Quote of the day: EFFICIENCY

May 5, 2014


Two insanely dangerous consequences result from raising efficiency to the level of an independent principle. First, it favors short-term thinking – no looking ahead, down the line; and it produces insensitive feeling – no looking around at the life values being lived so efficiently. Second, means become ends; that is, doing something becomes the full justification of doing regardless of what you do. Operational phrases in business life such as “just do it,” “get it done,” “don’t ask questions,” “not excuses, results!” are telltale signs of the efficiency principle beginning to separate from its cohorts and set off on its own.

The ethical confusions now plaguing business, government, and the professions, although having many varied sources, result in part from the pressures of efficiency as a value in and for itself. Then, curiously, Aristotle’s other principles seem to return from repressive exclusion only to sabotage efficiency. Inefficiency becomes a favorite mode of rebellion against the tyranny of efficiency: slowdown, work-to-rule, buck-passing, absenteeism, delayed responses, mislaid documents, unreturned phone calls. Ethical protest against the tyranny of efficiency employ these modes of inefficiency. It is as if in the name of being a good citizen with concern for the wider implications of a job, one must become a “bad” worker.

— James Hillman, Kinds of Power

kinds of power

4 Responses to “Quote of the day: EFFICIENCY”

  1. You could fill one of those little inspirational books with 1 quote a day of just Hillman quotes a day. “Kinds of Power” is one of my favorite Hillman books.

  2. dshewey Says:

    I encountered Hillman via doing men’s work — his writing thrilled me, though a lot of it went over my head. I got to spend a fair amount of time around him in the ’90s and wrote a couple of articles about the work he did with Robert Bly, Michael Meade, Malidoma Some, and other teachers. See: http://www.donshewey.com/sex_articles/town_meeting_in_the_hearts_of_men.html

    I read one of David Miller’s books, can’t remember which, and met him at a conference devoted to Hillman at Nortre Dame University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: