‘Life in a Technocracy’, 1933: a soviet of technicians… in America? /11 (2021)

As a last measure the energy certificate could be cancelled. This punishment should prove efficacious in most cases. When an individual proved obstinately recalcitrant for obscure reasons, the psychiatrists would attempt to unravel the trouble.”

by Federico Soldani – 28th Mar 2021

The VI and second to last chapter of ‘Life in a Technocracy’, as discussed in the previous two articles in this series, is entitled ‘Art.’

The North American technocracy, then” – Loeb continued – “will consist of about twenty thousand communities, each with specific, compulsory, industrial function. […] No threat of destitution hangs over the individuals making up these communities. They have nothing to compete against, in their functional life, except perfection. If they wish to contribute their surplus energy to industry and the body social, they will extend their knowledge of the technological process which they have chosen as their concern, and attempt to rise in the organization to a position of responsibility and prestige. Industrial technique will not be crystallized. Invention and originality will have plenty of scope. Still it is unlikely that more than a small proportion of human energy will be directed toward this goal. The discipline will be very stiff, the required energy considerable. Quantities of effort will be left over for application in other fields since it is not reasonable to expect that the mere satisfaction of material wants – which are to some extent satisfied even now for most citizens of the United States – will transform the population into lounging, dilatory disciples of the dolce far niente persuasion” (Italics for emphasis in the original).

“A considerable amount of surplus energy must be counted on. With no effort prescribed beyond sixteen weekly hours, it may be asked if this energy would not breed mischief. It probably would, and if leisure were donated instantaneously by the sweep of a magic want, no doubt rioting, debauchery, and destructive orgies would result. But the leisure will be gradually attained.

Many years of effort in amount probably equal to the effort demanded under the capitalist system, but more equably distributed, will be necessary before the benefits of technocracy will accrue. Consequently people will be used to the idea of leisure and plenty, and more or less prepared for its realization. Still its effect must be considered even though its onset will be gradual.

~~~

The first energy outlet that will enter the mind of the cynic will be vice. But technocracy alters our conception of vice. One does not know where to begin its consideration. In a technocracy, if vice were under discussion, shirking would probably assume a prominent place. But shirking hardly looms serious in a capitalist state where so many other vices overshadow it.

Let us just take them as they come to the mind, vices, weaknesses, depravities, and consider how they would appear to a society in which economic security was the rule. Greed, for example, would be patently absurd in a community where consuming power exceeded consuming capacity. Doubtless it would disappear. After a few generations its manifestations would probably be seen only among little children. Avarice, likewise, would undergo a metamorphosis. Providing for the morrow was, during early capitalism, useful for survival. Its practice was considered virtuous. Its excess, avarice, was consequently common and more or less condoned. Late capitalism, however, has no need of careful spending. As a result, avarice has become somewhat rare in America and is not in social favor. In a technocracy provision for the morrow is automatically provided for everyone. Consequently even prudent spending would come to be looked upon as peculiar. People would naturally satisfy every need, even every whim, since everyone would have more goods at his disposal than could easily be used. Avarice would possess no practical utility.

Sexual aberrations would in a technocracy be condemned only when they injured society. Sex is the individual’s problem. During the ages when tribal or national survival depended partly on a high birth rate, sexual perversion was often considered vicious. A technocracy on the other hand would be more worried by a high birth rate than by a low one.

Also most sexual perversions today are not congenital. Individuals, frustrated by economic distress, distort their natures in a panicky attempt to find an outlet for the sexual impulse which, in their ignorance, seem mysterious. Thus many find relief in practices which they would not have resorted to in a technocracy where the relations of the sexes, owing to each individual’s economic independence, will be simpler.”

The chapter on ‘Art’ then continues about the more explicitly political vice of ‘corruption.’

“The vice of corruption has already been touched upon. When the nature of bribes is limited to works of art, of handicraft, or of personal favors, their power to tempt would be much weaker.

Quarrelsomeness is unaffected except that one source of dispute, money, is summarily removed. Also men may enjoy greater happiness in a technocracy and consequently possess more serene tempers.

Surliness is unaffected. Some men will always find cause for surliness. It is, of course, likely that the superior food possible in a technocracy will reduce this predilection. Surliness on industrial duty would, if it interfered with efficiency, subject the guilty party to transfer. A surly street cleaner annoys society but mildly.

Adultery, being a property crime, cannot exist as such in a technocracy. Since human slavery has been abolished or rather since human beings can no longer be legally owned, the crime of adultery, thought still on the statutes, is obsolete, in reality, today. The economic independence of each individual in a technocracy may definitely make an end of it.

Jealousy of another’s possessions is largely done away with. Jealousy of another’s qualities or qualifications continues unabated. Sexual jealousy continues to exist in a somewhat different form. Men and women will probably remain interdependent under any system. If the union is dissoluble, one party will always realize the desirability or necessity of dissolution before the other. The other in such a case can be relied upon to suffer. Technocracy cannot mollify this form of suffering, in fact, owing to the decreased economic pressure, life in a technocracy will doubtless leave more scope for misery of this variety.

The love relationship, however, is considerably altered by the economic independence of the parties involved. At present pure love is among the rarest phenomena. Licit love is nearly always combined with pride in possession, economic dependence, family pride, or other property relationship. The confusing of these various bonds tends to debase the rather beautiful, late human invention called romantic love. Most so-called jealousy is evoked not by the ending of the love, the fading of which is likely to be mutually shared, but by the damage done one of the other factors. Life in a technocracy, in that love tends to be isolated and kept pure, will limit jealousy.

As the control of one human being by another becomes rarer, the opportunity for cruelty is reduced. On the industrial side, not only is arduous labor pretty well eliminated, hour of work diminished, but the privilege of transfer, open to all workers, would prevent a sadistic foreman from operating undetected. Also the workers’ organizations, which occupy themselves with conditions of labor, would not stand for malpractice.

In private life the independence of women and children, and of men, too, for that matter, would in a short time tend to reduce the quantity of home cruelty.

~~

Drunkness would not disappear in a technocracy. Some drinking is a result of too much leisure. Certain unimaginative types cannot enjoy themselves without external stimulation. Such types would drink even more in a technocracy unless the many new facilities for interesting occupation should stimulate their imaginations. Some drinking is for the purpose of relaxation, particularly at social gatherings. The stress of commercial and industrial life under capitalism is often so intense that many individuals need the aid of alcohol before they can throw off the tension under which they have been working.

Capitalism, being competitive, tends to create a feeling of suspicion, sometimes approaching hostility, between individuals. Since a mood of accord, of rapprochement, is essential for the success of a social gathering, alcohol is often commandeered to achieve this result.

The technological system of production should allay both tension and distrust. Consequently alcohol may not prove to be as useful in a technocracy as at present. In that case drunkenness would be reduced. Chronic cases would, of course, come under the care of the medical department. Real knowledge regarding the effect of alcohol on the human system would be sought. Perhaps some other drug might be discovered which would serve better than alcohol to lighten the spirit and brighten the eyes of one’s friends.

