Archive | June 25, 2009

Down in the Cruddy Muddy Deep

Libertarianwise, the 1967 movie How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has something for everybody.

I don’t mean that it offers any deep moral or political message; it certainly doesn’t. But on the one hand, its relentless skewering of the corporate ethos will be welcome to mutualists and agorists; as one Amazon reviewer puts it:

Although the business world has changed quite a bit since 1967, SUCCEED is so dead-on with its attack that even modern corporate leaders will be bloodied from the fray. The company is just large enough so that no one knows what is actually going on, leadership cries out for creative solutions then promptly fires anyone who shows a talent for it, and promotion doesn’t hinge so much upon ability as it does upon sucking up, backstabbing, and looking like you know what you’re doing.

And on the other hand, the chief protagonist – an unscrupulous boyish charmer who oozes his way up the corporate ladder through a combination of flattery, dissimulation, and betrayal despite having no actual qualifications for any of the jobs he’s given – is such a perfect avatar of Ayn Rand’s Peter Keating that even the Randians should enjoy it. (Incidentally, Rand’s portrayal of the business world in The Fountainhead seems so much closer to Kevin Carson’s vision than to George Reisman’s that it’s a wonder the orthodox Randians haven’t denounced her as an anticapitalist.)

A few clips:

1. Here’s the head of the mail room explaining the secret to surviving in the corporate culture:

2. Here’s the sycophantic, Keatingesque protagonist trying to schmooze his boss by pretending to share his alma mater and knitting habit:

(Sorry, can’t embed this one.)

3. Here’s the protagonist giving himself a narcissistic pep talk in the executive washroom:

4. And here’s the finale, where the protagonist, reformed from his backstabbing ways, nevertheless manages to put his reformation over as though it were one more con, suggesting that the distinction between sincerity and marketing has become blurred even introspectively:

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