“There’s nothing novel about Netflix’s competitive culture of fear”

Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, writing about Netflix’s management culture:

The Wall Street Journal article on Netflix notes that the company’s managers study the ultimate instantiation of meritocrat-as-authoritarian, the dictator Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, a man famous for creating an ethnically homogenous military overclass to rule the country. But unlike a political system, which has wide implications for an entire society––and where the distribution of resources requires engaging with slackers, jerks, sweet people, and pessimists––the meritocratic corporation is the fantasy of an elite that wants to feel relevant in an age when all their collective brain power can do is reinvent the bus, create complex tax schemes, and invent fictional new securities to trade on financial markets. The back cover of Hastings and Reed’s book breathlessly claims that “there has never been a company like Netflix.” The history of talent-obsessed, highly punitive, conformist companies attests that the opposite is true. Netflix’s own comparison of itself to a professional sports team proves it isn’t new, because professional sports teams are businesses, too. But as my elitist friend acknowledged at the end of his email, there is at least one big difference between Netflix’s corporate employees and professional athletes: the athletes have unions.