On the outside, business schools portray themselves as humanistic centres of knowledge. Unfortunately, this outside picture has, in my opinion, very little to do with what the same institution looks from the inside. Here the façade crumbles. Business Schools have been held as the peak of our decadent system… and quite rightly so. They promote ignorance and the exclusive pursuit of money, eventually leading to depraved, burned out and miserable individuals. This is the tale of someone who wants to break the silence surrounding these otherworldly institutions and show what business school is really about.
To start off with, I am not doing a Master of Business Administration, which is what most people think I am doing when I tell them that I am at B-School. My program is very similar, but it is a Master in Management course, tailored for “young professionals with little to no-work experience”, the “little brother of the MBA” so to speak. I applied to the program, because I was involved in social entrepreneurship projects and thought it would be a good idea to learn more about how a business works. I had just finished a humanities degree and the professionalism of the business discipline appealed to me. I therefore told myself that if I want to be serious about my future ventures, I needed more knowledge about how to run a business to get serious and join the ranks of the big boys. Big mistake.
I signed the enrollment contract and paid the hefty fees with the best conscience: my parents, my social circle, everyone was proud of me. Yet none of them had ever been to B-School and knew what you had to endure outside university: the biggest breeding ground of arrogance I have ever encountered.
Business Schools are the opium of the elite. The word Harvard Business School and similar institutions is synonymous with money and political influence. For some reason, their reputation and power has remained largely untouched during the crisis even though they have educated many of the people who have driven the world economy into recession and ruined the livelihoods of millions. (Personally, I assume that these culprits do not care – big bonuses apparently have a cathartic effect on morality).
In the context of globalization, the main goal of a business school is to produce “human capital” in terms of business leaders. Yet the exact definition of what character a leader should bring to the table from their point of view is disturbing. Ethics, for instance, is only marginally part of the business curriculum (as an elective) and is generally bad for business, so why bother? What matters is the “hard knowledge”, the numbers. Everything in business schools becomes reduced to numbers and variables. True organic culture and politics on the other hand become non-existent in this reductionist logic. This, on the social side of things, creates self-indulgent, ego-maniac assholes, who do not give a crap about the world around them. Let me give you an example. My school is located in Spain, yet my fellow students can sometimes not even order an orange juice after 3 months in this country. Some do not know what the Prado is. Only a minority seems to interest themselves in Spanish culture. People from university only hang out with other people from the same institution. It is an anti-intellectual, claustrophobic environment to say the least. Some people build together Excel sheets so quickly you become dizzy, but then do not know who Silvio Berlusconi is…
To succeed and indeed survive in this type of environment you have to adapt, opting to play the game and join the ranks of the doomed: act super-cocky, wear expensive clothing, get bottles in famous clubs, be on your smartphone 24-7, flying to big world capitals every week or so, miss lessons because you have other things to do, and obviously post your lavish lifestyle on Facebook for everyone to see. (My fellow classmates regard me with some scorn, since I actually have an opinion about the world and am not shy enough to speak it out during class sessions).
The ideological ground on the business side of things is epitomized by our drill sergeant professor, Martin Mann: Always have a nice smile and let your moral sentiment be eroded by the business dogma: “What matters is the bottom line! Make the shareholders happy!” Everything at B-School is about achieving this end. Yet, “Where is the love?” as the Black Eyed Peas put it? Certainly not in this shark tank…
The fascinating aspect of all this, is that people have very strong analytical abilities, yet are unable to see that they are living an artificial lifestyle, leading straight to the abyss of midlife crisis and burn out. Characters are forced to become “one-dimensional”. Beside thinking about the influence they will once have, people here consume what the mainstream sells to them. Fußball, Ficken, Alkohol (football, sex and alcohol) for the guys, gossip talk for the girls. I sincerely hope that this is not the end of history and that in a Hegelian sense, B-School and indeed turbocapitalism, contains within itself, the seeds for the demise in its old form of being. Adbusters’ most recent launch on the field of economics is certainly not being felt here (Except for my comments in class).
For me, it is sad to see, that in no place I have ever encountered before, has my age cohorts been so assimilated into my parent’s generation as here. I personally believe it is the historic role of young people to question the values of what has been put forth to them by the establishment. Due to several factors, such as consumerism and the negative effects of the cultural industry, my generation cannot act and create a new set of values to lead us into a brighter future. The act of thinking, has become too much associated with working and cannot be applied outside this context. Negative liberty, Isaiah Berlin’s idea of leaving people fit to do as they seem fit, is a nice idea in theory. In practice, man whose mind is born free, is initiated all his life in the rites of a false god of money, which has lead us to our current moral crisis. And the spreading epidemic of psychological diseases, caused by the breakdown of morals inside of society is costing us more that we think. We lack a common set of values, a myth, an ethos that connects us and creates a cohesive society. Money does not unite us. On the contrary, it divides us. For me, the Business Schools, the consultancies, the investment banks are the 4th Reich and the interesting point is that victims are also the perpetrators.
So why didn’t I quit? Well, I regard my masters as a sort of life insurance. I come from an affluent background, but if shit really hits the fan, this “piece of crap” is actually worth a lot. As with many things in life, you just have to know the magic words and its “Open Sesame”. Plus, this program is actually really easy, if you manage yourself and particularly your time well. Am I another exponent of a perverted generation? I hope not. The march through institutions, which every generation is expected to fulfill, requires patience, and its supporters are expected dress as sheep, while being a wolf.