torsdag 6 oktober 2016

Books I've read (Dec)

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I read the three books below in December last year (e.g. 10 months ago). All three books below are about rules and (over)administration running amok, smothering that which it was originally supposed to support. All three books have been influential in shaping my thinking and some of the thoughts go very well together with the ideas that Barath Raghavan and I wrote about in our paper "Refactoring Society: Systems Complexity in an Age of Limits". We presented that paper in June 2016 at the Second Workshop on Computing within Limits (LIMITS 2016). The ideas and perspectives in these books have also made a strong showing in blog posts such as "MID department retreat and reflections of organisation" (June 2016) and "Open letter to my dean - spare us from excessive administration!" (August 2016). The asterisks below represent the number of quotes from the each book (see further below) and here's the previous blog post about books I have read.



******************** I have a good eye to anthropologist David Graeber after having read his truly marvellous "Debt: The first 5000 years" back in 2014. With his new book "The utopia of rules: On technology, stupidity, and the secret joys of democracy" (2015), David Graeber continues to deliver and this book has already been very useful for me (see above) and has helped shape my opinions about the use and misuse of rules/bureaucracy. The core of the book consists of three longer (50+ pages long) "essays" of slightly varying quality. Although good, they do not reach exactly the same heights as Debt did - but this book is still for sure well worth reading! Even the weaker essay on how our images of the future has changed since Graeber's childhood and adolescence is interesting but the real punch (for) me is in the first 100 pages with the introduction ("The Iron Law of Liberalism and the era of total bureaucratization") and the first essay ("Dead zones of the imagination: An essay on structural stupidity"). 

Which public servant wouldn't want to understand more about "structural stupidity" and who doesn't want to understand more about bureaucracy and the lived experience and razor-sharp analysis of life in a world that is ruled by rule-crazed, literal- and narrow-minded implementers and executers? Who would have thought reading about bureaucracy could be that much fun? After now having read a monograph and this collection of essays I do have to say that Graeber is great but that he is at his fore when he slowly and gradually sharpens his arguments in a longer, coherent text so I for sure hope his next book will be another monograph! Want to have a David Graeber-light experience? Then read his short text on "On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs" (2013).

I very much hope that I will get to meet David Graeber at some point. Actually I don't just mean "meet" as in attend the same conference, but "meet" in the sense of being able to recurrently have access to him in an academic setting as a visiting researcher! Or instead perhaps attend the same one-week intensive workshop (or some such similar event)! I imagine Graeber to be a very interesting person both personally, politically and academically. 



************************** I have mixed feelings about Anders Forsell and Anders Ivarsson Westerberg's 2014 book "Administrationssamhället" [Administration society]. There are some truly deep insights in this book and the perspective presented has again been instrumentally useful for me already immediately after having read the book (see the links above). The problem is that while the discussions and the conclusions are riveting, the book (as a book) isn't. It's kind of clunky to read because the quality of the authors' ideas and conclusions are of a much higher than the actual text is. So it's hard to know if or how much I should recommend this book to others. For people who don't read books from cover to cover I would recommending that they perhaps only read only selected chapters - the last two chapters are for example must-reads and the final chapter is entitled "What does administration society do to us?".

The book is the result of a research project (aptly named "administration society") that Anders and Anders have managed and the authors write about New Public Management (NPM) the creeping administrativisation of various professions and of society at large. This process is slow and insidious and seems for the most part to be impossible to stop. I tend to of think of processes of administrativisation as being equivalent of the invasive Spanish slug (aptly entitled "the killer snail") that is nowadays bedevil Swedish gardens and that has few natural enemies in the Swedish fauna. It would be interesting to more systematically explore the parallells between administrativisation and other invasive species, i.e. a "plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location ... and which has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health".

The brunt of the book is built on three case studies of (increasing) administration in the healthcare sector, in public schools and among the Swedish police. The conclusions are always depressing  and they are always the same (more administration over time). The amount of, and the time we spend on administration seems to continue to rise over time and professionals subsequently spend more time/a larger proportion of their time on administrative tasks and with administrative systems. We all then do less of whatever it is they are supposed to do as professionals (e.g. cure people, teach kids and catch criminals). This is true not just of the three professions that were reported-on in this book but also for other professions (for example the military and of course also for university teachers). this is not a good way to spend tax money as we can both spend more and get fewer services or services with lower quality for our money.

Forsell and Ivarsson Westerberg effectively undress the folly of believing that you can mandate increased quality in the public sector (and elsewhere) by instituting more rules, by forcing people to follow these rules and by evaluating and making inquiries as to the "effects" of the new rules. New rules and procedures might result in increased quality but they might also result in decreased quality since the only thing we can really be sure about is that administration and its concordant costs (in time, money, frustration etc.) will increase every time we try to "solve" a new problem. The increase in costs can easily outweigh any possible planned-for improvements (e.g at time "improvements" that exist on paper but not really anywhere else).

I have and continue to feel a great urge to write about these phenomena (see above). I'm especially interested in combing the results of Forsell and Ivarsson Westerberg's research on administration with  Joseph Tainter's theories about decreasing returns of increasing societal complexity as well as with ideas about second order and rebound effects as per (this is basically just to remind myself) Maruyama, Sproull & Kiesler, my colleague Börjesson Rivera (on rebound effects) and others.

I have also sought contact with the two authors and am now in fact in touch with them. They mentioned the possibility of (at some point in time) organising a small workshop with people who are interested "in these matters" and they also know other (to me unknown) Swedish researchers who are interested in/doing research "in this field" (e.g. "encroaching administration"?). If so, I do believe I am now on their shortlist of people to get in touch with and hope this such a workshop will be organised at some point.

