Managerial strategies at the Agone publishing house

Early in 2013, Agone published its review entitled Repress and domesticate : managerial strategies. At the same time, 5 employees out of 6 and several other members left the Agone publishing house. They had come to the point where they no longer identified themselves with the publishing house’s evolution process. They were disgusted by the managerial comments made by the sixth employee, who is the editorial and publishing director of the review. A case study of everything that was going on would have just fit in the records of its last publication, and would have helped to understand the strategies that the far-left managers of small structures were able to implement to further their own interests.

Breaking up a working community

When the whole community works smoothly but does not follow the exact line or does not follow it fast enough according to the expectations of the publishing director, when the working community lowers his personal ambitions, spreading the division can be an option, using in turn aggressiveness and congratulations, sweet talk and contempt.

If that option does not work, there is an even better one: carry out a strategy of “externalisation” and “staff reduction” to regain control even though the bank account has never been so well served. A wage rise was supposed to fulfil all demands or expectations and remove all resistance from the employees wishing to stay.

Between October 2012 and January 2013, the result of that strategy led to: one resignation, 4 contractual layoffs (the boss would have preferred resignations…) and the departure of 3 non- employed members. Future collective inclination was anticipated and part of the tasks were externalised, thus reducing the size of the new working community and making it easier to control. Each person would specialize more. Less time lost in meetings but also less efficiency and productivity! Conflicts and those necessary changes had to be accounted for to collaborators that did not, or rarely, visited the office, and also to the numerous intermediaries of the publishing house; the employees were discredited for incompetency, lack of profitability, attachment to the past, etc. Everything was good enough, even lying crudely and playing the part of the victim, reminding some boss held hostage while hundreds of jobs are at stake.

Window display for self management

And yet the website of the publisher specifies that the house is “based on a self managing organisation”. Yes, for years the decision making has been done collectively in some ways, even if it was time and energy consuming. Great attention was given to the consistency between the end (what types of books were published) and the means (how these books were produced). But the corporate managerial comments became more insistent, challenging all the values and priorities that had been defended and put into practice for a long time by former and present employees. Obsession with prestige became pervasive; academic and publishing field recognition became a priority; authoritative argument became the rule; and the phrase “you are with me or against me” a new guiding theme.

Thus repression and domestication techniques very similar to those analysed and condemned in the review quoted above were implemented in the small business which is Agone, an associative publishing house!

G. and R., former employees of Agone

Text originally published in the magazine Alternative libertaire n° 230.

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