Self-management notes: toward a workers' inquiry into management science

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Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
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May 13 2015 02:02
Self-management notes: toward a workers' inquiry into management science

Though people here might be interested in this site. I found it through Life Long Wobbly.

Quote:
Self-management notes is a project seeking to reclaim knowledge from the academic sphere developed to intensify workplace exploitation and pay workers less, and to invert it to empower the workforce's autonomy and drive to achieve better wages and conditions.

Read the pages on this website if you find yourself wondering why your manager thinks and acts the way they do, or if you're a worker or trade union representative in need of a guide to explain how your superiors are undermining your work in persuading other workers to join you in the fight for a fairer job and a better world.

This project is a preliminary series of notes collected across a wiki that can be read by anyone. Pages are occasionally edited and new ones added, so it is recommended to link to this website rather than post its content elsewhere. Additionally, all pages are copyrighted and posting the pages elsewhere is currently prohibited. This restriction may be lifted at some point in the future when the project has been completed.

The project adopts a defined method for dealing with the concepts and practices underlying contemporary management strategies. It talks of capital and labour, the two social forces present in the workplace. It has a coherent theory underlying it that borrows from the unique perspective offered by workers inquiry, a sociological tool developed most prominently in the short-lived Italian journal Quaderni Rossi.

Instead of leafleting questionnaires at the factory gates or directly investigating a workplace by taking a job in a specific industry, this project operates on a different level. Many of the theories and practices that guide the hand of management have, over the course of the 20th century, been compressed into a multi-disciplinary academic field termed Organisational Behaviour. This inquiry is conducted through research into literature from this field, merging investigatory readings with deconstructions informed by the perspective of the managed themselves, the workers. In other words, inquiry into the nature of management theory inverts the perspective of capitalist conceptualisation of the workplace to instead view it ‘from below’. This is to give the notes greater explanatory power and to demystify the concepts involved.

On taking a concept and dismantling it to reveal its inner workings, a set of facts lay the basis for inquiry. These are:

'The modern working class, and not simply the one of today, want above all else two things: to work less and earn a lot.'[1]
'More: they want power to guarantee these two conquests from the ebb and flow to which they are subjected to by the unchallenged domination of the capitalist interest.'[1]
This power is expressed through varying and overlapping levels on the shop floor: informal organisation, formal organisation and union intervention.
Pushing to build power distributed across these levels, is the first step toward revitalising labour in the 21st century.
Examining and deconstructing management science allows for the construction of new tools that invert and weaponise it against capital: 'The weapons for proletarian revolts have always been taken from the bosses' arsenals’.[2]

http://selfmanagementnotes.info/

Infrared.'s picture
Infrared.
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Jul 28 2015 18:00

Hi, i'm the author of self-management notes. If anyone has any questions or comments, post them here and i'll try to answer them.

There should be an article introducing the project coming out soon, I'll post a link to it here when the editors of the magazine it will be published in get back to me.

EDIT: The article has now been published. Here it is.

syndicalist
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May 13 2015 16:00

Infared ..... I realize I'm as bright as the burnt out light bulb in the basement, but I'm not sure I get this. What are you actually trying to say about "self-management"? Self-management as a way of reorganizing society? Or management theories? For me"self-management" is what some call "communism". This is what seems so unclear.

Thanks for a brief explanation.

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May 13 2015 17:39

So the name 'self-management notes' is a pun. A friend who worked with me on an earlier unreleased version of the project had the idea to call it a 'self-management consultancy firm'. I decided not to go with the parody firm idea, but kept the 'self-' bit in the title.

The project's political view is that workers are capable of self-managing their workplaces through committees and assemblies, without the need for capitalist or state management structures.

One component of the project is to prove that this is possible, and so the project investigates strands of management science that attempt to leverage the workforce's self-managing tendencies to capital's benefit. This goes against earlier Taylorist notions that workers must be micro-managed. You can read a bit about this here.

Hopefully that answers your question?

