Technocracy is a proposed system of governance in which decision-makers are selected on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge. This system explicitly contrasts with the notion that elected representatives should be the primary decision-makers in government,[1] though it does not necessarily imply eliminating elected representatives. Leadership skills for decision-makers are selected on the basis of specialized knowledge and performance, rather than political affiliations or parliamentary skills.[2]

The term technocracy was originally used to advocate the application of the scientific method to solving social problems. Concern could be given to sustainability within the resource base, instead of monetary profitability, so as to ensure continued operation of all social-industrial functions. In its most extreme sense technocracy is an entire government running as a technical or engineering problem and is mostly hypothetical. In more practical use, technocracy is any portion of a bureaucracy that is run by technologists. A government in which elected officials appoint experts and professionals to administer individual government functions and recommend legislation can be considered technocratic.[3][4] Some uses of the word refer to a form of meritocracy, where the ablest are in charge, ostensibly without the influence of special interest groups.[5] Critics have suggested that a "technocratic divide" challenges more participatory models of democracy, describing these divides as "efficacy gaps that persist between governing bodies employing technocratic principles and members of the general public aiming to contribute to government decision making."[6]

History of the term

The term technocracy is derived from the Greek words τέχνη, tekhne meaning skill and κράτος, kratos meaning power, as in governance, or rule. William Henry Smyth, a California engineer, is usually credited with inventing the word technocracy in 1919 to describe "the rule of the people made effective through the agency of their servants, the scientists and engineers", although the word had been used before on several occasions.[5][7][8][9] Smyth used the term Technocracy in his 1919 article "'Technocracy'—Ways and Means to Gain Industrial Democracy," in the journal Industrial Management (57).[10] Smyth's usage referred to Industrial democracy: a movement to integrate workers into decision making through existing firms or revolution.[10]

In the 1930s, through the influence of Howard Scott and the technocracy movement he founded, the term technocracy came to mean, 'government by technical decision making', using an energy metric of value. Scott proposed that money be replaced by energy certificates denominated in units such as ergs or joules, equivalent in total amount to an appropriate national net energy budget, and then distributed equally among the North American population, according to resource availability.[11][1]

There is in common usage found the derivative term technocrat. The word technocrat can refer to someone exercising governmental authority because of their knowledge,[12] or "a member of a powerful technical elite", or "someone who advocates the supremacy of technical experts".[13][3][4] McDonnell and Valbruzzi define a prime minister or minister as a technocrat if "at the time of his/her appointment to government, he/she: has never held public office under the banner of a political party; is not a formal member of any party; and is said to possess recognized non-party political expertise which is directly relevant to the role occupied in government".[14] In Russia, the President of Russia has often nominated ministers based on technical expertise from outside political circles, and these have been referred to as "technocrats".[15][16]