The Technocrat and The Anarchist

I don’t know about you
But I’ve come to realise that the technocrat is the bane of our existence.
Ken Loach’s extraordinarily beautiful film, “I, Daniel Blake” shows it.
The work of Jesse Dillard on administrative evil shows it.
Our everyday experiences with IT, Finance and HR,
And bureaucracies in general often show it.
What to do?

The first thing to realise
Is that technocrats operate according to their own rules.
And the core of those rules means that they don’t care,
About you, the individual.
They can’t.
Their systems would dissolve,
Like the brown sugar witch.
They can’t handle human variation.

These rules exist for one reason and one reason only
To protect the “greater good”.
It is Stalinist in its thinking, also Fascist
This technocracy.
And the sacrificial lamb in both cases is the individual.

Adam Curtis had a bit to say about this
In his article “The Curse of TINA”
Have a look here before we go on. It’s a long read but worth the effort…
Eye-opening, no?

In summary, if you want to change something,
Change the way people think about that thing.
If you want to change the way people think,
Change the climate of opinion that surrounds them.

“Instead, Hayek said, Fisher should try and do something much more ambitious – he should try and change the very way politicians think – and the way to do that was to alter the climate of opinion that surrounded the political class. Fisher wrote down what Hayek said to him.

“He explained his view that the decisive influence in the battle of ideas and policy was wielded by intellectuals whom he characterised as the ‘second-hand dealer in ideas’.”

But an idea or approach that works in one domain
Does not automatically mean it will work in another

“The real victor at the end of the second world war had been the ideology of science. A new, powerful group of technocrats had risen up in America, Britain and the Soviet Union who had used scientific ideas to plan and organise the war effort. They now believed they could apply the same methods in peacetime – to transform their societies.

“State planning was technocratic and was thus seen as the way forward. Old conservative ideas of free trade were seen as traditional and non-scientific, and thus bad.

“Hayek’s solution was to turn this round. He made the idea of the free market technocratic as well. He transformed it from being a fusty old set of prejudices and traditions into a scientifically based free-market system for the modern age.

“He did this by turning Adam Smith’s idea of the Invisible Hand into a cybernetic system of information exchange.”

We will return to this “ideology of science” in later pages
And see how it has permeated everything we do
In our organisations.
The key is Hayek’s realisation
That he had to make capitalism technocratic.
He borrowed from the left, to entrench the right.

Why is this important?
It gives us context.

We’re well and truly there now, no question.
No doubt.

And that means that, from the perspective of the individual,
It is no longer the collective vs the individual, the classic left vs right argument.
No, we’re beyond that now.
Because technocrats frame both left and right.

What does that mean for you?
Several things.
It means we have to find ways to be a bit subversive if we want to get anything done.
Because rules are, well, meant to be broken.
But broken intelligently.
Breaking rules intelligently means having a deep understanding of why they were formed and the impact they have on the organisation in which you work.
And how far you can push the limits.

That has to do with risk.
Your appetite for risk.
You need to be a risk taker in order to be a craftsman.
And all change makers are craftsmen.
They craft.
Sometimes they’re crafty.

The bigger issue is about technocrats.
Because they now provide the context.
In days gone by
The battle was between the communists and the anarchists

See Lenin and Bakunin for some insightful correspondence
The anarchists were fighting against
The weight of the state.
No longer.
The weight of the state has been replaced
By the tools of the technocrat.

Douglas Rushkoff has something to say about it here
The really important part is tucked away towards the bottom,
“The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug.”
So all those foibles that make us creative are bugs.
To be squashed.
Or updated out.

Which leads us to…

The importance of ideas