Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

The Consulting Arcade: Walking through Fetish-Land

Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

The Consulting Arcade: Walking through Fetish-Land

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper presents autobiographical images of management consulting that are juxtaposed with a variety of historical images of modern capitalism. The method employed in this paper, montage[1], has been inspired by Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project, which is a materialist philosophy of the history of modernity that was constructed with 'utmost concreteness' out of historical material of the Parisian arcades. In my view Benjamin's Parisian arcades have transformed into global arcades of world-integrated capitalism and the 'consulting arcade' is one empirical example of such. The dialectical juxtapositioning exercised here aims to engage with consultancy work by investigating its fetish structure and dream-like existence that nevertheless produces very 'real' subjectivities. What follows then is the attempt of 'I', a modern subject, to make sense of an experience, a shock. Benjamin once wrote to his friend Scholem: "It's like me being right in the arcades myself. Same here: 'I' am the consultant who has walked through and worked in the 'consulting arcade'; 'I' am in the space of the consultant's non-places; the prostitute who sells her body as commodity; the flaneur who has a special empathy with the commodity; the collector who desperately tries to create a whole out of the empty use-value of the dead commodity; the gambler who thrives on the shock of the commodity rush; the knowledge worker who is exhilarated by the telecommunicative trauma produced by the techno-knowledge commodity. But the presented images are not just thought to be snapshots of my 'subjective' reality. Instead this montage aims to bring subject and object, the particular and the universal, the individual and modern society, together in such a way that the juxtaposed images potentially 'illuminate' us about modern damaged life.

THE CONSULTANT

Once upon a time there was a shepherd tending his sheep at the edge of a country road. A brand new Mustang screeches to a halt next to him. The driver, a young man dressed in an Armani suit, Cerrutti shoes, Oakley glasses, TAG wrist watch and a Bhs tie gets out and asks the shepherd, 'If I guess how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?' The shepherd looks at the young man, then looks at the sprawling field of sheep and says, 'Okay.' The young man parks the car, connects his notebook and wireless modem, enters a NASA site, scans the ground using his GPS, opens a database and 60 Excel tables filled with algorithms, then prints a 150 page report on his high tech mini printer. He then turns to the shepherd and says, 'You have exactly 1,586 sheep here.' The shepherd answers: That's correct, you can have your sheep.' The young man takes one of the animals and puts it in the back of his vehicle. The shepherd looks at him and asks: 'Now, if I guess your profession, will you pay me back in kind?' The young man answers: 'Sure.' The shepherd says, 'You are a consultant.' 'Exactly! How did you know?', asks the young man. 'Very simple,' answers the shepherd. 'First, you came here without being called. Second, you charged me a fee to tell me something I already knew. Third, you do not understand anything about my business ... and I'd really like to have my dog back.'[2]

The Collins English Dictionary reveals that to consult is to make oneself available to give professional advice, especially at scheduled times and for a fee. The term 'consult' originates in the medical profession. There, a consultant is a physician who is asked to confirm a diagnosis; or it is a physician (or surgeon) who holds the highest appointment in a particular branch of medicine or surgery in a hospital. The consultant is, therefore, someone mostly a specialist - who is asked to give expert advice or information.

The management consultant is a special breed of consultant[3J. She is frequently seen to be the personification of the knowledge economy; he is the knowledge worker per se; she is the anti-thesis to Ford's assembly-line worker. …

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