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The Tyranny of 3-Legged Branding

“The project of transforming culture into little more than a collection of brand-extensions-in-waiting would not have been possible without the deregulation and privatization policies of the past three decades.”
–Naomi Klein, No Logo (Picador, 2002), p. 30.

“In July of [1998], Indonesian president B.J. Habibie urged his 200 million citizens to do their part to conserve the country’s dwindling rice supply by fasting for two days out of each week, from dawn until dusk. Development built on starvation wages, far from kick-starting a steady improvement in conditions, has proved to be a case of one step forward, three steps back.”
— Ibid, p. 228

“The three-legged model of cooperation is something we call the P.E.A.C.E. plan. . . .”
–Rick Warren, “The Power of Parishioners,” Forbes, 5/7/07.

The godfather of the privatization movement was none other than Peter Drucker, whose leadership ideologies and methods were transmitted to an entire generation of evangelical pastors trained by Bob Buford’s Leadership Network. As this blog has extensively documented, the influence of Leadership Network has been vast and pervasive, realigning the modern evangelical churches to Drucker’s model.

A key facet of Drucker, who has been called a “social ecologist,” is that his vision extended far beyond business management and leadership. He looked forward to a total transformation of what he called “Society,” his 3-legged concept of how man should be organized into the institutions of State, Private and Corporate sectors. The Church must become re-fashioned according to Drucker’s corporate institutional mold, and performance-driven. The Church would become empowered by collaborating with the other 2 legs of the stool.

In a fascinating Preface to his 2007 book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (Transaction Publishers), Drucker articulated his view that “it is only in the large organizations that there exist plentiful opportunities to make a living through knowledge, to make a contribution through knowledge, and to achieve through knowledge.” He then wrote the astounding statement that:

Tyranny is the only alternative to strong, performing autonomous institutions. Tyranny substitutes one absolute boss for the pluralism of competing institutions. It substitutes terror for responsibility. It does indeed do away with the institutions, but only by submerging all of them in the one all-embracing bureaucracy of the apparat. It does produce goods and services, though only fitfully, wastefully, at a low level, and at an enormous cost in suffering, humiliation, and frustration. To make our institutions perform responsibly, autonomously, and on a high level of achievement is thus the only safeguard of freedom and dignity in the pluralist society of institutions.

“But it is managers and management that make institutions perform. Performing, responsibly management is the alternative to tyranny and our only protection against it.” (pp. ix-x) [bold added]

Obviously this statement has spiritual ramifications, as Drucker’s 3-legged institutional structure is portrayed as the antidote to tyranny. Bob Buford of Leadership Network agreed with this in a letter to Drucker about his legacy:

“You have accomplished so much of the mission which is set forth in the preface to your large book — that management and well-functioning systems would provide an ALTERNATIVE TO TYRANNY. There will be plenty of challenges from tyranny in the future. Management will remain important as a major factor in preserving our way of life. You are its chief architect.”

But is Drucker’s 3-legged management an antidote to tyranny? Ironically, it was Drucker’s idealized world of “knowledge workers” and a “knowledge economy” on this side of the ocean that gave birth to sweat shop economies on the other side of the planet. The elite corps of highly-skilled, performance-based, white collar knowledge workers that built a logo-driven branded culture were juxtaposed in No Logo against poverty-ridden young sweat shop workers, mostly women, who were forced to undergo pregnancy tests in “Free-Trade Zones.” Naomi Klein watched the knowledge economy build, especially through the lens of corporate branding and marketing. She then traveled the Third World to see the other side of the story. Who was actually making the logoed items that everyone was wearing and using? What were their working conditions? What she found was horrifying and scandalous.

Drucker’s vision of a utopian “Knowledge Society” comes to a screeching halt as Klein describes “industrial slums and low wage labor ghettos of “Export Processing Zones” (EPZ), pieces of land that become “denationalized” and deregulated. Reading chapter 9 of No Logo, “The Discarded Factory,” and chapter 14 “Bad Moon Rising,” unlocks the dark side of marketplace transformation, privatization, and the new global economy. The very corporations that put on a pretty face in the U.S. through aggressive marketing were often the worst abusers of human rights on the other side of the world — hidden from scrutiny, making their profits, and restructuring according to Drucker’s supposed tyranny-proof management model.

If there was a “tyranny” going on, it was precisely because of the newly-forged collaborations between the 3 legs of the stool! Klein discusses how global corporations invest in third world governments, persuading them to ignore human rights in favor of “development.” One leg scratches the back of the other leg. And while Drucker was out championing “transparency” and “accountability,” the very watch dogs for corporate abuse turned out to be in cahoots with those who stood to profit the most by ignoring it. (See “Beyond the Brand, especially pages 433-437 for a thorough discussion of this issue.) Klein concludes with this troubling observation:

“There is something Orwellian about the idea of turning the enforcement of basic human rights into a multinational industry, as the private codes would do, to be checked like any other quality control. Global labor and environmental standards should be regulated by laws and governments — not by a consortium of transnational corporations and their accountants, all following the advice of their PR firms. The bottom line is that corporate codes of conduct — whether drafted by individual companies or by groups of them, whether independently monitored mechanisms or useless pieces of paper — are not democratically controlled laws. Not even the toughest self-imposed code can put the multinationals in the position of submitting to collective outside authority. On the contrary, it gives them unprecedented power of another sort: the power to draft their own privatized legal systems, to investigate and police themselves, as quasi nation-states.” (p. 437)

Why Is This Disturbing?

Why is this relevant to a discussion of heresy? Because the trilateral partnership envisioned by Drucker has arrived at the front doorstep of the evangelical church world. Rick Warren, mentored by Drucker, is building a Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan that partners with the two other legs of the stool. And Ed Silvoso’s and C. Peter Wagner’s Marketplace Transformation movement does the same thing. Elsewhere, it has been noted that Drucker held to the premise that human worth is based on “human capital.” Rather than resisting such an offensive idea, so far it appears that the evangelical leaders have committed it to action. All in the name of building 3-legged “relationships.”

In fact, many of Rick Warren’s 2nd Reformation “partners” are cited for their anti-human rights activities and beliefs in No Logo. Jeffrey Sachs is cited as one of a number of economists who put “spin on the mounting revelations of corporate abuse, claiming that sweatshops are not a sign of eroded rights but a signal that prosperity is just around the corner” (p. 228) And then there is Bill Gates, who has treated his own employees like corporate “assets” (p. 254). Not to mention the accomplice roles of various NGOs, G-8, and relevant UN agencies. The point is that many of these partnering institutions, presumably built upon the anti-tyranny management model of Drucker, have a dismal record.

With partners like this, can the Church set a truly compassionate agenda? Or will all of this partnering degenerate into mutual back-scratching, nation-building, and coffer-filling? In fact, will the Church merely function as the water-boy for the multinationals and the governments they control? Who is funding all of this P.E.A.C.E.? The potential exists for Rick Warren’s global “distribution system” to be utterly compromised by its “partnering” with Corporate and State legs — locally, nationally, and even globally. Rick Warren wrote:

“At the World Economic Forum in Davos you will hear endlessly recited the importance of public and private partnerships in attacking global problems. While that is certainly essential, it is not enough. Neither business nor government has the universal distribution, the army of volunteers or the credibility in villages to get the job done. A one- or two-legged stool will fall over. You need three legs.”

Will this 3-legged, institutionalized, networked, corporatized, branded global church be an antidote to “tyranny”? Or, will it perpetuate “tyranny” in the name of compassion?

The Truth:

A generation ago Dr. Francis Schaeffer penned the following warning:

“. . .[W]ill we resist authoritarian government in all its forms regardless of the label it carries and regardless of its origin?

“Here is a sentence to memorize: To make no decision in regard to the growth of authoritarian government is already a decision for it.“*

The day is now upon us when the institutional global Church has entangled itself in partnerships to the extent that it cannot possibly function as the prophetic voice against “tyranny” in the world. The prophet Amos warned:

“Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.” (Amos 5:11-12)

*How Should We Then Live, (Fleming H. Revell Co., 1976), p. 256-257.