I so truly would have wished that the perspective these researchers present was understood and anchored at all levels and in all parts of society as well as in the organisation that I work in. I would so wish that more people (with power!) understood that not everything that can be done (or can be measured) is worth being done (or being measuring). Even if a particular action has beneficial effects (of some kind and at least beforehand and on paper), the costs of doing it might still be higher than the expected (hoped-for) benefits. So instead of trying to corral the professionals, trust them and encourage them to raise the bar of their own standards by allowing them to themselves set, discuss and the police the criteria for what constitutes good performance in their own respective fields. If you are a politician, an economist or a manager, stay away from micromanaging fields you yourself are not a professional in (like research and teaching etc.). It's hard to improve things "from the outside" but it's easy to inadvertently and with the best of intentions in mind make things a lot worse by measuring and benchmarking and so on.

Here's the worst-case scenario: we end up with a system where our kids' teachers spend half their time on administration and only half of their time actually teaching our kids. Oh wait, that wasn't a nightmare, that was the results of Forsell and Ivarsson Westerberg's latest study...



******* The last book in this batch is Roland Paulsen's 2015 masterful book "Vi bara lyder: En berättelse om Arbetsförmedling" [We just obey: A story about the Swedish Public Employment Service] is masterful and he has for sure developed as an author since I read his book "The work society" (2010) two years ago. Paulsen's new book could represent a standard of what every book an academic writes should be: succinct, short, personal - and still delivering great insights. You can now buy the pocketbook edition for 49 SEK - and you should!

Paulsen describes how a personal meeting and a mild altercation led to a research grant and a personal need to understand how people who work in a dysfunctional organisation orient themselves to having to protect their minds and their sanity while continuing to work inside the mindless and senseless sardonic virtual reality called the Swedish Public Employment Service. The employment service is an organisation that has an "annual budget of 72 billion SEK [8 billion USD]" and where "The average Emplyment Service officer mediates no more than ten unsubsidized jobs per year". There's a lot more I could suggest but I instead suggest you read the quotes below and then run out and buy the book!


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----- On the idea of government bureaucracy as evil -----
"Ludwig von Mises, an exiled Austrian aristocrat, [in his] 1944 book Bureaucracy argued that by definition, systems of government administration could never organize information at anything like the efficiency of impersonal market pricing mechanisms. ... von Mises argued that as a result, the social welfare states then emerging in places like France or England, let alone Denmark or Sweden, would, within a generation or two, inevitably lead to fascism. In this view, the rise of bureaucracy was the ultimate example of good intentions run amok. Ronald Reagan probably made the most effective popular deployment of this line of thought with his famous claim that, "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" The problem with all this is that it bears very little relation to what actually happened."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.7-8.


----- On liberalism leading to more government bureaucracy -----
"While the idea that the market is somehow opposed to and independent of government has been used at least since the nineteenth century to justify laissez faire economic policies designed to lessen the role of government, they never actually have that effect. English liberalism, for instance, did not lead to a reduction of state bureaucracy, but the exact opposite: an endlessly ballooning array of legal clerks, registrars, inspectors, notaries, and police officials who made the liberal dream of a world of free contract between autonomous individuals possible. It turned out that maintaining a free market economy required a thousand times more paperwork than a Louis XIV-style absolutist monarchy. ... I propose to call it "the iron law of liberalism":

The Iron Law of Liberalism states that any market reform, any government initiative intended to reduce red tape and promote market forces will have the ultimate effect of increasing the total number of regulations, the total amount of paperwork, and the total number of bureaucrats the government employs."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.9.


----- On "deregulation" -----
"So what are people actually referring to when they talk about "deregulation"? In ordinary usage, the word seems to mean "changing the regulatory structure in a way that I like." In practice this can refer to almost anything. ... In the case of banking, "deregulation" has usually meant ... moving away from a situation of managed competition between mid-sized firms to one where a handful of financial conglomerates are allowed to completely dominate the market. This is what makes the term so handy. Simply by labeling a new regulatory measure "deregulation," you can frame it in the public mind as a way to reduce bureaucracy and set individual initiative free, even if the result is a fivefold increase in the actual number of forms to be filled in, reports to be filed, rules and regulations for lawyers to interpret, and officious people in offices whose entire job seems to be to provide convoluted explanations for why you're not allowed to do things."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.17.

----- On the credentialism (and higher education) scam -----
"There is a rich anthropological literature, for instance, on the cult of certificates, license, and diplomas in the former colonial world. Often the argument is that in countries like Bangladesh, Trinidad, or Cameroon, which hover between the stifling legacy of colonial domination and their own magical traditions, official credentials are seen as a kind of ... magical objects conveying power in their own right, entirely apart from the real knowledge, experience, or training they're supposed to represent. But since the eighties, the real explosion of credentialism has been in what are supposed the most "advanced" economies, like the United States, Great Britain, or Canada. ... Almost every endeavor that used to be considered an art (best learned through doing) now requires formal professional training and a certificate of completion, and this seems to be happening, equally, in both the private and public sectors, since, as already noted, in matters bureaucratic, such distinctions are becoming effectively meaningless. ... the main result of one's years of professional training is to ensure that one is saddled with such an enormous burden of student debt that a substantial chunk of any subsequent income one will get from pursuing that profession will henceforth be siphoned off, each month, by the financial sector. In some cases, these new training requirements can only be describes as outright scams"
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.22-23.


