Work, Sleep, Repeat
The Abstract Labour of German Management Consultants
Work, Sleep, Repeat is a fascinating account of the work regime of German management consultants. Examining one of the most sought-after – and secretive – graduate professions, the book provides a first-hand account of the boardroom culture of Europe’s strongest economy. Analyzing how knowledge and power operate in this sector, Felix Stein explores a number of paradoxes. For example, while it is the job of management consultants to analyse the activities of other employees, they actually spend most of their time in luxurious seclusion away from them. In addition, despite having a strong sense of the importance of their work, consultants often find it difficult to explain to outsiders what it is they do. The book addresses these and other paradoxes by arguing that consultants are engaged in abstract labour. Anthropologists have long struggled with the question of how to describe contemporary work regimes which do not produce anything tangible. Stein demonstrates that elite work is predominantly abstract, in the fourfold sense that it is epistemically removed from the object of analysis, emotionally detached from it, several steps away from the assumed sources of economic value creation, and increasingly hard to grasp. In doing so, he offers new ways to think about white collar work and elites in the 21st century and establishes the notion of ‘abstract labour’ as a key category in social anthropology.
Table of Contents
List of FiguresAcknowledgementsNote on the Use of German Terms ForewordIntroduction 1. Background: A Brief History of Management Consulting 2. Selling Speed: Capitalist Acceleration and Temporal Angst 3. Economies of Legitimacy 4. Absurdity and Abstract Labour 5. Selves and Commodities 6. Uncertainty at Work Conclusion: The Business of Critique BibliographyIndex
Felix Stein is Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Edinburgh, UK
"With his powers of observation and his mastery of the research literature on technocratic elites, Stein has written an original and witty book that goes beyond its immediate subject matter to reflect on the nature of all work removed from obvious sources of economic value creation. - Times Literary Supplement “Bullshit jobs” (Graeber) or “abstract labour” (Marx)? Felix Stein’s highly original auto-ethnography among German management consultants settles for the second conceptual framework. He explores how they can work so hard without purpose or result before, at some risk to his own prospects, comparing the consultants to British social anthropologists. - Keith Hart, University of Pretoria, South Africa With his powers of observation and his mastery of the research literature on technocratic elites, Stein has written an original and witty book that goes beyond its immediate subject matter to reflect on the nature of all work removed from obvious sources of economic value creation. - Jonathan Benthall, Times Literary Supplement For those who are interested in what consultancy is about and in what consultants do and how they think about it, Work, Sleep, Repeat is an excellent place to start. - The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute"