Yangbans ‘N’ Things

Here’s a quote from Korea Old And New: A History, p. 108:

The sole duty of a yangban was to devote themselves exclusively to the study and self-cultivation that Confucian doctrine holds must underlie the governing of others, and their sole profession was the holding of public office.  Yet they did not serve in the technical posts as medical officers, translator-interpreters,  astronomer-astrologers, accountants, statute law clerks, scribes or government artists, all of which became the virtually hereditary preserve of the chungin (“middle people”) class.  Nor did the yangban perform routine duties of petty clerks and local civil functionaries or of cadre members.  They also were not interested in working in agriculture, manufacture, or commerce, for these were but the occupations of farmers, artisans, and merchants.  Their role instead was to fashion an ideal Confucian polity through the moral cultivation of Choson’s people.

Now the reason I bring this up is because it occurs to me that this impulse to oversee without doing is alive and well in our own culture.  In fact, if you go to any medium-quality management school you are likely to meet any number of people whose ambition in life it is to manage without being able to do.  They’re willing to learn just enough to perhaps hold their own when being reported to, but in fact that’s all they’re comfortable learning.  I have talked to a number of confused youths whose ambition it is in life to ‘be a manager’, without any real understanding of how that happens or what it means.  With the exception of a relatively small core of elite junior executives and lucky shmoes, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that in the real world it’s the rare person who becomes a manager without learning to do something practical.

Nonetheless the dream lives on, to go ‘learn management’ and ‘become a manager’.  Now the major difference between the folks we’ve got running around these days and the yangban were that the yangban actually had a shot at the dream.  Our yangban are just fooling themselves.

~ by Joshing on March 31, 2010.

2 Responses to “Yangbans ‘N’ Things”

  1. haha “laziness” tag = true dat. there were such a ridiculous amount of people in my core business classes who would get shot down by professors after saying they wanted to be in management consulting right after graduation… the profs would be like seriously? and what have you ever managed, besides your fraternity’s bi-annual “charity event” aka raging kegger?

  2. I worked for too many of these during my tech days. The sad thing is that when the companies do their layoffs, they keep their jobs while the people actually producing shit get thrown off. I could really go on a rant here but restraining. I’ll bet you a large number of teabaggers are these types.

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