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Enterprise Bureaucratic Stultification – does unnecessary specialisation make for dumber employees?

I am an identity and access management specialist, an area of technology which has good reasons for being a niche specialisation, as do many other other technology areas. But you can imagine my surprise at receiving this unsolicited email from a recruiter:

“My client, a leading British Bank, require a Role Based Access ControlManager to join their offices in Edinburgh on a 6 Month Contract basis with the possibility of extension.
The RBACM will help design the Role Based Access for technology partners throughout my client’s Separation and Business Proving stages, all the way through to transitioning the service to BAU functions. It’s important to note that this role is a Technical ‘Hands-On’ role which also requires Project Management capabilities and the ability to plan.”

Let’s begin with the meaningless drivel, the kind many supposed HR experts suggest we fill our CVs with. Beginning with ‘technical hands-on’ and ‘management’. What usually happens when you follow these self-professed career gurus and add such an inane line to you CV is that a firm looking for a technical role will think you’re not technical enough: who has met a project manager who had the time to get ‘hands-on’ in a multi-million dollar project? Also, requesting that a candidate ‘has the ability to plan’ is just insulting.

Now on to the central issue with this role, role-based access control (RBAC) is one of the many skills an experienced IAM consultant acquires in the course of their career. Every organisation is different, there is no RBAC school or certification, just as there are no IAM schools. Working in IAM requires you continuously keep several key questions in mind in every project: ‘who are you?’, ‘what is your relationship to the organisation?’, ‘what are you allowed to access?’ and how to always be able to monitor that the answers to these questions, defined by business rules, can be continuously monitored and irregularities rapidly identified and remediated.

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Bureaucracy and its Discontents – Bitcoin and the Problem of Arbitrary Power


Not being old enough to have experienced feudalism, whenever I think of arbitrary, dictatorial power this haunting film comes to mind as how life would be without the constraints placed on individual ambition by the contemporary bureaucratic, and nominally democratic, regime. Salo’ is loosly based off de Sade’s infamous book, and I was hoping that this paper, focused on power and bureaucracy, could continue along this smutty trajectory. We seem though, to have gone from a mode of power summed up in that Pasolini quote “the only true, great, absolute anarchy is that of power” to a mode of power that a popular Italian phrase, used conversationally when discussing the elusive, cunning power of Machiavellian political manouvering that Italy is famous for: “they piss on our heads and tell us its raining”. Pasolini’s death, 35 years later – and still an open investigation – is just such an example of this subtle yet all the more terrifying mode of power: the faceless men hatching complex plots behind an arcane state bureaucracy. Beyond pizza, wine and the mafia, per Braudel we have Italy to thank for state-enforced monopoly capitalism, and what Baudrillard back in ’83 called the Italian simulacra of democracy, which like pizza and wine, is no more limited to Italy than MacDonald’s is to California. With either mode of power, its victims/subjects still bear the brunt of structural violence. Privatising profits and collectivizing debts is the well-established formula of monopoly state crony capitalism, or to use another Italian phrase to describe the sexual orientation of those in power that roughly translates as “gay but with other people’s asses”.

These popular Italian phrases that conflate political power with non-consensual sexual activity, and I wish I could spend the time here recounting horrifying but irresistibly fascinating stories straight out of American Psycho or Wolf of Wall street. Sadly, for the grey world of corporate work in the CBD, this wanton high life is probably as rare as it is for academia, (or maybe I haven’t been invited to secret all-night parties?). Most have been or still go to amazingly debauched parties, but probably few ever went into the office determined to get that paper finished and were greeted with rented Velcro-clad midgets and a supervisor furiously masturbating whilst high on Quaaludes. This persistent image of thought surrounding the corporate world – the libertine trader or Patrick Bateman-style white collar psychopath – is a fantasy similar to Salo’s portrayal of absolute power. It is often taken uncritically by those on the left, or as aspirational fantasy by those corporate and finance workers themselves that grants temporary escape from the grey bureaucratic reality of their day jobs. Like Scarface or The Godfather have become the films that wannabe gangsters watch and imitate, rather than depicting the everyday drudgery and chronic fear of organised crime, so seems to persist the Patrick Bateman fantasy. Yes Baudrillard strikes again. Nick Land cogently asserts that Baudrillard is the philosopher of the end of the monetary gold standard. That is, while ostensibly Baudrillard was the theorist of the much lamented or celebrated postmodern reign of cultural relativity, from a ‘sober’ political economic perspective – and Baudrillard was a sober thinker – it was the end of any standard of value not amenable to political manipulation. I am not arguing that psychopathic financiers or CEOs do not exist, but rather that while glorious psychopaths make for great novels and film, the statistically-relevant quotidian day in corporate office life is much more prosaic and dominated by stultifying bureaucratic processes and structures.

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