Paging Tom and Daisy Buchanan
Good and thought provoking essay.
Mea Culpa I did a business studies degree in a good University and then acquired the equivalent of a USA CPA qualification. I worked in professional services my entire career and did well, rising quickly and earning a good deal of money back in the day. My degree did not really prepare me for anything though it was hard work and is even harder today - I doubt I would even be allowed to commence the course these days. My accountancy qualification equipped me for very little except a narrow technical expertise. Over 5 to 10 years I learnt how to become an extremely effective manager and leader. I was never one to blindly accept the rules and status quo and this bloody mindedness and independence of thought allowed me to thrive. However now I am virtually unemployable and indeed have been told that my approach is downright dangerous in a modern woke work envirponment full of fragile and litigious people.
I went through recruitment processes and worked with many many young graduates in the period around the millenium. Whilst many were great, the majority were functionally illiterate and innumerate, and usually needed help to think. And this was nearly 20 years ago and the situation has only got worse.
Like many people who haunt these sites, I have many friends who you might say were or are part of the PMC and with whom I generally avoid discussing certain subjects. They genuinely believe that Brexit was a fix or a mistake, that masks and co-vid jabs were essential and it arose from bat soup, that Trump is a dangerous unstable racist who tried to launch a coup, that Biden is compus mentas and talk of his corruption is slander, that the 2020 US election was clean, that the Russian attack on Ukraine was unprovoked and that Ukraine are winning despite huge Russian casualties and atrocities. A few even take the view that discrimination against white men is fine and that you can indeed choose your own gender. Islam is obviously a religion of peace. One even told me recently that Farage deserved to lose his right to UK banking.
You cannot engage these people with facts, logic and analysis because they hold these views as self evident truths. They base their facts on what they are told by the MSM and if you present an alternative they look at you as if you have been on crack cocaine. Theirs is a world view that is a sense of self and of group identity. It is too hard to repent. Easier to enage in cognitive dissonence.
I do not think it is getting better. I think it is getting worse. The people who are now starting to run the world are younger than me and worse educated and more susceptible to indoctrination and the acceptance of misinformation and censorship. And we are not talking here of intrisically lazy or stupid people. These people work hard and are smart. They simply cannot see that they are killing the goose that layed the golden egg through misplaced ideology. It is a religion dressed up as science.
I'm paraphrasing Putin I think, but he said that the west is going through its own version of the collective madness that once was the communist ideology that so crippled the USSR. He said that Russia has learned its lesson and will not go back to the madness. Meanwhile the west plunges into its own Cultural Revolution. The rest of the world looks on with a mix of amusement, scorn and alarm.
Excellent essay, thankyou.
I went to school in the 1960s and 1970s and have recently had to review Masters degree students' essays which would have been failed by my senior school English teacher. I also took an MBA in the 1990s at a prestigious US university which was on the level of a trade school rather than a university Masters, and the "fail" grade was a B. Things have only become worse since then.
I see much of this being driven by the ownership class's moving away from building value toward extracting value through financialization, grinding down unions, lower taxes on the rich, the construction of monopolies/oligopolies, and offshoring. No more would engineers head up great companies, but rather financial engineers , lawyers and messaging wizards. The results can be seen in companies as diverse as Boeing, Intel, Ford and Disney.
As the cost of higher education has accelerated upwards and the academy has become neoliberalized (lots of expensive pointless administrators and managers while the producers are underpaid and disrespected) the "customer" becomes King and revenue targets trump excellence. The elite of Europe may have kept the craziness out of their children's schools, but in North America even the elite schools have become invaded.
After Occupy Wall Street, it also seems that the elite decided to redirect attention toward identity politics etc. to save themselves, but ended up opening a complete can of worms that undermines the foundations upon which their wealth depends. Also, much of the post-modernist faux left garbage was very much supported by the US state and security services in an attempt to build a non-communist critical theory. Gabriel Rockhill has covered this well. Intellectual blowback on a monumental scale.
