Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quotes of the day II

Neil Postman, Technopoly, p 85:
bureaucracy has no intellectual, political, or moral theory -- except for its implicit assumption that efficiency is the principle aim of all social institutions and that other goals are essentially less worthy, if not irrelevant.

p 86:
Bureaucracy now not only solves problems but creates them. More important, it defines what are problems are -- and they are always, in the bureaucratic view, problems of efficiency.

He has even less of an opinion regarding experts.

This process [expertise] works fairly well in situations where only a technical solution is required and there is no conflict with human purposes -- for example, in space rocketry or the construction of a sewer system. It works less well in situations where technical requirements may conflict with human purposes, as in medicine or architecture. And it is disastrous when applied to situations that cannot be solved by technical means and where efficiency is usually irrelevant, such as in education, law, family life, and problems of personal maladjustment.

He later writes:
And so [experts] call sin "social deviance," which is a statistical concept and they call evil "psychopathology," which is a medical concept. Sin and evil disappear because they cannot be measured and objectified, and therefore cannot be dealt with by experts.


Withywindle said...

I'm not sure he's right about bureaucracy.

FLG said...

I had the same thought, but I've come around.

It's really about forms for me. You know, the kind you fill out. It standardizes and reduces your life simply to the information needed to process whatever it is the bureaucracy is processing efficiently. Bureaucracies are terrible at interpreting and adapting to mitigating circumstances because those exceptions create inefficiencies that the bureaucracy doesn't want to incur.

Withywindle said...

That's bureaucracies in relation to the outside world. The inner workings also include getting multiple constituencies on the same page. A meeting of the National Security Council isn't just about standardized forms.

FLG said...

I'll have to think about the NSC, but the description certainly fits the Pentagon.

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