CHARLES SULKA COMMENTARY
Observations on James Ogilvy’s post (Fabius Maximus web site) describing ISIS and the Naxal insurgents’ use of entrepreneural tactics in furtherance of their aims, and how such tactics might be put to use here in America in the coming Second American Revolution. Discussion of business ethics, the concept of sustainable management, and the need for responsible government regulation of business.
The writer (James A. Ogilvy) is described as a businessman-philosopher by his reviewers, an advocate of humanistic values in business (and life in general, as shown below.) Ogilvy’s writings are more nuanced that typical corporatist (big-government + big business) views. The man’s emphasis on positive values in business is certainly laudable, and important in raising the level of dialog above concerns about the ‘bottom line’ in business. In short, his life’s mission seems to be calling attention to the need for a new bottom line — a bottom line based on higher values, not simply profit. Yes, Ogilvy is an idealist, but it is important that businesses reexamine the framework they adopt as their operating philosophy. (More on Ogilvy’s philosophy at the end.)
In this essay-analysis Ogilvy shows how the religious jihad of Islamic State (IS) is different from previous insurgencies. The writer uses the example of India’s Naxal insurgents to show how revolutionaries can be more effective when they incorporate time-proven business practices into their overall strategies. The author clearly regards India’s Naxals as “criminals”. From the writer’s own observations on the Naxals’ revolutionary campaign, it could be argued that the Indian government is the real criminal in this story, with the Naxals being dedicated revolutionaries fighting for the cause of the people of India. How else but through armed revolt can a people oppose a government that has sold out the country to foreign interests? The government of India is selling off the natural resources of the country — resources desperately needed by the Indian people for their own economic development. The government’s actions — selling the country’s natural resources and using the proceeds to enrich its ruling class and build up a formidable military (including a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons) — is a crime against the people of India. It is clear that India is once again a victim of colonialism, and, once again, the people are being robbed by their own government working in collusion with foreign interests. The Naxal’s business savvy and organization might give the revolutionaries the advantage in the battle against the Indian government. Maybe the “criminals” will be successful in their campaign to bring about much-needed reform in the world’s most populous country. After all, India is a (putative) democracy, with a government (ostensibly) accountable to its people. Much like America.
America too has a government that has sold out the country to foreign interests. In the case of America, Big Government, dominated and controlled by Big Business, has sold out to the communists, the corporatists, and the international financiers. Maybe we can learn from the Naxals how to oppose, and eventually overthrow, a government of quislings, a government that has betrayed the people.
Ogilvy’s life work and writings are examined in reviews and commentary following this article.
[NOTE: Fabius-Maximus articles should be viewed in the original HTML (web page) due to extensive use of graphics, tables, charts, photos, and links.]
The Fabius Maximus website
Stratfor describes the rise of Warlord Entrepreneurs
Summary: This analysis by Stratfor discusses the adoption of modern business methods by insurgents, something long discussed here. It’s progress that mainstream geopolitical analysts are finding more analytically useful perspectives on jihadists rather than the usual hackneyed labels. It’s learning, that if continued might make us a threat to them.
The Rise of Warlord Entrepreneurs
By Jay Ogilvy at Stratfor, 24 June 2015
As the Islamic State digs in after its conquest of Ramadi, U.S. President Barack Obama has been candid about his lack of a strategy to deal with the group, in part because he is waiting for commitments from the Iraqi government, but in part because the Islamic State is poorly understood. We know it is “nimble,” “aggressive” and “opportunistic.” But there is much about it we don’t know.
If you Google “books on the Islamic State,” you might be surprised at how many have jumped off the press in the past year, a phenomenon all the more remarkable given how little we actually know about the group. One book you will not see among your search results, since it does not have “Islamic State” in its title, is the recently published Warlords, Inc: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, edited by Noah Raford and Andrew Trabulsi. It is an anthology and therefore unlikely to be widely noticed, but I would like to draw on the insights of a few of its authors.
Together with Philip Bobbitt’s analysis of the nation-state’s decline and the market state’s rise, Warlords, Inc. provides geopolitical context for understanding the rise of the Islamic State. Though their prescriptions differ, Bobbitt and several Warlords, Inc. authors define the edges of a white space that the Islamic State is trying to fill by referring to the group’s geopolitical context. By looking at what’s outside the outline rather than what’s inside it, they may be giving us a more accurate picture of the Islamic State than those who claim to be peering directly into the group’s dark and secretive interior.
(Graphic) / (Ad): Warlords Inc. Available at Amazon.
