Technocracy (bureaucratic)

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Technocracy is a form of government in which engineers, scientists, and other technical experts are in control. Technocracy is a governmental or organizational system where decision makers are selected based upon how highly knowledgeable they are, rather than how much political capital they hold. Technocrats are individuals with technical training and occupations who perceive many important societal problems as being solvable, often while proposing technology-focused solutions. The administrative scientist Gunnar K. A. Njalsson theorizes that technocrats are primarily driven by their cognitive "problem-solution mindsets" and only in part by particular occupational group interests. Their activities and the increasing success of their ideas are thought to be a crucial factor behind the modern spread of technology and the largely ideological concept of the "Information Society."

Technocrats may be distinguished from "econocrats" and "bureaucrats" whose problem-solution mindsets differ from those of the technocrats.[1]

In all cases technical and leadership skills are selected through bureaucratic processes on the basis of specialized knowledge and performance, rather than democratic elections. Some forms of technocracy are a form of meritocracy, a system where the "most qualified" and those who decide the validity of qualifications are the same people. Other forms have been described as not being an oligarchic human group of controllers, but rather an administration by science without the influence of special interest groups.[2]


[edit] Development of the term

William Henry Smyth used the term Technocracy in his 1919 article "'Technocracy'—Ways and Means to Gain Industrial Democracy," in the journal Industrial Management (57).[3] However, Smyth's usage referred to Industrial democracy: a movement to integrate workers into decision making through existing firms or revolution.[4] The term came to mean government by technical decision making in 1932.[5]

[edit] The technocratic instinct among engineers and its outcomes

Technocracy is one solution to a problem faced by engineers in the early twentieth century. Following Samuel Haber[6] Donald Stabile argues that engineers were faced with a conflict between physical efficiency and cost efficiency in the new corporate capitalist enterprises of the late nineteenth century USA. Profit-conscious, non-technical managers of firms where the engineers work, because of their perceptions of market demand, often impose limits on the projects that engineers desire to undertake. Workers do not perform according to the specifications of the engineer's plans, and the prices of all inputs vary with market forces thereby upsetting the engineer's careful calculations. As a result, the engineer loses control over projects and must continually revise plans. To keep control over projects the engineer must attempt to exert control over these outside variables and transform them into constant factors.[7]

[edit] Early Responses

Engineers heatedly discussed these issues in US engineering journals and proceedings. Three ideological outcomes were produced. Firstly, Taylorism which integrates price structures into engineering concerns, thus producing scientific management where the capitalist manager and engineer divide control over the production process and working class between themselves. Secondly, building on Taylorism, the Soviet Union implemented socialist-Taylorism where economic planning, a political bureaucracy and a technical elite divided control over the economy through institutions like the GOELRO plan or five year plans. While political concerns influenced Soviet planning, and engineers were politically persecuted; the political bureaucracy designed plans so as to achieve technical outcomes, and used production price accounting as a technical, rather than economic measure. Finally, in the United States a view that technical concerns should take precedence developed among engineers such as William Howard Smyth based on the early conception of industrial democracy which was limited to the technical involvement in the government of firms.

[edit] The Technocracy movement in the United States

Thorstein Veblen, a member of the Technical Alliance, wrote his book The Engineers and the Price System during this time.[8] It was later used as reference material by the Technocracy movement. The various schools of thought amongst engineers and other interested parties eventually produced social institutions arguing for purely technical government of society in the 1930s. Technocracy Incorporated formulated a plan for the land mass of North America, to employ a non monetary system "Energy Accounting",[9] which uses a post scarcity type of economy as its basis.[10] The system proposed, based on energy accounting instead of money, uses thermodynamics as its basis.[11] The Technate scientific social design as projected in the Technocracy Study Course, would include such post scarcity aspects as free housing (Urbanates), transportation, recreation, and education. In other words free everything, including all consumer products, as a right of citizenship.[12] Everyone would receive an equal amount of consuming power via this Non-market economics, post scarcity method, in theory.

In Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, Frederick Soddy turned his attention to the role of energy in economic systems. He criticized the focus on monetary flows in economics, arguing that “real” wealth was derived from the use of energy to transform materials into physical goods and services. Soddy’s economic writings were largely ignored in his time, but would later be applied to the development of biophysical economics and ecological economics and also bioeconomics in the late 20th century.[13]

[edit] Technocratic movements in Europe

Other movements advocating technocratic government included, in France, the Groupe X-Crise, formed by French former students of the Ecole Polytechnique engineer school in the 1930s, as well as Redressement Français, a French technocratic movement founded by Ernest Mercier in 1925. Along with the Belgian Henri de Man, X-Crise advocated planisme (planism), which advocated, instead of economic liberalism, the use of economic plans and planification. Influenced by de Man's planism, the Neo-socialists Marcel Déat, Pierre Renaudel, René Belin, and the "neo-Turks" of the Radical-Socialist Party (Pierre Mendès-France, etc.) promoted a "constructive revolution" headed by the state and technocrats through economic planification. Such ideas also influenced the Non-Conformist Movement in the French right-wing.

