Corporate managers have a duty. They have to focus on profit making and seeking to convert as much of life as possible into commodities. It’s not because they’re bad people; it’s their task. Under Anglo-American law, it’s their legal obligation as well. There’s a lot to say about this topic, but one element of it concerns the universities and much else. One particular consequence is the focus on what’s called efficiency. It’s an interesting concept. It’s not strictly an economic concept. It has crucial ideological dimensions. If a business reduces personnel, it might become more efficient by standard measures with lower costs. Typically, that shifts the burden to the public, a very familiar phenomenon we see all the time. Costs to the public are not counted, and they’re colossal. That’s a choice that’s not based on economic theory. That’s based on an ideological decision
I grew up in a lower-middle class urban environment without any particular social graces, and when I went to Harvard as a graduate student in the early 1950s, in a special high-class research outfit that had all sorts of prestigious elite people, I discovered that a large part of the education was simply refinement, social graces, what kinds of clothes to wear, how to have polite conversation that isn’t too serious, all the other things that an intellectual is supposed to do. I remember a couple of years later asking a distinguished English professor from Oxford, which was the model that this organization was attempting to imitate, how he thought Harvard’s imitation compared with Oxford’s original. He thought for a while and he said that he thought it was the difference between genuine superficiality and phoney superficiality. We only had phoney superficiality, while they had genuine superficiality. This is a large part of what is called education. And it is teaching conformity to certain norms that keeps you from interfering with people in power and all sorts of other things.