The Market-State Warlord
Like Bobbitt, the authors of Warlords, Inc. believe we are undergoing a major historical transition in which many governments, and even the very idea of the nation-state itself, are under threat. The anthology’s central thesis is that a netherworld of drugs, kidnapping and the smuggling of people and other contraband is bound to open up wherever the state fails to deliver public goods like health, education and security.
A shrieking feedback loop kicks in when failing states spawn illicit economies that in turn prey on the failing states from whence they came. “Once the social fabric is torn, the warlord entrepreneur is like the clotting blood, the scab forming over the wound.” A vivid image, but how is this any different from earlier warlord threats?
The distinctive property of the new warlordism is the degree to which it follows an economic logic as opposed to the political logic of prior insurgencies. There’s less talk of colonial oppression and class, and more talk of marketing, money laundering and finance. In an essay titled, “Innovation, Deviation, and Development,” authors Nils Gilman, Jesse Goldhammer and Steven Weber argue:
Talk about “animal spirits” (Adam Smith) or “disruptive innovation” (Clayton Christensen) or “creative destruction” (Joseph Schumpeter) — it is all here. Just because these markets feature goods and services that may disgust us, does not mean we can’t learn a great deal from deviant globalization’s “success stories” and “best practices.”
Behind the backs of — and often despite — all those corporations and development NGOs, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the poor are renting their bodies, selling their organs, stealing energy, stripping their natural environments of critical minerals and chemicals, manufacturing drugs, and accepting toxic waste — not because they are evil, but in order to make a living. Thus, deviant globalization is a form of economic development.
Naxalite strength in India, by Stratfor
India’s Naxal Insurgencies
Nowhere is the shift from ideology to economics clearer than in the case of India’s Naxals. As we learn in a chapter by energy security consultant Shlok Vaidya that is entirely devoted to their story, the Naxals began in March 1967 as a group of idealistic, college-educated Maoists who wanted to help the peasants out of penury. From their origin in Naxalbari (hence the name), committing isolated acts of banditry, they grew within a few months to form massive mobs of people armed with little more than farm tools; at one point, they had even managed to gain control of 300 square miles of territory.
Still, given their weak organization and even weaker weaponry, they were eventually overwhelmed by state police. Thousands of attempts to resurrect the insurrection over the following months and years led only to the imprisonment of 40,000 insurgents by 1972. Apparently defeated, the Naxals went largely dormant for decades.
But since 2005, the Naxals have been making a significant and terrifying comeback. In 2012, they perpetrated over 1,500 violent acts, including attacks on police and the demolition of cellphone towers. The new Naxals trace their heritage directly to the original Naxalbaris, but they are different: less ideological, more focused on money, and because of that money, better armed. They still embrace some Maoist tactics, including focusing overwhelming force on one target at a time. But this raises a question: If they can indeed focus overwhelming force on a target that kills two birds with one stone, such as a cellphone tower that is surrounded by a rural police station, why don’t they do so as often as they can?
The answer is to be found in what is the clearest demarcation between Naxalbari’s revolutionaries and the insurgency of today. This generation has embraced the very activity the Maoist ideology so vehemently opposes: profit. India’s illicit economy is estimated to be between 40 and 71% of the size of the legitimate economy — somewhere between $500 billion and $1 trillion. The Naxals underpin a huge segment of this growing market.
Naxals need cellphones, too. They maintain a going concern that employs foot soldiers at $60 per month. Many of those foot soldiers go forth with price cards to collect what has become known as “the revolutionary tax” on a monthly basis: $2 for daycare workers, $4 for elementary school teachers, $10 for high school teachers, $4 for bank employees, $14 for bank managers and $100 for businessmen.
Whereas the revolutionary objectives of the original Naxalbaris were formed from a Robin Hood-cum-Mao mix of ideological egalitarianism and targeted violence, the principal goals of the new Naxals are quite different: to preserve India’s natural resources from predation by the rest of the globe.
Over the past twenty years, India has signed thousands of contracts that parcel out its reserves of bauxite, thorium, and coal, respectively 10%, 12%, and 7% of the world’s reserves. India stands to do deals worth more than $80 billion, should the Naxals allow it. Unfortunately 80% of these natural resources are found in four Naxal-afflicted states that lack governance and opportunity.
But will the Naxals aim to kill the beast on which they so successfully prey?
There are an estimated sixty thousand illegal mines operating today… These mines are operated by criminal organizations that also pay into the Naxal revenue pool… 20 and 30% for each truckload of coal.
Similarly, isn’t there quite a bit of oil in the provinces the Islamic State is overrunning? And weren’t Islamic State fighters quick to loot the banks in Mosul?
