The New Class War

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Lind, Michael. The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite. New York City: Penguin, 2020. Shorter form (?) as a separate essay, American Affairs 1.2 (Summer 2017): 19-44.[1]

Updates James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution (1941, q.v.), combining it with John Kenneth Galbraith's The New Industrial State (1967, 1971), and other works by Galbraith and others. Explicitly and in a stressed position in the Introduction quotes George Orwell on Burnham, so see for Nineteen Eighty-Four and the idea we suggest passim that a significant number of mechanized environments in SF suggest, symbolize, or are objective correlatives for high-tech bureaucracy.

From the on-line essay, a quotation from Orwell's summary of Burnham in "Second Thoughts on James Burnham" (Polemic, May 1946; as a pamphlet, "James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution," 1946):[2]

Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not replacing it. What is now arising is a new kind of planned, centralized society which will be neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic. The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively control the means of production: that is, business executives, technicians, bureaucrats and soldiers, lumped together by Burnham, under the name of “managers.” These people will eliminate the old capitalist class, crush the working class, and so organize society that all power and economic privilege remain in their own hands. . . . The new “managerial” societies will not consist of a patchwork of small, independent states, but of great super-states grouped round the main industrial centers in Europe, Asia and America. These super-states will fight among themselves for possession of the remaining uncaptured portions of the earth, but will probably be unable to conquer one another completely. Internally, each society will be hierarchical, with an aristocracy of talent at the top and a mass of semi-slaves at the bottom.

This is clearly relevant for Nineteen Eighty-Four; and for Lind, Burnham, Galbraith (et al.) provide a scheme to analyze the crises in the developed world in the second decade of the 21st century.

The thesis of this essay is that the theory of the managerial elite explains the present transatlantic social and political crisis. Following World War II, the democracies of the United States and Europe, along with Japan [...] adopted variants of cross-class settlements, brokered by national governments between national managerial elites and national labor. Following the Cold War, the global business revolution shattered these social compacts. Through the empowerment of multinational corporations and the creation of transnational supply chains, managerial elites disempowered national labor and national governments and transferred political power from national legislatures to executive agencies, transnational bureaucracies, and treaty organizations. Freed from older constraints, the managerial minorities of Western nations have predictably run amok, using their near-monopoly of power and influence in all sectors—private, public, and nonprofit—to enact policies that advantage their members to the detriment of their fellow citizens. Derided and disempowered, large elements of the native working classes in Western democracies have turned to charismatic tribunes of anti-system populism in electoral rebellions against the selfishness and arrogance of managerial elites.

For Vonnegut's Player Piano (1952),[3] note Lind on the importance of World War II and the transfer of power to the "university-credentialed overclass" of managers and professionals along with a technological movement from an era of the electromechanical to "the Information Age," corresponding to Vonnegut's Second Industrial Revolution and the incipient Third. Also relevant for Michael Young's 1958 dystopia, The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033.

RDE, Initial Compiler, 19May20; 13Jun23