Khawaga's picture
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May 13 2015 17:43

Are you looking into process mapping? Just curious.

gram negative's picture
gram negative
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May 13 2015 18:41

wow, this looks great - can't wait to dive into it!

Infrared.'s picture
Infrared.
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May 13 2015 18:44
Khawaga wrote:
Are you looking into process mapping? Just curious.

Yes, I've written a bit about sociometric mapping, communication network analysis, and interaction process analysis. You can find it here.

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May 13 2015 18:48

Yeah I've been interested to see this too. Good to see Workerism being used creatively and productively.

I'll write something more substantive, at some point.

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May 13 2015 19:03
Quote:
Yes, I've written a bit about sociometric mapping, communication network analysis, and interaction process analysis. You can find it here.

Awesome! Thanks for the link. Will read when I have time.

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May 14 2015 10:03

The other side of the circle is that I'm aware of a number of refugee autonomists in the UK who found academic niches in management studies schools. Partly this was due to being frozen out of the ever-shrinking lefty niches in mainstream economics and sociology departments by the orthos. But also management studies colleges had the wherewithal to recognise the operaist focus on shopfloor power plays fitted nicely with their remit.

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May 21 2015 01:00
ocelot wrote:
But also management studies colleges had the wherewithal to recognise the operaist focus on shopfloor power plays fitted nicely with their remit.

Similar to this, a lot of academics that used to study Industrial Relations became professors of Organisational Behaviour and other management fields, with the decline of the trade unions in Britain and the US following the abolition of the post-war consensus. Although that is slightly more tricky to get a handle on, because the pro-social democratic Pluralist frame (then the most popular frame) was in fact something taught to both managers and trade unionists. I prefer the Radical frame for its clear cut pro-worker bias. For anyone interested in reading more about this see here.

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Jun 18 2015 22:58

A quick preview of some of the infograms made to accompany the notes. I hope the admins don't mind me bumping this thread with these.

These infograms were made using easel.ly, a free online tool that is very useful for communicating information and data in a visual format. More will be added as and when they aid the displaying of information.

The first is from Chapter 5: Conflict and details the four frames of reference within the field of Industrial Relations, an academic field developed during the hey day of social democracy to govern the negotiating procedures between unions and management, which vary from very pro-worker to very anti-worker.

The second is from Chapter 1: Group Formation and shows the stages workplace groups tend to cycle through, which I think holds important lessons for militants organising groups to formulate worker antagonism at the point of production. The icons used are preset images from easel.ly and I did not make them.

dormanp
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Jul 8 2015 10:18

This is an important project! I'm not with Marx on everything (hardly), but I think he was quite right that future economic and social forms would not be invented de novo by revolutionaries but would evolve from practices right in front of our eyes. Of course, that doesn't mean that only positive evolutions will take place; we still need to try to influence them and push (fight) for the kinds of practices that have positive potential.

A second point to consider -- one which should be obvious now after almost 200 years of mostly frustrating experience -- is that the choice is not between liberation and efficiency: if a liberatory economy doesn't provide living standards equal to those most people could get in capitalism, and if it doesn't pay its way (make some level of aggregate profit), it won't survive. Self-management needs to be productive. (This is relevant to the core question of human freedom: a society that maintains its economic order by suppressing alternatives that many of its members want won't be free. We've seen that in the history of capitalism, no?)

Anyway, enough preaching. This project is going in exactly the right direction! I encourage you to reach out to enlightened management researchers, since they do exist. Meanwhile, here's a link to a recent paper of mine (coauthored), which is worded to speak to relatively mainstream economists and management specialists, but whose larger vision fits in well with what you're doing.

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Jul 8 2015 13:16

Introductory article written for Viewpoint Magazine:
https://viewpointmag.com/2015/07/07/deconstructing-management-science-introducing-the-self-management-notes-project/

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
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Apr 27 2016 04:04

Anybody else been following this? I had forgotten about it but for some reason thought about it while at work the other day, looks like it's still being worked on.