Technocracy is the idea that experts should govern. For the common good, presumably. It makes a certain amount of sense, given how irrational our politics seem to be right now. So, technocracy is seductive.
In fact, it’s an idea as old as politics itself. We begin the first of a three-part series telling stories of technocracies past, present, and future.
In this first part of this episode, Ira Basen tells us the story of Technocracy, Inc. This 1930s movement aimed to install non-democratic North American “technate” where we only work from the ages of 25 to 45, for 16 hours a week. It might surprise you to learn that Elon Musk’s grandfather was one of its leaders. Basen produced an extended CBC: Ideas documentary on the movement, and it’s worth checking out. (Programming note: we also have this full story produced as a video documentary, on YouTube).
Then, perhaps the most influential intellectual today: Noam Chomsky. What is the place of technical expertise in a radical left project? Chomsky’s famous “Responsibility of Intellectuals” is one of the best critiques of the liberal technocratic intelligentsia. However, his lesser-known writing on Mikhail Bakunin’s predictions about how the Marxist intellectual vanguard would “beat the people with the people’s stick” offers a warning to left technocrats. We have a wide-ranging conversation with Professor Chomsky on his critique of intellectuals, the place of technical expertise in a radical left project, his anarchist theory of expertise, and his thoughts on popular reason and popular intelligence. (Programming note: we also have this extended video interview, also available on YouTube).