I agree that there will be no conversion of the PMC back to modernist competence, or an overthrow of the PMC. Rather, the West will continue to crumble in the face of the modernist competence of the rest of the world, much of which is in the process of throwing out the PMC and finding its own path.
The question is whether the PMC can brute force their way through. If we learned nothing else from Ukraine, it is how far the PMC will go, trample roughshod over every law of God and man, sacrifice hundreds of thousands with utmost callousness, to get what they want and maintain power.
The diagnosis is spot on. If you ever look at Linked In then you see the PMC at possibly their most obsequious in virtue signalling ideological allegiance to the various luxury beliefs of our age.
As someone who was a member of the PMC by virtue of education in the U.K. and US plus a multi decade career at two of the world’s best known consulting firms it actually pains me to recognise how right your argument is.
I trust that your prognosis is right and hope we do not see too much pain, but reality will no doubt be tricky as this unravels.
This is todays NY Times.
"As the sociologist E. Digby Baltzell wrote decades ago, “History is a graveyard of classes which have preferred caste privileges to leadership.” That is the destiny our class is now flirting with. We can condemn the Trumpian populists all day until the cows come home, but the real question is when will we stop behaving in ways that make Trumpism inevitable."
John Kenneth Galbraith said "every successful revolution is the kicking in of a rotten door." Well the door is certainly rotten, but there aren't any viable kickers in the west.
This situation is inherently temporary. A door this rotten is an invitation to do some kicking, and it is only a matter of time until someone rises to the challenge. That someone is unlikely to be to our liking as the situation favors ambitious men with few scruples.
From this essay, you might get the sense that the PMC rule the world--that they are, in themselves, the dominant "class."
I don't think that is the case. Capital reigns supreme, and the PMC, if it exists as anything at all coherent ("PMC" is best thought of as a rhetorical device), exists to serve Capital. In your essay, you question the PMC's effectiveness, charging it with tremendous incompetence. If that's really true, then why have their patrons tolerated them for so long?
Could it be, in the eyes of Capital, that the PMC have been rather useful, perhaps even indispensable? This essay, I think, overemphasizes PMC failures and underemphasizes their successes. For example, take unregulated immigration--beloved by capitalists the world over. The PMC has done an admirable job securing and maintaining ideological dominance that favors the arrival of cheap immigrant labor, which in turn secures for Capital a robust reserve labor army.
In the United States, the PMC has played an absolutely pivotal role in proletarianization of the medical profession and the transformation of hospitals into profit centers. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that doctors in the United States--a core PMC-type career--would begin agitating for unionization! Bravo, PMC administrators. You've really outdone yourselves. Bonuses, all around!
Not every service the PMC's performed on behalf of their patrons has turned out to Capital's advantage. While some have yielded benefits in the short term, they've proven destabilizing in the long term.
That's Capital for you--riven by contradictions, prone to social and economic crises. The same was true in an earlier time, when Capital's servants were cut from a more "mature," "competent" cloth.
The problem is less in the servant, more in the master.
Synchronicity is always a surprise to me. I am always intrigued and amused when it happens though.
So today I was pleased by the arrival in my e-mail two distinctly different posts from two different people who I very much enjoy reading.
This post came through first, I very much agreed with everything here, there were almost no points of disagreement. I am impressed at your approach and detail. In a sense, this article might be one of your best in many ways.
But then a couple of hours later, I got this in my inbox.
I think that folks here just might want to take a look. The subjects are astonishingly and a nice overlap of styles and emphasis that I am amazed at.
Thanks again Aurelian for the strong work.
pmc is how the f-35 can have decades of delay, untested specifications 99% cost overruns, be best fighter since curtiss wright planes and not get cancelled.
pmc is the emperors new clothes tailors….
my time in dod weapon acquisition dealt with the strong feeling all of the facts “did not add up”
and pmc would sunder the world land mass
I'm a member of a caste I absolutely despise.
