From ‘capitalism and revolution’ to ‘capitalism and managerialism’

Murphy, Peter (2020) From ‘capitalism and revolution’ to ‘capitalism and managerialism’. Thesis Eleven, 161 (1). pp. 23-34.

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Seventy years ago James Burnham (1905–1987) was a well-known American intellectual figure. Burnham’s 1941 book The Managerial Revolution, a cause célèbre, provided some of the conceptual framework for George Orwell’s 1984. Cornelius Castoriadis (1922–1997) at the time was an obscure Greek-French political intellectual, writer and small-group organizer. He co-founded the left-wing Socialisme ou Barbarie in Paris in 1949 while Burnham was already on a rightward intellectual trajectory. The two, though, shared certain traits. Both emerged from Trotskyist milieus as critics of bureaucratic collectivism. Both were anti-communists. Both were gifted writers and thinkers who were distinctly unorthodox in their approach, notably their scepticism about 20th-century managerial society and bureaucratic forms of capitalism. Then there were the divergences. At its inception in 1955 Burnham joined National Review, the principal organ of modern centre-right conservative opinion in the United States. Castoriadis became a leading figure of the French self-management left. Based on his Christian Gauss Seminar at Princeton, Burnham’s 1964 book Suicide of the West offered the most potent intellectual critique of left-liberalism ever produced. In ‘Proletariat and Organization 1’ (1959), Castoriadis referred to Burnham’s ‘pseudoanalysis’ of bureaucracy. Burnham was not a self-management advocate. As he abandoned Marxism his social philosophy drew on Vilfredo Pareto and other Machiavellian social theorists. The paper explores the affinities and the divergent political trajectories of two of the 20th century’s most interesting anti-bureaucratic thinkers.

Item ID: 65678
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1461-7455
Keywords: Automaticity, Bureaucracy, James Burnham, Capitalism, Cornelius Castoriadis, Contradiction, Control, Managerialism, Paradox antinomy
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2020
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2021 00:57
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441005 Social theory @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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