Lessons for Understanding the Islamic State
Most characterizations of the Islamic State feature it as a group chiefly driven by the religious fanaticism of Islamic extremism. But if Bobbitt and the Warlords, Inc. authors are correct, there may be more to it than that; we could be looking at an enemy driven by both God and Mammon.
With the rise of the market state, the parasite has taken on some of the features of the prey. The Naxalite insurgency (and quite possibly, the Islamic State) has adopted some of the market state’s characteristics, transcending the old confines of state borders to achieve a transnational reach and becoming media- and social networking-savvy, well financed and well armed.
Modern Naxals have corrected the flaws in their revolutionary predecessors’ model. Instead of relying on ideology to amass huge numbers with a shared purpose, this generation emphasizes execution: building tactical training capacity, capturing popular support and stockpiling equipment. Instead of bows and arrows, the new generation is armed with state-of-the-art weaponry.
Comparisons between the Naxals, old and new, naturally invite comparisons between the Islamic State and its predecessor, al Qaeda. The brutality of beheadings and the extremism of religious rhetoric could be obscuring a more important difference between the two jihadist groups: financial acumen.
If that is the case, then the recent assassination of top Islamic State moneyman, Abu Sayyaf, along with the capture of his wife and a trove of records may prove especially valuable. If we can “follow the money,” as Watergate informant Deep Throat so succinctly put it, we may yet learn enough about the Islamic State to be able to frame a credible strategy for its defeat.
The Rise of Warlord Entrepreneurs is republished with permission of Stratfor.
Jay Ogilvy was a professor of philosophy at Yale. In 1979 he join SRI, the former Stanford Research Institute, as director of research. Dr. Ogilvy co-founded the Global Business Network of scenario planners in 1987. He is the former dean and chief academic officer of San Francisco’s Presidio Graduate School. Dr. Ogilvy has published nine books, including Many Dimensional Man, Creating Better Futures and Living Without a Goal.
For more about insurgents adopting modern business methods see (at Fabius Maximus web site)
Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: good news for them, bad for us.
Jihadists will prosper using the methods of America’s entrepreneurs.
Also see: “Stratfor takes a closer look at India’s Naxalite threat,” and all posts about the Islamic State — especially these … (links at web site)
Wikipedia entry on James A. Ogilvy
Puzzling … no Wikipedia entry, but Ogilvy is referenced in articles about others he worked closely with, and their projects. His associates include Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Catalog). Ogilvy’s life and work after teaching at Yale seems to be centered in the San Francisco Bay area.
Wikipedia entry on San Francisco’s PRESIDIO GRADUATE SCHOOL outlines its mission to foster SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT. MBA and MPA programs are offered.
Mission and philosophy:
Presidio Graduate School educates and inspires a new generation of skilled, visionary and enterprising leaders to transform business and public policy and create a more just, prosperous and sustainable world. Through innovative MBA, MPA, Dual Degree and Executive Certificate programs in Sustainable Management, Presidio activates students and professionals across a range of disciplines, industries and sectors to bridge the gap between commerce and the common good.
Review of “CREATING BETTER FUTURES” by James A. Ogilvy (review posted at Amazon.com)
Scenarios of better futures — “democratically endorsed hope”
By Stuart Candy May 16, 2006
This review is from: Creating Better Futures: Scenario Planning as a Tool for a Better Tomorrow (Hardcover)
Jay Ogilvy begins this book by observing that “There is nothing inevitable about better futures. We have to create them.” This is a powerful early statement of his approach toward the yet-to-be, which repudiates a singular and predictive mode of knowing. That is, he argues, we co-author the future through our actions, and we must take responsibility for that process. The burden of the book is to explain how and why we can coherently do so.
So although it may seem at first to be a methodological work, this is more of a philosophical meditation on what lies behind the scenario planning methodology; an exposition of the worldview which informs and makes scenaric thinking, especially normative scenarios, viable. For detail on how to actually do scenario planning, we are referred to previous, more manual-like works by such authors as Kees van der Heijden and Peter Schwartz. Ogilvy’s focus is different, and he shows how scenarios provide the catalyst for a conversation among communities about what they want to become. Rather than holding the perils of judgment or moral commitment at arm’s length, then, as much academic work modeled on supposedly “hard” science wants to do, in this arena he argues for its importance. “World-weary pessimism seems so much more intellectually respectable than even the most educated hope. However, I would argue…that the fashionable face of all-knowing despair is finally immoral. Granted, the bubble-headed optimism of Pangloss and Polyanna are equally immoral. A refusal to look at poverty or oppression can contribute to their perpetuation; but so can a cynical commitment to their inevitability.”
