America, Inc.

I’ve heard discussions about politics in management, and most of the time it is with a negative connotation. People “shmooze” higher-ups to climb their way up the corporate ladder, and everyone disparages the inefficiency of having to maneuver around “bureaucratic bullsh*t” in order to put anything into action. Just as politics seems deeply embedded in management, our political system implicates a lot of managerial considerations- how do we develop the best policies and ensure their successful implementation? What relationships must be cultivated, developed, and often sacrificed for the sake of pursuing one’s goals? The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that politics and management are both fundamentally the same.

The spectrum of results from the political typology illuminated for me that politics, at its core, is about individual and collective values. Even among “conservatives,” “liberals,” and “non-partisans,” there were divisions based on which particular issues were most important to each group; for example, Business Conservatives differ from Steadfast Conservatives because of their stances on Wall Street and immigration and because of their prioritization of those issues in particular over others. However, they are unified by their preference for limited government. Just from this one example, it is clear that while there are certainly conflicting sets of values and interests, there is certainly room for the resolution of this conflict into a jointly beneficial solution. This sounds an awful lot like stakeholderism to me.

Politics is human, just as management is human. It revolves around the consideration of and value creation for each and every constituent. In politics, this involves not only the citizens of a nation, but also our international partners and adversaries. Each political agent is responsible for creating the best possible solution to cater to individual, national, and global interests on a variety of issues (the economy, the environment, social justice, etc.), just as managers are responsible for creating the best possible solution to cater to the interests of each of its stakeholders on a variety of issues (labor conditions, professional autonomy, job meaningfulness, etc.).

I would contend that our political system could benefit greatly from a stakeholder mindset. I think government has allowed our partisan and bureaucratic traditions to inhibit the creativity and innovation of developing and enacting new solutions. It certainly is much more complicated to attempt to create value for such a huge number and diversity of “stakeholders,” and it will probably not be possible to consistently create value for every stakeholder in every situation. However, it seems in politics these days that everyone (and each party) is out to protect and further their own interests, and it is imperative that we transition to a more open-minded discourse to ensure the ethics and sustainability of our laws, relationships, and policies.


4 responses to “America, Inc.

  1. I agree with your assertion that politicians are rather selfish. By identifying with a particular party, politicians fundamentally close themselves off from potentially rational solutions. Furthermore, choosing a particular party signals that values cannot be changed; certainly, they are malleable. Times change, people change, society changes. Values can morph over time. Shutting yourself off to this transformation is backward and can limit innovation.


  2. Exactly. The idea of partisanship has always frustrated and even confused me. Assigning yourself to a certain party means assigning yourself certain values and viewpoints that you feel (either by way of internal or external pressure) obligated to fight for. The good thing is that I think partisanship is getting a more and more negative connotation these days as people recognize the shortcomings of our political affiliation system. However, the fact remains that we are still largely divided into Republicans and Democrats, and even with the introduction of third parties, does that really help the issue? We’re simply adding another category in which to define and constrain ourselves. Why can’t candidates run without a political affiliation and with their own individual set of values and goals? Why can’t we as citizens separate ourselves from these frameworks to develop our own unique set of values and goals? Our partisan system of government seems only to limit the potential for creative problem-solving and a true ownership of our own values, but I doubt we’ll see the day where we don’t have these parties to constrain us.


  3. One issue is that vlaue creation in political coalitions, elections, bill-passing, is by definition a zero-sum game. A key idea of stakeholder managing is that increased value for both parties is possible.

    However, I think it is certainly worth the effort in politics to try. Moreover, the stakeholder managing you describe here is more apt for within-party politics.

    Some argue that the Republican party from ca 1972 to now is a triumph of organization over political fractions. THe differences within camps of the R coalition are huge, but they manage to smooth them over more often then the Ds do.


  4. Pingback: Blog Council: Let’s Talk about Politics, Baby | Stakeholders:Uncensored·

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