Technocracy and Democracy

The TECHDEM project (Marie Curie CIG, funded by the European Commission) is inscribed in one of the most important debates in today’s Europe: the one addressing the role of expert knowledge in political decision-making. The citizens have been demanding efficient solutions to the wide range of problems linked to the globalisation, as well as an active participation in the related decision-making process. Governance, economy and social relations have all suffered radical transformations that should be actively assessed and shaped, rather that passively accepted or resisted. While there exists a strong understanding that any action, individual or collective, should be informed by highly specialised expert knowledge in order to be efficient and useful, there also exists a major concern about preserving and incrementing democratic participation at all levels of decision-making. The scientific and socio-economic reasons for this project are thus clear. The in-depth historical perspective of the project and its broad geo-cultural scope provide a solid basis for the consequent political-philosophical debate on the possible relations of expert knowledge and democratic decision-making as well as for better understanding of the different structural mechanisms enabling the integration of expert knowledge into decision-making without hindering democratic participation.
The relationship between knowledge and power represents a widely discussed issue in several social sciences and humanities. My research project explores the origins of technocracy, examining the ways in which special or expert knowledge has become a source of legitimacy in public debate and in political decision-making. It is an interdisciplinary research that combines approaches stemming from history, history of science and technology, philosophy and sociology of professions. Using the case of experts (mainly engineers and physicians) who carried out their activity in the northern Mediterranean in the period from the eighteenth century until nowadays, I pay attention to issues such as the emergence and transformations of the definition of expert knowledge and the ways in which expertise has been acquired and certified. The project also explores how expert arguments and controversies have been inscribed in public debate as well as the ways in which the notion of objective and useful knowledge interacts with key notions of a given period such as “common good”, “public will” or “legitimate search for private interest”. The project does not remain at the level of a discourse analysis, as it also focuses on institutionalisation of expert practices within the government, in the private sector and in the so-called civil society, including the study of the experts’ capacity to mobilise financial resources. In general, the aim is to trace the roots of raison technique and explore its different forms and transformations in order to open a debate about the relationship between the technocracy and democracy, between expert and public opinion, in the society today.
The TECHDEM project has three main thematic areas that are interconnected. Each of them includes a part I have been carrying out myself (case studies designed within the general framework of this project) and another part carried out in collaboration with other researchers.

Darina Martykánová

Darina Martykánová is historian, dealing mainly with Spain and the Ottoman Empire. She works at the Departament of Modern History of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Her research focuses on the history of professions and on transnational circulation of knowledge. Her second line of research concerns the redefinition of masculinites in interaction with the discourse of "progress of civilisation".

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