Ogilvy takes it upon himself to show how the practice of normative scenario planning anticipates a paradigm shift currently occurring in the “human sciences”, by embracing an interpretive, relational, ethically pluralistic – but not shallowly relativistic – worldview. He situates this thinking in the broad currents of contemporary thought by reference to literary criticism, anthropology, psychology, sociology and other disciplines. Rather than claiming entirely original scholarship, then, here he joins “familiar dots in relatively unfamiliar ways”. The book ranges across a vast and various intellectual territory in search of a sound basis for normative futures work. In my view he finds it, and presents it, extremely well. For example, he suggests an intriguing parallel between the trajectory of literary criticism and that of studying the future. In interpretation, the tendency has gradually shifted from an original emphasis on the author’s intentions, to the text itself, and finally to the role of the reader in constructing her own meaning. Similarly, studying the future was long conceived as an attempt to reveal “God’s intentions”, after which it became mainly a scientific attempt to trace the story etched in the patterns of history, or reality itself; and finally it has emerged as a matter of creating worlds and meanings for our own purposes. (Rather than being merely “readers” of the world, though, we can now see ourselves of the authors of our own story, thereby closing the interpretive loop.)
This philosophical approach may sound specialized, but in fact it reads as a startlingly clarifying and accessible portrait of the best practice in thinking about possible futures; things that haven’t happened yet. Rather than writing an instructional guide to scenario planning he takes the trouble to explain how and why the worldview underpinning this strategy makes sense, and how the whole philosophical current of the West of our age is tending in this direction. It is therefore suitable and relevant to a far broader possible audience. Ogilvy’s philosophy experience allows him to understand complex writers and thinkers, but his business background has forced him to avoid the communicative obscurantism that accompanies them. He wants to use the ideas, but extracts these from their ugly and intimidating packaging for use in a purer and more potent form. He navigates us through the dilemma of relativism (anything goes) vs absolutism (My Way, My Tradition…) and comes out with a relational worldview and an endorsement of pluralist ethics.
Ogilvy describes the book as an “odd mix of philosophy and consulting”. The book is indeed a rare hybrid, like its author, part-academic and part-consultant. And it may equally puzzle purist philosophers and dedicated profiteers. However, for anyone interested in being able to bridge the thought-worlds of academia and business (or thought and action; principles and profits), this combination is not only refreshing to read, it’s a definite strength. Ogilvy has had a chance to “test in the marketplace” the ideas he picked up in philosophy, and the test has made them stronger. So, an odd mix it may be, but it’s one pulled off so persuasively and elegantly that the book warrants the close attention of not only those already concerned with futures studies, but more broadly, anyone concerned about how quality thinking about the future ought to look. In this respect I am reminded of The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken, a former colleague of Ogilvy. (They were two thirds of the team that wrote Seven Tomorrows, an early scenarios book; the third musketeer was fellow GBN Peter Schwartz, who provides a brief but helpful foreword in this volume.)
Overall this is an excellent, erudite and very well written contribution to the thinking behind scenario planning, and is highly recommended to those in search of a comprehensive, theoretically informed account of that methodology, or indeed a broader sense of the importance and value of a normative orientation in discussing possible futures in any community.
(CHS Commentary … see below)
Review of “LIVING WITHOUT A GOAL” by James A. Ogilvy (posted on Amazon.com)
In what may be the most radical business book ever published, philosopher Jay Ogilvy shows that living without a goal is the only way to accomplish anything. In the 1980s we ran our lives with all the direction and confidence filofaxes and to-do lists could provide. Always knowing exactly where we were headed, we climbed toward the goals corporate America held out in front of us like so many carrots: higher salaries, better titles, more impressive offices. But after a decade of climbing, the air is getting thin. We crave the chance to create, to express ourselves, and to make a difference, not just a living. It is time, says businessman/philosopher James Ogilvy, to tear up the to-do lists and grant ourselves the freedom to enjoy what E. M. Forster calls “the lights and shades that exist in the greyest conversation.” Ogilvy shows that richness and color and flavor flood back into our lives once we set aside the goals that hold us captive. He explores how philosophers (from Plato to Nietzsche), lovers, ideologues, and executives have at one time or another lived without goals. What emerges from his argument is a new look at how to achieve personal creativity and freedom by fashioning one’s day to-day life, not as a larger goal-producing machine, but as a personal work of art.
[Without having read the book …) This short review makes it sound like Ogilvy’s book could guide one through a worthwhile examination of one’s personal values in life, reminiscent of the reflections of the American transcendentalists. (chs)
Review of “MANY DIMENSIONAL MAN: DECENTRALIZING SELF, SOCIETY, AND THE SACRED” by James A. Ogilvy
This most interesting-sounding book from 1979 is not reviewed on Amazon, Google, Goodreads … strange.
