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Technocracy is a hypothetical form of government in which engineers, scientists, and other technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields. The term technocracy derives from the Greek words tekhne meaning skill and kratos meaning power, as in government, or rule. Thus the term technocracy denotes a system of government where those who have knowledge, expertise or skills compose the governing body. In a technocracy decision makers would be 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]

Contents

Precursors and related concepts

Before the term technocracy was coined technocratic or quasi-technocratic ideas involving governance by technical experts were promoted by various individuals, most notably early socialist theorists such as Henri de Saint-Simon. This was expressed by the belief in state ownership over the economy, with the function of the state being transformed from one of political rule over men into a scientific administration of things and a direction of processes of production under scientific management.[3][4]

Development of the term

William Henry Smyth, a Californian engineer, invented the word "technocracy" in 1919 to describe "the rule of the people made effective through the agency of their servants, the scientists and engineers".[5] Smyth used the term "Technocracy" in his 1919 article "'Technocracy'—Ways and Means to Gain Industrial Democracy," in the journal Industrial Management (57).[6] However, Smyth's usage referred to Industrial democracy: a movement to integrate workers into decision making through existing firms or revolution.[6] The term came to mean government by technical decision making in 1932.[6]

Technocracy and engineering

Technocracy is one solution to a problem faced by engineers in the early twentieth century. Following Samuel Haber[7] 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 United States. 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.[8]

See also

References

  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. http://www.berghahnbooks.com/journals/th. Retrieved 2006-12-15. 
  2. ^ History and Purpose of Technocracy by Howard Scott
  3. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, Saint Simon; Socialism
  4. ^ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, on Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch01.htm: "In 1816, he declares that politics is the science of production, and foretells the complete absorption of politics by economics. The knowledge that economic conditions are the basis of political institutions appears here only in embryo. Yet what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production."
  5. ^ Barry Jones (1995, fourth edition). Sleepers, Wake! Technology and the Future of Work, Oxford University Press, p. 214.
  6. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary 3rd edition (Word from 2nd edition 1989)
  7. ^ Haber, Samuel. Efficiency and Uplift Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
  8. ^ 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.
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