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The technocracy is a form of government or administration should build in which all actions on scientific and technical knowledge. Scientists , engineers and other scientifically and technically competent people , often also from the field of business , replace politicians . The focus is on the rational, effective planning and implementation of goal-oriented projects. While attention is focused entirely on ways and means, the importance of parties , democratic decision-making and political decision-making processes with regard to the choice of societal goals diminishes . Technocrats form their theses on the assumption that there is no ideological way to build state stability and thus to ensure the well-being of the people. Technocratic cabinets are mostly typical representatives of the non-party governments .

The term is derived from the ancient Greek τέχνη téchne , German 'skill' and κράτος kratos 'rule'. A correct translation would therefore be “rule of experts”. However, the term is a new creation from the 20th century and is closely linked to the technocratic movement in the USA of the 1920s, as well as the then widespread crisis of democracy and the initial fascination emanating from the Soviet Union and its planned economy . Colloquially , a technocrat is also used derogatory to refer to a person who has a strictly rational-technical worldview and tends to neglect “soft” factors such as sociological or psychological aspects of a topic.


Features of technocracy are:


The term was coined at the end of the First World War in the USA, with concepts of the American sociologist Thorstein Veblen and prominent members of the technocratic movement pioneering. Veblen argued that engineers should take over the helm of any state as they are best placed to operate cybernetic systems.

The basic idea is much older, however. The “Sun State” by Tommaso Campanella (1602) or “New Atlantis ” by Francis Bacon (1627) can be considered technocratic utopias . With industrialization , the technocratic utopia took on a new, more realistic character in the 19th century . Henri de Saint-Simon and his pupil Auguste Comte formulated social concepts in the spirit of positivism , in which instrumental reason was granted an almost unrestricted right to rule. The political philosophy of Plato can also be understood as technocratic.

The Thorstein Veblen, as well as from Walter Rautenstrauch (1880-1951) idea represented the end of the First World War, engineers would the common good best manage is, both in the context of a fundamental crisis of capitalism engage as well as the Russian Revolution to Respectively. The technocracy of the interwar period, which under Howard Scott condensed into a political party as “Technocracy Inc.”, saw itself as the “third way” between capitalism and socialism . In Germany , this was taken up by Günther Bugge and others in the early 1930s , but their technocracy movement was banned in 1933 when the National Socialists came to power . Important ideologues of National Socialism such as Gottfried Feder took up technocratic ideas in this sense. Of course, technocratic elements are also deeply rooted in the Soviet modernization project, as outlined by Lenin at the VIII Soviet Congress in 1920 (“Communism - that is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country”). And the US “ New Deal ” under Franklin D. Roosevelt can also be interpreted as a technocratic project.

The technocratic idea that economic development can most successfully be achieved through powerful staff of experts formed the basis of the American reconstruction plan for Western Europe after 1945 ( Marshall Plan ). Technocratic planning subsequently established itself under the heading of planification, particularly in France . The French plans, which were largely concretized by Jean Monnet , for their part formed an essential basic element for the European Union . Technocratic planning became very important in all western welfare states in the period after the Second World War . Under Economics Minister Karl Schiller it became effective even in the Federal Republic of Germany , where ordoliberalism had previously been formative.

In the 1950s, the technocracy topic was taken up, particularly in France, by Jean Meynaud (1914–1972) and Jacques Ellul , who complained about the loss of value-oriented options for action in the face of a technology that was developing dynamically. A technocracy debate developed in Germany in the early 1960s, based on Helmut Schelsky's lecture “Man in Scientific Civilization”. In this he developed, following on from Arnold Gehlen's image of man, who viewed man as a lack of beings who tried to compensate for these deficiencies with the help of technology, the idea of ​​a "technical state". In the modern technological world, people have developed a new relationship to the world and to their fellow human beings. He speaks of a "technology that has become universal" that extends to all areas of life. This universal technology follows the logic of the highest efficiency , which gradually also encompasses people's thinking. However, this has consequences for people: now the means determine the ends and no longer the ends determine the means. So there is a legality of its own, that is, every technical success creates new problems that have to be solved again with technology. This constraint replaces the rule of people over people. Therefore, there is no longer any need for democratic participation in the state, because "modern technology does not need any legitimacy (...) as long as it functions optimally". Thereupon the democratic state will wither away and remain an empty shell. A lively discussion broke out in the following about these theses, which was carried out mainly in the magazine "Atomzeitalter". In the 1960s, have been built on the critique of instrumental reason of Max Horkheimer , especially Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas opposed the arrogance of a technocracy. Hermann Lübbe also made significant contributions to the topic . However, by the end of the 1980s at the latest, the scientific debate on technocracy came to a standstill in Germany.

