New Zealand Journal of Forestry (2007) 52(1): 34–39
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry
The rise and fall of the scientist-technocrat: substituting narrow rationality for broader judgment
Chris J. K. Perley
Decision making in the drier technical qualifications, whether in science, economics, or finance, is presented as a formalised and formulaic process, presumed to be objective. The weight of numbers makes it appear so, irrespective of how much social selection and prejudgment the numbers may shroud. There emanates an aura of correctness, of a process that is based on hard fact, even of technical and scientific professionalism. Professional land and resource management covering forestry, agriculture and, in latter days, fishing has been active in the rise of what may be called scientific management since early in the 19th century, predating Frederick Taylors formalisation within management. The approach essentially involves viewing a land, or resource (including, in Taylors case, people), in a narrow light, and of a close association with positivist scientific methods and quantitative measures, with goals emphasising yield or net worth.
Some questions arise. Is this value placed on the ‘hard’ parts of any system misplaced? Are the underpinning assumptions of a mechanical world and knowledge as a product correct? Is the superiority of associated decision making, in fact, an illusion? What structural hierarchies of thought and action does it set up? Does it work? Are there alternatives, or at least richer contexts for thought and action?
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