Sunday, May 18, 2008

Democracy and deference

Mark Slouka traces a very interesting parallel between strongly hierarchical models of most business organizations, and what it means for the domestic politics.

The central thesis is that we're so used to unquestioningly follow orders at work, that we translate the same paradigm into politics, and it becomes just too easy to forget that a president is not a sovereign ruler, but rather a servant of the people. And the president is only too happy to behave like a king since the the population allows it.

"Turn on the TV to almost any program with an office in it, and you'll find a depressingly accurate representation of the "boss culture," a culture based on an a priori notion of-a devout belief in-inequality. The boss will scowl or humiliate you... because he can, because he's the boss. And you'll keep your mouth shut and look contrite, even if you've done nothing wrong... because, well, because he's the boss. Because he's above you. Because he makes more money than you. Because - admit it - he's more than you.

This is the paradigm - the relational model that shapes so much of our public life."

I think there's a lot of truth to this. I was once in the path of a senator at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. His bodyguards were literally shoving people out of his way as his excellency was moving across the exhibition floor.

I could never imagine this was possible - even in Soviet Russia I did not ever see party officials (or rather, their guards) behave like that.

Whether this phenomenon is caused by the corporate culture there's no way of telling for sure, but I'd say it is probably not a bad guess. I've seen people change almost completely when they changed their managers, to an extent that their behavior was difficult to recognize.

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