‘Life in a Technocracy’, 1933: a soviet of technicians… in America? /8 (2021)

Man, during the long character-forming ages during which the struggle for sustenance was more intense than at present, seems to have lost the natural faculty animals possess for finding happiness in mere existence

by Federico Soldani – 13th Mar 2021

When human skill is concerned, structural changes are more difficult than when mechanical devices have to be altered.” In Chapter V Loeb continued discussing his utopic projects for a post-capitalist technocracy.

“Gradually industrial schools would be developed, and the purely cultural turned over to those who sought culture for its own sake, or, at least, for those of its values that are not called practical.”

‘Life in a Technocracy’, not only in this respect, resembles the much older ‘Code of Nature’ (1755): the state will support technical or industrial education, which in the ‘Code’ was actually the only permitted knowledge for the people to develop. As highlighted in a review of the ‘Code’ published in these pages, the last part of the ‘Code of Nature’ presents an outline of a constitution, the supreme law according to such conception of nature. All philosophical, moral, or metaphysical studies are to be prohibited, with the exclusion of those on the ‘Code of Nature’ itself, only technical and scientific studies are to be encouraged.

“In a Technocracy education for practical purpose would, as suggested – Loeb continued – be taken care of by the industrial schools. […] “general knowledge would be subordinate to the practical end. It would be knowledge for the sake of use, not knowledge for the sake of the student’s satisfaction. Of course, in the higher research studies these two ends come very close together. In the schools not run by the state, the end in view, and the only end in view, would be knowledge for its own sake. […] Such loosely bound aggregation of teachers and students resemble the Universities in the Middle Ages rather than our contemporary schools. […] Some doubtless would acquire a religious bent, others would be agnostical.”

In the first year of technocracy […] current beliefs could be examined Socratically; the history of the world reinterpreted in the light of the various industrial systems; an attempt made to rate human institutions more realistically than is possible today when every intellectual path is cluttered with the refuse of obsolete cultures.”

“The child would have been subjected to at least two influences, that of his school and that of his parents’ social group. Conflicting influences often induce mental freedom when mental freedom is congenitally possible. […] The decision before each child would be that of career; a decision as to whether his ambition could best be realized within the state industrial system or outside it. […] If a state career was chosen, the child could select an industrial branch comparatively simple, such as transportation, or one requiring lifelong study, such as medicine. In either case the schools would be closely bound to the industry so that the pupils could alternate theoretical study and apprentice work.”

Though stored exhaustible energy, in a technocracy, would be carefully husbanded, human energy, being of the recurrent variety, could be expended more generously. […] Every opportunity would be given him to find himself even though the body social would thus incur a slight unnecessary waste.”


“The main features of a typical technological community” – this might somehow remind of the first industrial utopias such as those of Robert Owen or Titus Salt – “had better be suggested. Communal life would center about an industrial function. […] The community would be planned to serve its industry. […] The houses, single and multiple, are likely to be standardized. […] Every thousand houses or so has a center with a park, athletic field, theater, library, moving picture house (cinema, ed.), assembly rooms, elementary school, as well as commodities administrative and distributing unit. Every state commodity, that is to say, every essential article and others not essential but susceptible of mass production, is available on demand.”

“The architecture will probably be homogeneous and standardized. […] It might well be more pleasing than the present chaotic hodge-podge of pretentious gimcracks. Engineers impervious to aesthetic canons tend to create dignified objects. Objects functionally perfect possess a distinctive beauty. And neither standardization nor repetitiousness enjoins monotony. […] It is quite likely, despite the subordination of individual taste and the neglect of aesthetic considerations, that the ordered residential communities of the technocracy would surpass in beauty any house groupings seen at present. Of course, as the quality beauty has no objective reality, this question must always remain open.”


“The inhabitants of a technological community would tend to be both more homogeneous and more individualized than our contemporaries. […] advertising was invented, an ingenious method of creating general dissatisfaction with the individual’s possessions and position by means of repeated appeals to his lowest instincts – vanity, envy, ostentation, fear… above all, fear, fear of missing something, fear of being laughed at, fear of being surpassed, fear, even – and the misery this must cause, the hours sniffing and smelling – fear of his odors! A stranger would find it hard to believe that any society not only permits but encourages such an outrageous abuse of mankind’s trusting credulity in the written word and plastic representation.”

