A critical review on the concept of social technology


1. Social Technology in Social Science”s Perspective In general, social technology covers many other terms in social science (Etzemüller, 2009, Knobloch, 2006, Müller, n.d). Some authors use “social technique,” “social pedagogy,” “administrative technique,” “technocracy,” socio-technique, political science engineering, planned society, efficiency engineer, social (economic) planning, (Müller, n.d.). Common in all the terms is the focus on the social, which should be dealt with and be acted upon. Social technique describes the usage of sociological knowledge (theories, methods or expertise) in solving practical problems. In other words, the knowledge of sociology is used to provide applied expertise for specific decisions or actions, for purposes. Social technology applies methods and theories to obtain a scientific based analysis for a purpose, which is, then, used for political decisions. Technique refers to the application of specific evidence in everyday life, in contrast to technology described as a system of evidence (Büschges, 2002). In general, the social can refer to the micro or macro level, it can focus on the behaviour and actions of individuals and groups, on the content knowledge or motives, on institutions, social structures and society. The methods and approaches may rely on two distinct ideas: On one hand, one can emphasise social sciences methods as a base for rational solutions. On the other hand, one can regard natural-technical science and its methods and approaches as a basis for solutions (Knobloch, 2006).1 Nevertheless, a distinct set of methods is established and adapted such as statistics, demography, pedagogy, scientific management, learning processes, risk management, evaluation involving an applied side: social work, urban management, social planning, evidence based policy and policy advising. The common approach in all concepts about methods is the role of expertise defining the problem, establishing an empirical basis, focusing on the processes and system and developing a rational-based solution for institutions and the state (Etzemüller, 2009). Zygmunt Bauman (1987) applies the metaphor of gamekeepers, who become gardeners. The pre-modern ruling class was not so much concerned with cultivating “nature”, its main aim was to obtain sufficient resources and take care that nobody interfered with their land. In contrast, the gardener does not accept “nature” as it is; he/she constitutes a new role defined by new skills and new tasks. A garden cannot sustain itself, it cannot maintain itself, it always needs control and supervision, and it demands design and constant surveillance. Therefore, the gardener imposes an order on the land, a social order, and requiring constant gardening to maintain that order. An idea long prevalent in sociological thought: Auguste Comte (1973) already noted that the relevance of scientific methods to reach the third stage in society, to go beyond the theological and metaphysical stage and to enter the positivistic stage in 1822. Such a stage relies on the dominance of scientific explanations based on scientific methods. Scientists should use their expertise to plan for scientific based politics. Such scientific expertise should enable them to smooth out the turmoil in societal transformation

1 Knobloch (2006) discusses the conflict between Jürgen Habermas and Niklas Luhmann about rationality in depth.

processes like the change from one stage to another. Thus, Auguste Comte discusses the then emerging development of a society towards an positivistic one and articulates a distinct approach towards social transformation and modernity via social sciences as a technology to smoothen the process and limit the negative social effects of such a transition period (Lahusen 2002). The idea of social planning and social technology is long prevailing in sociological writing. Charles Richmond Henderson (1901, 1912) refers to applied or practical sociology as social technology in the beginning of the 20th century, asking for specific social reforms and experiments for rational reforms. C.J Bushnell (1936) develops social planning, a constitutional form of social administration and planning, to apply social technology to solve social disorder. Other contemporary authors make use of similar ideas. Olaf Helmer (1966, 3) reestablishes such ideas and proposes the introduction of simulation models and expert knowledge in order to make the society governable. Social technology serves the purpose of controlling society for a better world. “It has been remarked that many of the difficulties that beset our world today can be explained by the fact that progress in the social science domain has lagged far behind that in the physical sciences. Moreover, if we contemplate the continuing explosion of knowledge of our physical surroundings—a knowledge that will soon open up to us vast new techniques ranging from molecular to planetary engineering, with eerie implications for human society—we may well take a dire view of the future, unless we assume that the gap between the social and the physical sciences will not persist.” Those ideas prevail and repeat themselves, social technology should help “the improvements of an existing system” and allow serious reforms in a welfare system, when one applies eleven steps, starting with identifying a failing system and moving on to correcting the system in due time, as Theodore Caplow (1994) states. Beyond establishing social order, such ideas aim to foster the take up of the technological advancement in sciences and use that for social purposes. When one thinks about technological advancement in the sense that they allow routines to evolve and work efficiently, one needs to add a social component, as those particular efficient routines have to be co-ordinated accordingly. Thus, one draws a distinction between physical technology, i.e. division of labour, and social technology, i.e. connection between the divided parts. Institutions and social settings constitute such social technology; they can promote physical advancement and restrict innovation in an economy. Growth and innovation can only occur when social technology allows the creation and further development of new technologies in that sense (Nelson and Nelson, 2002, Nelson 2005). Thus, social technology should take into account and use technologies to foster social advancement, similar to or in accordance with technological transformation.

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~ by mindcontrolinsweden on October 16, 2016.

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