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Our aim is to bring together previously disconnected strands of thought and research in order to provide a systematic analysis of technocracy, technocratic politics and technocratic governance in a comparative perspective. The research area at the Chair of Comparative Politics on “Technocracy” aims at a broad set of research and teaching activities.
Technocracy is present not only in parliaments and cabinets, but also in political language, communication and policy, across different countries and continents. Despite the difficulty in defining and measuring technocracy – or precisely because of this difficulty – its prominence compels us to place it under the microscope.
Technocracy and the technocrats have jumped into the political limelight in recent years due to the numerous technocratic government appointments during the financial crisis (nine government appointments in European nations since 2009) prompting debates on the representativeness, legitimacy and democratic threat of political governance by “unelected experts”. Yet, technocracy occupies a bigger part of political thought and politics, which spans further than the context of the Eurocrisis. It can be traced back to Plato’s ‘philosopher king’ and the Technocratic Movement of the 1930s in the US. Technocratic governments have assumed political power in countries as diverse as Finland, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Italy. The role of technocrats has attracted academic attention in the political contexts of democratic and authoritarian regimes, from communist China, the administrative elites of Western Europe, reformists in Latin America, to the bureaucratic expertise of transnational organisations and the European Union.
Given the mounting challenges levelled at party-based representative democracy from disaffected citizens, on the one hand, and extremist and populist politics on the other hand, how can we study technocracy and the appointment of technocratic governments? Does technocracy stand at odds with representative democracy? What solutions can technocratic actors offer to political processes and why are there citizens who support independent, unelected experts? How do citizens and politicians evaluate the role of ‘independent expertise’ and what is relationship between technocracy and populism? These are the main questions addressed in this research area.