Comments by C. H. Sulka
In addition to serving as dean of Presidio Graduate School, Ogilvy was involved with SRI at Stanford University, a university that has a history of advocating sustainable business practices and responsible corporate governance. Whether Stanford actually delivers on this promise is questionable: a cursory examination of the works of several writers connected to Stanford reveals a condescending anti-government pro-business New World Order corporatist perspective … and many of Stanford’s rising stars have failed to live up to their promise of higher business ethics (i.e. Google’s motto, “Don’t Be Evil”, is regarded as an ironic joke by many.) The emphasis on VALUES — community values, democratic principles, sustainable economics — in corporate environments, rather than just the trendy metrics of EFFICACY, is commendable and offers hope of businesses playing a positive role in building a better world.
While initiatives to promote responsible, sustainable, ethical business practices are to be encouraged, we must recognize that ultimately businesses will operate in accord with such lofty principles only to the extent that they are subject to external controls — competitive forces and government regulation. Governance, public service, and philanthropy are not the purpose of for-profit commercial enterprise, and historically corporate interests have a dismal record insofar as serving the public interest is concerned. Corporations serve their masters — the ownership class, and everyone else be damned. It is naive to expect business to promote the public interest except to the extent that it is incidental to their purpose of making a profit. As business consolidations have effectively eliminated competition, only strong government operating in the public interest can keep big business in check. Regulating business activity must be regarded as the most important function of the federal government, second only to defending the borders and providing for the common defense. This was obvious to the Founders. The US Constitution outlines measures the government must take to regulate business: establishing honest weights and measures, regulating the economy (especially finance), issuing sound currency, etc. Further protections against unfair business practices and economic monopolism were debated, but not included, for the sake of brevity. Equitable business practices were assumed, and, over the years, universally recognized by the legislature and the courts as necessary and reasonable, and, most importantly, constitutional.
Responsible regulation of business is an ongoing responsibility of government. Protecting the nation from the ravages of self-serving business interests is a never-ending task. Corporations are amoral … and unless continually monitored and regulated will abuse the society in which they operate. To further their ends and thwart responsible regulation of their activities, business interests will stop at nothing to corrupt and manipulate government, as we see all to clearly in America today. Trade is good and necessary, but we need to keep it honest. Only government can keep business honest. Effective regulation of business requires regulatory functions at all levels. Regulation must be local, regional, national, and international in scope.
Trade is essential to human society and corporations are the vehicle of trade in a modern state. Corporatism — for-profit business dominated by joint-stock ventures, including private-bureaucracy-for-profit, looking out for its own best interests — is an economic and political fact of life. Corporate interests must always be kept under the control of sovereign governments, lest all of human society suffer.
Dishonesty in trade is also a fact of life — one that is as old as human society itself. In the Old Testament, the Lord, speaking through the prophets, railed against the Jews’ dishonest trading practices. (The Jews were known to be the most unscrupulous of the desert traders, adopting a wide range of dishonest practices to cheat customers, arousing the Lord’s anger and disgust.) Honest trade is a central tenet of Scriptural economics. Business cannot be trusted to regulate itself. We must be vigilant; we must never allow the PR men to delude us into believing that corporations have our best interests at heart. That is pure BS. Unfortunately, the PR flacks have been all too effective in selling this pack of lies.
Much to our shame, America is playing the lead role in the conspiracy to usurp civil government and surrender control to non-elected multi-national corporations. We must not be fooled by the glib assurances of those advocating ‘Free Trade’, ‘globalism’ and the ‘New World Order.’ The people of the world have heard this talk of a New World Order before. Such talk will lead to disaster, now, as it has in the past. We the people must just say ‘No’ to such talk. To reign in on the corporatists’ brazen attempts to subjugate all of mankind to their own selfish interests, it will be necessary to reverse the trend of corporate usurpation of government. This will not be a simple task, for first we must reform the underlying political system which is so easily manipulated by special interests. The real bottom line here is that America has, at the center of its problems, a failed electoral system that is overdue for reform.
While Ogilvy’s personal philosophy may be seen by some as dangerously close to *corporatism*, it is clear that in his own way he is a revolutionary, a subversive, on a mission to raise the level of the human spirit. Ogilvy is regarded as more than just an expert in this field. He is a moralist focused on a group that is demonstrably amoral — Big Business. Ogilvy is thought of by his contemporaries as a true visionary. My own feeling is that if we had more philosophers (and fewer bankers and lawyers) in business, the world would be a better place.
(C. H. Sulka 09-21-2015 14:15 -0500)