The Marx Matrix in your office


Red silly! That’s why you’re here.

Pursuing the truth that lies behind the assumed surface of work seems a lot like being in the film The Matrix at times.
These comments mention red pills and that. And so do other pieces about systems thinking. There’s lots of reasons, curiosity, dissatisfaction, etc. The question I am interested in isn’t why you took the red pill.

But why does everyone else take the blue?

I think they’re Marxists in the Matrix, but they just don’t know it.

Karl Marx said that after the feudal system collapsed in the middle ages, a person who was formally a serf attached to the land became “a free seller of labour-power who carries his commodity wherever he finds a Market“. Meaning they go round employers hawking their wares, i.e. themselves. Ever had someone complain to you, “why don’t you just do what you’re asked to do?” They are living the dream. Come to work, get paid, go home. Be a paid slave. Yes, I said it. 

Marx_Reloaded_posterMarxism, or what he said about work and individuals, isn’t dead. Just went mainstream, so mainstream you can’t see it because its the most invisible of things, it’s normal.

A really easy way to surface what normal is, is to think of what is considered abnormal. The opposite of that, there’s your normal for you.

Think of engagement in work. How people look when they are engaged in work. Not the sort of engagement that usually is wished for, a compliant enthusiasm, but the sort where you bring yourself to work. Where you think, and ask questions.

Now think of what is considered normal. Coming to work, getting on with it, delivering. Whilst organisations espouse engagement, engagement often isn’t actually welcomed when it arrives in the form of people thinking in the workplace. Especially when they are working for people who themselves are getters on/deliverers who “carry their commodity wherever they find a Market.” and themselves are selling their hourly life for whatever they are being asked to do. That way lies disengagement.

Marx didn’t call it disengagement, he described it as “alienation”. This happens when people lose the ability to determine their  life and destiny,  when they lose autonomy to be the director of their own actions. They lose track that they actually are an autonomous, self-realised human being, and instead are an economic entity, directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by others. [link]


Quite a mouthful indeed

That’s a mouthful.

Imagine trying to explain that to someone. The reason why you appear to be a moaning minny is not that you aren’t “engaged” but because you are.

Pure Alice in Wonderland.

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – Jacob M Braude

There are no pills of any colour. But they are a handy metaphor for talking about it. Mostly, people think its the systems thinking types who have taken some pill, but as shown above, everyone is taking some kind of pill. What matters is knowing that they actually ARE taking a pill, and that they have the choice of which one to take.

Here is Morpheus again, quoting at us.

matrix fight quote

Just like another man said a long time before that,

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”-Upton Sinclair

Being plugged into the Matrix of usual management thinking works for most people. Work is crap, everyone knows that. You are paid, come to work, go home, anything else is for suckers. Everyone knows that. Which is the problem, “everyone knows that” only works when everyone does. When there are some people who don’t know that, that’s when it starts to stop working. Some of them write books.  Some write blogs and others just get on with it, asking questions and offering other pills.

Sadly there are no pills. But there’s something similar in effect, Questions! All sorts of questions like, “how do we know that?” , “why does the customer not use this like we thought they would?” and the like. Questions don’t work on everybody, we have all sorts of psychological defences built into us like the urge to protect beliefs we already hold when faced with threats to them. But they work on some people, and that’s all there is, so that’s all you have.

Here’s one last quote from the violent leather-clad bald dude about questions.

“But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”


This entry was posted in command and control, human brains are weird, learning, psychology, systems thinking and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Marx Matrix in your office

  1. Charles Beauregard says:

    I like this short video from the Berkana Institute:

    I like it because it has given me lots of ideas for how we can start connecting all the other systems thinkers out there, pioneering the ideas so they eventually become the dominant system, but at the same time supporting those who are still part of the old system.


  2. ThinkPurpose says:

    Ooh, yes, that is good.
    i like the idea of “hospicing” the old thinking. Helping it out the last days of its life nicely.


  3. Pingback: How to spoil someone for work (for ever more) | thinkpurpose

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