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The Workings of Domination: Divide and Rule

The concept of “divide and rule” remains a common element in the ideological box when it comes to dominating others. This method is perhaps as old as domination itself. As those cementing domination subordinate and dominate the majority of people—hence the Occupy Movement’s “we are the 99%”12—they divide and keep them divided in order to sustain domination. The global minority—even down to the training elite of Managerialism—can never permit themselves the luxury of tolerating the unification of people in society, of workers in workplaces and of students in educational facilities. Altruism, kinship, solidarity, and unification undeniably signify very serious threats to their hegemony and domination. Hence, they have invented rafts of ideologies to separate people from one another, workers from workers and students from students.

As a consequence, those furthering domination engage in any method—including violence as assigned to the state via police as a buffer that protects capital—and in any action that prevents an awakening of those who seek emancipation. To sustain domination, the human need for solidarity and unity has to be smothered at an early stage. Concepts such as solidarity, unity, organisation, and struggle are immediately labelled as fruitless, useless, dangerous, and even pathological. These concepts have always been dangerous to those furthering domination because the realisation of solidarity and unity is a necessity for communicative actions that seek emancipation from domination.

It remains in the interest of those cementing domination to destabilise even further those who seek emancipation, to isolate them, and to create and deepen fractures among them. This is done by various means, ranging from repressive methods of government bureaucracies—using open and structured violence—to forms of ideological and cultural domination used to manipulate students, for example, by giving them the impression that they are being assisted under the “we are here to help you” ideology.

One of the characteristics of domination is that its ideology can never be perceived by the unsuspected and dedicated but naive “professionals”13 of management training or other. They have been involved—even been allowed—to design programmes with an emphasis on isolating, focusing, and localising views that assist the individualisation of managerial contradictions rather than seeing them as dimensions of a managerial- capitalist totality. In management training, this explains, for example, the dominance of the so-called case study method that is specifically designed to achieve a disconnection of the specific from the whole. In that way, the whole becomes an indiscernible and incomprehensible abstract while the case study provides clear and easy to understand material for the narrow minded.14

Under this, management training projects become ever more broken down into narrow managerial issues that prevent the understanding of the totality of managerial capitalism that is never to be seen as part of the totality of the capitalist system. In turn, and this is perhaps the truly deceptive part of the ideology, it remains part of a still larger totality, namely that of global capitalism under the ideological heading of globalisation. Virtually anything above management is either presented as irrelevant to the actual case at hand or, more ideologically, is shelved under “managerial economics”. Based on years of schooling, many s tudents have already been successfully disassociated from abstract thinking, concepts, and theories.15 They have been rendered incapable of understanding what has been done “to” them by forces beyond their comprehension. The more alienated people can be made, the easier it is to divide them and keep them divided.

The narrow and localised methods of management training as rehearsed by virtually all management training programmes are designed to intensify the focus on narrow issues, often presenting management and neoliberal economics as “a given” or a “way of life” to be accepted. Those cementing domination—especially but not exclusively in managerial regimes and managerial training regimes—are not just hampering those who seek emancipation from perceiving reality critically; they are actively, decisively, and purposefully preventing the understanding of managerial reality. Through such management training programmes—study “your” case study on e-learning module XYZ and answer the questions—they are deliberately atomised under the prevailing ideology of individualism and kept in isolation from the problems that people confined to structures of domination experience.

The same divisive effect occurs in connection with “management leadership training courses” that seek to translate the ever-growing popularity of “leaders” and “leadership” in management and its adjacent ideology of Managerialism into practical reality to further domination. These management leadership training courses are rarely carried out in-house, that is, by the firms themselves. They are often conducted by external institutions that supply this training to for-profit organisations, thereby mirroring the managerial ideology of “outsourcing” under the “buying- in-expertise” maxim. Like standard management training programmes, such leadership training is, in its final analysis, alienating to leaders and even more so to the often-unmentioned followers.

