The Managerial Revolution

What is Happening in the World

James Burnham

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I.: The Problem

People feel like WWII isn't like other wars, but a "social revolution"— a time of rapid phase change in political/economic/social institutions and the type of men who control society. This book's goal is to investigate that idea. Is a social revolution underway? If so, what is its nature and likely endpoint?

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II.: The World We Lived in

The economy of 1914 (and mostly 1941) was capitalist, one in which:

  1. Almost all production is of commodities.
  2. Money is all-important and all-pervasive.
  3. Money can be used not only as a medium of exchange, but as capital, where its expenditure produces things that are worth more than all their inputs, and can therefore be sold for a profit.
  4. Productive enterprises must close down if they do not make a profit.
  5. There is a strange kind of periodic economic crisis, in which production plummets despite no new difficulties or loss of desire.
  6. "The market," not any group of humans, chooses what to produce.
  7. There are two large classes: the capitalists / bourgeoise, who own the means of production, and the free laborers / proletariat, who are hired for their labor (and are free to switch between employers, unlike slaves or serfs).

A capitalist economy led to a capitalist politics—liberalism—in which:

  1. People are citizens of large, sovereign nation-states.
  2. The full world is knitted together, instead of its regions operating in isolation.
  3. The state is quite small, only really providing (inner and outer) security.
  4. The "lower house" of legislatures, filled with the bourgeoise, is dominant.
  5. (There is no requirement that society or government be democratic.)
  6. Laws uphold the rules of capitalist economic and social structures.

These systems were upheld and justified by a capitalist ideology that:

  1. Focused on the role and importance of the individual.
  2. Stressed and elevated the notion of private initiative.
  3. Recognized a broad swath of natural rights (which ones, varied).
  4. Interpreted world history through the lens of progress, the steady advancement toward better things in the natural, not heavenly, world.

In capitalist economy, politics, and ideology, the positions of greatest prestige and power are occupied by capitalists, for they control the means by which men live. The ruling class is the bourgeoisie.

The theory of the managerial revolution predicts that these structures will pass away and be replaced within years or decades, not even generations.

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III.: The Theory of the Permanence of Capitalism

IV.: The Theory of the Proletarian Socialist Revolution

V.: The Struggle for Power

The ruling class is that which (1) controls access to the instruments of production and (2) receives preferential treatment in distribution of their products. In feudal society this was the lords, who had feudal lands; in capitalist society it is the bourgeoisie, who control money and factories.

Society switches ruling classes in a "struggle for power," as one group gradually gains more control over the key implements of production. This process is gradual, and not at all explicit; often the prior rulers only realize it is happening after they have all but lost control. Most of the struggles are done not by each class, but by members of the underclass who have bought into their ideologies and each think it will benefit them (and perhaps it will—but not as much as the social class chiefly concerned).

(Socialism will not come because the proletariat have no opportunity, like the capitalists did, to gradually build social dominance over a long period of time.)

The bourgeoisie gained control because kings—who were relatively impotent—leaned on their influence to secure control of their larger nations. After power was centralized in a large nation-state, the bourgeoisie began to feel threatened by arbitrary feudal seizures, were powerful enough to oust/restrict/make the prince a figurehead, and did so.

VI.: The Theory of the Managerial Revolution

VII.: Who Are the Managers?

VIII.: The Managers Move Toward Social Dominance

IX.: The Economy of Managerial Society

X.: The Managers Shift the Locus of Sovereignty

XI.: Totalitarianism and Managerial Society

XII.: The World Policy of the Managers

XIII.: The Managerial Ideologies

XIV.: The Russian Way

XV.: The German Way

XVI.: The Future of the United States

XVII.: Objections