A technocrat is an advocate of technology and/or technocracy, or an individual who makes decisions based solely on technical information and not personal or public opinion. The term is also frequently used by journalists in the twenty-first century, can refer to individuals exercising governmental authority because of their knowledge.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- Genuine alternatives to existing social organizations seldom appear viable except in times of rapid cultural transformation or crisis. The Great Depression was such a crisis. The valley and the shadow of the depression sorely tempted the country to reject its beliefs and principles. The faith that the twenties had placed in big business and the free marketplace seemed an illusion. At least until the New Deal, representative politics offered little constructive help to those victimized by economic events beyond their control. Traditional culture, with its emphasis on the individual, the local community, and Protestant virtues, had been found wanting previously. Americans might be nostalgic about the cultural values of the past, but reversion to them was hardly likely. The crisis demanded new ways of viewing and organizing society, a new set of values.
- One of the first offers of an apparently plausible alternative came from a group of technicians and social engineers who had organized the Committee on Technocracy at Columbia University. When it first reached public attention, the committee was a research organization engaged in compiling a mammoth statistical survey of energy sources in North North America. As the chief spokesmen for the group, Howard Scott and Walter Rautenstrauch made their findings known in the fall and winter of 1933-34, and the public responded as if they had touched an exposed social nerve ending.
- William E. Akin, Technocracy and the American Dream: The technocrat movement, 1900-1941. Univ of California Press, 1977. p. ix
- The original technocrats offered a seemingly scientific explanation of explanation of Americas ills and increasingly moved toward proposing radical solutions. At the center of their view of America was the paradox of a society victimized by abundance and by technology. The march of science, invention, engineering, and their offspring — the machine and modern technology — possessed the potential for a material utopia. Instead, the workings of the machine operating within the traditional economic framework had brought the depression.
- In the technocrats' minds the ills of the economy were traceable not to the machine per se, but to an inefficient adjustment of the social order to modern high-energy technology. Separating business activities from the actual production and distribution of goods, they attacked the price- wage system, the very heart of capitalism, for creating an inefficiency so disastrous that the country hovered on the brink of an economic apocalypse.
- William E. Akin, Technocracy and the American Dream: The technocrat movement, 1900-1941. Univ of California Press, 1977. p. ix-x
- Although the label "technocrat" has come to be generally applied to the economy's technical elite, the technocracy movement was a short-lived episode of the thirties. It had little direct influence on the politics of the New Deal years. Nor has it influenced subsequent American thought to any lasting extent.
- William E. Akin, Technocracy and the American Dream: The technocrat movement, 1900-1941. Univ of California Press, 1977. p. xi
- More broadly, technocracy may be understood as ‘a theory of governmental decision making designed to promote technical solutions to political problems’ (Fischer, 1990, p. 18). The models and practices of engineering, honed and refined in the manipulation of the material world, are promised as the tools to produce progress and harmony in the social world (Akin, 1977; Segal, 1985).
- The governance of the American public schools in the accountability movement era includes four specific features of technocracy as philosophy and practice of educational management. First, it involves the intensive rationalisation of human activity, the actions of educators and students in the schools. Second, it embraces a top-down approach to educational management and governance. Third, it proceeds from a rigid, deterministic brand of positivist epistemology. Finally, it seeks improvements in schools and society through practices of social engineering.
- Scot Danforth, "Social justice and technocracy: Tracing the narratives of inclusive education in the USA." Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education (2015): 1-18.
- No technique is possible when men are free. When technique enters into the realm of social life, it collides ceaselessly with the human being to the degree that the combination of man and technique is unavoidable, and that technical action necessarily results in a determined result. Technique requires predictability and, no less, exactness of prediction. It is necessary, then, that technique prevail over the human being. For technique, this is a matter of life or death. Technique must reduce man to a technical animal, the king of the slaves of technique. Human caprice crumbles before this necessity; there can be no human autonomy in the face of technical autonomy. The individual must be fashioned by techniques, either negatively (by the techniques of understanding man) or positively (by the adaptation of man to the technical framework), in order to wipe out the blots his personal determination introduces into the perfect design of the organization.
- Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (1964), p. 138
- This book describes the role of technological experts and expertise in a democratic society. It places decision-making strategies - studied in organization theory and policy studies - into a political context. Fischer brings theory to bear on the practical technocratic concerns of these disciplines and hopes to facilitate the development of nontechnocratic discourse within these fields. The book adopts a critical perspective and addresses the restructuring of the policy sciences.
- Frank Fischer (1990), Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise. SAGE Publications; Book abstract.
- [Technocracy is] a system of governance in which technically trained experts rule by virtue of their specialized knowledge and position in dominant political and economic institutions.
- Frank Fischer (1990), Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise. SAGE Publications, p. 17.
H - L
- Technocratic human beings are spiritually dead. They are capable of anything, no matter how heinous, because they do not reflect upon or question the ultimate goal.
- When we turn to the regime of international trade law, as it has emerged in the post–Second World War era, we find an intellectual or conceptual foundation that, to be sure, assumes and assimilates the classic insights about the gains to wealth and welfare from free trade but is fundamentally concerned with the interdependency of different states’ trade and other economic policies—i.e., managing or constraining the external costs that states impose on other states by virtue of their policies. A paramount goal is the avoidance of a protectionist summum malum—the situation where domestic social or economic pressures lead some states to increase or reinstate barriers to trade, thus triggering a competitive reaction in kind by other states, and eventually a “race to the bottom” that is disastrous for the global economy. This sort of behavior was widely perceived by the founders of the Bretton Woods system to have led eventually to perilous instability in the interstate system and economic catastrophe in the interwar years—which phenomena were seen as having contributed to the climate that made fascism, and the Second World War itself, possible.
- Robert Howse, "From Politics to Technocracy-and Back Again: The Fate of the Multilateral Trading Regime." The American Journal of International Law 96.1 (2002): 94-117.
- The term "technocracy" has a different popular connotation in France than in the United States largely because of contrasting past experiences. Our view is strongly marked by the fanciful scheme popularized by the eccentric intellectual, Howard Scott, during the depression. Although the French imported the term "technocracy" from Scott's movement, they grafted it on to an older and more respected tradition of thought and practice. Modern technocratic doctrine in France dates back to the Comte de Saint-Simon, the early prophet of industrialism.
- Richard F. Kuisel (1967), Ernest Mercier; French Technocrat, p. viii
M - R
- As Antonio Gramsci recognized in his prison reflections from the end of the 1920s, the impact of United States technology offered a valuable key for understanding recent European development:'The European reaction to Americanism... must be examined attentively. Analysis of it will provide more than one element necessary for understanding the present situation of a series of states of the old continent and the political events of the post-war period.
- By Americanism Gramsci meant a whole complex of approaches to industrial production and labour relationships. 'Fordism' embodied one aspect, 'Taylorism' another; yet as a German commentator pointed out in 1924, these appeared to be merely as the most typical contributions to America's prodigious economic achievements as a whole. By the 1920s, scientific management - which extended the original approaches of Taylorism into the area's of labour productivity, technological efficiency, and even corporate organization - evoked enthusiasm among European emulators as 'a characteristic feature of American civilisation.'
- Charles S. Maier, "Between Taylorism and technocracy: European ideologies and the vision of industrial productivity in the 1920s." Journal of contemporary history 5.2 (1970): 27-61.
- By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian. For "totalitarian" is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests.
- Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (1964), p. 5
S - Z
- Technocracy originated in the winter of 1918-19 when Howard Scott formed a group of scientists, engineers, and economists that became known as the Technical Alliance--a research organization. Howard Scott was chief engineer of this group. The Alliance lasted about fourteen years. Its membership embraced many of America's top scientists and engineers, including such personalities as: Frederick Ackerman, architect; Leland Olds, statistician; Thorstein Veblen, economist; L. K. Comstock, electrical engineer, and Charles Steinmetz. It conducted what became known as the famous 'Energy Survey of North America.' Out of the survey, and under the guiding genius of Howard Scott, there emerged a completely new way of looking at life and human affairs. The social assets and liabilities (in a physical sense) of North America were laid bare for the first time. The social trends and tendencies were analyzed scientifically and for the first time in history a continental area (North America) had a glimpse of its future, or at least of the broad alternatives.
- Technocrat (1976), Nr. 257-271