Growth mindset

Screenshot of a promo for a LinkedIn Live 'Business Connect' event in which UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak answers questions from a carefully selected group of sympathetic business people and students.

Of course he’s on LinkedIn

I shouldn’t be surprised that the British Prime Minister – any contemporary national leader, really – is on LinkedIn. It’s supposed to say “I live in the real world, I know about the grind, about the exigencies of business and office life and the ugly necessity of self-promotion.” Maybe also “look, I got to the very top of British public life just by keeping my LinkedIn notifications on.”

But should I be happy that our head of government’s own LinkedIn bio apparently puts the word ‘influencer’ before ‘Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’? Or that this Prime Minister would happily, not to say chirpily, in the manner of a children’s TV presenter, show up at 8.30 on a Monday morning to answer a string of banal questions from friendly business big-wigs on a LinkedIn live?

Google search result for 'Rishi Sunak LinkedIn' - Rishi Sunak is an influencer. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Leader of the Conservative Party. Member of Parliament for Richmond (Yorks).

Should it actually scare me to learn that someone apparently so taken in by the promise of the hustle economy and by the bleak, one-dimensional glamour of the entrepreneur could possibly be asked to lead an actual economy. And to lead it, somehow, out of the long, sad, immiserating experiment of financialisation, marketisation, privatisation and the rest?

And anyway, of course he’s on LinkedIn (all the thrusting, young political innovators at the end of politics are there: Justin, Jacinda, Leo, Emmanuel, Pedro, Kyriakos…), of course he’s animated by the idea of the entrepreneur, the avatar of the shallowest and least productive version of capitalism – the capitalism of personal growth, ‘disruption’, of dematerialisation, of self-reliance and self-actualisation. The potent myth of the mysteriously gifted individual who can apparently turn around businesses, industries and whole national economies as an expression of will, of impatient, pathological brilliance.

This is the delusional political economy of LinkedIn and the other powerful institutions of the growth mindset – of the unicorn and the decacorn and other mythic creatures in the investment labyrinth.

As we’re learning now, of course, the whole teetering, upside-down pyramid of the entrepreurial economy, of the 10x strategy and the profitless tech leviathan depended almost entirely on the long period of cheap money and the epic flow of unanchored capital from the owner class that are both now grinding to a nasty end and on the cruelty of the idea that anyone can join this club, despite what we know about the carefully hidden advantages of the entrepreneur class.

It’s like an episode of the Simpsons in which an actual country is led by an airhead who’s spent his whole working life cheerfully clicking on LinkedIn requests, shamelessly asking strangers for ‘endorsements’ and congratulating other strangers on their inexplicable promotions. Get a life, Rishi.