Félix Guattari: Self-Management and Narcissism

Self-Management and Narcissism

Self-management, like any order word, can be combined with anything: from Lapassade to de Gaulle, from the CFDT [French Democratic Confederation of Labor] to anarchists. To speak of self-management itself, without any context, is a myth. It becomes a type of moral principle, the commitment that the self of a group or company will be managed from and by itself. The effectiveness of this order word depends on its self-seduction. Determining the corresponding institutional object in each situation is a criterion that should allow clarification of this question.

The self-management of a school or a university is limited by its objective dependence on the state, the means of financing, the political commitment of its users, etc. If it is not articulated with a coherent revolutionary perspective, it can only be an order word for transitory action that risks being passably confusing. The self-management of a factory or workshop also risks being reclaimed by psycho-sociological reformist ideology that sees the “interrelational” domain as something to be dealt with using group techniques, for example, training groups of technicians, managers, owners, etc. (For workers, these techniques are too “expensive.”)

Hierarchy is “contested” in the imagination. In reality, not only does no one touch it, it is given a modernist foundation and dressed up in Rogerian or some other morality. The impetus behind self-management in a company involves effective control of production and programs: investments, organization of labor, business relationships, etc. A group of workers that “places itself under self-management” in a factory would have to resolve countless problems with the outside. It would only be lasting and viable if the outside was also organized under self-management. A single post office would not survive long under self-management; in fact, all of the parts of production are interconnected like telephone exchanges. Experience with self-management during strikes, reestablishing the production sectors in a factory to respond to the needs of strikers, the organization of supplies and self-defense are very important, indicative experiences. They show the possibility of moving beyond the confrontational level of struggle. They show a way to organize revolutionary society during a transitional period. But it is obvious that they cannot give clear and satisfying answers to the types of relationships of production, the types of structures adapted to a society that has expropriated the economic and political power of the bourgeoisie in a very developed economy.

Control by the workers raises fundamental political problems as soon as it touches institutional objects that call the economic infrastructure into question. A self-managed lecture hall is probably an excellent pedagogical solution. A branch of industry under direct control by the workers immediately raises a plethora of economic, political and social problems on a national and international scale. If workers do not take charge of these problems in a way that moves beyond the bureaucratic framework of current parties and unions, pure economic self-management may turn into a myth and lead to demoralizing stalemates.

Talk of political self-management may also be an all-purpose, deceptive formula, since politics fundamentally accommodates one group with other groups in a global perspective, whether it is explicit or not. Self-management as a political order word is not an end in itself. The problem is defining the type of relationships, the forms

to promote and the type of power to institute at every level of organization. The self-management order word can become a distraction if it significantly takes the place of differentiated responses to the different levels and sectors according to their real complexity.

Changing state power, changing the management of a branch of industry, organizing a lecture hall, and challenging bureaucratic syndicalism are entirely different things that must be considered separately. The concern is that the order word of self-management, which has just appeared in the protests against bureaucratic structures in the universities, will be appropriated by reformist ideologues and politicians. There is no “general philosophy” of self-management that would allow it to apply everywhere and to every situation, especially to those situations that come from the establishment of dual power, the institution of revolutionary democratic control, the perspective of labor power, and the creation of systems of coordination and regulation between the various sectors of the struggle.

If no theoretical clarification of the scope and limits of self-management comes in time, this “order word” will be compromised by reformist associations and rejected by workers in favor of other formula that follow “democratic centralist” lines, formula that are more easily appropriated by the wide-ranging dogmatism of the communist movement.

June 8, 1968

(From Psychoanalysis and Transversality: Texts and Interviews 1955–1971, by Félix Guattari, introduction by Gilles Deleuze, translated by Ames Hodges, Semiotext(e)-MIT Press, 2015.)

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