Posts Tagged ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’

The Tories’ ‘Nudge Unit’ and the Nazi Manipulation of Workers’ Psychology

March 31, 2016

Yesterday I posted a very well received article warning people about how the government is trying to deny automatic repeat prescriptions for people on medication for depression. Two of the commenters on the article, Shawn and Michelle, also added their observations on how the government was deliberately trying to manipulate the public’s psychology, especially that of the sick and disabled themselves, through the glib use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as the catch-all treatment for depression on the one hand, and the ‘Nudge Unit’ on the other. The Nudge Unit was the government’s attempts to set up a state department explicitly and blatantly devoted to manipulating popular psychology.

They weren’t the first regime to do this. Robert A. Brady in his book, The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd 1937), noted how the Nazis also tried to manipulate the psychology of the German workers through their totalitarian organisation, the DAF, or Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labour Front). The Nazis based the techniques they used on German workers on schemes and techniques that had already been tried by industrialists as part in experiments in ‘welfare capitalism’ elsewhere. It’s a long passage, covering several pages, but I think it’s worth quoting in full, just to show how totalitarian this is.

Exploitation of Non-Commercial Incentives

Social philosophers, anthropologists and reformers have long held that “man does not work for bread alone.” But only recently has industry learned that significant as hours, wages and other conditions of employment may be, they do not of themselves call out the highest levels of labour productivity. Given the minimum on these grounds, non-commercial are far more potent than commercial incentives. All those factors that combine to give the “sense of workmanship,” of group participation, of unfolding creative power, fall into the non-commercial class. Interest and emotional drives lead to higher and better sustained levels of output than can be provided by mere wage and hour considerations. With non-commercial incentives fatigue is lowered, improvements in processes and methods are more easily introduced, and friction between management and men is reduced to a minimum.

The Nazis were not the first to make this “discovery”-more accurately, “rediscovery.” Drawing realisation of the possibilities inherent in non-commercial incentives lies behind the elaborate and varied programmes of “welfare capitalism” found in all the western industrial countries. It provides the principal drive behind the rapidly proliferating psycho-technical research institutes, personnel selection and training systems, occupational conferences, bureaux and committees, industrial and public relations counsellors. Pioneering work in this field has been done by the world famous British Institute of Industrial Psychology, Moede’s laboratory at the Technische Hochschule at Charlottenburg, the German Institute for Technical Education and Training (D.I.N.T.A.) and many others. In America the Industrial Relations Counsellors, the National Occupational Conference, and the Personnel Research Federation are merely the leading organisations in this field.

Many of the largest corporations in the world have been applying these techniques on a large scale for many years. Outstanding examples are the National Railways and the Dye Trust in Germany, and the Western Electric and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in America. The “Hawthorne Experiments,” carried out in one of the largest plants of the Western Electric, for example, provide both the experimental results and the argument for a position with respect to organised labour identical with that held by the leader of the German Labour Front. Labour, if interested and made to feel important, would work harder without demanding more pay.

A publication of the British Institute of Industrial Psychology, The Problem of Incentives in Industry, lists, among the exploitable non-commercial incentives, the following: Interest and Pride in the Work, the Incentive of Appreciation, the Incentive of Knowledge, the Incentive of Loyalty, the Incentive of Welfare Schemes, Interest in the Firm, Encouragement of Suggestions, Co-operation in Time Study, and the Incentive of Efficiency. Experimentation with and study of the working effects of such incentives has shown, step by step, the preponderating importance on the worker’s whole attitude towards life. It is an American, not a Nazi, author, who penned the following lines in one of the most significant books of the past decade dealing with social-economic problems: “To study a subject merely as the doer of a particular piece of work is of little value; the work to the worker is part of a whole, made up his numerous reactions to situations, real and ideal, over and above his work. Sometimes it is the phantasy life that is of more importance to the individual than the apparent real life. It is clearly impossible to obtain a thorough knowledge of anyone, but it has proved possible to get the point of view of a subject with sufficient clearness to yield an insight into the relation of the work he does to his general attitude to life.

The author of the above lines was thinking of the Hawthorne Experiments as he wrote. At Hawthorne and other places it has been demonstrated that cleverly introduced non-commercial incentive schemes will bring increases in labour productivity of 50 per cent and more per worker without appreciable increase in fatigue-and, of course, without corresponding increase in pay. Uniformly these schemes are tied p with the worker’s “attitude towards life,” his willingness and interest in work for larger ends, his social and cultural values. Intelligent investigators have come quickly to see that that these factors are interwoven with the whole economic and social systems of our times, and that, hence, capitalism, socialism, and communism are up for review not only in their larger bearing on problems of equality and human rights, but also with respect to their direct bearing on the homely problems of high man-hour productivity.