Technocracy Definitions

The technocracy problem points far beyond its origins. Insofar as it asks about the relationship between scientific-technical rationality and modern statehood, it is a very ambivalent topic, which is still topical today. There are three levels of definition of technocracy as rule:

Political power is legitimized through knowledge and expertise (in the scientific-technical sense of the European Enlightenment)
The political sphere of action as a sphere of normative decisions is increasingly decreasing in the course of mechanization. Technology gets out of control ( Langdon Winner ) and ultimately makes the political sphere as a whole disappear.
instrumental reason
A specific way of thinking that serves the capitalist industrial system guides social action in all areas of social activity.

From these three definition patterns, three theoretical traditions are derived, each of which has an approving-utopian or a negative- dystopian character:

Elite theories
who think through the emergence of a competent expert class in a positive or negative way. After Plato, Saint-Simon and Thorstein Veblen, Alfred Frisch , for example, conjured up the potential of a pure government of experts as a desirable future vision. On the other hand, Jean Meynaud in particular , and later Daniel Bell and John Kenneth Galbraith , opposed the perspective that experts, as knowledge carriers , could assume an accentuated position of power in the emerging information society .
Structural theories
who ascribe an immense potential impact on society to the momentum of technical development in a positive or negative way. In positive terms, there are hopes that technical progress will make social problems obsolete. Such a structure of reasoning can be found in Lenin's writings. But the argumentation of Bill Gates works similarly , who in "The Road Ahead" 1995 the new information and communication technologies, v. a. the Internet , attributed the ability to realize a “smooth” capitalism. The negative versions of structural theory are numerous. They lament the loss of freedom that modern man has to reckon with because of the increasing mechanization of his environment. The formulations of Jacques Ellul , Helmut Schelsky and Herbert Marcuse were particularly effective .
Ideology criticism
which relate the rule of instrumental reason to the capitalist industrial system. The most important voice in this choir was Jürgen Habermas ( Technology and Science as "Ideology" ), 1969.

More voices critical of technocracy

In addition to Herbert Marcuse, Martin Heidegger , Günther Anders , Gotthard Günther and Erich Fromm are or were prominent critics of technocracy in Germany. Internationally, u. a. George Orwell (in his essays on fascism : technocracy is the preliminary stage of fascism), his friend Leopold Kohr , the co-editor of his current book series Günther Witzany and currently Noam Chomsky have made critical comments about technocracy. See also : social criticism , dystopia , Cyberpunk .

In the 1968 movement , this criticism of the technocracy was taken up on a broad basis. Technocracy and the rational, compulsory thinking associated with it were countered by artists and intellectuals, for example, with concepts such as subjectivity , individual desire , self-realization and democratization (up to economic democracy , see May 68 ). Of course, it is part of the ambivalence of the topic that the society-changing visions of the New Left were not free from technocratic aspects.

Götz Aly and Susanne Heim describe the Third Reich and the associated rulership plans for Eastern Europe of the General Plan East as well as the annihilation of European Jews as the result of an expertocracy. So " Auschwitz [...] was to a large extent the result of mercilessly instrumentalized reason".

Hermann Lübbe takes a differentiated position on technocracy. According to him, technocracy is required where there is an objectification of the decision-making situation through evidence of what is right. This is imperative for rational politics, which is why politics depends on scientific advice. If politics were to forego technocratic elements, only the perspective of the rule of people over people would remain. Karl Popper too cannot be unconditionally regarded as a critic of technocracy. In his work "The Open Society and Its Enemies", he represents a political concept that is directed against prophetic ideologies and instead propagates a piecemeal social technology that is supposed to be dependent on falsifiable, i.e. scientific, insights. In Lübbe's sense, this would be exactly the kind of technocratic politics that he himself would like. Lübbe actually represented this kind of politics as a politician in North Rhine-Westphalia in the 1970s. At that time he was generally regarded as a "right-wing" SPD man. Rigorous criticism of the technocrats, on the other hand, was brought forward by Habermas, who especially argued with Lübbe personally about this point. At the time, Lübbe's view was that people who don't understand anything about politics should better stay out of such matters, with which he alluded to Habermas.