College reunions are like treading on egg-shells, though fortunately two of my annual gathering of about 10 of us also feel the same way.
I work in a high-status profession - IT Consultancy, in a senior position, but have all the wrong low-status opinions about the world. When I told a German colleague in Riyadh the other day that I was an enthusiastic supporter of Brexit and, oh, why are you allowing the US to deindustralise your country, I thought he was going to keel over.
When will the pitchforks come for us ? I don't know, but they can't be far away. I hope to be retired to some bucolic redoubt in the Welsh Marches by then, far away from linkedin, corporate lawyers, sociopathic girlbosses and HR.
Global warming? I thought they were calling this scam "climate change" now because things started cooling and upset the narrative? Anyway, they are not the idiot know nothings you portray them as. PMCs are just the new more sophisticated aristocracy who couch their dispossession of masses in kind accepting language rather than brute force. "Climate change" is about proletariat and third world accepting less and being content with living in squaller and less taxes/redistribution/competition burden on the 1%. Plus they can sell you shit you don't need and make some money like solar and EVs. Covid flu scam is about selling you quarterly shots and control. Unlimited immigration is about cheap labor and divide and rule the working class so no labor/solidarity movements form from them. Wars are not meant to be won but to endure and sell arms and NGO make billions off tax payers. We would have stayed in Afghanistan for 80 years if feasible but Taliban proved too popular. They hope Russia doesn't prove too good for Ukraine and vise versa and will bleed that out for 20 years too if possible.
The MO of the PMCs is to enrich themselves and are doing a damn fine job of it. So are you if invested in Fortune 500s to any extent.
Another good piece. It came up in a discussion on Moon of Alabama wherein I offered the following comment following one by Suzan with an excerpt: [my comment]
"Aurelien is doing very good work.
I think what he is groping for in this piece is that we don't have Heaven principle in our modern society any more (scientific materialism again). Put in different lingo, we have rule by middle class. Without a profound and vast Heaven within which the affairs of humankind on Earth play out, it is hard to fashion meaningful life journeys with cultural expressions to mirror and further wisdom, beauty, elegance, discipline, honor and so forth. In his piece he describes a class which has fallen prey to abstraction, confusing concept for reality. As pointed out elsewhere, the entire notion of 'objective reality' is a fictive construct (but also a very restricted, limited and thus 'low' one). In a way, that's where the fallacy starts.
He calls this mentality childish. I think of it more as primitive and superstitious. We may like to think we are in the most evolved and advanced civilizations projecting that all those before us were more primitive and superstitious, but that might be a false, not to mention arrogant, assumption. Look at our architecture; look at modern art; look at modern food production; look at our clothing (jeans and tshirts); look at our politics...
All over the world the old orders were replaced and with good reason: they were corrupt or inefficient or both. But both in the West and Asia we didn't just get rid of corrupt leaders, we changed entire systems of governance and social organization and in so doing may have thrown the baby out with the bath water. At least in the West, it seems that what we replaced them with leaves much to be desired and indeed is about to be replaced in turn. We hope the Chinese and Russians and others are finding better ways forward because they are now on the rise again - after extremely brutal 20th century experiences. But it will take a couple of centuries to determine if they have succeeded, which of course none of us is going to witness.
Rightly or wrongly, it seems to this observer that Russia, of all polities today, seems to have the best approach. They are rediscovering their bedrock natural character which includes spiritual elements and also changing with the times, both in terms of technology, governance systems and alliances. It is the spiritual connection with their ancestral character that seems - at least to me - to be what elevates them above the rest right now and why, thanks also to Putin's particular brilliance, they are the linchpin of Eurasian Civilizational Rise. They are not only going forward with material modernization in other words albeit they went though much of that last century so now have no need. Once China has caught up - which looks like will be the case within another decade or two - then we'll see how they do once the boom growth times are over.
