Technocracy

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Smyth first wrote about his ideas of Technocracy in 1919.

A Technocracy is defined as a system in which people with a lot of knowledge about science or technology control a society.[1] A technocratic state, or a state controlled by engineers and expertise,[2] generally has experts secluded into unelected bureaucracies.[3]

History

Early Technocrats

The origins of Technocracy have been the subject of some debate, but William Henry Smyth has been generally recognized as having invented the word "technocracy" in 1919 to describe as he put it: "the rule of the people made effective through the agency of their servants, the scientists and engineers".[4] Smyth had Industrial Democracy in mind when he coined the term.[5]

Thorstein Veblen is also regarded to be an early father of technocracy,[6] when he called for a Soviet of Technicians in 1921.[7] Other influence upon the formation of technocracy include Edward Bellamy and his book Looking Backward.[8]

Autocrat of the New Age

Like the Technocracy movement that followed it, Smyth's ideals were inherently anti-capitalist, and he envisioned technocracy as a new kind of autocracy that would control society. Because of their skills and training, they would make the best decisions on behalf of society.[9]

The monad of Technocracy Inc.

Technocracy Movement

A second group of technocrats in the 1930s, led by Howard Scott and Marion King Hubbert, built what was at the time known as the Technocracy Movement.[6] One of the big topics was the "price system", and replacing it with a unit that was more measurable, such as joules or ergs.[10][11] Scott became the first Chief Engineer of the Alliance.[12]

Definition

There is some debate as to what is the best way to define technocracy or a technocrat. Duncan McDonnell and Marco Valbruzzi, in examining European technocratic politicians, define a minister as a technocrat if "at the time of his/her appointment to government, he/she: has never held public office under the banner of a political party; is not a formal member of any party; and is said to possess recognized non-party political expertise which is directly relevant to the role occupied in government."[13]

Forerunners

Technocracy has drawn comparison with early socialist theorists such as Henri de Saint-Simon.[14]

Similarly, the book Philip Dru: Administrator was written by President Woodrow Wilson's advisor Colonel House, and has a very strong technocratic construct[15] with its propensity to describe the important role of expertise, bureaucracies, and quick decision.

Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian Socialist and engineer, is considered another early advocate of technocracy.[16] Bogdanov called his theory Tektology in a book titled Tektology: Universal Organization Science.[17]

Critiques

James Burnham

In his seminal work The Managerial Revolution, Burnham lists Technocracy as one of four managerial ideologies alongside Communism, Nazism, and New Dealism.

Elected and Unelected

As a political term, Technocracy tends to be a bit elastic,[18] meaning that the definition of both the word and the application(s) have shifted over time.

Elected

Prime Ministers Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos have both been considered technocrats.[19]

Unelected

More often than not, technocrats exercise influence from unelected boards and bureaus, as is often seen both in the European Union[20][21] and in the United States from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.[22]

Technocracy and Socialism

Daniel Bell, an influential sociologist,[23] made a direct comparison between technocracy and early socialist theorists, particularly that of Henri de Saint-Simon. He wrote that "St. Simon's vision of industrial society, a vision of pure technocracy, was a system of planning and rational order in which society would specify its needs and organize the factors of production to achieve them."[24] Bell concluded that the "administration of things" is the "hallmark of technocracy". G. D. H. Cole agrees with Bell, that Saint-Simon "anticipated modern notions of technocracy in his insistence on the master-function of the industrial experts and organizers".[25]

In addition, Upton Sinclair was very excited[26] about the coming Technocracy movement and lauded its arrival. He wrote:

Socialists have been saying pretty much the same thing for the past two generations. But then, nobody pays much attention to us Socialists. This time, however, it is the leading experts of the engineering profession who are speaking - the sort of people the American public looks up to.[27]

Stuart Chase, an early member of the Technical Alliance, was also an ardent socialist. Alexander Bogdanov, who advocated a system called Tektology which bears a marked resemblance to technocracy, was a socialist as well.

