“As Hannah Arendt writes in a parenthetical statement in her 1969 study ‘On Violence,’ “If, in accord with traditional political thought, we identify tyranny as government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done…” In a functional bureaucracy, professionalism—the subspecies of etiquette native to bureaucratic order—amounts to a beneficent social craft improvised through mass collaboration, a set of behavioral standards that, ideally, smoothes the erraticism of interpersonal relations so that people can cooperate to achieve common goals efficiently. Indications that one is subject and therefore party to the structural despotism characterizing professionalism run amok include a pervasive sense of servitude to anonymously established requirements for success (which one has little or no independent interest in fulfilling, except to satisfy the ulterior compulsion of career building, dissociated from those aspects of work unrelated to acquisition of social or pecuniary advantage), and the transformation of ostensibly neutral terms (“the art world,” “academia”) into pejorative expressions of frustration with oppressive circumstances one feels powerless to affect.”
I love this little bit out of Angie Keefer’s essay “Polite Terrorism,” in I like your work: art and etiquette. The whole essay is great, but this particular section struck a chord. She specifically mentions the arenas of art and academia, but she could just as well be describing web culture and its obsession with followers, or what it is to be ambitious in a hyper-connected America.