Key questions, concepts and references in this article are; technocracy, technocrats, risk management, immune-system, common sense, consensus, bio-politics, wicked issues, great depression
1. Why is it that health is prioritized before economic wealth?
2. How technocrats have their influence in today’s bio-politics
3. And why it is important to avoid consensus policies by formulating multidisciplinary teams and independent organizations in dealing with wicked problems?
“A technocracy is an ideology or form of government wherein decision-makers are chosen for office based on their technical expertise and background. A technocracy differs from a traditional democracy in that individuals elected to a leadership role are chosen through a process that emphasizes their relevant skills and proven performance, as opposed to whether or not they fit the majority interests of a popular vote. The individuals that occupy such positions in a technocracy are known as ‘technocrats.'”
“Technocracy became a popular movement in the United States during the Great Depression when it was believed that technical professionals, such as engineers and scientists, would have a better understanding than politicians regarding the economy’s inherent complexity.”
Hence, the seeming parallel that it again must be those people fulfilling technocratic roles in contemporary society who are eager to jump to solutions from the top of their head, while remaining idle on their chair. Jumping right into the archetypal Messiah complex, the narcissistic reflex to think one can just tackle a wicked issue just like that is obviously a recipe for more disaster and unintended consequences resulting in the never ending refining process of learning how to make better decisions and choices and dealing with the ramifications of certain technological developments promoted and pipe lined right away for the deux ex machina.
Making technocrats better suited in building back better or just making a better world. This is obviously an arrogant assumption by the West, clinging desperately to its invented tools at its disposal, the techno-fix. And for what potential? It is nice to be able to prevent the consequences of wicked issues by postponing it somehow through some technofix, which works well for political programs that last a few years, but does not add up in thinking in terms of lifetimes and the future of the children of your children and their children will have if there is barely fertile topsoil left or trees to explore in. So what the inner technocrat speaks? Humanity will just continue to use the inventiveness of capitalistic systems to postpone a greater calamity until we are able to live on mars? This implies the inclined path that to be able to survive and thrive in a postmodern age of potential nuclear threat, erosion and basically more decay rather then less, it makes for hard times, hard times which in turn will make for comfortable times again for other people to be born again in the comfortable abundant state the planet seems to tend too. However, meanwhile I prefer listening to this; since that would take hundreds of years of planetary recovery without using technology. Cause why jump to technological means right away when there are clearly dangerous uses for them as well which only makes it counterproductive for the purpose technological means are created by probably well-intended people. Which is probably the whole wickedness of the issue, is that what is promoted as doing good, can more often then not, considering the wickedness of complex issues, do more harm then good.
Great tune for the gorillazz
- A technocracy is an ideological stance whereby government officials or policymakers, known as technocrats, are chosen due to their technical skills or expertise in a specific domain.
- Decisions made by technocrats are meant to be based on information derived from data and objective methodology rather than opinion.
- Critics complain that technocracy is undemocratic and disregards the will of the people.
‘Disregards the will of the people’ is interesting cause it implicitly asks the question if people are pure rational agents to begin with?
As governments of the democratic societies are following the expertise and advice of the so called technocrats in the ongoing crises, it becks the question why it is that health is prioritised over economic wealth as it is happening in today’s world of bio-politics?
Following my own research into the severity of Corona, one could make the argument that it isn’t the disease that should worry the people, but really the potential of enlarging the socioeconomic wounds that were already present in the ongoing neo-liberal experiment. Personally, I keep being amazed how easy politicians are lured into buying into the central banking system of debt, inflation and a collective tax system for the sake of solidarity. One of the greatest (financial) decisions of most countries are pushed forward without reconciling in depth the collateral damage today’s bio-politics will have on the the praised globalised markets and supply chains. This does not sound to solidarity in the way I like to envision it. This sounds more like solidarity through enforcing codependent relationships in the form of collective debt, more like dysfunctional solidarity.
A national debt with a size, for The Netherlands according to my research, probably more then 100 billion! With the ‘hope’, just hope really so far, not an actual economic strategy, to think that the ‘real, entrepreneurial economy’ will push the neo-liberal train of ‘infinite’ economic growth forward. This should be a no brainer, I think, in seeing that sacrificing the real economy for the Utilitarian message of ‘safety for all’ is coming from a place of unjustifiable fear of people and politicians. Considering people invest in a strong immune system, science shows only the elderly or others with a weaker immune-system will be hit. So selling a lie of safety for all and in so doing sacrificing the real economy, even if that is temporarily (1 yr), is pretty dramatic. As I have written about Michel Foucault in some previous articles (https://keesbergsol.nl/michel-foucault-and-the-rise-of-the-bio-political-apparatus/), he as well, mentioned that once a new institution or law is made like one can see now during a pandemic crises, these laws or bio-politics are not likely to disappear quickly. It is just not likely that once a law is made, deregulation will come after that. Most of the times new laws are made to continue to exist, even if over-regulation disrupts natural, societal life. So this only increases the likelihood the real economy will continue to suffer, especially when a second wave or a new virus will present itself, or off course a new proxy war. Maybe a computer virus will be another reason for greater bio-politics? I am not proposing that the argument that the strong should protect the weak in the sense that we all are in the thick of it together, rowing the boat of life together, should not be followed. How this is done is, therefore, up for debate and within the palms and minds of all who have agency.
Off course, business will come up with innovations and ways to adapt and navigate through the crises and the bio-politics, but the severity of bankrupts, job loss (around 30%) is so enormous, it could be laid parallel to the great depression with actual hunger for the lower classes. So much for your praised globalisation narrative that alleviates the world from poverty and war through economic trade only. History continue to show the parallel that a great crises leads to more social inequality, not less. Therefore, it is prevalent to explore these parallels of history and learn the lessons while being able to eat a loaf of bread. Cause with an empty stomach no stoic really enjoys being a stoic I guess.
