Get a job, join the Borg

You will be assimilated — if you're lucky….

In his latest essay for TruthDig, Chris Hedges justly decries the triumph of the corporate role in contemporary American life:

The driving ideology of corporate culture is a blind faith in the power and virtue of the corporate collective. All quotas can be met. All things are possible. Profits can always be raised. It is only a question of the right attitude. The highest form of personal happiness, we are told, is when the corporation thrives. Corporate retreats are built around this idea of merging the self with the corporate collective. They often have the feel of a religious revival. They are designed to whip up emotions. Office managers and sales staffs are given inspirational talks by sports stars, retired military commanders, billionaires and self-help specialists like Tony Robbins who tell them, in essence, the impossible is always possible. And when this proves not to be true it is we who are the problem. We simply have to try harder.

To be sure, 'thinking' of this kind is an example of social mystification:

The belief that by thinking about things, by visualizing them, by wanting them, we can make them happen is magical thinking. The purpose, structure and goals of the corporation can never be questioned. To question, to engage in criticism of the corporate collective, is to be obstructive and negative. We can always make more money, meet new quotas and advance our career if we have enough faith. This magical thinking is largely responsible for our economic collapse since any Cassandra who saw it coming was dismissed as "negative." This childish belief discredits legitimate concerns and anxieties. It exacerbates despair and passivity. It fosters a state of self-delusion. And it has perverted the way we think about the nation and ourselves.

It is unfortunate but true nevertheless that history has recently witnessed this method in action:

This [corporate] ideology condemns all social critics, iconoclasts, dissidents and individualists, for failing to seek fulfillment in the collective chant of the corporate herd. It strangles creativity and moral autonomy. It is about being molded and shaped into a compliant and repressed collective. It is not, at its core, about happiness. It is about conformity, a conformity that all totalitarian and authoritarian structures seek to impose on the crowd. Its unrealistic promise of happiness, in fact, probably produces more internal anxiety and feelings of inadequacy than genuine happiness. The nagging undercurrents of alienation, the constant pressure to exhibit a false enthusiasm and buoyancy, the loneliness of a work life in which one must always be about upbeat presentation, the awful feeling that being positive may not in fact work if one is laid off, are buried and suppressed.

There are no gross injustices, no abuses to question, no economic systems to challenge in the land of happy thoughts. In the land of happy thoughts we are to blame if things go wrong. The corporate state, we are assured, is beneficent and good. It will make us happy and comfortable and prosperous even as it funnels billions of taxpayer dollars into its bank accounts. Mao and Stalin used the same language of harmony and strength through the collective, the same love of spectacles and slogans, the same coercive power of groups and state propaganda, to enslave and impoverish millions of their citizens.

Briefly put, the modern corporation tends towards becoming one of Goffman's total institutions (pp. 1-124) save for the fact that those subject to the totalizing system will not take leave of society as a whole but must incorporate this regional totality in their personalities as a natural condition of their lives. That the total institution is merely local cannot be considered an improvement in any way, I believe.

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