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The McKinsey Society (book review)

This book review of Dirk Kurbjuweit's "Our Efficient Life. The Dictatorship of the Economy and its Consequences" is translated from the German in the cyber journal Telepolis. "McKinsey's optimization program of tightenings, rationalizations and profit maximization, the program of increased efficiency, has psych-social consequences. In the supposedly athletic society, a competitive pressure clearly overstrains many people. The implicit demand is that the multitude should use the elite as a performance standard.."
The McKinsey Society

The economic program of increasing efficiency has already seized all areas of society

By Krystian Woznicki

[This book review of: Dirk Kurbjuweit: Our Efficient Life. The Dictatorship of the Economy and its Consequences (Unser effizientes Leben), Rowohlt is translated from the German in the cyber journal Telepolis,  http://www.telepolis.de/dutsch/inhalt/buch/14404/1.html.]

The market bristling with consulting firms will soon be omnipresent in everyday life. They already mark everyday life through their information superiority and by the definitional power on lifestyle models. McKinsey & Company [ http://www.mckinsey.com] was founded in 1926.

Los Angeles in 2019. Acid rain drips down on amorphous human multitudes from the sky-high pyramids of the Tyrell Corporation recalling the buildings of the Mayas. This view could be a model for the third phase of capitalism. The all-embracing field of conflict seems settled. Only the way the dictatorship of the economy reprograms the world seems dubious.

In any case, corporate capital has long completely penetrated the intestines of society and even dominates the core of human imagination. Nothing belongs to the person any more. Even remembrances are implanted artificially in personal consciousness. What was described by Philip K. Dick as a science-fiction dystopia assumed concrete contours at the beginning of the 21st century. In reading Dirk Kurbjuweit 's book "Our Efficient Life", one has the impression that the blade-runner existence has already become reality. Kurbjuweit's central metaphor is not the android but the McKinsey person, a prototype of the worldwide consulting agent.

Business that elevates efficiency into the highest goal and advises practically half the world economy with this watchword according to Kurbjuweit's alarming observation, doesn't only regard the economic sector as its primary battle zone. For a long time, business sought to open up all other social areas: culture, the church, the city, politics, education and research.

The author describes this as the essential development of the last 10 years. He follows a business group called a "sect" in common parlance. In the 1990s, he was drawn to McKinsey, met the boss, interviewed many co-workers and gained insight in the working method and ideology of the firm. He also learned the effect of McKinsey. The description of one mix up is very impressive. An employee of a publishing company begins defending his job and nervously offers arguments against his dismissal until the boss interrupts the dialogue with the words: this man isn't a co-worker of McKinsey.

McKinsey's optimization program of tightenings, rationalizations and profit maximization, the program of increased efficiency, has psycho-social consequences. In the supposedly "athletic society", a competitive pressure clearly overstrains many people. The implicit demand is that the multitude should use the elite as a performance standard. The multitude is programmatically "broken" by McKinsey to become flexible. A paradox is intimated here. "Good reasons for efficiency and economic conduct can be found in nearly every individual case. In the end, a society emerges that isn't worth living."

Kurbjuweit calls the product "the McKinsey society", a term that goes beyond the topography of the consulting firm. What are central are the fruits of the self-dynamic unfolded by the McKinsey school. Kurbjuweit understands McKinsey as a metaphor for an all-embracive change in society as paraphrased by the philosopher Joachim Koch:

"In the Middle Ages, the church influenced thought and conduct. Since the enlightenment, reason was regarded as the standard of all conduct. Today the economy plays this role and marks our ideas of happiness, love and meaning of life."

Are there alternatives and ways out? Kurbjuweit is skeptical. He describes how the last areas withdrawn from efficiency thinking are annexed. His view of the churches is very exciting. The churches have lost social relevance since the 2nd World War. For some time, their foundation of existence has tottered. The Suddeutsche Zeitung recently reported about the paralyzing financial crisis of the episcopate and McKinsey's advice to carry out the most severe staff reductions and sell what could be sold. The transformation of the spiritual domain into a service sector goes along with the administrative transformation of this sector. This may be Kurbjuweit's most memorable example for the "McKinsey society".