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Valve Employee Handbook

Anarchism Socialism

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#1 Punk Rock Geek

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 12:54 AM

Anyone seen this?  For those who don't know, Valve is a video game company that makes games such as Half Life, Portal, and Left 4 Dead.  They recently released their employee handbook, which surprised me greatly.  Apparently they follow a very non-hierarchical socialist model in their workplace in which there are no managers, and no positions.  I've included an excerpt, but it's a very interesting read all the way through:


We want innovators, and that
means maintaining an environment where they’ll flourish.
That’s why Valve is flat. It’s our shorthand way of saying
that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports
to” anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but
even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to
steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have
the power to green-light projects. You have the power to
ship products.
A flat structure removes every organizational barrier
between your work and the customer enjoying that work.
Every company will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but
here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping
you from figuring out for yourself what our customers
want, and then giving it to them.
...
Since Valve is flat, people don’t join projects because
they’re told to. Instead, you’ll decide what to work on
after asking yourself the right questions (more on that
later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk
wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can
see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means
there are any number of internal recruiting efforts
constantly under way.


http://newcdn.flameh...book_LowRes.pdf
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#2 Steve

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 02:08 PM

I find this stuff interesting. its always fascinating to see in what ways commodity domination will manifest itself.

I have to admit though that this sort of work model seems a lot more appealing than the general way things are run. But a couple things come to mind immediately:

1.) that you described this as "socialist." I am not one to use this term in a positive light, and I have seen it used in a couple different ways. The most common usage is synonymous with communism (in the marxist sense), so I am curious as to how you can see this as socialist.

2.) there is a blind spot in their conception of the company:

"It’s our shorthand way of saying
that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports
to” anybody else.
We do have a founder/president, but
even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to
steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have
the power to green-light projects. You have the power to
ship products
."

The parts I bolded lead to a contradiction of sorts. Yes there is no explicit managerial position because what they have done is move everyone up to the level of manager. This is classic self-management under the guise of some sort of creative freedom or something. Instead of reporting to some manager, all that is done is the internalization of the economy to such a degree that a separation between work and management are no longer possible. These people aren't free but very much dominated by the commodity. Look:

"A flat structure removes every organizational barrier
between your work and the customer enjoying that work.
Every company will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but
here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping
you from figuring out for yourself what our customers
want, and then giving it to them."

Sounds to me like its a more efficient method of commodity production. The thing that the West has learned is that domination is a lot more efficient if you make people like it.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

#3 Punk Rock Geek

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 01:20 PM

View PostSteve, on 24 May 2012 - 02:08 PM, said:

I find this stuff interesting. its always fascinating to see in what ways commodity domination will manifest itself.

I have to admit though that this sort of work model seems a lot more appealing than the general way things are run. But a couple things come to mind immediately:

1.) that you described this as "socialist." I am not one to use this term in a positive light, and I have seen it used in a couple different ways. The most common usage is synonymous with communism (in the marxist sense), so I am curious as to how you can see this as socialist.

2.) there is a blind spot in their conception of the company:

"It’s our shorthand way of saying
that we don’t have any management, and nobody “reports
to” anybody else.
We do have a founder/president, but
even he isn’t your manager. This company is yours to
steer—toward opportunities and away from risks. You have
the power to green-light projects. You have the power to
ship products
."

The parts I bolded lead to a contradiction of sorts. Yes there is no explicit managerial position because what they have done is move everyone up to the level of manager. This is classic self-management under the guise of some sort of creative freedom or something. Instead of reporting to some manager, all that is done is the internalization of the economy to such a degree that a separation between work and management are no longer possible. These people aren't free but very much dominated by the commodity. Look:

"A flat structure removes every organizational barrier
between your work and the customer enjoying that work.
Every company will tell you that “the customer is boss,” but
here that statement has weight. There’s no red tape stopping
you from figuring out for yourself what our customers
want, and then giving it to them."

Sounds to me like its a more efficient method of commodity production. The thing that the West has learned is that domination is a lot more efficient if you make people like it.
1. Socialist as in worker self-management.
2. Well, they're still certainly working within the capitalist economy, rather than attempting to replace it.  I mean, the very item they are producing is in fact an item of distraction and not one of necessity.  I certainly don't know of any revolutionary who would feel our priority should be in producing video games for mass consumption.  I'm more interested in the model itself, as it promotes the idea that worker self management can actually lead to greater creativity.  And I think with all of the propaganda out there promoting the opposite, it's important to have physical models such as these that can be referenced to quell the misinformation.

Here's an article from an economist that currently works at Valve, talking about their structure there.  Perhaps most interestingly, he actually refers to it in his own words as a "boss-less, horizontal, anarcho-syndicalist" model, which means that they're at least somewhat aware of what they're doing.

http://blogs.valveso...orporate-world/
I'm PRG/Poofah, and I ran http://peacepunk.net for nearly 5 years before being promoted to the official Anti-Flag website. It's nice to meet you all! I will be administering this forum alongside Anti-Flag and the A-F Records crew.



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