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September 06, 2006



I don't think this is quite the case - but, mind you, I haven't read the post to which you refer and likely won't. Technocratic administration is a variant of bureaucratic administration and, as such, is antagonistic to both aristocracy and democracy. Aristocracy generally makes reference to birth, blood, family, or the right of conquest; democracy generally makes reference to the abstract equality of all people qua humans. Technocratic administration is something very foreign to the aristocratic; viz, rational domination secured through techno-scientific means. Technocracy is formally democratic insofar as it assumes the abstract equality of all (anyone could be a technocrat given proper education confirmed by professional certification) and, once in the system, there is a regular progression through the ranks that, except perhaps at the highest levels, is relatively autonomous from politics as such.

The more interesting argument to make and pursue is the issue of the "natural aristocracy" that would immanently emerge from the demos as theorized by the "Founding Fathers" - the Senate, afterall, is the traditional home of the aristocracy qua legislation. Tocqueville has an extended discussion on the need for a "new aristocracy" to emerge in the eastern colonies from the industrial bourgeoisie. Bernard Manin in his book on representational government discusses "natural aristocracy" at length.

That government has a historical fear of the people - the lowest orders, the poor, the disenfranchised, etc - is long established. Afterall, they have sheer number on their side, along with spite, hatred, and desire. A significant of political theory is concerned with keeping them out of power and keeping from being interested in power, but all the while recognizing that, in some sense, they grant "legitimacy" to the very system that keeps them in their place. In a sense, it is the poor who have to believe that they deserve to be poor and that the others deserve to be rich.


So my questions would thus be:

1. Is technocracy of this form a modern phenomenon? (I'm guessing the answer is yes.)

2. To what extent does technocracy inhibit aristocracy as such? I mean, aristocracy refers to "right of blood, conquest", etc, as you say. But technocracy is another "best people", so to speak...


Yes to the first. It wasn't until Louis XIV's regime adopted mercantilism as an offical economic policy that government became psedu-scientific. This is the sense in which "statistics" is quite literally "the measurement of the state." Before that, government was largely traditional; indeed, government in our present sense of the word hasa its invention with the state which also also didn't exist in our present sense until the end of the seventeenth century - and it isn't until the mid-nineteenth century that the state and its mode of government comes into its own, with the invention of public health and medicine, the transformation of disease from epidemic to endemic, the discovery of regularities at the level of population (mortality, health, birth, growth, etc), and so on.

This brings us to the second question. It isn't until these developments have occurred - i.e., the discovery of an 'objective' thing, the population, that possesses its own regularities at the statistical level - that government becomes institutionalized as a professional practice, with an entirely new set of entry conditions and norms of its own. At this time, it becomes possible to literally engage in the technical management of the state through technical means; which is, in essence, the transformation from what might be called "administration" to "technocracy."

Now, there's an important distinction to be made - and it is almost Platonic in a sense - the best person to pilot a ship is a sea captain, the best person to command an army is a general, the best person to make shoes is a cobbler, and so on. Aristocracy believes in its own "goodness" in a general sense; technocracy points to particular people or particular types of people who acquire their skills and knowledges in a normalized and controlled setting as "good." Indeed, it isn't even the people as such who are deemed "good," but, rather, the skills they possess.

I hope I'm being clear!

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