Here is an excerpt from an article on Chantal Delsol I have forthcoming in Perspectives on Political Science :

In the place of “true judgment” or prudence, the defenders of international justice satisfy their hunger for rational certitude and analytical specificity with mere “competence”. The “adherents of techno-politics” understand competence as a kind of “administrative rationality” that “expresses itself in the “the clarity of its reasons” and “knows no murky waters”. Competence attempts to reduce the world of politics, always a “mix of obscurity and clarity”, to mere technique and therefore cannot “address the real political questions.” The choice of competence over prudence is based on a “rejection of politics as an uncertain activity” and attempts to “eliminate chance” by remaking the “intellectual navigation” of political decision into a science. The compulsive desire for certainty and rational control prioritizes quantitative analysis over the “common sense, intuition, and experience” of prudence because of its preference for a homogenized subject of investigation. To admit not only the great diversity of peoples and cultures but also of political and moral affairs would render the enigmatic human person uncongenial to scientific study.

By way of contrast, prudence is the “ability to steer a difficult course through the tortuous world of action”. Prudence, more akin to wisdom than logical analysis, is an “alchemy that combines keen perception, experience in dealing with people, common sense, judgment based on memory, intuition of the unspoken, moral conscience, and knowledge of events”. The “prudent man”, according to Delsol, is “both lucid and modest”, “knows the mediocrity and uncertainty of the world”, “distrusts his own prejudices”, and is “never entirely sure about anything”. The illusion of objectivity that guides the competent man deludes him into seeking solutions that “he imagines as almost tautologically leaping out of the problem itself”. The prudent man, since he understands the distinction between the “truly reasonable” and the “merely rational”, “proposes an answer that is more like a suggestion and imposes itself only because a decision must be made”.

The central delusion of technocratic competence is that the “so-called rational neutrality of technocratic government” allows it to remain “neutral, or innocuous, with regard to values”. However, Delsol argues that “there are very few decisions concerning the general interest that are unrelated to underlying conceptions of existence”. Delsol denies that questions of political means are separable from the moral priorities of the community within which they arise: “All these questions relate to values; that is, they draw upon different ideas of the good, and, ultimately, different notions of happiness.” Techno-politics, therefore, is begotten from a reductionist account of political choice: “Every political act is a choice that calls for the concrete manifestation of certain references, even if these references are neither named nor conceptualized”. Moreover, techno-politics is also based upon an abstract caricature of political cognition: while we rely upon our intellect as a “repository of knowledge” for the act of political deliberation, our intellect alone is incapable of exhaustively comparing all the competing values any such deliberation presupposes.

From the perspective of the technocrat, these underlying conceptions, or worldviews, are either the remnants of a now obsolete pre-scientific view of human affairs or belong to questions of ultimate purposes or ends that, thanks to modern liberalism, are easily compartmentalized and separated from the questions of political means. However, while technocracy “considers all worldviews obsolete and superfluous” it only operates under ignorant “pretenses to certitude” and the “guise of science”. In fact, the consequence of technocratic governance is the establishment of a “clandestine ideology” or “correct thinking ideology” that imports the “rule of hidden particularities” through the back door. Techno-politics, however furtively, always “favors one worldview over the others” and since it falsely proclaims both its own neutrality and indubitable scientific support, it inevitably devolves into a “politics without tolerance”. Rather than avoiding debate regarding the fundamental questions, this “vision-less politics” actually “cuts short debate about the future” and “deprives itself of a pluralistic consideration of worldviews” while naively (and sometimes despotically) attempting to achieve a “pluralism without concrete plurality”.

The problem of technocratic competence, therefore, generates a paradox—it simultaneously manages to be both excessively universal and excessively particular. It is excessively universal insofar as its insistence upon scientific certainty requires a homogenization of the subject it scrutinizes. In grand Procrustean fashion, the concrete human being of our ordinary experience is wrenched from the particular political and cultural context that defines him and that makes possible, however imperfectly, the expression of his genuine eros for the universal. Since this stale science of man requires a reduction of man to his scientific components, he is resigned to a theoretical exile to live as an abstract being in abstract spaces. Man is transformed into the concept of man and his own experience of himself is denied in favor of an intellectual construction. The homogenization of man, insofar as it contradicts and thereby undercuts the legitimacy of the fruits of man’s self-reflection, condemns him to a permanent state of self-alienation or self-oblivion. Man’s perception of himself stands in perpetual need of correction from a technocratic elite that not only paternalistically regulates his political liberty, but also reminds him of who he really is and why he could never know that on his own.

Techno-politics also paints a picture of man which is so unyieldingly particular that his political life is disconnected from the values, or the general worldview, that infuses his individual choices with meaning: “The flight from worldviews in the political realm generally corresponds to the flight from meaning”. This truncated account of human life reduces human behavior to technical minutiae that are objectively measurable and susceptible to reliable prediction. Our reflection upon the meaning of human existence is narrowly circumscribed to include only the calculations of clear and distinct “objectives” versus more general and more complex purposes—man is reduced in economic analysis to his comprehension of and search for the maximization of utility. This is why Delsol argues that techno-politics “always goes hand in hand with a politics of special interests”: besides offering a specific worldview it is incapable of articulating or even acknowledging, it can only speak the impoverished language of interests. Ultimately, real decision-making necessarily involves an element of what Delsol call “aspiration”, or the desire to “create a better society” that can only be cultivated and understood in light of a worldview that houses our deeper preferences and values.
Whether the horizon of man’s political experience is reduced to mechanical minutiae or expanded into an indeterminate universality, the technocratic view of man is an affront to his dignity since it boldly denies his permanent mysteriousness, the “enigma of his existence”. According to Delsol, “The thinking species is destined to tragedy, in the sense that the questions it eternally poses never find a definitive answer”. The crux of technocratic competence is either that such questions are essentially meaningless, or that it truly has discovered the definitive answer that renders gratuitous all further inquiry and genuine respect for the proposals of others. In this “technical-minded and banausic world in which we live” man lacks both depth and complexity—the tools of social science are enough to completely decode the riddle of man. The sad and dark insight of the technocratic view of man is that he doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. The heart of techno-politics turns out to be microcosmic of the heart of late modernity—both deny the “tragic” dimension of human life, in the benign sense Delsol gives the term.

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