Saturday, November 1, 2014

Henri de Saint-Simon and Technocracy

In "The Coming Of Post-industrial Society", Daniel Bell writes the following: (Page 76-77)
Industrial Society, as St. Simon insisted, was the application of technical knowledge to social affairs in a methodical, systematic way. With industrial society, thus, has come the technicien - the French usage is more apt than the English "technician," for its sense in French is much wider - the trained expert in the applied sciences. It has implied, too, that those who possessed such knowledge would exercise authority - if not power - in the society.

St. Simon's vision of industrial society, a vision of pure technocracy, was a system of planning and rational order in which society would specify its needs and organize the factors of production to achieve them. Industrial society was characterized by two elements, knowledge and organization. Knowledge, he said, was objective. No one had "opinions" on chemistry or mathematics; one either had knowledge or not. The metaphors St. Simon used for organization were an orchestra, a ship and an army, in which each person fulfils a function in accordance with his competence. Although St. Simon clearly outlined the process wherby a nascent bourgeoisie had superseded the feudal nobility, and though he predicted the rise of a large working class, he did not believe that the working class would succeed the bourgeoisie in power. As he tried to show in his sketch of historical development, classes do not rule, for society is always governed by an educated elite. The natural leaders of the working class would therefore be the industrialists and the scientists. He forsaw the dangers of conflict, but did not regard it as inevitable. If an organic society were created, men would accept their place as a principle of justice. The division of labor meant that some men would guide and others would be guided. In a society organized by function and capacity, doctors and engineers and chemists would employ their skills according to objective needs, not in order to gain personal power. These men would be obeyed not because they are masters but because they have technical competence; to be obedient to one's doctor, after all, is a spontaneous but rational act. For this reason the St. Simonians, in a set of phrases that later were used by Engels, gave their new social hierarchy the slogan, "From each according to his capacity, to each according to his performance," and the industrial society, as they describe it, was no longer the "rule over men, but the administration of things."

The administration of things - the substitution of rational judgement for politics - is the hallmark of technocracy.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, 'progressive' engineers first came up with Technocracy ideas Howard Scott and M. King Hubbert fitted that label to a 'T'.
    More information here!/group.php?gid=2205039391&v=wall

    Lets not confuse the word 'progressive' though with what pass's for progressive in the here and now.
    These days progressive's can be almost ignorant of history and they are especially ignorant of ideas such as Technocracy concepts. They are mostly pale reflections of the so called 'conservative' ... Libertarian even.... arms of culture.
    Technocracy on the other hand is the most 'radical' reform movement in the history of North America..... so nice to see the publisher of this blog understands its place in history.