the law:The University of Oregon wants its students to learn certain things during their four-to-six years as undergraduates. One of the ways the school makes sure the right topics are learned is by providing "research guides" for topics essential to their education. One guide, "Transgender Studies & Cisgender Privilege," has raised eyebrows.For those who haven't been afflicted with this level of political correctness, "cisgender" is the opposite of "transgender." According to Wikipedia:Cisgender (often abbreviated to simply cis) is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. Cisgender may also be defined as those who have "a gender identity or perform a gender role society considers appropriate for one's sex."In other words, most people are cisgender, and therefore most people need to recognize and fight their privilege -- and the University of Oregon is here to help. Its guide lists the many things that cisgendered people unfairly enjoy. For example, this statement is one of unparalleled cisgendered privilege:"My potential lovers expect my genitals to look roughly similar to the way they do, and have accepted that before coming to bed with me."Okay, okay. Maybe that one is to be expected, but number six is definitely a surprise:"Clothing works for me, more or less. I am a size and shape for which clothes I feel comfortable wearing are commonly made."In other words, being able to walk into a clothing store and buy items of clothing off the rack -- whether you're size zero or twenty -- is a matter of privilege. What's the solution to overcoming this? Thankfully, the guidelines reveal that capitalism is to blame. "Living in a society that is steeped in capitalism is hard," it reads. Not quite as hard as living in a society steeped in socialism, like Venezuela, where people are forced to kill stray dogs to have something to eat, but I digress.In order to make life better for the transgendered, the guide advises disrupting capitalism and "sharing what you may have to help your kindred!" If we all pitch in and do this right, soon we'll live in a society in which no one is privileged!
Dana Loesch is not going to stand for any talk of the House Freedom Caucus being to blame for last Friday's repeal-and-replace impasse. Thank you, Dana.Is this just a “distraction” intended to draw attention away from the Russia investigations (as some morning show hosts were speculating today) or the opening salvo in a new set of executive actions? Our Attorney General had some tough words for the nation’s so-called “sanctuary cities” this week, suggesting that their federal grant money for law enforcement could soon be in danger if they don’t cooperate with ICE on matters of deportation of illegal aliens. That has the usual list of suspects setting their hair on fire in predictable fashion, so if it’s a distraction, it’s working so far. (Associated Press)Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday warned so-called sanctuary cities they could lose federal money for refusing to cooperate with immigration authorities and suggested the government would come after grants that have already been awarded if they don’t comply.Sessions said the Justice Department would require cities seeking some of $4.1 billion available in grant money to verify that they are in compliance with a section of federal law that allows information sharing with immigration officials.His statements in the White House briefing room brought to mind tough talk from President Donald Trump’s campaign and came just three days after the administration’s crushing health care defeat.What’s ironic here is that Sessions was only repeating the same thing that Barack Obama said last summer. But back then the media backlash didn’t seem quite so intense, did it? That AP report immediately jumps into a list of the most popular programs they can think of which are funded by the grants, including “victim services, body cameras for police and tools to cut rape kit testing backlogs.”See how horrible Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions would be if they did exactly what Barack Obama threatened to do?