Here as elsewhere it is realised that productivity is connected by a thousand intimate bonds with the problem of the “attitude to life”, the Weltanschauung, the social philosophy of the individual workman. Doctrine, purpose, and policies are intertwined as the efficiency fundamentals of the human factor just as rigidly as power, connecting belts, and organisation are key to the efficient functioning of machines. As Mooney and Reiley have put it, where “spirit is co-ordinated … the man who is permeated with … doctrine invariably sees everything, the hard causes as well as the small matters, in their relation to the whole …” and, because he sees, agrees, and supports, he will work harder and produce more.

Control over the inner life of the worker leads by slow degrees to control over the entire culture: the worker’s entire intellectual and emotional environment, the science and the arts. Once begun there is no turning back. Since philosophy of life is at stake, the underlying tenets of the economic system are being weighed in the balance. The Communists teach that only those who produce should govern, and, since none except the weak and the disabled should live from the labour of others, the ideal is classless society of producer-users. The Nazis seek to prove that the existence of separate and distinct social classes is not only indispensable but the necessary law of life and social organisation. To prove their point they resort to arguments not unlike those advanced by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. And like Plato they propose a socially stratified society, governed from on top, in which each belongs to that class allotted to him by virtue of his “natural” gifts and capacities, and in which complete harmony obtains so long as the point of view of each and every man in each and every class is controlled through appropriate education and propaganda.

The Nazi position boils down to this: How far can the “co-ordination of spirit” be used for the fullest possible exploitation of the working capacities of the German population on behalf of the business enterprise-the “works community”? How far can this exploitation be carried without giving rise to revolt, without causing labour to resort to strikes and sabotage? How far can labour opposition, labour class interest-and of the existence of these interests there is not the slightest question in any of the literature-be “neutralised” on behalf of “service to the public” by “self-governed” business?

The Labour Front is the Nazi answer. (Pp.121-4).

Now I have absolutely no problem with the benign use of industrial psychology to make workers feel that they belong in a certain firm, and they personally and their labour are valued. Indeed, I’ve enjoyed working in companies where there was a great sense of comradeship, or team spirit, amongst the workers. However, the Tories aren’t interested in promoting that. They have no interest in fostering any of this. The only object of Tory propaganda and psychological manipulation is to make the worker feel powerless, to force them to work harder and longer for less, because they have no other choice, and to stigmatise those who can’t as malingerers. It’s a nasty, bleak, callous view of humanity, and show the cruelty and callous mentality of those who promote this world view. And it’s being deliberately spread through the medical profession and what remains of the welfare state, through ‘work coaches’ who do nothing but harangue the unemployed for being unemployed, and by Tory plans to insert special official in health centres and doctors surgeries to make sure the proles get back to work as quickly as possible. It hasn’t got to the point of compulsory mass membership in Tory labour organisations. For one thing, the Tories really don’t want to concede any kind of class organisation to the workers. But the totalitarian mindset is there, nonetheless.

Vox Political: Oxford University Now Has ‘Voodoo Science’ Explanation for ME

October 29, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article reporting an article in the Torygraph, claiming that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis isn’t actually a real, organic disorder, but entirely psychological, according to academics at Oxford University. They believe it can be treated through positive thinking and exercise, recommending our old favourite, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Mike’s article begins

This is appalling. Oxford University academics are trying to tell us that sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome (otherwise known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME) can make themselves better by positive thinking.

Oh – and exercise. Have you ever tried to get an ME sufferer to do more exercise?

It seems we are heading back to the days when the condition was dismissed as “yuppie flu”.

The research so easily fits in with what the DWP and its cronies at Unum, Atos et all have been saying that This Writer half expected to see one or all of them credited as funders for the project – and was more astonished to find that it was actually funded by the Medical Research Council which, on the face of it, actually seems to be respectable.

The full article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/10/28/voodoo-therapy-is-not-the-cure-for-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-oxford-university/.

This seems to be just one part of the more widespread issue of the corporate funding and corruption of science. The pseudoscientific studies advocating CBT as the miracle cure for acute illnesses leading to unemployment have come from a department at Cardiff University set up by the very businesses, like Unum, pushing them. It’s a good question, not mentioned in Mike’s article, whether the academics at Oxford university have similar connections to those business groups.

