Between Technocracy and Populism

I’m confused by this political science paper I’m editing. The guy wants to find a middle way for the EU between two kinds of authoritarianism: technocracy and populism.

I understand the first word to mean ”rule by academic experts who don’t care what the voters say”, and the second to mean ”rule by uneducated clowns who will do whatever gets them votes”. This doesn’t seem to apply to Sweden, where both our elected representatives and the voters typically have middling education, or in a worldwide perspective, an enormously high general level of education.

There are hardly any PhDs in Swedish government, so we run no risk of technocracy. And we have so few uneducated and unemployed male yokels that the populist Xenophobic Party gets only c. 10% of the vote (though sadly their numbers are rising slowly).

So I suppose the reason that I don’t understand the point of this political science paper is that most of the EU does not have Sweden’s general education level.

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6 thoughts on “Between Technocracy and Populism

  1. The doofuses in USA and many other countries are the enemies of spending on “elitist” stuff like higher education. They recognise the threat posed by an educated population.
    Also, education= world older than biblical account.
    In the long term, one-issue populist parties tend to fade, but can still do great damage.
    Populists integrated in established parties are more dangerous, because of their staying power.

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  2. …Speaking of embedded populists, now that Mandela died conservatives pretend they always loved him. I recall Thatcher was VERY clear about her stand on ANC. And Saint Reagan vetoed a bill to place sanctions on SA. History books are the enemies of populists.

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  3. Being a bit of a buffoon at political science I would say that at least in Denmark it could apply but I understand the terms a bit different than you.

    In Denmark technocracy would commonly be called “djøfisering” (see https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dj%C3%B8fisering ). Basicly it’s about people with degrees in law and economics gaining power in society so for example health care professionals and teachers feel they aren’t able to provide services at the level they should in order not to be a failure at their job (see
    http://www.steenhildebrandt.dk/2012/06/teknokratisk-ledelse/ for a bit on this).

    Dansk Folkeparti could be seen as an example of populism in Danish politics but I would rather point to the long standing debate about early retirement (efterløn) where everyone in politics knew that reforms where needed (to many born in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s to fund it when they got to the age when they would use it), but everybody was reluctant to do it because it would be unpopular among the voters. And sure enough, when a reform was made the government in charge lost the next election.

    Sure, Denmark is not Greece or Italy (and Sweden is not Denmark) but I do think that to some degree the terms will be relevant.

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    • Wikipedia tells me that “Ordet ‘djøfisering’ er afledt af den faglige organisation Djøf (tidligere en forkortelse for Danmarks Jurist- og Økonomforbund, men nu det formelle navn), og bruges ofte negativt.” The Danish Union of Lawyers and Economists. They guy I’m editing never actually defines “technocracy”.

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  4. “There are hardly any PhDs in Swedish government, so we run no risk of technocracy.”
    Any modern state will have a tendency towards technocracy, in the sense that government policy is heavily controlled by non-elected experts and bureucrats.
    There’s two sides to that. First, various experts have direct power over many fields. For example, monetary policy is often run by the Director of the central bank and not the Minister of finance. Second, politicians rely heavily on expert reports when making decisions. Building a new road or railroad line may formally be up to the minister of infrastructure, but in reality she will often follow recommendations from some sort of research institute. (Like “Statens väg- och transportforskningsinstitut” in Sweden.)

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