[...] As German author Philipp Schönthaler writes in his new book, Portrait of the Manager as a Young Author, beginning in the 1980s, businesses have studiously “redefined themselves as engaged in ‘cultural and affective activity,’” and as a result, they’ve begun to view their employees “as interpretive, emotional beings.”
As he lays out this process, Schönthaler underlines the ways in which storytelling and management go about distilling complex human interactions into the stuff of easily digestible myth. “Storytelling,” he writes, “gains its legitimation precisely where digital information flows too quickly.” Similarly, management gains authority by “transform[ing] questions of content into questions of organization.”
Schönthaler, a literary critic by training, supplies a distilled history of modern management theory, from the advent of Taylorism in the early twentieth century to human resource development in the 1950s, on through to the “post-Fordist” models of self-supervision in the workplace, which gained currency from the 1980s down to today. Under this latest managerial dispensation, the worker is no longer simply treated as a Taylorite input of production but a person with hopes and dreams—with the challenge for management being the careful modulation of those aspirations in the company’s preferred image. Thus is the worker’s affective private life gradually annexed to the company’s song of itself.