Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Thumbs Down For The Literature Of Greed

British journalist Tom Hodgkinson skewers the gospel of the high and mighty in a trenchant book review in The Statesman. Among the books he cuts down to size are a Jack Welch book about "winning", another book entitled You Can't Win A Fight With Your Boss, and still another tome hilariously dubbed The Servant Leader - perhaps the first time in publishing history that a synonym for "slave driver" has graced the title of an "inspirational" publication. Jack Welch, who grins like Satan on the flyleaf of his book, preaches "winning" above all other values - ignoring creativity, craftsmanship, love either for one's family or for one's fellow man. He prefers to hire fanatics rather than people with either a balanced life or a sense of perspective. Above all, he pushes total self-sacrifice to your employer because "you too can win" - even though the most that even the hardest working corporate serfs are likely to get is disappointment and a coronary.

The author of You Can't Win A Fight With Your Boss preaches relentless hard work even more - shall we say it? - relentlessly. You should not break for lunch, only the strong survive, etc. This man - some global marketing chief named Tom Markert - even stalks around the cubicles in his domain, personally monitoring the performance of his underlings to see who's "pumping it out" - as well as, of course, who isn't.

Hodgkinson notes how moral virtues are recast as business tactics. Honesty isn't as important as the appearance of honesty, which promotes trust and, ultimately, profit. All of these books suggest that making money is the only important thing in life, and Hodgkinson believes that they are meant, not so much as guidebooks for success, but as "sophisticated whips for slaves". He invokes the French philosopher Raoul Vaneigem, who said, "Every call for productivity under the conditions chosen by capitalist economics is a call to slavery... Nowadays ambition and the love of a job well done are the indelible mark of defeat and of the most mindless submission." Hear, hear!

The last laugh on these scribbling tycoons is that all their books have been outsold by a French volume entitled Bonjour Laziness: Why Hard Work Doesn't Pay. Here, Hodgkinson asserts, is the book we should really be reading.

"The winner takes it all" from The Stateman

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