“Technology itself can promote authoritarianism as well as freedom, scarcity as well as abundance, the expansion of hard labor and its abolition. National Socialism is a striking example of how a highly rationalized and fully mechanized economic system of the highest productivity can function in the interests of totalitarian oppression and prolonged shortages. (...) "

“In order to understand the real meaning of these changes, it is necessary to give a brief overview of traditional rationality and of the forms of individuality that are being dissolved at the present stage of the machine age. The human individual, whom the pioneers of the bourgeois revolution had raised to the nucleus and the highest purpose of society, represented values ​​that obviously contradict those who rule society today. "

Expertocracy is a combination of administration and experts, in which strategy papers are constantly being written with bite-sized information about what politicians should know from their point of view. The political community, that is the citizens, is completely outside of this process. The fateful thing about it is that on the technical level all parliamentary forms of traffic are adhered to - but at the same time the planning processes are inherently undemocratic because they only take place in the duality between techno and politician politics. In the end it says: There was no alternative to what we decided . "

See also


  • Günther Anders : The Antiquity of Man, Volume 1: About the Soul in the Age of the Second Industrial Revolution . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-47644-9 (EA Munich 1956).
  • Thorstein Veblen: The Engineers and the Price System. Cosimo Books, New York 2006, ISBN 1-59605-892-7 (reprinted by EA New York 1921).
  • Jürgen Habermas: Technology and Science as “Ideology” , Frankfurt am Main 1968.
  • Jürgen Habermas: In the wake of technocracy , Kleine Politische Schriften XII, Frankfurt am Main 2013.
  • Martin Heidegger : The question of technology. In: Emil Preetorius (Ed.) The arts in the technical age . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1956.
  • Klaus Schubert: Politics in the “Technocracy”. On some aspects of contemporary cultural crisis theory. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 1981, ISBN 3-593-32960-3 (also dissertation, University of Munich 1980).
  • Hans Lenk (Ed.): Technocracy as Ideology. Socio-philosophical contributions to a political dilemma . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-17-236061-X .
  • Neil Postman : The Technopoly. The power of technology and the incapacitation of society (“Technopoly”, 1992). 4th edition. Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 1992, ISBN 3-10-062413-0 .
  • Erich Fromm : The Revolution of Hope. For a humanization of technology . 2nd Edition. Dtv, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-423-15035-1 (EA Frankfurt / M. 1981).
  • Brigitte Reck: Between Democracy and Technocracy. The Role of Expertise for the European Parliament. Ibidem Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89821-236-X .
  • Raimund Krämer: Topic: Technocracy. On the finiteness of a vital concept (Welt Trends; Volume 18). Berliner Debatte Wissenschaftsverlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-931703-19-3 .
  • Axel Görlitz, Hans-Peter Burth: Political control. A study book. Leske + Budrich Verlag, Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-8100-1449-4 .
  • Don K. Rowney: Transition to Technocracy. The structural origins of the Soviet administrative state. Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1989, ISBN 0-8014-2183-7 .
  • Gottfried Rickert: Technocracy and Democracy. On the technocracy problem in state theory including European law. Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 1983, ISBN 3-8204-5428-4 (also dissertation, University of Freiburg / B. 1982).
  • Jacques Ellul : The Technological Society ("La technique ou l'enjeu du siècle", 1954). Vintage Books, New York 2004, ISBN 0-394-70390-1 (reprinted from New York 1967 edition).
  • Stefan Willeke: The technocracy movement in North America and Germany between the world wars. A comparative analysis , studies on technological, economic and social history (Ed. Hans-Joachim Braun), Volume 7, Frankfurt: Peter Lang 1995
  • Stefan Willeke: The technocracy movement between the world wars , history of technology, Volume 62, 1995, pp. 221–246
  • Günther Witzany: megalomania, speed frenzy, union fever. Texts about the end of the religion of progress. With a foreword by Leopold Kohr. Unipress Verlag, Salzburg. 1992, ISBN 3-85419-117-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ernst R. Berndt:From Technocracy To Net Energy Analysis. Engineers, Economists And Recurring Energy Theories Of Value(PDF; 4.0 MB) (Studies in Energy and the American Economy. Discussion Paper; No. 11). Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Revised September 1982.
  2. Stefan Willeke : The technocracy movement between the world wars and the "culture factor technology" , in: Burkhard Dietz, Michael Fessner, Helmut Maier (eds.): Technical intelligence and "culture factor technology" : cultural ideas of technicians and engineers between the German Empire and the early Federal Republic, Waxmann, 1996, p. 203.
  3. ^ Günther Bugge : Technocracy , in: Technik Voran! , Volume 14, 1932, pp. 296-299 and pp. 313-316.
  4. ^ "Atomzeitalter" magazine, 1961.
  5. Helmut Schelsky, p. 458.
  6. Günther Witzany: Mensch - Technik - Zukunft , Mitteilungen Österreichisches Getränke Institut 4, 2005, pp. 68–72.
  7. Götz Aly , Susanne Heim : Vordenker der Vernichtung , Hamburg 1991, ISBN 3-455-08366-8 .
  8. ^ Hermann Lübbe: On the political theory of technocracy , in: ders .: Theory and Decision , Freiburg 1971, pp. 32–53.
  9. The future will be very fragmented , taz of October 22, 2010.
  10. Volume 2: About the Destruction of Life in the Age of the Third Industrial Revolution. Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-31784-7 .