----- On using "rationality" as a sledgehammer -----
"Anyone who claims to base their politics on rationality ... is claiming that anyone who disagrees with them might as well be insane, which is about as arrogant a position as one could possibly take. Or else, they're using "rationality" as a synonym for "technical efficiency," and thus focusing on *how* they are going about something because they do not wish to talk about *what* it is they are ultimately going about. Neoclassical economics is notorious for making this kind of move. When an economist attempts to prove that it is "irrational" to vote in national elections (because the effort expended outweighs the likely benefit to the individual voter), they use the term because they do not wish to say "irrational for actors for whom civic particiaption, political ideals, or the common good are not values in themselves, but who view public affairs only in terms of personal advantage." There is absolutely no reason why one could not rationally calculate the best way to further one's political ideals through voting. But according to the economists' assumptions, anyone who takes this course might as well be out of their minds."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.38-39.


----- On audit culture and bullshit jobs -----
"Much of what bureaucrats do ... is evaluate things. They are continually assessing, auditing, measuring, weighing the relative merits of different plans, proposals, applications, courses of action, or candidates for promotion. Market reform only reinforce this tendency. This happens on every level. It is felt most cruelly by the poor, who are constantly monitored [by] legions of functionaries whose primary function is to make poor people feel bad about themselves. But the culture of evaluation is if anything even more pervasive in the hyper-credentialized world of the professional classes, where audit culture reigns, and nothing is real that cannot be quantified, tabulated, or entered into some interface or quarterly report. ... This helps a phenomenon I have written about elsewhere: the continual growth, in recent decades, of apparently meaningless, make-work, "bullshit jobs" - strategic vision coordinators, human resources consultants, legal analysts, and the like - despite the fact that even those who hold such positions are half the time secretly convinced they contribute nothing to the enterprise."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.41-43.


----- On bureaucracy as blight -----
"Let me begin with a story about bureaucracy ...
[3 pages and a horror story about running around in circles later:]
As it happened, the whole problem soon became academic: my mother did indeed die a few weeks later. At the time, I found this experience extremely disconcerting. Having spent much of my life leading a fairly bohemian student existence comparatively insulated from this sort of thing, I found myself asking my friends: is this what ordinary life, for most people, is really like? Running around feeling like an idiot all day? Being somehow put in a position where one actually does end up acting like an idiot? Most were inclined to suspect that this was indeed what life is mostly like. ... in fact all bureaucracies do this, insofar as they set demands they insist are reasonable, and then, on discovering that they are not reasonable (since a significant number of people will always be unable to perform as expected), conclude that the problem is not with the demands themselves but with the individual inadequacy of each particular human being who fails to live up to them.
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.48-49.


----- Today we are surrounded by vast quantities of aesthetically impoverished text (including this) -----
"Paperwork is *supposed* to be boring. And it's getting more so all the time. Medieval characters were often quite beautiful, full of calligraphy and heraldic embellishments. Even in the nineteenth century some of this remained: I have a copy of my grandfather's birth certificate, issued in Springfield, Illinois, in 1858, and it's quite colorful, with Gothic letters, scrolls and little cherubs ... My father's, in contrast, issued in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1914, is monochrome and utterly unadorned, just lines and boxes, thought they are filled out in a nice florid hand. My own, issued in New York in 1961, lacks even that: it's typed and stamped and utterly without character. But of course the computer interfaces used for so many forms nowadays are more boring still. It's as if the creators of these documents were gradually trying to strip them of anything even slightly profound, or remotely symbolic."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.51.


----- On government bureaucracy as coercion -----
"In many of the rural communities anthropologists are most familiar with ... it would never occur to anyone to deny that the government is a fundamentally coercive institution ... much of the time, the state, or its representatives, were not really around. Government played almost no role in regulating the minutiae of daily life: there were no building codes, no open container laws, no mandatory licensing and insurance of vehicles, no rules about who could buy or sell or smoke or build or eat or drink what where, where people could play music or tend their animals. Or anyway, if there were such laws, no one knew what they were because it never occurred to anyone, even the police, to enforce them - even in town, and definitely not in the surrounding countryside, where such matters were entirely regulated by custom, deliberation by communal assemblies, or magical taboo. In such contexts, it became all the more apparent that the main business of government bureaucracy was the registration of taxable property, and maintaining the infrastructure that allowed those who collected taxes to show up and take their things away.
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.61-62.


----- On gender inequality and women's interpretative labor -----
"in American situation comedies of the 1950s, there was a constant staple: jokes about the impossibility of understanding women. the jokes (told, of course, by men) always represented women's logic as fundamentally alien and incomprehensible. "You have to love them," the message always seemed to run, "but who can really understand how these creatures think?" One never had the impression the women in question had any trouble understanding men. The reason is obvious. Women had no choice but to understand men. In America, the fifties were the heyday of a certain ideal of the one-income patriarchal family, and among the more affluent, the ideal was often achieved. Women with no access to their own income or resources obviously had no choice but to spend a great deal of time and energy understanding what their menfolk thought was going on."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.69.


----- Raw power is an asymmetry in interpretative labor -----
"the master's ability to remain completely unaware of the slave's understanding of any situation, the slave's inability to say anything even when she becomes aware of some dire practical flaw in the master's reasoning, the forms of blindness or stupidity that result, the fact these oblige the slave to devote even more energy trying to understand and anticipate the master's confused perceptions ... Ultimately it's about participating in the process that shuts them up."

