You know McKinsey and Co. They worked for a company that was fixing the price of bread in Canada. They helped on Trump’s immigration policies, but their ideas were too extreme even for ICE. More recently, they proposed that Purdue Pharma “turbocharge” their sales of OxyContin by offering $14,810 rebates for ODs. Yeah, that’s McKinsey.
We could go on and on. They have a long and sordid record as ‘capitalism’s willing executioners,’ to quote a Current Affairs article by an insider. Now, they’re coming onto our turf: higher education. So, we take a closer look. What is even is management consulting, and is there anything to the methods?
- First, in his opening essay, host Gordon Katic reminds listeners of the infamous case of General Motors and the side saddle gas tank defect of the 1970s and 80s. This story takes us to the world of cost-benefit analysis; a cold, hard logic that puts profits above people.
- Next (@7:52), Kate Jacobson is co-host of the podcast Alberta Advantage, a left-wing podcast in the heart of Canadian conservatism. She warns us that Premier Jason Kenney is using McKinsey as a pretext for his slash-and-burn approach to higher education.
- Then, (@30:33) Matthew Stewart turned away from a potential career in academic philosophy to enter the world of management consulting. His tell-all book The Management Myth: Debunking the Modern Philosophy of Business takes us through his own time in consulting, and the broader intellectual history of management science—AKA the art of wringing every last ounce of labour from workers.
- Finally (@53:14), Joel Westheimer is University Research Chair in Democracy and Education at the University of Ottawa. His work asks the basic, core question “what is education for?” He thinks McKinsey does not know how to measure what really counts about education—because ‘not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.’
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This episode received support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of “public intellectualism.” Professor Allen Sens at the University of British Columbia is the lead academic advisor. This is also part of a wider project looking at neoliberal educational reforms, led by Professor Marc Spooner at the University of Regina. Professor Spooner provided research consulting on this episode.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. It is also produced in Vancouver, BC, which is on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.