Management in Popular Culture
| Peter Klein |
I recently read Planet of the Apes, the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle that inspired the movie franchise. Not surprisingly, the book is far more interesting and intelligent than the films. In the novel (spoiler alert!), the ape planet isn’t a future Earth, but a distant world much like Earth in which apes gradually assimilated and displaced a former human civilization simply by imitating their masters. The discovery of this older civilization (confirmed by the remains a talking human doll, as in the 1968 movie) explains the mystery of why ape culture stagnated at the level of its former human model. The apes could imitate, but not innovate.
The human protagonist convinces himself that imitation could produce a reasonable quality of science and art, then turns to more mundane activities.
It seemed absolutely clear that industry did not require the presence of a rational being to maintain itself. Basically, industry consisted of manual laborers, always performing the selfsame tasks, who could easily be replaced by apes; and, at a higher level, of executives whose function was to draft certain reports and pronounce ceratin words under given circumstances. All this was a question of conditioned reflexes. At the still higher level of administration, it seemed even easier to concede the quality of aping. To continue our system, the gorillas would merely have to imitate certain attitudes and deliver a few harangues, all based on the same model.
Not a flattering portrait of management, but keep in mind that the protagonist (like the book’s author) is French.