“Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.”
Haruki Murakami,


“Generally, systems are adaptive and self-correcting; when they become too lopsided, autocorrecting feedback mechanisms kick in and stabilize the system. Systems with unchecked reinforcing loops, however, ultimately destroy themselves.”
Sandra Navidi


“Déjà vu. Déjà su. Déjà vécu.
“Already seen. Already known. Already lived.”
V. E. Schwab


The great resignation, the great transition, remote/hybrid work, ‘employees now have the power’, it seems like every headline is screaming how people have had enough of how business had been conducting, well, business, and now business is going to have to reshape itself to accommodate what workers want.

Sometimes I laugh at this so hard my sides hurt.

The narrative is absurd.

Institutions have the power; they have had the power and will hold on to their power with ragged claws. Oh. And they will hold on to their profits and revenue with ragged claws.

Now. to be clear. Business institutions will do a variety of window dressing things to make it look like workers got the upper hand, but we have been here before and the business world just loops itself over and over again using different ‘bribes’ (pool tables then, mindfulness retreats now, metaverse vacations in the future) just to keep their core business model and ‘productivity trappings’ in place.

The reality is, despite all the headlines, is that business institutions are basically completely non-negotiable realms or what Eric Weinstein calls “environments which are unforgiving.” Sure. Business does a variety of things to soften the demands of the unforgiving – digital transformation, perks, incentives, bla, bla, bla … – but the intent of the institution is to not use them unless they have to, i.e., manipulate the people to the needs/wants of the unforgiving construct of the institution.

Business has consciously built structures within which people, employees, are faced with unflinching demands.

The last sentence is reality and a reality that business will hold onto with ragged claws and we need to be prepared to watch how they will do so – as they have done in the past.


Looped danger ahead.

Let me explain just to remind everyone.

In the early 1900’s once mass production took hold it changed the character of labor. The worker had increasingly less significance within modern manufacturing. The human who at up to this point had been the creator of a ‘product’ (in its totality) simply became a steward of machines which made only a small part of the whole. Let me be clear. Industrialization was a shitshow for workers as business took agriculture labor methods (any age can work from sunup to sundown) and put them in a machine world. Taylorism, while certainly offering negative consequences, did its part to point out to institutional owners (business leaders) that there was a productivity efficacy rate and that some work boundaries actually increased quality productivity, i.e., profits. But the truly dangerous aspect of this ‘create boundary trends’ was the coinciding belief that this system ‘freed’ a human to pursue individual success through either effective work (skill) or general pursuit of ‘more’ within this grand industrialized capitalism system always producing more. So, while the business itself made work smaller they encouraged workers to think bigger (ponder that psychology). I would be remiss if I didn’t point out capitalism is basically a closed loop system. You work enough hours to earn money and then the business ‘releases you’ after 8 hours or so encouraging you to, well, consume shit with the money you earned thereby increasing the market for which that human is working to fulfill the demand of. I state it in these stark terms because in the beginning while you can certainly find some pieces suggesting business, as an institution, saw the need for some ‘world/life balance’ the truth is they mostly figured if they were paying you good money you should have the time to spend that money on goods & services. A looped relationship. This was the beginnings of manipulating worker perceptions to meet the needs of the unforgiving institutional construct.

But this first step had some additional consequences on the “workers” (people).

As industrialized business stepped deeper into ‘work with boundaries’ and its maniacally-focused managed environments, which inevitably started squeezing autonomy and self-determination, businesses recognized they needed to address and embrace the worker’s call for a better life. Within mass consumption and ultimately within the emergence of mass culture, the tension between socially expressed needs for self-defined time and space and the time/space construct of business institutional capitalism (long at odds with each other) began to be ‘managed’ through a new thing called industrial management. Yeah. The business answer to individual wants/needs was to create more institutional layers and create corporate ladders for people to climb so that ‘they’ (the worker) could determine their own success and own ‘work/life balance to achieve their individual ambitions (with the institutions constantly dangling prizes for those ‘worthy’). Yeah. The answer to worker desires was to, well, game them. but business didn’t stop there. In their additional pursuit of growth and profits they also saw an opportunity to change the market game a bit. Yeah. Business response to this was, well, consumerism – sell stuff. Sell escapism. Corporations became the ‘sellers’ of the desired latent freedom. Escape from where you earn the money to spend your money on things & places to escape it. once again, a looped relationship.

Which leads me to the next loop.

Consumerism was a humdinger of an institutional idea. It created a larger narrative in which their unforgiving institutions would be perceived as engines for individuals to achieve their greatest desires. In a way consumerism was a religion and business was the church you went to meet your prayers <albeit many businesses embraced systems in which workers became subservient to the system itself as a means to a higher purpose>.

Corporation’s embrace of consumerism was a means to social pacification, worker gamification and management of some utopian dreams in the minds of people. It is used, again and again, to maintain social order and the ‘business dream’ utopia of the pathway to the fruits of labor. If we were honest, we would see the devils bargain we have made to date with capitalism. As wages increased, they were often out-balanced by the loss in areas of life. Even though consumption has become a way of life for the majority of people vast sectors of the population see the expressed ideals of social betterment capitalism dangles in front of them as actually a suppressing ideology because they don’t truly get a fair hand in the cards being dealt throughout social classes. Consumption has become inherent to Life while contribution is a bit fuzzier in concept. Until we think through this, until we confront the infiltration of consumerism and industrialized capitalism (and, yes, this included the new technology-driven influencer-like economy) any social change will simply be an extension, if not a product, of the industry itself. Until we recognize that culture has been displaced by business and identity is inextricably linked to economy and self-determination is more often simply well-cloaked manipulation, we will not change the system. The system will once again shape us.


“Now… We are going in a loop.”


Which leads me to the next loop.

The business world found that consumerism had some boundaries. Not only did it play out in unequal fashion, more got more faster separating from those with less at a faster rate than the institutions promised in their utopian statements in the beginning, and many workers, well, started seeing how they were being gamed. So rather than try and fix the market what business did was focus on work environment. Manufacturing plants became brighter, offices became ‘fun’ and benefits became broader. Now. The ‘benefits’ were, well, an entirely new level of gamification. “Vested”, stock options, healthcare and a variety of ‘future value’ rewards creating the perception (a) we care about your future and (b) we are investing in your future. But. The intent was “you owe us so work even harder in the present to guarantee your future.” Quite the psychological game and quite the effective game in keeping everyone’s focus off the fact the institutions remained an unforgiving structure – an environment designed for a very small well-defined objective (growth and profits).


You get my point.

We are just entering the next loop in which an unforgiving structure will do its best to show it will be ‘giving’ to people in an environment in which the institutions know they have all the power, but workers perceive it is their moment of power. Sure. On the edges some workers have some power and some businesses will shape-shift to use this as an opportunity to, well, meet a very small well-defined objective (growth and profits).

I believe the entire narrative of “workers now have the power” is, in general, absurd. If workers truly did have the power, they would completely restructure the business of doing business – the system itself. Instead, they are fighting for crumbs. Institutions have the power; they have had the power and will hold on to their power with ragged claws. Business institutions are a system in and of themselves and are unforgiving in their construct. In general, workers are in contact with the unforgiving and until they destroy that unforgiving construct, they will just be shaped by it. Ponder.

Written by Bruce