Posts Tagged ‘New Public Management’

The Managers Have Failed, Long Live Management

May 20, 2012

            In the past weeks Jamie Dimon made a preemptive announcement of failure, and kept his job. The rhetorical move exemplified the brilliance of management that makes Dimon the model of emulation for folks like Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mitch Daniels and other state governors across America.

            “These processes manifest themselves in an increasing concentration in NPM [New Public Management] on the supervision and regulation of the public sector through mechanisms such as audits and inspections. The emphasis on control brings to light the first hidden substantial aspect of NPM managerialism that is reminiscent of state Communism. Like Communism, NPM is totalitarian because it leaves no institutionalized room for criticism, which it always sees as subversive:

            Because managerialism sees itself as the antidote to chaos, irrationality, disorder,            and incompleteness, there are no spaces within such a social order in which           autonomy can be contested legitimately. Managerial definitions of quality,             efficiency, improved productivity or self management, construct a particular        version of autonomy. Those who do not desire these managerial constructs of           autonomy are simply defined as absurd, as under managerialism, these notions     appear as self-evident “good”

 

            The German sociologist Ulrich Beck recently coined the term McKinsey Stalinism in this context.

            The introduction of permanent control over faculty – which is unprecedented at least in the history of universities in democracies worthy of the name – is nothing other than the introduction of a culture of permanent mistrust. That is the second attribute that NPM shares with state Communism.

            The qualispeak of NPM exploits the indisputable fact that in Europe, North America, and Australia higher education is largely financed by public funds and founded on the idea that taxpayers – the shareholders in the state – are entitled to know that their money is being spent efficiently and transparently. NPM is VFM [Value for Money] and thus the best of all possible worlds. In this respect NPM is the privatized heir of state Communism. Managers who make higher education “efficient” and “transparent” by exercising constant control over the faculty are represented as the form that “accountability” to taxpayers and consumers takes in the former public domain. “Accounting,” that is, the dual process of counting and being required to account for what one does, is central to this process (“MU,” p. 325). The management itself in NPM, just like the party in state Communism, is outside all control and accountability because the management by definition represents both efficiency and accountability. That is the third attribute that NPM shares with state Communism. The question of whether managers really do spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently and whether they are more reliable than faculty cannot be asked in NPM. Nor may one ask whether the cost of the management controls are less than the money saved on inefficient academic personnel. The fact that there is not a shred of evidence for these two crucial assumptions of NPM – rather the opposite – makes abundantly clear where the blind spots lie in NPM. That all the recent economic scandals – from Enron, WorldCom, and Barings to the Lehman Brothers – happened despite constant audits furnishes some extra empirical food for critical thought on both management and audits.

            This brings us up against a fourth interesting similarity between neo-liberal managerialism and state Communism: just as the Party by definition represents the interests of those who are led by the Party, so according to NPM management represents the interests of those who are managed. That is why NPM management models allow no place for representative bodies, which are only seen as a hindrance to administrative efficiency. And were undeniable irregularities in management practices to occur, then an individual manager eventually may be criticized or dismissed, but management itself can never be challenged. Neither the NPM nor the state Communist discourse will accept any criticism of their core practices and key personnel as legitimate because criticism is identified with lack of loyalty to the organization and so is seen as fundamentally subversive.” (pgs. 608-610, Critical Inquiry Spring 2012, essay entitled If You’re So Smart, Why Are You Under Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New Public Management by Chris Lorenz)

Advertisements