Economics/Class Relations

The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World

For who are not familiar with James Burham’s 1941 classic, it is a must read if you want to understand modern institutions.

The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World by [Burnham, James]

‘Burnham has real intellectual courage, and writes about real issues.’ – George Orwell

Burnham’s claim was that capitalism was dead, but that it was being replaced not by socialism, but a new economic system he called “managerialism”; rule by managers.

Written in 1941, this is the book that theorised how the world was moving into the hands of the ‘managers’. Burnham explains how Capitalism had virtually lost its control, and would be displaced not by labour, nor by socialism, but by the rule of administartors in business and in government.

This revolution, he posited, is as broad as the world and as comprehensive as human society, asking “Why is ‘totalitarianism’ not the issue?” “Can civilization be destroyed?” And “Why is the New Deal something bigger than Roosevelt can handle?”

In a volume extraordinary for its dispassionate handling of those and other fundamental questions, James Burnham explores fully the implications of the managerial revolution.

Praise for James Burnham:

‘The stoic, detached, empirical, hard-boiled, penetrating, realist mind of James Burnham is something to behold, to admire, to emulate.’ – National Review

‘James Burnham was an astonishing writer. Subtle, passionate, and irritatingly well-read.’ – New Criterion

‘The immense significance of Burnham’s approach is potential. We can ignore it only at the risk of being disarmed by the future course of events.’ – Irving Kristol

James Burnham
was an American popular political theorist. Burnham was a radical activist in the 1930s and an important factional leader of the American Trotskyist movement. In later years, as his thinking developed, he left Marxism and turned to conservatism, serving as a public intellectual of the conservative movement. He also wrote regularly for the conservative publication National Review on a variety of topics.

3 replies »

  1. Perhaps the most explanatory text available on global politics since World War One.

    Burnham seems to have whole-heartedly embraced the phenomenon he was describing (at the time he wrote the book, he was becoming estranged from Trotskyism). He helped found both one of the premier US managerial agencies (the CIA) and one of its premier managerial advocacy publications (National Review).

    • Yes, Burnham strikes me as having been very similar to Carl Schmitt in the sense of being both a penetrating observer of the events of his time and a careerist-opportunist that went with whatever establishment seemed to be rising. In his political affiliations, Burnham was a Rockefeller Republican.

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