I thought this quote was so interesting I remade it to fit two *other* contexts that are relevant to my daily life at the university:

Alternative version #1"the teacher's ability to remain completely unaware of the student's understanding of any situation, the student's inability to say anything even when she becomes aware of some dire practical flaw in the teacher's reasoning, the forms of blindness or stupidity that result, the fact these oblige the student to devote even more energy trying to understand and anticipate the teacher's confused perceptions ... Ultimately it's about participating in the process that shuts them up."

Alternative version #2"the bureaucrat's ability to remain completely unaware of the university teacher's understanding of any situation, the teachers's inability to say anything even when she becomes aware of some dire practical flaw in the bureaucrat's reasoning, the forms of blindness or stupidity that result, the fact these oblige the teacher to devote even more energy trying to understand and anticipate the bureaucrat's confused perceptions ... Ultimately it's about participating in the process that shuts them up."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.103.


----- On Star Trek as a kind of communism that works -----
"consider Star Trek, that quintessence of American mythology. Is not the Federation of Planets - with its high-minded idealism, strict military discipline, and apparent lack of both class difference and any real evidence of multiparty democracy - really just an Americanized version of a kinder, gentler Soviet Union, and above all, one that actually "worked"? ... Star Trek characters complain about bureaucrats all the time. They never complain about politicians. ... Star Trek characters live under a regime of explicit communism. Social classes have been eliminated. So too have divisions based on race, gender, or ethnic origin. The very existence of money, in earlier periods, is considered a weird and somewhat amusing historical curiosity. Menial labor has been automated into nonexistence."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.124-126.


----- On the expansion of paperwork -----
"the last thirty years have seen a veritable explosion of the proportion of working hours spent on administrative paperwork, at the expense of pretty much everything else. In my own university, for instance, we have not only more administrative staff than faculty, but the faculty, too, are expected to spend at least as much time on administrative responsibilities as on teaching and research combined. ... The explosion of paperwork, in turn, is a direct result of the introduction of corporate management techniques, which are always justified as ways of increasing efficiency, by introducing competition at every level. What these management techniques invariably end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell each other things ... and universities themselves ... have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors. Marketing and PR thus come to engulf every aspect of university life. ... .
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.133-134.


----- On how to minimise creativity -----
"There was a time when academia was society's refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers ... Common sense dictates that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone for a while. Most will probably turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something completely unexpected. If you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they already know what they are going to discover."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.134-135.


----- On largely invalid arguments in defence of capitalism (but what's the alternative?) -----
"Defenders of capitalism generally make three broad historical claims: first, that it has fostered rapid scientific and technological development; second, that however much it may throw enormous wealth to a small minority, it does so in such a way that increases overall prosperity for everyone; third, that in doing so, it creates a more secure and democratic world. It is quite clear that in the twenty-first century, capitalism is not doing any of these things. In fact, even its proponents are increasingly retreating from any claim that it is a particularly good system, falling back instead on the claim that it is the only possible system - or at least, the only possible system for a complex, technologically sophisticated society such as our own."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.143.


----- On bureaucrats as gluey and largely indispensable -----
"once you do create a bureaucracy, it's almost almost impossible to get rid of it. The very first bureaucracies we know of were in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and these continued to exist, largely unchanged, as one dynasty or ruling elite replaced another, for literally thousands of years. Similarly, waves of successful invaders were not enough to dislodge the Chinese civil service, with its bureaus, reports, and examination system, which remained firmly in place no matter who actually claimed the Mandate of Heaven. In fact, as [German sociologist Max] Weber also noted [more than 100 years ago], foreign invaders needed the skills and knowledge so jealously guarded by Chinese bureaucrats even more than indigenous rulers did, for obvious reasons. The only real way to rid oneself of an established bureaucracy, according to Weber, is to simply kill them all, as Alaric the Goth did in Imperial Rome, or Genghis Khan in certain parts of the Middle East. Leave any significant number of functionaries alive, and within a few years, they will inevitably end up managing one's kingdom."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.151.


----- On the 19th century German Post Office as the pinnacle of modernism -----
"In the late nineteenth century, the German postal service was considered one of the great wonders of the modern world. Its efficiency was so legendary, in fact, that it casts a kind of terrible shadow across the twentieth century. Many of the greatest achievements of what we now call "high modernism" were inspired by - or in many cases, built in direct imitation of - the German Post Office. And one could indeed make a case that many of the most terrible woes of that century can also be laid at its feet. ... The post office was, essentially, one of the first attempts to apply top-down, military forms of organization to the public good."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.153-155.


----- On the arrogance of arguing that your own position is rational -----
"claiming one's own political positions are based on "rationality" is an extremely strong statement. In fact, it's extraordinarily arrogant, since it means that those who disagree with those positions are not just wrong, but crazy. Similarly, to say one wishes to create a "rational" social order implies that current social arrangements might as well have been designed by the inhabitants of a lunatic asylum. Now, surely, all of us have felt this way at one time or another. But if nothing else, it is an extraordinarily intolerant position, since it implies that one's opponents are not just wrong, but in a certain sense, wouldn't even know what it would mean to be right, unless, by some miracle, they could come around and accept the light or reason and decide to accept your own conceptual framework and point of view. ... You can't really make an arguument against rationality, because for that argument to be convincing, it would itself have to be framed in rational terms."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.168.