Redistribution of Ergs

Under the system proposed by technocrats such as Scott and M. King Hubbard,[10][28] the "price system" would be replaced by what they viewed as a more "rational" approach: the use of an energy unit. Technocrats viewed man power as a stable, quantifiable[29] energy unit[30] that would be less prone to fluctuation than a commodities-based dollar. In addition, they believed that a "high tax"[10] system with government giving everybody an allowance of 20,000 x-ergs would guarantee series of government services such as water, schooling, and protection.[10]

In his book Man Hours, Hubbard explains how perfect their idea of redistribution is:

Our distribution then becomes foolproof and incredibly simple. We keep our records of the physical costs of production in terms of the amount of extraneous energy degraded. We set industrial production arbitrarily at a rate equal to the saturation of the physical capacity of our public to consume. We distribute purchasing power in the form of energy certificates to the public, the amount issued to each being equivalent to his pro rata share of the energy-cost of the consumer goods and services to be produced during the balanced-load period for which the certificates are issued.[28]

He goes on to explain the simplicity of the government keeping track of every aspect of your life, in order to make the whole system work. Man will no longer be paid according to his so-called "value", a fallacious premise, and instead the equal pro rata division of his highly quantifiable energy use/yield. Everybody will get exactly the same.[28]

Meritocracy or Authoritarianism

Some advocates of technocracy uphold the system as a meritocracy.[31] For elected officials, this can hold true as the voting populace would have actively made that choice and presumably a candidate's engineering or other specialization will be discussed in open debate.

But for unelected bureaucrats of a technocratic nature, meritocracy itself is undermined, and any technocratic merit will be superseded by the quagmire that the citizens are being arbitrarily dictated to. This has led critics to point out that technocracy is undemocratic.[32]

Twenty first century

The Venus Project, an organization founded in 1995 by Jacque Fresco,[33] is based in part on the idea of a "resource based economy"[34] and bears a number of similarities to many of the earlier technocratic ideals of Technocracy Inc.[35]

The Zeitgeist Movement, founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph in part to support the Venus Project, mirrored the Technocracy Inc. of the early 1930s.[36] Venus and Zeitgeist eventually split, in 2011.

The social network site Reddit has a subreddit section just for discussions about Technocracy.[37]

See also

References

  1. technocracy: definition. Merriam-Webster.
  2. Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise
  3. The Rise of the Unelected: Democracy and the New Separation of Powers
  4. Jones, Barry. Sleepers, Wake! Technology and the Future of Work. Oxford University Press, 214. 
  5. Smyth, William H.. Technocracy Parts I-IV., Working Explosively, A Protest Against Mechanistic Efficiency. Working Explosively Versus Working Efficiently. Berkeley Gazette. “Technocracy Part III., "Technocracy" - Ways and Means To Gain Industrial Democracy” 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Technological Utopianism in American Culture
  7. The engineers and the price system , by Thorstein Veblen, p. 138
  8. Life in a Technocracy: What it Might be Like, p. 12-13
  9. [Smyth, Technocracy, Human Instincts in Reconstruction], "The signs of the times portend the dethroning of decadent acquisitive capitalism and the crowning of productive skill - Autocrat of the new Age - Artizanism."
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Life in a Technocracy: What it Might be Like
  11. More: The Politics of Economic Growth in Postwar America
  12. Administrative History of Technocracy Inc.
  13. Defining and classifying technocrat-led and technocratic governments
  14. Concepts of Technocracy
  15. Pathology of the Elites: How the Arrogant Classes Plan to Run Your Life
  16. Bogdanov, technocracy and socialism
  17. Alexander Bogdanov
  18. Minds like machines -Government by experts sounds tempting, especially in a crisis. It can work. But brief stints have the best chances, The Economist
  19. Who, What, Why: What can technocrats achieve that politicians can't?, BBC
  20. EU Chief: Our Work Should Not be Transparent, Breitbart.com
  21. The rise of governments led by technocrats in Europe illustrates the failure of mainstream political parties., London School of Economics
  22. Take Control, Congress, National Review
  23. Daniel Bell
  24. (2008) The Coming Of Post-industrial Society. ISBN 978-0465097135. 
  25. (1962) A History of Socialist Thought: Socialist thought, the forerunners, 1789-1850, Volume 1, 49. 
  26. Arthur M. Schlesinger (2003). The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 463.
  27. "Technocracy's Theory Lauded by Socialists", 23 December 1932. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Man-Hours and Distribution
  29. Technocracy and the American Dream: The Technocrat Movement, 1900-1941, "But despite the shortcomings of the "theory of energy determinants," it allowed the technocrats to claim they used scientifically valid measurements of industry rather than relativistic pecuniary economic ones."
  30. Roosevelt and technocracy
  31. Technocracy at Work
  32. User Behavior and Technology Development: Shaping Sustainable Relations Between Consumers and Technologies, The Technocracy versus Democracy issue
  33. Paradise or Oblivion - THE VENUS PROJECT - Jacque Fresco
  34. The Venus Project
  35. Technocracy: Building a new sustainable society for a post carbon world
  36. Selling Scientific Dictatorship: Zeitgeist Movement is Technocracy Inc (circa 1920s)
  37. Technocracy

External links