Stalin, CEO

In a public lecture, Zizek once said that it is only under late capitalism that Stalinism has truly come into its own. It was kind of a throw-away remark that I don’t believe he has developed any further, but as I study more about Stalinism and about neoliberalism, I’m increasingly convinced that he’s right and that Stalin, CEO would be an awesome subversive “management theory” book.

Some shared features of Stalinism and our present economic regime:

  • A cult of personality surrounding “visionary leaders” (Stalin, contemporary CEOs)
  • Continual demand for increased productivity to meet fundamentally arbitrary goals (five-year plans, exceeding analyst expectations of performance)
  • Purges (Gulags, mass layoffs)
  • Unpredictable micromanagement (Stalin’s unexpected intervention into various controversies, habitual short-circuiting of chain of command in corporate environments)
  • Reliance on scapegoating (the leader gets all credit for achievements but underlings always take the blame for failures — “If only comrade Stalin knew!”)
  • Rule by slogan (Soviet propaganda, management-speak)
  • The demand to control all of life (“totalitarianism,” affective labor)

Am I missing anything, dear readers?

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