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No Insulation: Politics and Technocracy’s Troubled Trajectory

Discussion Papers

No.236

by KHOO Boo Teik
May 2010

ABSTRACT

Technocracy often holds out the promise of rational, disinterested decision-making. Yet states look to technocracy not just for expert inputs and calculated outcomes but to embed the exercise of power in many agendas, policies and programs. Thus, technocracy operates as an appendage of politically constructed structures and configurations of power, and highly placed technocrats cannot be ‘mere’ backroom experts who supply disinterested rational-technical solutions in economic planning, resource allocation and social distribution, which are inherently political. This paper traces the trajectories of technocracy in conditions of rapid social transformation, severe economic restructuring, or political crises – when the technocratic was unavoidably political.

Keywords: Technocracy, technocrats, economic crises, structural adjustment, politics in
Chile, Indonesia, the Philippines, neoliberalism, populism

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