I was a teenager when I discovered why The Decameron and Chaucer were really considered classic literature. To my surprise, they were entertaining and full of often bawdy truth about human nature. I had somehow acquired the impression that the classics were dull. At that age I didn’t really know the meaning of the word.
A supposedly learned article, which I encountered while doing some reading on trade unions, has refreshed my memory. Reflecting on it, as an example of a genre, it’s hard not to conclude that one reason the likes of Mintzberg, Porter, Handy and Davenport stand out in the field of business writing is because they wrote intelligibly for any reader.
Harvard is a tough benchmark, I know. Big Jim Larkin used to say
The great only appear great because we are on our knees.
Where, tell me, are the authors, funders and the consumers of this residual literature of class warfare? There can only be one answer: on their noses. Indeed, one may ask where their noses are, but let’s not.
Alas for the student and the taxpayer, there is an industry around some business schools churning out pretentious drivel like this. Clever Marxists doing wheelies in print, adding nothing of consequence to the sum of human knowledge. On one hand, we have convoluted guff about “critical realism,” on the other, pseudo-intellectual approbation of sophomoric pranks and yob culture. Life on the front line is tough in many businesses, call centers especially. Workers make jokes about bosses in most. So what? Oh, humorous subversion continues in the electronically surveilled workplace? Who would have thought it?! In Glasgow they’d say:
Scotty, C’d ye beam these boys back t’earth? Their heids have zips.
The investor reading this guff could be forgiven for thinking “I’ll take my call centre business to Manila and I’ll use software to add the friendly Scottish accent which is said to inspire trust.” (This will happen).
The degradation of political discourse is not confined to the land of David Hume and Adam Smith. Time’s excerpt of Al Gore’s latest book, The Assault on Reason is worth a read. There’s some hope for the future but it’s early days yet.