7 years, 11 months ago

Why are the elite the elite?

Link: http://weblog.tetradian.com/2011/09/26/why-are-the-elite-the-elite/

An interesting follow-on this afternoon from the themes of the previous post, ‘Rethinking the architecture of management‘.

I was wandering around down town, doing the shopping. Outside this rather nice old traditional-style grocer’s shop, there’s a mob of 20-something students – Swiss, apparently – from the local ‘English as a Foreign Language’ college. Their lecturer is expounding about this shop, telling them in his somewhat condescending upmarket voice that it’s where they ought to buy real English food (??) to take home, and so on. Then he says:

If you see schoolboys walking down the road here wearing purple blazers, they are from the Royal Grammar School. They are the elite, the cream. At age 11 they have to take a special examination in mathematics and English, and only two percent pass that exam.

It’s kinda interesting to apply a services perspective to that assertion. All that the exam tells us is that it selects for ability in mathematics and native-language. Which means that those pupils will, in later life, probably be well-suited to doing tasks that deliver the kinds of services that make good use of those abilities. But that’s all that it tells us. Since every service is ‘just another service’, there’s nothing in there – nothing at all – that indicates that every one of those young students should therefore be described as ‘the elite’.

In service-architecture terms, everywhere and nowhere is ‘the centre’ of the enterprise, and every service is necessary to the viability of the enterprise, hence it makes no sense to describe any category of services – or the people who deliver those services – as ‘the elite’. (Individuals, yes, perhaps; a specific category, no.)

In short, the only reason why those students with that specific set of (proto)-skills in that location would be called ‘the elite’, is because people who are like them and have similar skills want to believe that they themselves are ‘the elite’.

In other words, it’s nothing more than a myth – the kind of circularly self-centric fantasy that’s guaranteed to cause serious dysfunction in a service-oriented enterprise-architecture.


And yes, it gets worse! All the way through school, these young students will be told, time and time again, that they are ‘the elite’. That they are entitled to special privilege and special attention because they are ‘the elite’. Which they aren’t, because it’s just a self-aggrandizing fantasy.


And wait – yes, it gets still worse! These young people go on to elite universities, elite business-schools, to become elite businessmen, businesswomen. Which they aren’t, because, again, it’s a fantasy.


And now, yes, it gets worse again! – because they go on to become ‘the elite of the elite’, the ‘captains of industry’, the managers, who are ‘elite’ because they’re managers.

Yet management is ‘just another service’. There’s nothing inherently ‘elite’ about that set of services at all: every service is ‘just another service’, and every service is, by definition, essential to the enterprise. In a service-oriented architecture, there is no service that is inherently more important than any other: that’s the whole point.


So let’s ask a very simple question – a very difficult, dangerous, politically-explosive question: if every service is ‘just another service’, why is it that as a category, those who deliver the category of services that are called ‘management’ get to control more, and are given more, and paid more – often so vastly much more – than those who happen to deliver a different type of ‘just another service’?

Because as far as I can see it, from a service-architecture perspective, the only reason that they’re paid more is because they purport that they’re ‘the elite’. Which they’re not, because it’s just an arbitrary, self-important fantasy.

A whole load of smoke-and-mirrors to prop up the fantasy, of course – no surprises there. But beyond that there’s nothing of any substance at all: nothing more than a plaintive little chant of “the elite are the elite because they’re the elite”, and kinda hoping beyond hope that we won’t notice how empty that claim really is.


Y’know, there might just be a problem there?

[And by the way, yes, I did indeed go to that kind of ‘elite’ school as a child. Which is why I do know, first-hand,  just exactly how vapid, shrill and empty those claims really are… Hey ho…]