~~~

In a technocracy the punishment for habitual dirtiness would be transfer to the cleaning department if the dirtiness was indulged in at the factory, transfer to the department of sewage disposal if the offenses were committed in the residential district. Shirking would be penalized in much the same way, that is to say, by transfer to one of the less agreeable labor tasks. If this task also was shirked, as a last measure the energy certificate (a measure reminding of today’s Chinese ‘social credit’, ed.) could be cancelled. This punishment should prove efficacious in most cases.

When an individual proved obstinately recalcitrant for obscure reasons, the psychiatrists would attempt to unravel the trouble. In no case should real punishment, such as solitary confinement or labor forced by physical threats, be necessary.”

These provisions about psychiatry, punishment and solitary confinement might remind of the ‘Model of legislation in accordance with the intentions of nature’ contained in the ‘Code of Nature’ (1755) and its outline of a constitution including “penal laws” as discussed in a previous article in these pages.

~~~

“On first thought, tyranny, due to the human tendency to get drunk with power” – Loeb wrote – “would seem to be a grave menace to the technocracy. Our present constitution is so preoccupied with guarding against this menace that executive action is greatly hampered. In fact, action would be nearly impossible if every legal requirement were conscientiously fulfilled. In a technocracy there would be no statutory checks on tyranny.

The chapter on ‘Art’ continued: “Tyranny can be private or public. At present our most powerful men, the men controlling the money are sometimes tyrannical. But it is curious to observe that they rarely use the power of their position to obtain their ends. In most cases they use the power of their money. In a technocracy, money being abolished, they would have to use the power of their position.

This is difficult in America. Perhaps the greatest asset of that unsound and appealing experiment called democracy has been the development of a race of men free from servility.

In particular on the Western Coast, where economic feelings are unusually intense, a sense of social inferiority is rare. Where there is no sense of social inferiority, private tyranny outside the home is rendered most difficult. Few Americans take orders unless the command is sanctified by tradition. Many Americans take bribes but that would not be possible in a technocracy. Furthermore, most of the tyrannical abuse of power that occurs is for the purpose of obtaining more money, or more power. Again the structure of technocracy nullifies this procedure. Money cannot be obtained, and how one can obtain power by tyrannical means in an organization such as that of our business corporations is difficult to see with money bribery impossible. Possibly favors will be given for social favors, but that is hardly tyrannical.

The President of the Industrial Co-ordinating Board would possess enormous power. But his power is over policies, not men. […] money, the source of nearly all corruption, will not exist. A technocracy would seem to be somewhat paradoxical. The administrative head controls a force greater than any potentate of the past or present ever dreamt of. Yet to use this force for any selfish or anti-social end seems to be most difficult.”

(11 – eleventh of a series, previous articles here, 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10)

[In the photo the cover of Vol. 1 No. 1, Novermber 1921 by Enrico Prampolini – his initials visible – of Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts – published in Rome – established and directed by Harold Loeb.

Prampolini’s work nowadays is visible in museums outside of Italy such as Brooklyn Museum, MOMA, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, all in New York City, where Loeb was from. Loeb first cousin was Peggy Guggenheim.

Prampolini later became a designer of the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista (Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution – Wikipedia), an exhibition opened by Benito Mussolini that was held in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni from 1932 to 1934, estimated to have had 4 million visitors.

Associate Editor of Broom at the time when the magazine was established in Rome in 1921 – main office was in Trinita’ dei Monti, 18 – was Giuseppe Prezzolini. “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? /11 (2021)," in PsyPolitics, March 28, 2021, https://psypolitics.org/2021/03/28/life-in-a-technocracy-1933-a-soviet-of-technicians-in-america-11-2021/.

Last Updated on April 14, 2021 by Federico Soldani

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