Many of these leadership courses are based on the nai've but therefore perhaps even more dangerous assumption that one can promote ideologies such as organisational culture, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and corporate citizenship by training corporate leaders. Managerialism pretends that these corporate leaders are part of an invented “community” framed as organisational culture or the illusive business community. This is skilfully linked to stakeholder ideology to reach beyond the borders of corporations and extending deep into communities and the lifeworld, seeking to bridge the profit motive of corporations by promoting corporate leaders and corporations to be reflective of the world outside of corporations. Beneath that, it is not the lifeworld that is promoted but a specific part—profit-making corporations. To collect the willing executors of Managerialism, the usual recruitment and selection mechanism is put in place. Those deemed by management to show sufficient leadership capacities and appropriate ideological attitudes are being chosen for leadership courses. They, quite necessarily, reflect and express the ideologies and aspirations of individualism, personal achievement, monetary rewards, and Managerialism. They have achieved a sufficient level of internalisation or simulation of a pretended harmony with the way they exist in managerial regimes.16

Inside management training they will receive new ideological attitudes and evermore Managerialism filled with the latest buzzwords to think about managerial reality that—from their point of view—categorises and characterises everyone inside organisations. While pretending to be concerned with what management calls “non-managerial staff”, they need to display special abilities that award them the status of being a “leader”. For example, they need to be able to camouflage the inherent contradiction between being seen as a great team “player” while simultaneously they need to be seen as a team “leader”. But as soon as they complete management’s leadership courses and return to the working environment, armed with new ideological resources they now formally possess and have been certified with, they use these resources to control and dominate their peers. To some extent, they might even become strangers in their own workplace when even the ideology of individualism clashes with the collective of a team. But their formal leadership position gives them what Harvard Business Review editor Magretta calls a “position of institutional power”.17 This enhances their ideological power to dominate. In order not to lose their managerial leadership status, they will enhance the manipulation of others in a more efficient manner. Otherwise the leadership training would have been wasted.

When managerial leadership reaches beyond corporations and enters into the lifeworld with Managerialism engulfing entire societies, managerial leadership ideologies spread. This has largely two consequences:

  • 1. either the so-called political leaders grow along with the new ideology of managerial leadership or
  • 2. these leaders are replaced by new managerial leaders who carry the new ideology of Managerialism rather than the outdated ones such as chauvinism, nationalism, militarism, and so on.

Some who emerge are a result of new training processes and new ideologies emanating from the sphere of management. They not only enter the lifeworld but also seek to manipulate and dominate it. Meanwhile, those cementing manipulation and domination have never favoured promoting the lifeworld as a whole. These selected and highly trained business and managerial leaders are now set loose into the lifeworld, determined to preserve an already-existing state of domination and preventing the emergence of critical consciousness and critical interventions. They will fulfil two essential characteristics of ideology: enhance domination and prevent emancipation. And they will work towards these goals whether consciously or unconsciously, seeking to stabilise domination against which critical intervention remains directed—perhaps even as a socioeconomic class.18

The continuity of socio-economic classes remains an issue that has been eliminated from management training—whether seen as sociological classes with lower, middle, and upper class or as Marxist classes divided into those who own the means of production and those who are forced to sell the only thing they can offer, namely their labour power. Perhaps today’s Managerialism and its adjacent training regimes are indeed embarrassed as soon as class, class struggle, and class conflict are mentioned. Class still remains a concept that disturbs those cementing domination and their fine-tuned training regimes that pretend there is harmony inside managerial regimes. But since these management training programmes do not wish to consider themselves as being the domineering class, the issue of class has to be avoided, and therefore class is camouflaged through managerial buzzwords such as organisational members, team-members, associates, and so on.

Being unable to deny the existence of class, management training programmes try to preach the need for harmony between those who buy and those who are obliged to sell their labour. The ideologically hidden forces behind domination that define labour markets—not being exposed to poverty—are coated in managerial language that more often than not comes under the ideological headings of human resource management’s (HRM’s)“recruitment and selection” and neo-liberalism’s “job seekers”. However, the unavoidable antagonism that continues to exist between the two classes—the have and have-nots, owners of companies and sellers of labour, management, and so-called non-managerial staff—renders the faked “harmony” as pretended in management training programmes a mere ideology. It is because of the existence of class and when forced to admit the reality of “what is” that the business and political elites are quick to call for harmony between those classes. When coerced to admit the existence of classes, their ideology pretends that classes are accidental agglomerations of atomised individuals curiously looking at shop windows on Sunday afternoons while others own these windows and everything inside them, down to even the ability to grant the lower classes a Sunday afternoon disengaged from managerial regimes.