----- On turning custom into rules in the Audit Society -----
"anthropologists are notoriously reluctant to turn their tools of analysis on their own institutional environments, but there are exceptions, and one excellent one is Marilyn Strathern's analysis of what in the UK has come to be known as "audit culture." The basic idea behind audit culture is that in the absence of clear, "transparent" criteria to understand how people are going about their jobs, academia simply becomes a feudal system based on arbitrary personal authority. On the surface, it's hard to argue with this. Who could be against transparency? Strathern was head of the anthropology department at Cambridge when these reforms were imposed, and in her book Audit Cultures, she documented the actual consequences of this kind of bureaucratization. ... in order to become "transparent" to the administration, they had to start articulating [traditional ways of going about everything]; in practice, what this meant was that they had to take what had always been a subtle, nuanced form of procedures and turn them into an explicit set of rules. In effect, they had to turn custom into a kind of board game. ... such reforms may aim to eliminate arbitrary personal authority, but of course they never actually do. Personal authority just jumps up a level, and becomes the ability to set the rules aside in specific cases"
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.196-197.


----- On the glamour of being a bureaucrat -----
"Ancient Egypt in contrast created whole genres of literature to warn young students against adventurous occupations. They would typically begin by asking whether the reader had ever dreamed of becoming the captain of a ship, or a royal charioteer, then go on to describe just how miserable such an apparently glamorous occupation would likely really turn out to be. The conclusion was always the same: don't do it! Become a bureaucrat. You'll have a prosperous job and ... you'll be able to order around the soliders and sailors who will treat you like a god."
Graeber, D. (2015). The Utopia of rules, p.243.




----- Adminstration über alles -----
"Increasingly, we devote ourselves to administrative work. ... Everything that happens at work must be documented: it should be measured, recorded, reported, reviewed and evaluated. In addition, we participate in budget meetings, have opinions about the new quality policy or are subjected to the auditors' scrutinizing glances. The administrative work seems to increase and it steals time from "regular" or "real" tasks. Even in our everyday lives, the administration comes into play in almost all areas. ... It is considered good and it is coupled with positive values to plan, be rational, have clear goals, control, review and follow up."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.9.


----- Administration is trending -----
"[There are] many important questions to ask about administration, such as: What is administration? Is administrative work increasing, and if so, how? How does the ordinary work change as a result of new administrative requirements? Why does administration increase or change? What are the consequences of increases in administrative work? Our purpose with this book is both to draw attention to, discuss and understand what administration is and why it is changing."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.12.


----- On bureaucracy -----
"As many know, it was the German sociologist Max Weber who coined the term *bureaucracy * ... Weber argued that bureaucracy was the most effective type of organization, and that it would gradually replace the previously dominant forms based on kinship and heritage. Bureaucracy was thus an objective tool for the modern society that was based on a rational sense. ... It was thus not something problematic or bad rather something natural in a society marked by reason and optimism over developments. it was only later that bureaucracy became a dirty word mainly associated with its negative consequences such as inflexibility, cumbersomeness, zealous officials, paper hysteria, delays and waste of resources."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.13.


----- On management vs administration -----
"Management is linked to active bosses/managers, whose job it is to proactively make changes in a business but also to react when larger shocks occur, and this is done largely through making decisions about various measures, while administration is more related to monitoring, controls, and supporting the business, and this is done by gathering, treating and processing information of different kinds, and then report back on this. This focus on information may also explain why administration more or less seems to have disappeared from the organizational researchers' agenda. ... issues about information and the management of information [have] been taken over by research directions that have followed in the wake of the digital revolution."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.34.


----- On over-administration in healthcare and the police -----
"If we compare studies and observations from healthcare with other areas of the public sector, they have much in common. One example is the police, which just as the county councils [responsible for health care in Swedish] have gone through several rounds of cutting down on the administrative personnel. It is striking how similar the problems are described in the police compared to healthcare. Effects that are experienced in the police forces are a feeling of an increase in administrative work, which means that you have to do more administration yourself, unmanageable and increasing demands on documentation in connection with police matters as well as cumbersome and incompatible computer systems that hinder rather than facilitate documentation. ... All articles and letters to the editor talking about increasingly burdensome administrative work probably reflect a change. ... At least many feel that administration is an obstructing element in their work. It seems administrative work trickles down and into all types of work. There are fewer administrative specialists, but more people who administer as part of their job."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.68.


----- On an abundance of irrelevant administrative tasks -----
"In the autumn of 2013 the new analytical authority Department for health analysis published a report about physicians' use of time. The question asked was, what are the main challenges to achieve a more efficient use of medical resource ... much focus lay on the fact that the administrative requirements on doctors had increased. ... Dressed up in word like "challenges" and "opportunities for development" the report directed sharp criticism of the current situation in the health care sector. The study ... consists of solid empirical data and it confirms what has been said in opinion articles and letters to the editor: that doctors perform a variety of administrative tasks, many of which it is possible to question the relevance."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.117.


----- On clients/consumers/patients becoming their own administrators -----
"The case [shows] that administration not only moves out to the employees, but also draws in clients/consumers/patients and their families. A folder is placed in the hands of the recently ill, and with it a number of forms and billheads to be completed. Clients become co-administrators of their own illness."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.134.


----- On administrative vs professional goals -----
"[In health care] there are increasingly strict requirements on auditing, control and monitoring of activities. The accounting model used guides work towards activities that are being scored. The danger with this system is that the professional will give way to the administrative, that it to say that the definition of good care shifts towards the care that is rewarded by that system ... to put plaster on a leg, to sew up a wound in the emergency room or to surgically remove the tonsils are more concrete and measurable tasks than therapy and conversations. This results-oriented approach and all the talk about productivity may be perceived as strange for employees in the are of psychiatric care. A similarity is that we see the same trends elsewhere, that is to say that numbers "rule" together with requirements for auditing, control and reporting. These requirements often come from higher hierarchical levels in the organizations, and are often related to finance and budget matters."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.134-135.

