Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Managerial Revolution

 

Although I’ve long known that there was a book titled The Managerial Revolution, it was only a few days ago that I started to read it. Somehow I hadn’t even been aware that the author (James Burnham) was the same person who wrote The Suicide of the West, which I read many years ago.

I decided to read The Managerial Revolution because I thought its description of the managerial revolution in the world of business might give me some insights into the development and nature of the Deep State. What I hadn’t realized was that the book is about the Deep State (or the Administrative State, which is nearly the same thing). Although the book was published in 1941, it seems to be describing what is happening now.

Kindle says I’m only 41 percent of the way through the book. One puzzling note is that so far in the book Burnham has not talked about the explicit agenda of the Progressive Movement to create a managerial state. Maybe the book will get there yet.

Has anyone else in the Ricochet community read it? I don’t recall it ever being mentioned here.

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There are 18 comments.

  1. Front Seat Cat Member

    I haven’t read it or heard of it, but I’m interested in the same topic. I ordered a book called False Dawn. It’s also old, because I’m researching some interesting similarities in religion and politics that are occurring at the same time. I plan to write about it at some point. I look forward to your perspective on the book you are reading.

    • #1
    • November 30, 2019, at 5:35 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Gromrus Member

    It seems to me like the administrative state was on full display most recently in the Ukraine – Impeachment Inquiry hearings. The civil servant “professionals” were unhappy with not being in charge of US foreign policy directly, though clearly in our Constitutional order it is the express prerogative of the President. The cart may have gotten ahead of the horse.

    And the idea that big chunks of the Federal executive apparatus well beyond the State department can generate rules and rulings which stand, essentially as law but not passed by Congress is viscerally repugnant to me. Writing yesterday in National Review, Jonah Goldberg balances that notion, however, with the idea that Trump, in his solipsism, has seized on the Right’s realization of and frustration with a ‘Deep State’ to further his own ends by calling any legitimate impediment to his current whim ‘Deep State.’ 

    Eternal vigilance truly is the price of liberty. We have to watch the hens, the hen house, the foxes, the farmer. Everyone in government, from top to bottom, will tend toward their own stability and wishes. They must be watched and challenged. The supine press does not make that easy for citizens. The checks and balances envisioned by our Founders must be brought to bear and Congress must re assert its lawmaking role and allow less delegated authority to the executive agencies. 

     

     

     

    • #2
    • November 30, 2019, at 6:51 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  3. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    To read about the origin of the Deep State, it is helpful to read David Brinkley’s book “Washington Goes to War” about the beginning of WWII when the bureaucracy expanded exponentially and has never contracted. Brinkley has a sardonic sense of humor that has vanished from the TV program he once conducted.

    https://www.amazon.com/Washington-Goes-War-David-Brinkley/dp/0394510259/

    There is a theory that Roosevelt’s New Deal was the origin but WWII was probably the real origin. Air conditioning should not be neglected as a factor of significance,

    • #3
    • November 30, 2019, at 6:57 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Gromrus (View Comment):
    Everyone in government, from top to bottom, will tend toward their own stability and wishes.

    This is sort of a theme in Burnham’s book. There will be a ruling class, in or out of government, that will look after its own interests.

    By the way, I thought I was one who some years ago initiated the use of the term “ruling class” to describe the members of the current administrative class, along with their allies and hangers on, in and out of government. But Burnham was using that term in 1941, not so much for rhetorical effect (as I originally was using it) but to be clinically precise. At one time we had a capitalist ruling class, which had gradually replaced the feudal ruling class at the end of the middle ages. Since WWI a managerial ruling class has been replacing the capitalist ruling class, albeit at a much faster pace in other western countries than in the United States.

    It isn’t the first time that managers have become the rulers. It happens within capitalist businesses. Burnham’s book unfortunately doesn’t contain a wealth of specific historical examples, but one that he mentions is the old Merovingian rulers of the Franks. Charles Martel (the guy credited for beating back the Islamic invasion of Europe) and his heirs eventually dropped the pretense that they were just administrators for the Merovingians and took over the kingship for themselves.

    It happens. The current impeachment hearings and scandals are revealing that the unelected administrators of our government are now dropping the pretense that they are just administrators for our elected leaders. Members of the State Department now think that it’s the job of the elected president to “earn the respect” of the State Department before they will comply with his policies.

    • #4
    • November 30, 2019, at 7:14 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  5. Bob Thompson Member

    Gromrus (View Comment):

    It seems to me like the administrative state was on full display most recently in the Ukraine – Impeachment Inquiry hearings. The civil servant “professionals” were unhappy with not being in charge of US foreign policy directly, though clearly in our Constitutional order it is the express prerogative of the President. The cart may have gotten ahead of the horse.

