The Managerial Revolution | James Burnham

Summary of: The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World
By: James Burnham


Welcome to the summary of ‘The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World’ by James Burnham. This insightful book propounds that society is shifting from a capitalist to a managerial structure, where those in charge of the means of production will wield the most influence. Delve into the characteristics of capitalism, its historical implications, and why it might be giving way to a new form of societal organization. Examine the role of managers, bureaucrats, and the state in this new order, and ponder the implications of this transition for social dynamics and the distribution of wealth.

The Defining Features of Capitalism

Capitalism has been the dominant political and economic structure in the US and Europe since the end of the Middle Ages. Under capitalism, goods are viewed as commodities with monetary value, money is used as capital, production is carried out for profit, and people can be separated into two social classes – capitalists and workers. This article explores the defining features of capitalism and raises the question of whether they will continue to be part of society in the future.

The Fallacy of Capitalism

In 1941, during the Second World War, many people believed that capitalism would survive the challenges it faced. However, authorship at the time believed that such a belief is based on two assumptions, both of which are wrong. Firstly, the belief that society has always had a capitalist structure and thus always will. However, capitalism only began dominating much later in the fourteenth century. Secondly, the assumption that capitalism has some essential association with our intrinsic “human nature.” But this is also a fallacy. Mass unemployment, which was skyrocketing at that time, signals that a particular type of social organization has broken down and that it can no longer provide its citizens with socially useful roles. It seems highly likely that a big societal change is on the cards. However, what sort of change remains to be seen.

Is communism taking over capitalism?

Many experts believe that communism will take over capitalism in Western society. However, the implementation of a classless and fully democratic society like communism is highly unlikely due to the failure of Russia’s communist experiment. Despite abolishing private property rights, Russian society became more class-bound, and democracy and freedom for all citizens were not achieved. Therefore, a true communist society is almost impossible to implement in practice. However, the idea of transitioning to a new society from capitalism remains relevant.

The Rise of the Managerial Society

In 1941, the author predicted a transition from capitalist to a managerial society where those in charge of making decisions about how the means of production were used would gain the most. The author asserts that after this transition period, a new stratum known as managers would achieve social dominance and take over from capitalists as the ruling class globally. This new stratum would exercise control over the instruments of production and gain preference in the distribution of the products through their control of the state. The ruling class would simply be the people who already managed the day-to-day running of the state – bureaucrats.

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