Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Is the problem technocracy not postmodernism?

The idea of a university as a circle of professorial peers, each with apprentices and each practicing a craft, tends to be replaced by the idea of a university as a set of research bureaucracies, each containing an elaborate division of labor, and hence of intellectual technicians. For the efficient use of these technicians, if for no other reason, the need increases to codify procedures in order that they may be readily learned.
I was struck by this observation - from C. Wright Mills, "The Sociological Imagination". It feels an essential truth, a description of the university's journey from a collegiate environment where knowledge is explored to a complex bureaucracy dedicated to the production of research. There are a lot of people culpable in this journey - Mills points to what others called the 'military-industrial complex' (with a side swipe at research-driven advertising agencies) and to 'human engineers' in bureaucracy:
To say that ‘the real and final aim of human engineering’ or of ‘social science’ is ‘to predict’ is to substitute a technocratic slogan for what ought to be a reasoned moral choice. That too is to assume the bureaucratic perspective within which—once it is fully adopted—there is much less moral choice available.
We hear from Jordan Peterson and others that the problem is postmodernism and relativism. I've a little inkling that empiricism, an obsession with uncontextualised data, is perhaps more of a problem. Technocracy is far more the core ideology of the 'liberal elite' than is postmodernism - it is the idea that bureaucracy can discover a solution through the collection and analysis of data without reference to any moral foundation that sits at the heart of our disconnection with government.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Major cities, such as capitals, have a significant issue to address when the market-place for property/accommodation has free rein.

In London, the local authorities have spent billions manfully trying to maintain a broad mixture of occupancy within its central zones, contrary to market pressures. Compare and contrast with Paris, where all the 'lower orders' have been strategically shunted off to the distant suburbs, with different consequences - New York is also heading that way, but as a reflection of the market-place rather than deliberate planning.

Which is better? It can be argued that, up to the last century, all cities developed organically, gradually shifting all the time to reflect the issues and needs of the day and that we should do a 'New York' and let it find its own level, rather than any futile attempt to defy the natural market. If you subscribe to the view that you can't ever really defeat a market, probably better to lie back and enjoy it.