Corporate Dinosaurs

It strikes me that there is a hidden truth, and a disguised fragility and vulnerability, in the argument that certain large corporations are “too big to fail”–  one that, to a large degree, accounts for and explains the phenomenon of “marketing 3.0”.

If the giant dinosaurs had been capable of thought, they would probably have concluded also that they were “too big to fail”, and that the implicit logic of their evolution was driven by that principle. As an evolutionary strategy, “get big or get eaten” worked well for a while…. until it didn’t. Our current corporate dinosaurs are very much in a similar precarious situation.

Thinking of the mega-corporations in ecological terms, “too big to fail” simply represents a huge vulnerability in the event of any change in habitat or the social milieu. Any significant change in the habitat represents an uncertainty, and therefore a potential vulnerability. The existential imperative for the corporation thus becomes the necessity to regulate and manage the habitat — the social ecology, as it were — a constant monitoring of the social environment for any notable change that may signal an unpredictable and  therefore a potential existential threat. You certainly see this motive in action in the case of the Koch Brothers and Koch Industries.

Controlling and regulating the social ecology and the habitat is an imperative for our corporate dinosaurs, which requires constant surveillance and monitoring, since any even little change could have unpredictable outcomes (“butterfly effect”) and therefore represent something potentially threatening, no matter how harmless it may appear at first glance. It accounts for the enormous amount of thought, time, and money that goes into lobbying, propaganda (advertising), the use of SLAPP suits, the use of buzz and guerilla marketing, the marketisation and commodification of everything, and so on. It’s not just to increase sales or win customers and brand loyalty. It’s mainly to preserve habitat, or to construct a habitat where none favourable currently exists.

Shaping habitat is the meaning of “technocratic shamanism”.

Consider, though, how a teensy-weensy mosquito now threatens to bring down the Olympics in Brazil. Big things often come in small packages indeed.

It seems a rule that the bigger you get, the more vulnerable you get as well, and the more vulnerable you feel, the greater the anxiety, and the greater the anxiety, the more intense the will to control and dominate everything — especially by magic. The rule seems amply evident in the fate of the Spanish “Invincible Armada”. The great galleons of the Spanish proved practically impotent against the smaller and lither English ships. Like Cassius Clay, the English ships floated like a butterfly but stung like a bee. And, of course, “too big to fail” was said about Titanic too.

Corporate dinosaurs seems like an appropriate way of thinking about the mega-corporation. Appropriate also in the proof evinced by the fate of the dinosaurs themselves — that nothing is ever “too big to fail”.

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2 responses to “Corporate Dinosaurs”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    “Habitat”, I might add here, is probably the best English equivalent to the French “milieu”. It involves more than “environment”, but also includes the built environment, the way of life. So just as well we can speak of the “habitat of nature”, the “habitat of society” or “the habitat of technology” in the same way Stivers speaks of the milieus of nature, society, or technology.

    So, now we pose the interesting question. If each habitat or milieu is the work of a particular structure of consciousness (the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational correspondingly), what would be the habitat or milieu of the “integral consciousness”?

    This is where things get interesting in trying to interpret things like Jensen’s “Dream Society” or similar proposals related to marketing 3.0/holistic branding. The habitat or milieu they envision here is the universal market (it, 24/7 and everywhere all the time. Jensen even speaks of “The Loving Family, Inc.” — the family becomes a corporation or factory while the corporation takes on features of the family. The “market”, meanwhile, rules over all, and in the Market we live, move, and have our being, all lovingly presided over by the Invisible Hand). The Universal Market is everywhere, but mainly in your head and heart.

    Ghastly.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    If you want a vision of what a potential post-Enlightenment society looks like, Rolf Jensens’s The Dream Society is certainly one such vision (notable, also, for being an “international bestseller” and for frequent mention in some of the books on branding I’ve been reading). Dreaminess is the new normal here, where emotion not only overrules reason, but actively suppresses it for being obsolete and anarchronistic.

    The icons of The Dream Society are story-tellers like Hans Christian Anderson and Stephen Spielberg, according to Jensen — in other words the Dream Society is a society of fairy tale and fable, where the brand manager (as “manager of meaning” and chief Confabulator) is king (and there’s little or no need, therefore, for things like government or religion, for the corporation is the pillar of society). It reads like Peter Pan’s Neverland, really, where the corporation becomes theme park and the family becomes a corporation — all the “fun” is found in the former, while all the drudgery of duty and responsibility is associated with the latter.

    The Dream Society is where average Joe and average Josephine are most in their element — it’s their native milieu, as it were. It’s the world of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.

    So, if you want to know what freaks out Richard Stivers in Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational, you’ll find it in more than adequately represented in Jensen’s Dream Society. I’m sure I’m going to have more to say about that vision (which, I truly hope, never ever comes to pass).

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