“My Symbol for Hell”


A well-known office worker in Prague


“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’  The greatest evil is now not done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done, even, in concentration camps and labour camps.  In those we see its final result.  But it is conceived and ordered (moved, second, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.  Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”

(C. S. Lewis, from the “Preface” to The Screwtape Letters)


Plotting, concealed ambition, intrigue, backstabbing, false friendship, secret deals, hidden agendas . . .   The brilliant third volume of Lewis’s “Perelandra” trilogy, That Hideous Strength, does a particularly good job of depicting academic politics, which Lewis knew at first hand, both within young Mark Studdock’s fictional Bracton College and, even more so, within the very ironically named N.I.C.E. (the National Institute for Co-Ordinated Experiments).  Academic battles are so brutal, Henry Kissinger once remarked, “because the stakes are so small.”



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