This is due to the underlying classic struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and how capital and property rights tend to accumulate around those who have more access to it. After the downfall of 2008, in which structural economic problems were postponed up until this very day, the social inequality raised in America. To me America, as it is according to my research, the first country with the liberal market system we know of today, also the first that showed the enormous national debt it created to expand the size of its empire during and after the second world war and to this very day. America is in this regard further in the neo-liberal experiment of free market systems then certain countries in Europe for example. The effects of a systemic failure with 30% job loss in America would therefore be catastrophic if people continue to follow incompetent and dis-compassionate leaders. Think Biden who is not able to walk the stairs or formulate a sentence?
So this raises the question why is it that, for example, The Netherlands, but the world in general, follows the advice’s of the WHO and the RIVM without using other sources as well, like economic think tanks, independent researchers and experts, or for that sake any other source, like your own common sense. Is it not wise to collect data from different sources and independent organisations to prevent consensus decision making? Like it is in science, the answer ought to be ‘I don’t know’, there ought to be some sense of not knowing what is going on, cause that is something which would be actually true and a show case of humility in dealing with wicked and complex challenges laying ahead. Laying our trust into experts or technocrats that claim to have the answer as false prophets do, does not necessarily mean there could not be the danger of consensus forming among the officials in the bureaucratic apparatus. Max Weber himself said this would be a critique of such a rigid protocol to become highly qualified, since deviating from the norm in such an organisation would mean to fail within such a system. Protocol prevails, as one can see clearly in today’s failures of health systems in which the system is so rigid, doctors experimenting independently for possible cures or aids are not accounted for, ruining the creativity of those eager to experiment with new pathways. We listen to those highly qualified and specialised individuals put on paddle stools by the hegemony of our education systems, but those individuals or officials have to deal with the apparatus of rules, protocols and guidelines which undermine their ability to explore their own professional path as Weber said it would.
Poetically he said: ‘specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart’
This makes me come to my final point in why today’s crises is not really treated as a wicked issue I think it should be treated. There is a lot of emphasis on the severity of the virus itself with all the (justifiable) fear a new virus or crisis can generate. But then where is that common sense of collecting data from different sources rather then just the WHO or the RIVM? The common sense of dealing with economic health as well, since the calamity is not just a viral one.
A critique of the technocracy is that technocrats disregard the will of the people. A valid critique given that almost a quarter of many markets are (temporarily) sacrificed for reasons of risk management that are very debatable if you treat the virus as a multi-factorial and structural problem in socioeconomic systems of today. Problems I tried to dissect a little in this article and previous ones.
So even if technocrats are better suited to deal with the complexities of our socioeconomic systems then the sentimentality of politicians, there still has to be an ongoing critical debate into the nature of what makes a technocrat right to begin with? That someone has earned his or hers qualifications does not make him or her right, it only gives the person positional power to play the authoritarian role in their given professions in the given socioeconomic systems of their given society. Why follow these advice’s blindly when there are people like Max Weber who has some founded critiques on the bureaucratic apparatus, like consensus forming, and how a technocrat becomes to be a technocrat to begin with?
You then come to more fundamental questions; what knowledge really is? What is highly specialised knowledge practical value if it is not shed in the light of the broadness of the disciplines and complexities we are speaking of today?
A group of technocrats that claims to know what to do, sounds highly unreliable to me. A scientist would say he or she does NOT know, cause a real scientist would say, I think, that the complexity of how society goes forward from here on, is so enormous, that we would only know in retrospect what to do. Maybe time travellers are the answer? Xd Just like history tells us in retrospect all the steps to the point we are now at which makes sense. However, in the heat of the moment, science is not equipped to give us answers, because science would be humble enough to claim it does not know in times of flux in which the best approach is to take during calamities. When the mat is pulled from our feet, we need to learn how to fly, and this is something you do with more then just your intellect. Therefore, my message is just that we should be careful with a technocracy that claims it knows what it is doing because scientists are meant to go slow by rationalising about life and using data in retrospect. This rational part of the intelligent centre works slower then for example the sensitivities of the electromagnetic fields of ones heart among other possible sources of dealing with reality or life threatening situations. In a calamity situation you have to trust on pure instinct and intuition, while having a game plan, still alert on instinct to make efficient and effective decisions in the moment otherwise you simply perish due to lethargy, cognitive dissonance and stumbling of stairs. Rather then thinking about how the tsunami of calamity will hit you exactly, it is better to just run up hill maybe or just let it happen going full on amor fati, finding peace with dying rather then bringing everyone along, so called safe heaven boat trip?
And in times where things are speeding up, there is a call for common sense I believe and looking and listening to more then just following empirical data. It does not make sense to solve today’s crises with more (collective) debt, you do not need to be a scientist or an economist to get that. Any farmer can feel that it is not a sustainable and viable option to run a farm in that way.
Just like anyone can understand that a business created around addiction is maybe not worth saving, yet still this is the world as Max Weber said as well in which we have lost virtuous values cause of goal orientated thinking.
And what we are going to see now I think, is the push and pull effect in which (more) calamities and suffering will challenge the views of goal orientated thinking and make people think about where those lost values where, and what those values might hold for the (near) future and why they are important to begin with so that during hard times there might be easy times again cause of the human spirit that will prevail due to those remaining grounded in virtues and values that resonate with what is needed for.
A quote of Thomas Sowell maybe would be a nice ending to this article;
“The constrained vision sees the evils of the world as deriving from the limited and unhappy choices available given the inherent moral and intellectual limitations of human beings”
So lets celebrate in our ignorance I would say, and continue to learn in co-creation the type of reality we create for ourselves.
Hope it was a nice and interesting read,