In Great Britain, Political and Economic Planning, a think-tank founded in 1931, also advocated such economic intervention.

[edit] Governmental form

A technocratic government is a government of experts designed to ensure administrative functions are carried out efficiently. Technocracy can, in theory, take many forms and incorporate many systems of government. Technocracy may come about as a provisional form of noocracy, in which the economy is regulated by economists, social policy is decided by political scientists, the health care system is run by medical professionals, with the branches of the government working together and sharing knowledge to maximize the performance of each in as equal a way as is feasible. Technocracy is often thought of as 'administration of scientists and engineers'.

[edit] System of governance

Technocracy can also refer to a system of governance in which laws are enforced by designing the system such that it is impossible to break them. For instance, to prevent people from riding a tram without paying, the carriage's doors could be designed in such a way that a payment was required to open the doors.

The same idea can be applied on much larger scales, with automated public surveillance by semi-intelligent systems that automatically control or limit the actions of individuals to prevent illegal activity. This is called the carceral state, in which the whole state is effectively a Panopticon - a prison with strict rules, where all individuals are supervised to ensure compliance. Author Charles Stross called this a Panopticon Singularity. In this way, the bureaucratic form of technocracy may be an authoritarian system of governance.

The principles of anticipatory design, wayfinding, and B. F. Skinner's vision Walden Two similarly concern authoritarian systems of governance but are based on psychology and conditioning exclusively and not on any intrusive technology to enforce the rules.

Many technocrats would suggest that fear of technology and social change often assume the most oppressive and dystopian of scenarios, pointing to popular media and propaganda in which socialism, democracy, and communism have all been portrayed in an equally dystopian and cautionary light.

[edit] Technocracy in fiction

Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano, takes place in the technocratic United States of the future, where machines do all the work, while engineers and managers are the governing elite (the rest of the population is engaged in meaningless labor). The novel deals with one of the most promising engineers, Paul Proteus, who becomes disappointed in this technocratic society and joins a contemporary Luddite underground movement.

Mage: The Ascension, a popular roleplaying game published by White Wolf, prominently features the Technocracy, a/k/a the "Technocratic Union," as a shadowy, world-controlling organization similar in principle to (and indeed containing) such conspiracies as the "New World Order," the "Freemasons," and others.

In Frank Herbert's Dune series, the Ixian society is often referred to as the "Technocrats of Ix."

The animated series Insektors features a character, Teknocratus, as the "chief engineer" to the Yuk society. At one point, he creates a computer, Kalkulator, capable of automating a city.

A technocratic elite rule the last human city of Bregna in the 2005 movie Æon Flux.

Jean-Luc Godard's film Alphaville explores the negative effects of an Authoritarian Technocracy.

The surplus economy generated by the artificial intelligences of The Culture novels shares many features with a technocracy.

The rule of the Adeptus Mechanicus over its Forge Worlds in the Warhammer 40,000 universe combines elements of theocracy and technocracy, operating autonomously under a monarchy.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ Njalsson, Gunnar K. A. (12/05). "From autonomous to socially conceived technology: toward a causal, intentional and systematic analysis of interests and elites in public technology policy". Theoria: a journal of political theory (Berghahn Books) (108): 56–81. ISSN. Retrieved on 2006-12-15. 
  2. ^ History and Purpose of Technocracy by Howard Scott
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 3rd edition (Word from 2nd edition 1989)
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 3rd edition (Word from 2nd edition 1989)
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 3rd edition (Word from 2nd edition 1989)
  6. ^ Haber, Samuel. Efficiency and Uplift Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
  7. ^ Stabile, Donald R. "Veblen and the Political Economy of the Engineer: the radical thinker and engineering leaders came to technocratic ideas at the xzame time," American Journal of Economics and Sociology (45:1) 1986, 43-44.
  8. ^ The Engineers and the Price System, 1921.
  9. ^ Environmental Decision making, Science and Technology
  10. ^ The Energy Certificate essay by Fezer. An article on energy accounting as proposed by Technocracy Inc. Article on alternative system to money 'Energy Accounting'
  11. ^ Cutler J. Cleveland (2004-09-14). "Biophysical economics". Encyclopedia of Earth. Retrieved on 2009-04-04. 
  12. ^ Ivie, Wilton A Place to Live: 1955 Technocracy Digest
  13. ^,_Frederick Soddy, Frederick - Encyclopedia of Earth

[edit] See also

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