Meanwhile the West doesn't have any connection with its core character any more but is a complete and utter thoroughly modern mess. We could blame capitalism perhaps but there are factors behind and above which allowed capitalism to rise which are no longer perceived. No wonder the current ruling class as described by Aurelien is such a pathetic mess. Though my impression is that he is familiar with the upper echelons of the administrative state, i.e. upper middle management, but not with the higher actually ruling echelons above them which he perceives only vaguely. Indeed, because of the pervasive level of deception emanating from the true ruling class in the financial cartels level, the middle level beneath them is swimming in an ocean of societal deceit and obfuscation which is why they are so confused and childish in ways he so well describes."
(Suzan's comment is: Posted by: suzan | Aug 3 2023 15:57 utc | 110;
mine later is: Posted by: Scorpion | Aug 3 2023 16:47 utc | 116)
There is a lot to agree with here but in the whole the take away seems to be a moral condemnation of a ‘corrupted class’. I think this is a shame if the idea is to ‘try to understand the world’.
For example I’m guessing the ideal public servant you described in a previous article was effectively part of the PMC back then, so it would be interesting to see is how we slide from that ideal public servant/service, to the one described above.
And an explanation by moral corruption is no real explanation at all, for it’s merely a normative take, not a descriptive analysis.
We don’t get the explanation here, instead it reads more like of a list of complaints with everything and its opposite all of which functions to make salient a moral condemnation of a vaguely defined group of people. Your critique of liberalism constantly demanding more transparency and rules was enlightening in that regard.
It’s fine, perhaps even useful to acknowledge the existence of the PMC as a class, but in the above they function more as the conspiratorial and elusive ‘they’ (I grant that you do not linger on evilness and bad intentions, instead pointing out it’s intentionally amorphous). They stand for all the bad in the world but who are these people? Why do they do this? Against who? Why does it work? How come there indeed is no competing world view to take its place if it’s so dysfunctional?
Also, no mention of how all of this heavy ‘institutional infrastructure’ does in fact function quite well to a certain end: making money for another class...
Take any of the public policy problems raised in the article, education, immigration, COVID, climate change, etc. what would be positively better public policy? How do you enforce them? Without answering such questions one simply takes the normative high road, like the PMC does, simply claiming that one has common sense and one is in contact with reality, while everyone else, a fortiori the PMC, is merely ideological and delusional.
This is itself a political and normative move, with little analytical value, it’s also a form of ‘virtue signalling’ and it has little to do with what you do in other articles and with what you say you want to do with this thread: try to understand the world.
Excellent essay as usual, but the covid bit was a little weird.
I have had some experiences which lead me to believe that the PMC does take their general marching orders from an even smaller cadre who I call "the owners" (can't bring myself to call them elite) but it really doesn't change anything you wrote.
The PMC have been managing access and consumption of the worlds finite natural resources as without them they are dead in the water. An important element of this management which is rarely understood or discussed is Demand Destruction. This is necessary to keep the cost down but also to keep others from using up their resources.
This dynamic, as you point out, is ending. The RoW is starting to say NO! My concern is that as the PMC is cut off from managing the globe they will mostly turn inward and focus on "managing" western civilization imposing ever more draconian "demand destruction" on us. Which by the way is happening already.
My daugther is currently working with an internship in a company abroad. She has been offered to stay when It is finished. It is all about communication, PR and social Networks so i cannot image anything more PMCish... In Brussels, no less! She is learning a lote in her job even given responsibilities well above internship grade. When she deals with complex matters in, for instance energy supply and management, and she wants to check if anything she is going to communicate or reporte is accurate (as opposed to for instance "greenwashing") she asks me for opinion and info. Still has a sense of responsibility. Yet i fear she might turn PMC with time. Interestingly, Young as she is, she would like to go back to University and complement with something to the tune of "International Relations". Return to adolescente and happiness for another year or so. Well, i told her. Please not in any of these overly expensive UK or US universities. As a challenge i told her: what about going to China, they are now the leaders on such matters...