----- On the requirements and the limits of administration -----
"All available resources could theoretically be devoted to administration. The number of stakeholders is large, and their demands are usually both reasonable and commendable. But if we are to meet them all there may not be much time left for other things, and that was not how it was supposed to be. Stakeholders may hypothetically require an infinite amount of information - the only thing that limits the ability to meet such requirements is the amount of resources available. ... In the many studies we have reported on in previous chapters there are certainly many examples of *over-documentation*, documentation this is performed and that requires work but that is not at all necessary for the operations of the organizations in question."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.180-181.


----- On changing things for the better (on paper - but not in real life) -----
"One example of how administration ... has increased and been added to the workload of a profession is the bi-annual appraisals that teachers have with students and their parents. This used to happen through an informal gathering where the teacher verbally, after previously perhaps having written down a few points on a paper, reported on the student's school situation and then had a relatvely informal discussion with the student and the parents. Nowadays, teachers have to prepare for these discussions by writing a review of each student according to a standardized format. These reviews must be available for parents in advance through a digital platform and is intended to serve as a starting point for the conversation. During the conversation the parents, the student and the teacher should agree on an individual development plan which should also be documentet digitally using another standardized format, either directly during the discussion or afterwards. ... We know it takes considerably more time to write something than to talk about the same thing, so this change resulted in a substantial increase of the teachers' workload. This is an example of how a well-intentioned change - to document students' performances - infringe on the working hours and where the alternative use of the time probably is teaching in the classroom. This type of administrative work literally eats working hours, something that those who introduce the change seldom seem to be aware of."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.189-190.


----- On the link between business economy educational programmes, organisational theory and the increase in administration -----
"We believe that educational programmes in business economy is a factor that plays an important role in the growth of administration and the emergence of administration society. We primarily refer to those educational programmes that aim to manage and lead organizations and that often have their foundation in the subject matter of business administration. We argue that the business economy programmes have led to the development of a new profession with much power. Partly these educational programmes are currently the largest programmes at [Swedish] universities and university colleges and there is furthermore a strong connection to the fact that economy in general has become a social ideology (economization)."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.207.


----- On e-governance as a scheme for citizens to do the work of government -----
"A more general trend with so-called e-government services is that we as citizens and "customers" increasingly are expected to administer ourselves. Administrative work is moved from public organizations to the citizens themselves. We therefore perform part of the organizations' administrative tasks. We can already now manage our own matters with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency and the Swedish Tax Agency. E-health is the latest project that is being developed in this spirit and in which we can administer our contacts with the health care system. "
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.213.


----- On the connection between ICT systems and the increase in administration -----
"IT systems draw all employees into the administrative work while simultaneously increasing the administrative capacity. Not only does the amount of administration increase - IT has also increased the speed. ... In the emergence of an adminstration society, there have been powerful tools in the form of various IT systems and -solutions that has enabled administration. All of this has most often been carried out by using arguments about rationalization, efficiency and savings. ... increased administration is neither accompanied by increased working hours or the corresponding reduction of other employee duties, but is rather assumed that all administration should be accommodated with the regular working hours."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.214-215.


----- On outsourcing as a potentially counter-productive generator of increased amounts of administration -----
"When public organizations are divided into smaller units that will be results-driven, or when public sector activities are exposed to competition and more activities are outsourced, those transactions and the resource flows that arise must be measured and registered, which places new demands on the economic administration. Furthermore, contracts must for example be specified and negotiated and procedures for measuring performance must be established. Since market reforms thus create new organizational relationships, they also create demands for new forms of management, coordination, monitoring and other administrative tasks."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.216.


----- When the market metaphor generates useless administrative work -----
"Let us give an example of how an internal market system aimed at making things more efficient can have the opposite effect. The example comes from studies of administrative processes that the consulting firm PwC made in the municipalities of Hudiksvall and Karlskoga ... One example is the municipalities' internal invoicing. By mapping the working hours for handling the invoices and multiplying by the average salary, you can roughly determine what it costs to handle an internal invoice. The survey showed that it took the equivalent of almost six full-time jobs to handle around four thousand internal invoices, resulting in a cost of 466 SEK per invoice. ... Interestingly, this is an administrative process that only occurrs as a result of organizing into profit centers that buy and sell services from each other within the same organization. It does not contribute to any external value, instead only generating work internally in the organization. It creates a mutually increasing work load according to Parkinson's law. Solely by using the organizing principle "internal market", the municipality has thus created a gigantic amount of work for itself that drains it of time and money. "
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.213.


----- On the hidden (administrative) costs of outsourcing and procurement -----
"[In addition] there are also developments that, based on arguments such as freedom of choice, *expose operations to competitive tendering and to in varying degrees privatize operations* that were previously managed by the public sector. This has meant that large resources also are spent on the procurement of subcontractors, leading to new administrative work of various kinds. ... Outsourcing operations to subcontractors or procuring services thus implies costs in terms of administrative work for public organizations."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.219.


----- On organizations' core businesses and administration-generating "ancillary products -----
"[Furthermore] there are also requirements that organizations, in addition to their core business, should produce a variety of "ancillary products". We have earlier called this "formalized legitimizing administration" and it consists of plans, policies and reports for example in regards to environmental goals or ethnic diversity. All production requires control and this also applies to "ancillary products". ... Regardless of the results of attempts to control such processes, we know that they always generate work and thus also costs. A good example is the quality standards that go under the name ISO 9000."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.220.


