Sociology Index

TECHNOCRACY

A bridge to the 21st century is not an empty cliché. It represents technocracy, the rule of experts. It is technocracy, not liberalism or conservatism, that has been the dominant ideology of US politics for most of 20th century. The term "technocracy" was coined in 1919. Harvard historian John M. Jordan calls it "the peculiar American paradox of kinetic change made stable." Nearly a century later, technocracy remains the default assumption of American politics: "Got a problem, get a program." But technocracy has not delivered on its grand promises. Rather than a smooth-running engine, technocracy has produced a Rube Goldberg device that grinds gears, shoots sparks, and periodically breaks down entirely. Technocracy is more a 21st Century term.

Based upon ideas of the economist Thorstein Veblen, technocracy was a political-economic movement headed by Howard Scott. In 1933, a new movement named Technocracy was founded in the US. In technocracy engineers run a country. Technocracy emphasizes "hard" quantitative and econometric skills, like programming and budgeting methodologies. Technocracy advocated the consolidation of the nations of North America into one big nation state. For Technologists, Technocracy is an Eternal Temptation. The rise of technology may also signal the fall of technocracy.

A 38-country survey published by Pew Research Center on Monday shows most people the world prefer a technocracy, with a minority favoring a type of military dictatorship or civilian authoritarianism. Cyberocracy may bring a new emphasis on "soft" symbolic, cultural, and psychological dimensions of policymaking and public opinion. In Bureaucracy, bureaucrats command offices and channels. Technocrats command scientific expertise and analytical skills. In his book, The Engineers and the Price System, Thorstein Veblen advocated taking the management of the economy out of the hands of business people and putting it into the hands of engineers.

Technocracy got public attention in the fall of 1932, when the Depression was near its most severe point. During Depression and the economic and political turmoil, the ostensible beginning of technocracy could hardly have been less noticeable. There are times when technocracy is seen as a virtue because it is supposedly subordinated to a President with the greatest democratic mandate.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who defined technocracy as "the vital center," looks at today's technological dynamism and sees chaos. "The computer," he wrote in Foreign Affairs, "turns the untrammeled market into a global juggernaut, crashing across frontiers, enfeebling national powers of taxation and regulation, undercutting national management of interest rates and exchange rates, widening disparities of wealth between and within nations, dragging down labor standards, degrading the environment, denying nations the shaping of their own economic destiny, creating a world economy without a world polity." Not a technophobia, but Schlesinger is horrified by the thought of forces beyond the control of technocratic wise men.

There was a time when people worried that the information revolution and that the relentless advance of technology and technocracy might mean that their lives would be run by heartless computers, and government would be reduced to a "Hell of Administrative Boredom." - Lowi.

Books on Technocracy

Beyond Technocracy: Science, Politics and Citizens by Massimiano Bucchi, Adrian Belton.
Drawing upon a broad range of data and events from the United States and Europe, and noting the blurring of the expert/lay divide in the knowledge base, the book argues that these conflicts should not be dismissed as episodic, or the outbursts of irrationality and ignorance, but recognized as a critical opportunity to discuss the future in which we want to live.
Beyond Technocracy: Science, Politics and Citizens has great value as a postgraduate text for courses in technology and society, political science, and science policy. It will also find an interested audience among scientists, policymakers, managers in the technological sector, and concerned lay readers.

Controlling Technocracy: Citizen Rationality and the Nimby Syndrome by Gregory E. McAvoy.
"In this exploration of citizen rationality, the tension between democracy and technocracy, and the link between public opinion and policy, McAvoy demonstrates that citizen opinion plays a constructive role in environmental policymaking."

Technocracy (Society Today & Tomorrow) by Jean Meynaud and P. Barnes.

Prophets of Order: The Rise of the New Class, Technocracy and Socialism in America by Donald Stabile.

Technocracy and the American Dream: The Technocrat Movement, 1900-1941 by William E. Akin.

Between Democracy and Technocracy by Brigitte Reck.

The Threshold of Technocracy by K D Elizabeth Beisinger.

For and Against Technocracy: A Symposium by J. George Frederick.

The newest whore of Babylon: The emergence of technocracy : a study in the mechanization of man by John L Reed.

Technocracy by Jean Meynaud.

Technocracy from the viewpoint of an editor by Robert James Cromie.

Articles on Technocracy:

Beverly H. Burris. Technocracy at Work. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1993.

"Braverman, Taylorism, and Technocracy," in Rethinking the Labor Process (M. Wardell, T.Steiger and P. Meiksens, eds.). Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1999.

"Technocracy, Patriarchy, and Management," Pp. 61-77 in Men as Managers, Managers as Men(D. Collinson and J. Hearn, Eds.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1996."

Technocracy and Management Control Systems," Accounting, Management & InformationTechnology, (3):151-171, 1993 (with Jesse F Dillard).

"Technocracy and Gender in the Workplace," Social Problems, 36(2):165-180, April 1989.

"Technocracy and the Transformation of Organizational Control," Social Science Journal, 26(3):313-333, 1989."Technocracy and Work Organization," in David Knights and Hugh Wilmott (eds.) Managing theLabour Process, Gower Publication, 1986, pp. 166-185.

"Educational Control in the United States: From Theocracy to Technocracy," Pp 5-25 in JamesA. Wilson (ed.), New Directions for Higher Education. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass, 1982, (withWolf Heydebrand).