Thinking about my dissertation (yes, I know, I finally got there!) in big-picture terms, I’ve realized that I’m not sure if/how I’m going to include the very think that spurred it on: the integration of corporate employees into the assemblage of the corporation, starting with those ubiquitous personality tests that divide the world neatly into 4/8/more categories. OK, this realization was actually brought on by a conversation I had at a friend’s on the weekend, when someone mentioned having taken part in a training session about the four types of communicators just the day before. The four types of communicators are: the director, the thinker, the relator, and something else, that I’ll call the “attention-seeker,” because I don’t remember the exact name, but this is the gist. It’s funny: I tried googling this, and I have ended up, on the first page of results, with another two paradigms of four types of communicators that convey more or less the same ideas, but have different names, both of these copyrighted, of course.
Anyway, the basic idea is that we all have one dominant trait, and the rest align themselves hierarchically behind the dominant. Which enlarges the possibilities so much, don’t you think? All of a sudden, the entire humanity is divisible in not merely four meagre groups, but whatever the result of combination of four by four is (I so don’t remember my math now). The names of these categories are pretty self-evident, and I find it mind-boggling that people teach these things with a straight face. Not because I think them bs. No, on the contrary, I think they provide a quick, albeit very schematic, of a person one hasn’t met before. At the same time, these courses offer prepackaged prescriptions on how to best ‘deal’ with each type of person in a business setting. Take the “attention-seeker”: this person thrives on making her life public and is liable to suck your energy dry if you let her. The answer is to tell her that you’ve only got five minutes, and so, she’d better synthesize her main points in that time, or else. And, best of all, apparently attention-seekers don’t get angry when told off like this! Because, again, they’re all the same, and none of them minds other people being rude to them.
The simplification is mind-blowing, but it goes to illustrate the less obvious operations of corporationism, the ones that set it clearly apart from other forms of capitalism, because they reclaim affect from what for Marx was the alienated worker. The use of these personality tests also exemplify the formation of corporate assemblages with the help of employee-machines. Obviously, every assemblage needs a certain number of different machines that make it up. It wouldn’t work with a large number of the same kind of machine, like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, satirizing the endless repetition of mechanical movement, while completely ignoring any emotional attachment. Affect is more complex and thrives on difference. Which doesn’t mean corporationism can’t structure it into clearly defined little boxes that become easier to manage to the good of us all (!). After all, don’t you want to know where you’d be best suited, what career would fulfill you most, and ultimately, what would make you happiest?
Obviously, this was just one example, concretely focused on one aspect of corporate activity, albeit a very important one. Another well-known example would be the Myers-Briggs personality type index, the one that gives you a nice acronym like INTJ or ENTP or the like. It is this kind of deep delving into one’s psyche, personality, and affect that illustrates the immanence of corporationism, and helps veer discussion away from (what has become) the over-simplicity of consumerism. Yes, over here in North America (or Canada/US, more precisely) we’re all (or most of us) consumers, and thus we’re all targets of corporate activity. But we’re also, most of us, inserted profesionally, in an even more profound way that displays our mechanicity, into the production, the vicious circle, the immanence. Sometimes this side surfaces under the name of ‘corporate culture’: Naomi Klein mentions it briefly in No Logo, when she speaks of the particular names different corporations use to designate their employees: baristas, associates, partners, etc.
Well, I started out saying I don’t know if/how I’m going to integrate all this into my dissertation, because from my vantage point in an English dept. there are few (euphemistically speaking) sources on this kind of thing. Lame excuse, I know. Don’t we all live for interdisciplinarity nowadays? So, all I need to do is identify the research well, i.e. the database, that will reveal its treasures on personality testing for business for me. Or, I could collect clippings from The Globe’s Career section. Yeah, that’ll go over well for a dissertation.