Perhaps the only harmony that is deemed viable is the one among those cementing domination while simultaneously all others are dominated, divided, and ruled over. Although these two classes may diverge and occasionally clash over group interests—capitalism’s need for high wages that drives consumerism versus the cost-cutting maxim of individual businesses, for example—the ability to unite as occasionally exercised among those who seek emancipation still constitutes a threat to the classes engaged in domination.

Yet, such an interest synchronisation can lead to increased levels of solidarity among those seeking emancipation. There are, however, a few highly exceptional situations when both classes act in concert—for example, when faced with global environmental devastation—but such crisis situations are always only temporary and the inherent contradictions that define class existence and the relationships between both re-emerge. As long as there are those furthering domination and those seeking emancipation, these contradictions continue to exist. All ideologies and actions invented and carried out by the dominant class manifest the need to divide those who seek emancipation into a sheer endless list of dividing characteristics, invented for the overall “divide and rule” strategy: old versus young man versus woman employed versus unemployed home-owner versus renter workers versus manager master versus slave abled versus disabled land-owner versus farmer teacher versus student, etc.

All of these and plenty more are invented by those who enhance domination in order to facilitate the preservation of domination and classes. Any interference in the “divide and rule” ideology by those seeking emancipation in order to create a solidaristic union among the divided is to be prevented by the representatives of domination. While they seek to divide others, they simultaneously favour their associates. Occasionally, those maintaining domination recruit new members into their ranks by promoting certain individuals who have revealed leadership capacities, willingness to power (Nietzsche), or an eagerness to dominate others. In management training programmes, they can be enticed to cooperate with those who maintain domination as they are “softened up” to become future leaders.19 Many of these managerial programmes operate with the old “carrot-stick” method—ideologically hidden behind, for example, Herzberg’s “intrinsic versus extrinsic” rewards.20 They distribute benefits to some and penalties to others. Overall, these HRM instruments and management training programmes are ways to divide in order to preserve the system by favouring managerial elites. They use ideologies and forms of managerial actions while seeking to exploit and dominate— directly and indirectly—two of the main weak points of those seeking emancipation:

  • 1. their often externally infused insecurity and, perhaps more dangerously,
  • 2. t heir belief that by cooperating with the forces of domination, the system can be made more humane.

“Solicitating the cooperation of the victims”21 occurs under a range of managerial-ideological headings such as involvement, participation, quality circles, corporate citizenship, CSR, sustainability, “green” management, humane management, Critical Management Studies (CMS), and so on.22 The “solicitation” sector has not just grown in recent decades; it has provided useful instruments that further domination. When seen from the perspective of the “power versus knowledge” theorem, those without power but with knowledge are rendered insecure and as a result wish to—at least partly—join those cementing domination in the hallucinogenic belief that they can influence them. Meanwhile, those seeking emancipation are deliberately kept in insecurity through a duality of beliefs:

  • • keeping their hope of betterment up and
  • • becoming part of the managerial training apparatus

that still furthers domination by stealth. On the one hand, those who resist managerial regimes, authoritarian management training programmes and CSR ideologies are deemed irrelevant. They are isolated and marginalised through rafts of stratification mechanisms put in place by Managerialism. Under these circumstances, those sustaining domination can easily obtain positive and legitimising results for divisive actions.

On top of that, many of those seeking emancipation know from experience that the price they are often forced to pay is significant. The price for not accepting invitations generously offered by Managerialism, quite often as the sole purpose of cementing domination, is the annihilation of critical emancipatory knowledge. A number of measures have been invented for this. First of all, this knowledge is marginalised while those displaying it are placed into insecure positions through the McDonaldisation of higher education.23 They are dismissed or threatened with losing their jobs. Secondly, they find their names on “black lists”. These are only a few measures to eliminate unwarranted knowledge but they not only occur in existing institutions supportive of management training, they also create closed doors to other jobs. In short, the basic insecurity of those seeking emancipation is often directly reflected in their opposition to domination.

Despite the sophisticated isolation and punishing instruments of Managerialism, many people are still fulfilled by working towards emancipation. Their work often occurs to the extent that they create a lifeworld that is human instead of the harsh and cold business world as defined by Adam Smith’s invisible hand of capitalism. Despite the best endeavours of Managerialism, they are able to create this human lifeworld through critical emancipatory engagement with students. Their educational and humane fulfilment lies—as a necessary consequence—in the fulfilment of a humanised lifeworld that is not defined by domination. Being in such a lifeworld and making it work means to work towards overcoming their dependency on the ideology of Managerialism. Unless their educational work and the outcomes of this work belong to them, neither educators nor students can be fulfilled. Education that is not free from domination ceases to be fulfilling. It becomes a means of dehumanisation and domination.