“Man inherits from the long ages when only the scholar could write a simple, rather touching faith in the written communication. Early capitalism adopted the apparently innocent ideal of general literacy. This attained, it proceeded to bribe certain clever and unprincipled craftsmen to prostitute their talent in its behalf. Of course each social system does the same thing. But the task capitalism asks of its craftsmen is probably the most anti-social. The first business men only wanted the artist to eulogize the goods they had to sell. However, since competition is the basic principle of capitalism, the forces involved, in their struggle to surpass each other, gradually created the present monstrous situation.”

“And as usual with slowly forming institutions, most people accept advertising as perfectly natural. […] In a technocracy, the pressure, to conform to every passing mode now exerted by advertising, would be definitely lifted. As a result the citizens may find it easier to be themselves. […] the abolition of advertising would not end the social pressure that drives individuals to conform to current modes. This pressure antedates capitalism and will doubtless survive technocracy. […] Advertising as it is practiced destroys local conventions and establishes national and international conventions. […] Pressures of this character have so impoverished the human scene in the industrialized world that the traveler of today has little novel to look at except antiquities. Technocracy would probably reverse this trend. With national pressure removed, local pressure should revive. […] no one alive in the West has known an advanced culture unblighted by the mob suggestion inculcated by business. […] Technocracy would attempt to continue bearing the good things, in fact to bear more of them, and at the same time to eradicate the elements in capitalism which taint human society.”

One group of leading citizens would be composed of executives and scientists.”


“Even with the low, thought relatively high, American standard of life, the amusing of the populace, the offering of spectacles, the providing of activities, at which leisure time can be agreeably passed, is a serious matter; or rather, under capitalism, a serious business.”

“In a technocracy the problem of satisfying this human need would still be serious. Man, during the long character-forming ages during which the struggle for sustenance was more intense than at present, seems to have lost the natural faculty animals possess for finding happiness in mere existence. Technocracy would, it is hoped, eventually restore this faculty. But it is doubtful if such a consummation can be attained for some thousands of years. The character of man changes more slowly than that of his institutions.”

To avoid an enormous increase in discontent and misery of the psychological variety, the consequence of multiplying the individual’s leisure, provision must be made for pleasure stimulation. The intermediate period would be particularly difficult. At first the state would have to support the existing movies, athletic contests, theaters, galleries, and periodicals. Doubtless it would use its control to inculcate the ideas on which the technocracy was founded as well as endeavor to fulfill their basic purpose, to amuse. Later a division of function would occur.”

Here Loeb makes a clear distinction about what is up to each individual, which is the subjective internal sphere of the psyche and of taste, and what is up to the technocratic state – which appears to be not based on a nation-state anymore – and its engineers, scientists and doctors, which is the objective sphere including that of health:

“The control of anything the appeal of which is subjective, such as the theater, or painting, should not be entrusted to the state. A state may be entrusted with engineering projects, with the production of goods, to a lesser extent, with the preservation of health. Values in these fields are objective and can be tested by trial and error experimentation. Consequently skillful work is easily recognized and successful accomplishment allows of no debate. This is not so with the more subtle longings of the human soul.”

“During the first century of technocracy, sport will probably flourish as it never has before. Leisure must be filled, and the majority of Americans seem to turn to sport in their spare time.”

Writing enjoys a middle position. […] The state would present the work of popular writers on an energy-cost basis. The larger the circulation, the cheaper would be the cost of the periodical or book. […] in a technocracy every man could get himself printed.”

(8 – eight of a series, previous articles here, 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7)

[In the photo, covers of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts established and directed by Harold Loeb. “Initially, the magazine was printed in Europe, first in Rome and then in Berlin, with the intention of bringing new, avant-garde art back to the U.S.”]

Cite this article as: Federico Soldani, "‘Life in a Technocracy’, 1933: a soviet of technicians… in America? /8 (2021)," in PsyPolitics, March 13, 2021, https://psypolitics.org/2021/03/13/life-in-a-technocracy-1933-a-soviet-of-technicians-in-america-8-2021/.

Last Updated on March 28, 2021 by Federico Soldani

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