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The Ideology of the Managed Society (1966)

The changeover from capitalist to managerial or cybernetic society is accompanied by a shift in emphasis from the protestant to the social ethic. (W. Whyte, The Organisation Man). Of course this ethic is an ideology in Marx's sense in which 'Liberty, Equality Fraterntiy' meant 'Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery' since as Whyte noted it was those who paid only lipservice to it who seemed to be moving up. The good life has been identified with integrability into society so woe betide those who are individualist.

In a non-capitalist society the switch occurs through the perversion of revolutionary ideas and ethics so that the state becomes supreme. In the capitalist case society becomes supreme but it is not the society referred to by Kropotkin: society itself has become part of the ideology and the institutionalisation of the social principle has become to some extent a policy - hence the upper-middle class suburban America of which Whyte, Packard, Reisman and Boorstin have written. The basic doctrine is that there is no difference of interests between individual and society (and in the abstraction the latter becomes virtually identical with the state); if there is the individual is maladjusted. The individual is subordinated to the group and the latter judged morally superior.

Naturally to propagate such a doctrine one must wrap it in soft words. The key words are 'security', 'co-operation' and 'adjustment' (with the optional prefix 'mal-'). A generation is rising that must use these words to justify its lack of opportunity to follow its forebears' protestant ethic. A similar doctrine is being propagated in the East where the protestant ethic has never been that strong.

Wrapped in with these words is the "golden tomorrow" - perhaps not as golden as it used to be but stacked with gilt consumer goods. 'A good life foe everyone' proclaim the ideologues of the developed nations while one third of the world starve. In this golden age there will be a surfeit of material goods but so few spiritual ones that even the atheists are worried. Actually under present conditions this averaging is mathematically permissible but meaningless. Whils the U.S., Europe, Russia, Japan and maybe Australia become over-consumers, squandering the world's resources, the rest of the world except for its ruling classes, who are usually well-fed puppets, will continue to be underprivileged. Past experience shows the folly of thinking that this would be otherwise under right cyberneticism (managerial society) for many years. Revolutionary left cyberneticism could achieve some equalisation but only by massive immigration, trade and aid plans. Economies could not retain any capitalist character if this were to happen.

The common element of cybernetic doctrines is the concept of information flow but according as this is a one way or a two way flow we have indoctrination and command or interaction and communication. We also have two views of society.

The first view of society and the state is that they are organic and that society is (should be) a mass of interlocking elements or functions in which all (should) contribute and no conflict exists. Hence all information should be used (i.e. all participate) with the aim of achieving homeostasis - or dynamic stability through feedback and other mechanisms. (In practice of course there will be a large amount of coercion since this model does not accord with the facts). The second view is that the state expresses the real or assumed interests of certain groups and that society takes its form in the dialogue between interest groups (in which the outcome is largely dependent on the power of the political state).

If one now takes the moral stand that the states should not interfere one has the anarchistic position of left cyberneticism which, recognising the existence of conflict, tries to smooth it over by interchange of ideas and by social regulation without legal sanction. This position is not to be judged utopian since it recognises and allows for the inherent conflict between individual and society (i.e. between individual and individuals). It is the basis for the new free society. In the society of right cyberneticism the rulers (who use the ideologies discussed above) would pervert the information system and use the various methods available to them to achieve a homeostasis suitable to them.

This would lead, regardless of any utopian soothsaying, straight back to the classical coercive state.

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