     

    @thereticulator there was another thread where you and I broached this subject and I was interested in hearing more from you on what I took to be support for Eastern European nations and specifically Poland as this relates to the Russia/Ukraine establishment narrative of Russia/Putin bad for Eastern Europe, NATO, and America so we should support the most recent Ukraine positions with respect to Russia. That position was focused on the Merkel/German cooperation with the Putin regime building the Baltic pipeline. I think I see much influence by commercial interests in armaments and other ventures in sustaining the ‘war machine’ that then guides American intelligence assessments, most recently during the period since the Soviet breakup, that then shapes the State Department bureaucracy and resulted in the Russia narrative and the opposition effort started against Trump after his election. If my view has merit, then it has now progressed to the stage of attempting to bring down a duly elected POTUS.

    • #5
    • November 30, 2019, at 7:41 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    During the 1932 Presidential campaign FDR gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco which was a harbinger of the coming managerial revolution.

    A mere builder of more industrial plants, a creator of more railroad systems, and organizer of more corporations, is as likely to be a danger as a help. The day of the great promoter or the financial Titan, to whom we granted anything if only he would build, or develop, is over. Our task now is not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, of seeking to reestablish foreign markets for our surplus production, of meeting the problem of under consumption, of adjusting production to consumption, of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come.

    I’ll add that I’ve not read the Burnham book but think the term “managerial revolution” applies not just to government but all large institutions.

    • #6
    • November 30, 2019, at 10:03 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. Bob Thompson Member

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    During the 1932 Presidential campaign FDR gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco which was a harbinger of the coming managerial revolution.

    A mere builder of more industrial plants, a creator of more railroad systems, and organizer of more corporations, is as likely to be a danger as a help. The day of the great promoter or the financial Titan, to whom we granted anything if only he would build, or develop, is over. Our task now is not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, of seeking to reestablish foreign markets for our surplus production, of meeting the problem of under consumption, of adjusting production to consumption, of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come.

    I’ll add that I’ve not read the Burnham book but think the term “managerial revolution” applies not just to government but all large institutions.

    A joint venture! I think this is the thing that has grown negative sentiment toward capitalism. And it’s a cousin to fascism.

    • #7
    • November 30, 2019, at 10:34 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):
    I’ll add that I’ve not read the Burnham book but think the term “managerial revolution” applies not just to government but all large institutions.

    Absolutely, and Burnham talks about all applications. But whereas I had previously thought it was primarily about business institutions, he instead refers to previous writers who developed that concept and shows how the same thing happens in government. At least that’s the way it has been in my reading so far.

    • #8
    • November 30, 2019, at 11:14 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I think I see much influence by commercial interests in armaments and other ventures in sustaining the ‘war machine’ that then guides American intelligence assessments, most recently during the period since the Soviet breakup, that then shapes the State Department bureaucracy and resulted in the Russia narrative and the opposition effort started against Trump after his election.

    Yeah, the left used to refer us to Eisenhower’s warnings about the military-industrial complex, but now it seems to have embraced it. I’m afraid I don’t have information to add on this phenomenon, though.

    • #9
    • November 30, 2019, at 11:17 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. tigerlily Member

    The Reticulator:

     

    Has anyone else in the Ricochet community read it? I don’t recall it ever being mentioned here.

    Like you, I read and enjoyed Burnham’s Suicide of the West years ago, and have been meaning to read The Managerial Revolution (which from what I’ve read about it was an influential book when it came out) but have never gotten around to it.

    • #10
    • November 30, 2019, at 1:20 PM PST
    • 1 like
  11. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    One aspect of the Deep State that I have commented on elsewhere is the “Principle Agent Problem.” When you assign an agent to represent you and he, instead, chooses to benefit himself at your expense.

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/56322.html

    This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard.

    The Founders were well aware of this problem and tried to protect the citizens with certain provisions of the Constitution.

    “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

    This provision was violated by Barack Obama who spent billions to subsidize insurance companies to support his “Affordable Care Act” which was not successful.

    The Administrative State has gone far beyond this, as we saw with “Lt Colonel Vindman.”

    • #11
    • November 30, 2019, at 4:14 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Taras Coolidge

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    During the 1932 Presidential campaign FDR gave a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco which was a harbinger of the coming managerial revolution.

    A mere builder of more industrial plants, a creator of more railroad systems, and organizer of more corporations, is as likely to be a danger as a help. The day of the great promoter or the financial Titan, to whom we granted anything if only he would build, or develop, is over. Our task now is not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand, of seeking to reestablish foreign markets for our surplus production, of meeting the problem of under consumption, of adjusting production to consumption, of distributing wealth and products more equitably, of adapting existing economic organizations to the service of the people. The day of enlightened administration has come.

    I’ll add that I’ve not read the Burnham book but think the term “managerial revolution” applies not just to government but all large institutions.

    A joint venture! I think this is the thing that has grown negative sentiment toward capitalism. And it’s a cousin to fascism.

    And FDR succeeded in fastening just such a regime on the United States. We call it the “Great Depression”. Which would have been resumed after the war except that partisan gridlock prevented it.