The title of Mike’s article also recalls Ben Goodacre’s book, Voodoo Science, which is all about dodgy scientific claims based on spurious or flawed research. Since Maggie Thatcher, university science departments have been forced to work with private industry in order to receive funding. At one level, you can understand the reasoning – to get value for money in terms of innovations that can be developed into marketable products. On the negative side is the discouragement of blue-sky thinking, and the promotion of inventions and products that will benefit industry, but not the public.

And this is definitely one of the latter. You should also ask whether the scientists making the statement that ME is purely psychological have produced research that has passed peer review. In order for scientific research to be considered respectable and reliable, it has to be published in a peer-reviewed publication. That means that other scientists working in the field, or related fields, have read the article and concluded that it is good science, rather than gibberish. One of the problems of contemporary science is that it much of it seems to be driven through press release and publicity, rather than more conventional avenues of publication. For example, a few years ago, you will remember, there was massive publicity surrounding the discovery of a fossil lemur, which was held to be one of humanity’s oldest primate ancestors. The two palaeontologists making the discovery released the news in a press conference in New York. The Beeb devoted a documentary to it, and even David Attenborough was drawn, though he later excused himself by saying that if you listened to his commentary careful, it was properly non-committal and littered with ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’s. Then came the news a few days or weeks later that the discovery was scientific nonsense. The creature wasn’t an ancestral lemur, but a type of tarsier, and so not a direct part of the line of evolutionary descent leading to humanity.

And that’s only one example. There are have been many others, mostly in the field of genetics. I’m sceptical when scientists claim that they have found the ‘gene’ for such and such a psychological disorder, such as schizophrenia, or aspects of human sexuality, like the much touted ‘gay gene’. I don’t doubt that in many cases there is a genetic component, but genetic inheritance alone does not necessarily result in a particular syndrome or psychological condition or sexuality. For example, a little while ago scientists announced that excessively violent criminals had a particular mutant gene. There was therefore a genetic reason why some crims were so violent. Another genetics scientist wrote into one of the newspapers reporting the finding to pour a bit of cold water on the ‘discovery’. Pschopathically violent criminals might have the gene, but so do half the population generally, so do probably many of the people you’re working with at the office. So, not quite the explanation for criminal violence that it claims to be, then.

Now it may be that the research on ME in the Torygraph is fine and respectable, but more than a little scepticism is warranted, especially as this is in an area, in which government and big business are pouring vast sums in order to cut the welfare budget and boost corporate profits. Just because something’s published in the broadsheets and claims to be science doesn’t mean that it’s as well established as Newton’s Laws or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. And this in particular looks like prize rubbish.

The approach the authors of this research recommend is actually quite dangerous. Go down through the comments to the article to find first-hand accounts from people with the disease or similar illnesses on the dangers they have suffered from treatments like that recommended by the scientists of the Oxford study. From their experiences, I’d say that this looks like well-argued, but dangerous pseudoscience.

Brady on the Fascism, Business and the Contempt for the Unemployed

February 23, 2015

In my last post, I quote Robert Brady on the similarity between Fascist attitudes and those of American businessmen. Both of whom viewed man as a rapacious predator. He observed how American businessmen were quite content to see the US invade and attack other countries purely from economic interests. The same attitudes also led the US to send in the army against domestic protestors, such as strikers, share-cropper and hunger marchers.

Brady also considered that business would prefer autocratic rule, and remarked on the business class’ absolute contempt for the unemployed, and their indifference to poverty caused by poor wages.

The condition of society in which the business men would rule would be that one which is natural to them. It would, as a matter of course, be centralised, autocratic, and intolerant, and it would be so constructed that each would get exactly what he deserves for the simple reason that according to the rules he deserves whatever he can get. It is the well accepted business view that most, if not all of the unemployed are shiftless, worthless, irresponsible, and undisciplined. It is taken as axiomatic that the lowest wage-earner receives all that “is coming to him” since if he could get more by any means which does not disturb business routine it is obvious that he would. His failure is the measure of his incompetence, and with that all has been said about it that may be mentioned by gentlemen of good breeding and respectable station!

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are passing legislation, under the guise of reforming electoral registration, designed to strip the vote from the poor, ethnic minorities and the young. The idea that unemployment is due to personal character defects is behind the ‘less eligibility’ attitudes towards welfare benefits, in which workfare and sanctions are used to force the unemployed off jobseeker’s allowance, DLA and ESA. It’s behind the work capability assessment and the planned use of CBT by ‘job coaches’.

And the same attitude is also behind the Tories’ manufacture of a low wage economy, in which workers are forced into part-time work, zero-hours contracts, or compete for internships and are placed on workfare, all to provide cheap labour for business.