Mariana Masukato: The Big Con

POSTED: December 19, 2023

Last month I watched a webinar in a series called Public Innovation Visionaries. It featured a conversation with Mariana Mazzucato, “professor, author, and expert on the economics of innovation”.

She talked about a number of topics, most of which she had covered in her recent book, The Big Con: How the Consultancy Industry Weakens our Businesses, Infantilizes our Government and Warps our Economies.

The book argues that there “is an entrenched relationship between the consulting industry and the way business and government are managed today which must change”.

According to her website, Mariana Mazzucato and her co-author Rosie Collington

show that our economies’ reliance on companies such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY stunts innovation, obfuscates corporate and political accountability and impedes our collective mission of halting climate breakdown.

The ‘Big Con’ describes the confidence trick the consulting industry performs in contracts with hollowed-out and risk-averse governments and shareholder value-maximizing firms. It grew from the 1980s and 1990s in the wake of reforms by both the neoliberal right and Third Way progressives, and it thrives on the ills of modern capitalism, from financialization and privatization to the climate crisis.

It is possible because of the unique power that big consultancies wield through extensive contracts and networks – as advisors, legitimators and outsourcers – and the illusion that they are objective sources of expertise and capacity.

I have now read the book, and I can recommend it to people who want to read this sort of thing.

And to people who don’t.