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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Back to Sennett....

After a brief break from the Sennett trilogy (see here and here and more), I am now reading the third in the unplanned series, The Culture of the New Capitalism. This is a short work and relatively quick read, especially since it explicitly tries to pull ideas from the previous works together. I am a quarter of the way through the work, in the midst of his commentary on bureaucracy. With the exception of his return to the "disc" (now MP3 player) metaphor (which still does not quite work), thus far this is a solid presentation.

What makes Sennett's view intriguing is his willingness to acknowledge the benefits (actually, the functionality) of the classic bureaucratic organization -- in a way similar to his highlighting the value (functions/uses) of disorder in his earlier work. As he notes, the traditional bureaucratic form -- warts and all -- remains a powerful and pervasive factor in our economic lives, but it is under attack where it is perhaps most useful: that is, in the delivery of public sector services. The striving for reforms that emulate the new market ideologies is wreaking havoc in the public sector -- or at least that is the judgment implied by Sennett so far. Of course, he could surprise me as I move forward in the work.

In keeping with my tendency to read more than one work at a time, I have also been working on Janice Gross Stein's The Cult of Efficiency. Usually I read books on entirely different topics, but this time they are overlapping. Stein's volume is the published version of the 2001 Massey Lectures sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and its focus is on the problems being caused by the emergence of market efficiency standards and a strong accountability regime in health care and education.

Probably they will meld together in my dreams. Certainly they will get simultaneous treatment in my posts....

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