Company Hierarchy

Hugh MacLeod’s cartoon is a symbol of an unorthodox school of management based on the axiom that organizations don’t suffer pathologies; they are intrinsically pathological constructs. The Sociopath layer comprises the Darwinian/Protestant Ethic will-to-power types who drive an organization to function despite itself. The Clueless layer is the “Organization Man”. The Losers are not social losers (as in the opposite of  “cool”), but people who have struck bad bargains economically, giving up capitalist striving for steady paychecks.

The Sociopaths defeated the Organization Men and turned them into The Clueless not by reforming the organization, but by creating a meta-culture of Darwinism in the economy: one based on job-hopping, mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, cataclysmic reorganizations, outsourcing, unforgiving start-up ecosystems, and brutal corporate raiding. In this terrifying meta-world of the Titans, the Organization Man became the Clueless Man. MacLeod’s Loser layer represent the losers in the economic sense: those who have, for various reasons, made (or been forced to make) a bad economic bargain. They’ve given up some potential for long-term economic liberty (as capitalists) for short-term economic stability. Traded freedom for a paycheck in short. They actually produce, but are not compensated in proportion to the value they create (since their compensation is set by Sociopaths operating under conditions of serious moral hazard). They mortgage their lives away, and hope to die before their money runs out. Losers have two ways out: turning Sociopath or turning into bare-minimum performers.

Based on the MacLeod lifecycle, we can also separate the three layers based on the timing of their entry and exit into organizations. The Sociopaths enter and exit organizations at will, at any stage, and do whatever it takes to come out on top. The contribute creativity in early stages of a organization’s life, neurotic leadership in the middle stages, and cold-bloodedness in the later stages, where they drive decisions like mergers, acquisitions and layoffs that others are too scared or too compassionate to drive. They are also the ones capable of equally impersonally exploiting a young idea for growth in the beginning, killing one good idea to concentrate resources on another at maturity, and milking an end-of-life idea through harvest-and-exit market strategies.

The Losers like to feel good about their lives. They are the happiness seekers, rather than will-to-power players, and enter and exit reactively, in response to the meta-Darwinian trends in the economy. But they have no more loyalty to the firm than the Sociopaths. They do have a loyalty to individual people, and a commitment to finding fulfillment through work when they can, and coasting when they cannot.

The Clueless are the ones who lack the competence to circulate freely through the economy (unlike Sociopaths and Losers), and build up a perverse sense of loyalty to the firm, even when events make it abundantly clear that the firm is not loyal to them. To sustain themselves, they must be capable of fashioning elaborate delusions based on idealized notions of the firm. Unless squeezed out by forces they cannot resist, they hang on as long as possible, long after both Sociopaths and Losers have left.

[Venkatesh Rao (2009), ribbonfarm]


In this photo made on May 2019 (Nirmal Purja), a long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest. Eleven people died as climbers rushed to take advantage of five days, scattered across two weeks, when wind and storm conditions were safe enough for them to stand on the summit.


Her boyfriend used to live in a building that’s part of the library now. He was the eldest Komura son, and a love of reading was in his blood, I suppose. He liked to be alone. So when he went into junior high he insisted on living apart from the main house, in a separate building, and his parents gave their okay. So he lived in that annex, with nobody bothering him, coming back to the main house only for meals. Miss Saeki went to see him there almost every day. The two of them studied together, listened to music, and talked forever. And most likely made love there. The place was their own bit of paradise.[Haruki Murakami (2005), Kafka on the Shore, Vintage Publishing.]
(2003) Sleeping with Ghosts


Let me say first of all that Dr Jordan B. Peterson’s recent stand against the Thought Police of his native Canada was noble and brave. He refused to be bullied into using gender-neutral pronouns. And by resolutely resisting this pressure, he overcame it — at least for now. But as a prophet of doom I need to add that I am not sure he has won any really significant victory in the long war against radical speech codes and sexual revolution. I am ceaselessly amazed, as I look at our media, political parties, schools and universities, how formerly conservative people and institutions have adapted themselves to ideas, expressions and formulations which they once rejected and confidently mocked. Almost everything that was once derided as the work of the ‘loony left’ or ‘political correctness gone mad’ is observed daily in grand, expensive private schools and is the official policy of the Conservative and Unionist party, or soon will be. I am too keenly aware of the good things which have been utterly lost in recent years to be comforted by what looks like an attempt to reconcile us with the revolutionary order. I find it hard to applaud efforts to help me adapt to a world which I think has gone utterly wrong. His message is aimed at people who have grown up in the post-Christian West. I used to joke that my upbringing, among warships and cathedrals, with longish spells in chilly prep schools surrounded by muddy playing fields and ruled by bellowing tyrants, had not done me any harm. In truth, I am sure it did do me some harm. But by comparison with the world in which Dr Peterson’s poor, sad admirers have grown up, it was a wise education for real life, especially the hymns that still echo in my mind, with their promised nights of doubt and sorrow and their steep and rugged pathways. [Peter Hitchens (2018), The Spectator]
What I’ve witnessed is a creeping malaise not dissimilar to the one afflicting the Conservative party: institutions that no longer believe in their own brand, that are desperate to pretend they are something they are not (and never should be) in order to impress the kind of people who are always going to hate them anyway. Take Eton. Almost everything that was good about it, from the arcane terminology to the kit to the remarkable independence the boys enjoy, was the result of the accumulated values of its first 550 years of existence. It was not the result of any measures that modernisers have introduced in the past decade or so. [James Delingpole (2019), The Spectator]
At long last, some Conservative British MPs are raising their standard for conservatism: up to 40 Conservative MPs will refuse to accept the “unconscious bias training” intended to tackle racism in the Commons, accusing the parliamentary authorities of “pandering to the woke agenda”. Such training is not intended to address racial prejudice. It’s intended instead to coerce conformity with approved attitudes — in this case, the anti-white racism of Black Lives Matter, which BLM uses to further its openly-stated agenda of undermining and overthrowing western society. “Unconscious bias training” is based on the Marxist concept of “false consciousness”. Its sinister, Kafka-esque goal is to persuade people that they are really odious on account of views they don’t even know they have — and the very fact that they don’t know they have these views, or worse still deny having them, is proof of just how odious they are. Nevertheless, this onslaught on freedom, rationality and western cultural identity is being ruthlessly applied in companies, public sector bodies and other institutions around Britain and the west. And in Britain, it’s being enforced by a Conservative government. It can’t be stated too strongly that if conservatives don’t conserve what is valuable, true and decent about our society they aren’t conservatives at all. [Melanie Phillips (2020)]


(Samantha) It’s like I’m reading a book, and it’s a book I deeply love, but I’m reading it slowly now so the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you and the words of our story, but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world, it’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much, but this is where I am now, and this is who I am now. [Her (2013), Directed by Spike Jonze]