----- On our mania to evaluate everything and everyone -----
"There is a persistent societal trend as of several decades that virtually everything we do (both in our private and working lives) should be able to be subjected to measurement, evaluation, accounting, grading and control ... When we buy food or stay at hotels we are asked to fill out forms where we assess different aspects of the products and services we use: Is customer relations good or less good? Are we satisfied with the cleaning? What is our overall impression? And so on. We expect that pupils and students should get reviews and grades, while teachers and courses are also to be evaluated. On the Internet, we provide reviews and ratings to those who sell goods and supply services, we rate video clips on Youtube and provide various numbers of stars to movies and CDs. We see the same trend when different public services are assessed. Key Performance Indicators and reviews are becoming more common and more important. Here they can be applied to the number of teachers per student in schools, the number of crimes solved by the police or the number of cases per officer in the Swedish Social Insurance Agency."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.221-222.


----- On the practice of preemptively preparing for possible future audits -----
"To be subjected to an audit represents an effort from those who are audited that is at least as large as the work effort or the auditors. Those who are audited furthermore adapt to the possibility of a forthcoming investigation, i.e. the knowledge that they may be audited may mean that organizations make themselves "auditable". They will then try to predict what a reviewer will crack down on, and the organization preemtively changes accordingly (or proceeed to produce the right documents). They have then in a theoretical sense internalized the auditing into their own thinking and actions, allowing attempts to steer their operations to have the same effects despite the fact that the audit has not actually taken place. ... over-documentation occurs in order to "keep one's back free", that is, to secure passing a potential future audit. ... This perspective, which has received increased attention by research during the past decade, stems from Michel Foucault's ideas of what power is and how it is practiced in different societies."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.220.


----- On demands for increased transparency as as a source of administration -----
"There is also a desire to increase the transparency of public organizations ... The quest for both external and internal transparency are among those demands that generate the most administrative work for contemporary organizations. As we noted above, not all attempts to better steer an organization do in fact lead to better governance. The do on the other hand generally generate additional administrative work. The strive for increased transparency, like all other attempts of steering an organzation, generates an abundance of administrative work in the organizations concerned. ... One example is the demands/proposals for the introduction of systems to measure quality."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.223.


----- On what counts as "activity" and "drive" in bureaucratic organisations -----
"The more that stakeholders make demands on an organization, the more administration they give rise to. There is much that suggests that the surroundings of public organizations increasingly consists of more stakeholders that make more and more demands, thus leading to more administration. This is often done due to the fact that those who make demands want it that way, but it might also be because that is the way that a bureaucracy shows that it has drive and does something."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.228.


----- On reforms having opposite effects compared to what was being strived for -----
"The New Public Management-oriented reforms that have been implemented in the public sector are placing new demands on administration. There are both empirical studies and theoretical arguments that show that organizational changes, particularly the introduction of market reforms inside public organizations, lead to administative growth and change. The problem that paradoxically arises is thus that reforms aimed at increasing the efficiency can result in the opposite, a reduced efficiency."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.228.


----- On the negative consequences of living in an administration society -----
"Reforms motivated by increased efficiency and freedom of choice have costs in terms of administration. The difficulty is that these costs are difficult to calculate and compare with the potential and equally difficult-to-cacluate efficiency gains. The question that arises is: When do the administrative costs exceed the efficiency gains from organizational reforms? ... [it is] easy to suspect that some reforms have negative effects. ... in the following, we reason about five different kinds of possible negative consequences of administration society: it can lead to inefficiency, mission creep, deprofessionalisation, stress and to a reduction of the democratic influence over management."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.233.


----- On possessing quality vs emulating quality -----
"It becomes ... more important to follow the correct procedures and meet the specified requirements than to maintain actual quality of operations, i.e. to show and to say that you have good quality rather than to ensure that the quality really *is* good. An interesting observation is that the basis and the legitimacy of the new professions [communicators, information officers, controllers, planners, coordinators, strategists, consultants, IT specialists, HR specialists, managers] comes from organizational and management-related areas, while the old ones were based on expertise in the sector they operated in. ... social mobility in modern organizations is about those working in core areas making administrative careers ... the new administrators do not have their loyalte directed to the core areas but rather towards the the administrative goals and the control systems."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.238.


----- On administration creep (c.f. "mission creep") -----
"There is a correlation between the presence of illegitimate (unreasonable and unnecessary) tasks and stress, tension and fatigue. ... Another observation we have made is that administration seldom comes in the form of major planned changes, but consists of many small, limited tasks: an additional registration, two mouse clicks, a document or a new rule. Alltogether all these small administrative tasks eventually however become a significant amount of extra work. Since this work is often invisible, it is neither accompanied by additional time to perform it or changed job descriptions, but is rather expected to be included, and tacked on top of the ordinary tasks. Increased production requirements in the public sector in conjunction with the increasing volume of administration has a significant impact on the pace and the work environment of many groups of employees."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.239-241.


----- On embracing bottom-up rather than a top-down approaches -----
"*Starting from the operations*. Instead of looking to satisfy external stakeholders' needs or the needs of the organization, identify what the needs of the operations are and what those who work with the issues in question demand. It is rare for the personnel to ask for new control systems, measurement models or crisis management plans. Instead embrace a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach. The administrative perspective should not have the prerogative of formulating the problems to be solved. Administration should support the operations - not the other way around."
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.246.


