Journal Papers

The consulting arcade: Walking through fetish-land

Abstract: This paper presents autobiographical images of management consulting that are juxtaposed with a variety of historical images of modern capitalism. The method employed in this paper, montage[1], has been inspired by Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, which is a materialist philosophy of the history of modernity that was constructed with ‘utmost concreteness’ out of historical material of the Parisian arcades. In my view Benjamin’s Parisian arcades have transformed into global arcades of world-integrated capitalism and the ‘consulting arcade’ is one empirical example of such. The dialectical juxtapositioning exercised here aims to engage with consultancy work by investigating its fetish structure and dream-like existence that nevertheless produces very ‘real’ subjectivities. What follows then is the attempt of ‘I’, a modern subject, to make sense of an experience, a shock. Benjamin once wrote to his friend Scholem: “It’s like me being right in the arcades myself”. Same here: ‘I’ am the consultant who has walked through and worked in the ‘consulting arcade’; ‘I’ am in the space of the consultant’s non-places; the prostitute who sells her body as commodity; the flâneur who has a special empathy with the commodity; the collector who desperately tries to create a whole out of the empty use-value of the dead commodity; the gambler who thrives on the shock of the commodity rush; the knowledge worker who is exhilarated by the telecommunicative trauma produced by the techno-knowledge commodity. But the presented images are not just thought to be snapshots of my ‘subjective’ reality. Instead this montage aims to bring subject and object, the particular and the universal, the individual and modern society, together in such a way that the juxtaposed images potentially ‘illuminate’ us about modern damaged life.

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