    James Burnham was still a leftist back then, and his reasoning does not fully apply to capitalist enterprises, which are constantly being critiqued by the stock market. Stockholders let the managers do what they like only until the market frowns.

    By contrast, in the public sphere, bad management is rewarded by legislators with a budget increase. Public schools do a bad job => more money and salary increases for the people doing a bad job.

    • #12
    • November 30, 2019, at 4:21 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Unsk Member

    “The day of enlightened administration has come.”

    Wow Gumby, great quote which kinda says it all doesn’t it? Damn that Constitutional thingy – we know better! We’re enlightened!

    We don’t need no stinking production of more goods or the exploitation of more resources! That anyone, much less the next President, would say that in midst of the misery of millions in 1932 is absolutely astounding.

    • #13
    • December 1, 2019, at 9:27 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator Post author

    Unsk (View Comment):

    “The day of enlightened administration has come.”

    Wow Gumby, great quote which kinda says it all doesn’t it? Damn that Constitutional thingy – we know better! We’re enlightened!

    We don’t need no stinking production of more goods or the exploitation of more resources! That anyone, much less the next President, would say that in midst of the misery of millions in 1932 is absolutely astounding.

    I’ve heard people use that word “enlightened” since way back, and it always makes me cringe. As if enlightenment is what’s needed.

    • #14
    • December 1, 2019, at 9:35 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Amity Schlae’s new book “The Great Society” has arrived and I look forward to a deep discussion of the Administrative State and its foibles.

    https://www.amazon.com/Great-Society-History-1960s-America/dp/0061706426/

     

    • #15
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:09 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  16. Taras Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Unsk (View Comment):

    “The day of enlightened administration has come.”

    Wow Gumby, great quote which kinda says it all doesn’t it? Damn that Constitutional thingy – we know better! We’re enlightened!

    We don’t need no stinking production of more goods or the exploitation of more resources! That anyone, much less the next President, would say that in midst of the misery of millions in 1932 is absolutely astounding.

    I’ve heard people use that word “enlightened” since way back, and it always makes me cringe. As if enlightenment is what’s needed.

    Talk about enlightenment implies that somebody else is not enlightened; i.e., most of society, whose unenlightened views must be overruled and overridden by the self-styled elite through coercion and deception.

    This is how liberals see the world.

     

     

    • #16
    • December 2, 2019, at 10:00 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Gromrus (View Comment):
    Everyone in government, from top to bottom, will tend toward their own stability and wishes.

    This is sort of a theme in Burnham’s book. There will be a ruling class, in or out of government, that will look after its own interests.

    By the way, I thought I was one who some years ago initiated the term “ruling class” to describe members of the current administrative class, along with allies and hangers on SNIP. But Burnham was using that term in 1941, not so much for rhetorical effect (as I originally was using it) but to be clinically precise. At one time we had a capitalist ruling class, which had gradually replaced the feudal ruling class at the end of the middle ages. Since WWI a managerial ruling class has been replacing the capitalist ruling class, SNIP

    It isn’t the first time that managers have become the rulers. It happens within capitalist businesses. BurnhamSNIP is the old Merovingian rulers of the Franks. Charles Martel (the guy credited for beating back the Islamic invasion of Europe) SNIP eventually dropped the pretense that they were just administrators for the Merovingians SNIP

    SNIP Members of the State Department now think that it’s the job of the elected president to “earn the respect” of the State Department before they will comply with his policies.

    Very nicely stated, The Reticulator.

    As someone who early in my life became entangled by the Employment Development Agency, the agency that handles unemployment insurance, it was clear to me that once a citizen comes under the purview of some agencies, all civil rights are out the door.

    In the case of the Unemployment Department, they were charging me with fraud. They kept insisting I would end up spending as much as 16 years in prison. My crime: I accurately reported the dates I received monies on a paycheck from this lawyer.

    The lawyer didn’t get around to reporting my employment til some 8 wks later. My word regarding my truthfulness meant nothing to them. The lawyer had a computer file that showed when he thought he employed me. My notation was in a hand written memo book.

    I tried to point out: how in the world would I have known in May of that FY that I would be working the weird days & weird hours I worked in advance? And that he then reported so many weeks later. If I was that psychic I wouldn’t be working for lawyers – I’d be the next Jeanne Dixon.

    What saved me was an employment agency kept notes on sending me out to work for him. They also had insisted I be an indie contractor – as he was too difficult to deal with.

    So I knew by age 30 that agencies are insane and often run by power hungry nut jobs who have quotas they meet that are far more important than the people they supposedly serve.

    • #17
    • December 2, 2019, at 1:41 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. JamesSalerno Coolidge

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    Amity Schlae’s new book “The Great Society” has arrived and I look forward to a deep discussion of the Administrative State and its foibles.

    https://www.amazon.com/Great-Society-History-1960s-America/dp/0061706426/

     

    I have very much been looking forward to this one but I won’t be able to tackle it until my reading pile thins out. Let me know how it is!

    • #18
    • December 3, 2019, at 7:16 AM PST
    • 1 like