----- On trusting the professionals -----
"You should *trust the professionals.* Many professional occupations are represented in the public sector. Typical examples are teachers and doctors ... Something common to these professions is that they have specialist university-level training, strong norms about how work should be conducted, and a relatively high degree of autonomy. In short, these are self-motivated, qualified coworkers. Controlling their work forcefully runs the risk of going against their professional standards and sends signals from management that they are not trusted. Moreover, it is possible to discuss whether their time is use correctly if the control systems that are in place generate administrative work that displaces core work tasks so that highly skilled groups of employees spend their time administering instead of using their skills irregardly if this concerns doctors, teachers, police, social workers or lawyers. Instead of trying to control activities that are characterized by professionalism and where those who do the work itself possess the greatest knowledge and understanding, perhaps a greater responsibility for organizational decisions should be handed over to them. "
Forsell, A. and Ivarsson Westerberg, A. (2014). Administrationssamhället. Studentlitteratur, p.247-248.



----- On poverty in an affluent society -----
"During much of the 20th century, Sweden was the most equal country in the world. ... Poverty [today] is not so much a consequence of unequal wages as the fact that a growing proportion of the population do not have a salary at all. ... In a society where inequality is on the rise, judgement falls heavily on those who are excluded. Expressions of poverty have never been limited to material shortages and that is especially the case today. Something characteristic of the so-called "precariat" is rather the basic tone of uncertainty, the stress of not knowing what the next few weeks will look like and the recurring humiliation at then hands of employers and authorities. In a society where the difference between winners and losers is becoming increasingly blatant, the latter will have to deal with a growing sense of failure."
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.37.


----- On the meagre results of money spent on the Swedish Public Employment Service -----
"The Swedish Public Employment Service [has become] the institution that is expected to solve *everything*. Three other institutions - the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, the Swedish Migration Agency and social services - are now sending a record-breaking number of excluded individuals straight into the Employment Service offices. The analysis made is as follows: as sick, newly arrived to Sweden or poor, your biggest problem is that you don't have a job. So you should head to the Employment Service. ... The average Emplyment Service officer mediates no more than ten unsubsidized jobs per year ... If the Employment Service do not mediation jobs, what then do they do? What happens to the annual budget of 72 billion SEK [8 billion USD] - a sum that is equivalent to ten billion SEK more than the government expenditures for universal health care in Sweden?"
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.38-39.


----- On administrative work crowding out the "real" work -----
""You could say that during the late eighties, providing services was larger than controlling and checking the unemployed. The control part is much bigger than the service part now. So there has been a shift where you not only check on the unemployed, but also check us [who work at the Employment Service]. And we have a huge control apparatus in place." When he started to work [for the Employment Service] in the mid-eighties, he handled almost none of the bureaucratic work himself. There were assistants who did that. As soon as he had pulled the strings and arranged a new job, he could dump the papers in the lap of someone else. He could devote himself to helping people. "There was no real performance management in the eighties. You did things that you yourself thought were good. And it was nice to to be an Employment Service officer, since we could use our creativity rather freely. To do good things." In today's Employment Service, the administrative burden has long ago exceeded the limit of absurdity"
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.44-45.


----- On what present-day obedience looks like -----
"Obedience has many faces. It is far more complex than blunt power. Today we dislike to think of ourselves as "obedient ". ... To understand obedience at present times, we must first realize that the Holocaust and experiments with fake electric shock have limited relevance on our time. If we want to gain insight into *our* obedience, it is better to seek out an organization that exists today and where members on a daily basis implement decisions they do not really believe in and then ask: why?"
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.52.


----- On credentialism -----
"I have myself devoted several years to teaching university-level courses to future HR administrators. You could become a personnel administrator with no more than high school diploma only three decades ago. Administration and communication processes were far less automated at that time compared to today and the requirements of detailed knowledge was therefore greater. Now, when the labor has become easier than ever before, most employers require that you have a three-year college degree to do it. One explanation for this is that colleges and universities have become repositories for excess labor. This has led to what in English is called *credentialism*: an inflation in the value of a degree that is required also for jobs where that training is not of any use. Employers will make as substantial demands as they can - because they can - leding to education becoming an empty, albeit decisive, symbol in a worklife competition."
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.100.


----- On the differences and dividing lines between unemployment, labour and meaningful work -----
"For there to be an incentive to work, being unemployed can not be too comfortable. The compensation can not be too high and the demands on activity must not be too low - you can not get more in compensation than those who work and you can not be released from supervision. However attractive wage labor may may appear to those who have ended up outside [of the labor market], and however much the political parties unite behind the increasingly important objective of "creating jobs", there is however a truth that is as well known as it is suppressed: most of us would refuse the jobs we currently have if we were free from economic coercion. The proportion of people who could imagine themselves continuing to work if they unexpectedly became financially independent has since the 1950's gone down from half of the working population to less than a third. This third encompasses those of us who are allowed to comment in public on the meaning of work: researchers, journalists and politicians. Professions for which leisure and work intermingle; people who can attend dinners, read books or travel around the world and refer to it as "work". "
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.170.


----- On the consensus of creating jobs in a world of job-shedding -----
"All of society pulls in the same direction. Economic policy has been reduced to one single question: how can we ensure that more people have a job in a world where work becomes more and more superfluous day by day?"
Paulsen, R. (2015). Vi bara lyder: en berättelse om Arbetsförmedlingen. Bokförlaget Atlas, p.179.
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