Technocracy

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Technocracy has been a subject which has been heavily discussed over recent years. This has been fuelled by the development of technology, knowledge of scientists and change in political structures in recent years. Debate often ensues about whether technocracy is actually a binding force on politics or whether it is simply a tool used by politics to make informed decisions. This essay will explore the concept of technocracy and how it can enhance our understanding of political power. The definition of technocracy is stated by Gunnel;

“In general, technocracy has been taken to mean the government (or control) of society by scientists, technicians, or engineers – or at least the exercise of political authority by virtue of technical competence and expertise in the application of knowledge” (Gunnell, 1982) This means that technocracy refers to technical processes dominating politics so that decisions are made not based on political debate, but by processes developed by scientists, technicians or engineers so that making decisions becomes autonomous. Technocracy first emerged in 1919 by William Smith, an engineer. This concept was fuelled in the 1930s due to the Great Depression. After coming out of the Great Depression, scientists, technicians and engineers alike were committed to reforming society to be more consistent with the novel by Edward Bellamy called Looking Backward. This novel envisaged a society which was based on a technocratic model. This was further encouraged by the works of Thorstein Veblen and Frederick Taylor who asserted that governing representatives should and eventually will, be overridden by technical experts. Although this seems as though it would take the human influence out of politics, the aim of this technocratic structure was to rid the system of corrupt politicians and processes I favour of rational decisions based on technology. By doing this, society would be rid of elected officials who are easily corrupted and untruthful in place of technical bureaucrats who are experts in their field and therefore in a better position for decision making. Many books have been written in the past demonstrating technocratic societies and how this model could be applied such as in Tomasso Campanella’s City of the Sun in 1602 and Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis in 1627. These books did not clearly set out a methodology of implementing such structures or they results they intended to achieve in terms of consistency with the dominance of civil society, such as in New Atlantis. Following on from this was the works of Henri de Saint-Simon. This was the first pure model of a technocratic society. He developed the idea of having and elite group of planners, engineers, scientists and industrialists to create a social order and solve social problems based on a rational, technical process. This would lead to governmental establishments being replaced by a group of technical specialists to make decisions. These theories did have opposition. Max Weber believed that bureaucracy is the best form of administration however processes become self-directed and this is not consistent with the role of a politician. Weber preached that although having an autonomous process for decision making would keep it free of the biases and influences of societal or political ideologies, by having technical elites in decision making roles would lead to more representation in the higher class of which technocrats would typically be chosen from. The main difference between the role of a bureaucrat and a politician is that a politician should be measured on the amount of support they are able to generate in a political environment whereas a bureaucrat would only be measured on their suitability and efficiency and completing tasks. By mixing the measures of these positions, confusion would be created as the roles slowly fused and created political and societal issues. Many other writers such as George Orwell have also suggested that technocratic...
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