Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 16, 2021

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,VOD/Streaming — louisproyect @ 6:11 pm


In the late 70s, I worked for a consulting company in New York called Automated Concepts Inc., mostly known in the industry as ACI. The CEO was a guy named Fred Harris who was well-liked by the staff, including me. It was also common knowledge that Fred used to attend EST workshops, where he supposedly learned the skills he needed to become a successful businessman.

EST stood for Erhard Seminars Training that was a mixture of founder Werner Erhard’s ersatz Eastern religious mysticism and Dale Carnegie type lessons on how to become a “success” in business. While certainly cultish, it was by no means as bad as Scientology. Fred used to take me out to dinner from time to time, mostly to be able to chat with someone who didn’t fit the mold of the propellor-heads who worked for him.

Even as the 60s/70s radicalization was dying out, the New Age lingered on in the corporate world as the idea of leveraging economic success with spiritualism proved seductive. With some leftists like Rennie Davis jumping the radical ship, it was the perfect place for them to land. You could simultaneously “make it” and feel superior to the grubbiness of American society. After becoming a disciple of Guru Maharaj Ji, Davis created the Foundation for a New Humanity, a technology development and venture capital company specializing in new technology.

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  1. After reading your article I watched the documentary. My instant impression of Neumann right from the start was that he is a con-man, a total bullshitter. I know I would have had the same reaction even as an 18 year old, or older. My lingering thought about the whole thing is “why do so many young people have dysfunctional and atrophied bullshit detectors?” It just seemed so obvious. And then I have to remind myself that I’ve always been out of synch with all trends, fads and assumptions in the U.S. since I can remember, and maybe that has something to do with my disconnect from cult belief of any sort. I am a congenital non-joiner. One of the enduring conclusions I arrived at over the last 20 years (at least) is: “people believe what they want to believe; facts don’t matter.” The other significant conclusions I’ve come to over the same time span is: “people don’t change until they feel pain.” Of course even then many persist with their illusions to their deaths. Tragic. I don’t like being pessimistic about people, but as I get older I have a harder time finding objective reasons for being optimistic about them.

    Comment by manuelgarciajr — April 17, 2021 @ 9:48 pm

  2. What really gets me is how the dream of individual wealth accumulation is sold as being somehow beneficial for society at large. But then, that’s basically the message of capitalism, isn’t it?

    Comment by Balaton Fleet Commander — April 18, 2021 @ 1:39 pm

  3. Neumann is a con man, who managed to fool everyone, including SoftBank, his chief investor, that WeWork was a technology company when, in reality, it was a real estate company. The valuation it was getting pre-IPO was unrealistic no matter how hard they tried to spin it. Nevertheless, even though WeWork imploded, Neumann still walked away with millions.

    Comment by curryman — April 20, 2021 @ 12:03 am

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