Every move by those seeking emancipation is directed towards critical- emancipatory knowledge; solidarity and unity point towards further actions in the practice of communicative action. This means that sooner or later many will perceive the enforced or enticed states of dehumanisation as the defining reality of managerial regimes and Managerialism. In the process of communicative action, they might also discover that as long as they are deliberately divided, they will remain easy victims for the deliberate manipulation that defines management training. But set against that, their critical emancipatory knowledge can enable them to change weakness into a transforming force. With the educational instruments of communicative action, they can create a lifeworld by making it more human and less defined by domination.

The more they move towards the humane lifeworld to which they justly and morally aspire, the more this lifeworld will reject inhumanity and domination. In this, the real existing anti-thesis of the humane life- world is domination. Set against Managerialism is a lifeworld that is no longer the exclusive possession of those maintaining domination. There can never be harmony between those who dehumanise and those who humanise the lifeworld. But since those maintaining domination present an oppositional position, issues serving the interests of one group are opposed to the interests of the other. In addition to the aforementioned “divide and rule”, it necessarily remains a fundamental objective of domi- nators in management training programmes to try to present themselves as saviours of students in conjunction with their institutions. But their messianic ideologies can never camouflage their true intentions:

  • 8 Management Training and the Lifeworld
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  • • to dominate others,
  • • to further dehumanisation, and
  • • to save themselves.

Predominantly, they seek to save their positions, their influence and power over others, their privileges, and their way of life. These beliefs enable them to dominate and subjugate others inside and outside of management training programmes. But their crucial mistake might be—and this particularly when faced with global environmental destruction—that they can never save themselves from the backlash of domination they have caused against people and the environment—neither as individual managers nor as a class. To the extent that those who dominate rule over others and the environment, they can never be “with” the environment nor can they be “with” people. Being against both is the essence of managerial domination.

This essence can be revealed when, for example, critical psychoanalysis focuses on domination. The analytical processes are able to expose the false generosities of those maintaining domination by showing dimensions of guilt that very occasionally plague them. Yet the false generosity displayed by the powerful is often ideologically framed as corporate philanthropy—an attempt to preserve an unjust and inhumane socioeconomic order. But all they do is buy peace—temporarily. As it happens, peace between domination and the lifeworld can never be bought. On the contrary, authentic peace is experienced in solidarity with others inside a humanised lifeworld. It can never be personified in domination. As a consequence, the messianic element of management training reinforces one of the primary characteristics of domination, namely the inherent necessity to colonise the lifeworld.

Since it remains necessary to divide students in order to preserve managerial domination as well as domination inside management training programmes, the power of the dominator assumes an essential role. Institutional and educational power remains essential to those maintaining domination in order to keep those seeking emancipation from recognising the hidden strategies of domination. As a consequence, training leaders must convince students that they are being defended against external and internal threats such as rebelling and ungrateful workers, evil trade unions and obnoxious state regulation, other corporations, takeover threats, environmental groups, consumer protection groups, and so on.24 Accordingly, they need to have powers to inflict demonic actions on those who are presented as the enemies of the free enterprise, the free market, “our way of life”, the incarnation of evil directed at “law-abiding” people engaged in the brave pursuit of petit bourgeois consumerism and business interests. In order to divide and confuse students, the destroyers of humanity call themselves builders of humanity accusing the true builders of a humanised lifeworld of being destructive.

Concrete situations have often modified these ideologies. Furnished by global corporate mass media, the ideological terminology continues to call those seeking emancipation conspirators, subversives, communists, anarchists, and, more recently, “terrorists”. But emancipatory movements have never been led by conspirators, bandits, or terrorists. Quite often history has destroyed these derogatory labels given to those seeking emancipation by the elites who favour domination. Despite the ideological fog spun by corporate mass media at many points, people have recognised emancipatory action for what it is. In many cases, students—in their own time and through their own means, often through self-education—have sought to create emancipation against those who used their power to divide and manipulate.

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