Monday, January 25, 2010

Capitalism and Technocracy

One of the developments of late capitalism that's been treated earlier in the 20th century but hasn't popularly been given good coverage lately is the rise of the technocrat in companies. What this refers to is the growing specialization of design and engineering done in order to plan complex products then manufactured by workers. Capitalism has grown to depend more on the engineers and designers, as well as on the management that coordinates the implementation of the ideas and that coordinates the work of the different departments themselves. Some of this has been referred to as the birth of bureaucracy, but I think that that's an a-historical term that's too general to really have relevant meaning. What we're dealing with is a capitalist bureaucracy with a technocratic element subordinated to capitalist demands. Technocracy isn't necessarily a capitalist creation; the Soviet Union had a well developed technocratic elite. However, the existence of a class of people being in charge of developing products for society, while the rest of society works to make those products or passively consumes them, perpetuates a division of labor that could potentially be as damaging as that of capitalism itself. If I'm making fundamental decisions on behalf of someone else, with only minimal input being received in return, then I'm essentially controlling them. If we want a society where corporate exploitation is abolished and where people manufacture goods based in large part on social utility as opposed to personal self interest, we should also be thinking of how decision making power structures society as well. Direct popular input and a means of inculcating social responsibility into the technocrats could go a ways towards mitigating some of the potential contradictions (in the Marxist sense of the word) that could arise.

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