SEMINAR: Maybe it's time to rediscover technocracy.

Course content





The seminar explores the emergence of Late Modern Technocracy (LMT) theoretically and empirically. The seminar is roughly split in two sections. The first half identifies LMT as the result of three decades of public sector reforms (reaching from NPM to post-NPM, meta-governance and the ‘mixed’ administration), based on the idea that governance by markets and, in particular, by networks, are superior to bureaucracy and hierarchical government.  The argument progresses from an initial outline of governance reforms to a discussion of the broader context behind these reforms before arriving at technocracy ‘version 2.0’ represented by LMT. The second half of the seminar is dedicated to exploring the principles and practices of LMT in more detail. The sessions deal with the nature and implications of the three basic ‘imperatives’ of LMT: 1) ensuring of ensuring a difficult but imperative transition to a network state (connective governance), 2) ‘the internalization of risk and impossibility of insurance against dangers and uncertainty’ (risk governance) and 3) ‘learning from evidence and the continuous improvement of policy’(performance governance), followed by a discussion of how these imperatives a tied together by the nudging agenda. Both sections of the seminar are concluded with sessions dedicated to critical concerns about technocracy and the question of how to reassert democracy against technocracy.


Intro: three decades of governance reforms 

The historical sociology of governance: the rise of liberal governmentality

Governance vs. bureaucracy and the administrative state

Technocracy 2.0: beyond planning and social engineering

The critique of technocracy revisited

Paper presentation I

Connective governance

Risk governance

Performance governance

Tying it all together: the case of nudging

From depoliticisation to repoliticisation?

Paper presentation II + wrap-up


Full title of the course:

Maybe it's time to rediscover technocracy. The governance reforms of the public sector and the emergence of late modern techncracy.

SRM: Elective IV

The course is open to all students at the department



Learning outcome

The seminar draws together state of the art literature from public administration, political sociology and political theory, giving the students a broad and critical outlook on key trends in public governance, policy and politics. Connecting the various strands of literature to the central concept of LMT will furthermore enhance the ability to develop arguments rigorously and comprehensively. The seminar aims to be theoretically challenging as well as empirically founded, thus enhancing the analytical capacities of participating students.


Regular seminar sessions will combine teacher presentations with an open discussion environment. The seminar does not require individual student presentations of literature, but active participation in discussions throughout the entire seminar. Careful reading and preparation is a must. Participating students are required to write two papers and present one of them during at the seminar. Reading and discussion of student papers required of all participants.

[E] Christensen, T. and Lægreid, P. (2012) ‘Governance And Administrative Reforms’, Levi-Faur, D. The Oxford Handbook of Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press

[E] Goldsmith, S. & Eggers, W. (2004): Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector, Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 3-55 (52p.)

[E] Olsen, J.P. (2006): ‘Maybe it’s time to Rediscover Bureaucracy’, Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory, 16 (1), 1-24

[B] Jessop, B. (2011): ‘Metagovernance’ in Bevir, Mark (ed.) The Sage Handbook of Governance, London: Sage, 106-123  

[B] Foucault, M. (2010): The Birth of Biopolitics, HHoundsmills: Palgrave, 75-184

[E] Esmark, A. (2015):’ Limits to Liberal Government: An Alternative History of Governmentality’, Administration & Society, 

[B]Foucault, M. (2010[2004]): Security, Territory, Population, HHoundsmills: Palgrave, 285-361

[E] Du Gay, P. (2000): In Praise of Bureaucracy, London: Sage,  61-114

[B] Bell, D. (1974): The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, London: Heinemann

[E] Putnam, R, (1977): ‘Elite Transformation in Advanced Industrial Societies: An Empirical Assessment of the Theory of Technocracy’, Comparative Political Studies, 10(3), 383-412

[B] Fischer, F. (1990): Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise, London: Sage

[B]Habermas, J. (2015): The Lure of Technocracy, Cambridge: Polity Press

[E] Burnham, P. (2001): ‘New Labour and the politics of depoliticisation’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 3(2), 127-149

[E] Bevir, M. (2006): ‘Democratic Governance: Systems and Radical Perspectives’, Public Administration Review, 1(66), 426-436

[E] Castells, Manuel & Gustavo Cardoso (eds.) (2005): The Network Society: from knowledge to policy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University

 [E] Dunleavy, P. et al. (2006): ‘New Public Management is Dead – Long Live Digital Era Governance’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 16(3), 467-494

[E] Crozier, M. (2007): ‘Recursive Governance: Contemporary Political Communication and Public Policy’, Political Communication, 24(1), 1-18

[E] Bang, H. & Esmark, A. (2009): ’Good Governance in Network Society: Reconfiguring the Political from Politics to Policy’ in Administrative Theory & Praxis 31(1), 7-37

[E] Beck, Ulrich (2006): ’Living in the World Risk Society’ in Economy and Society, Vol. 35 (3), pp. 329-345

[B] Beck, Ulrich (1996) ’Risk Society and the Provident State’, in Lash, S. et al. Risk, Environment & Modernity: Towards a New Ecology, London: Sage, 27-43

[E] Rittel, H. & Webber, M.M (1973): ‘Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning’, Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155-169

[E]Head, B.W. & Alford, J. (2013): ‘Wicked Problems: Implications for Public Policy and Management’, Administration & Society,  47(6), 711-739

[E] Power, Michael (1999): The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification, Oxford: Oxford University Press, chapter 6

[B] Van Dooren, W. et al. (2015): Performance Management in the Public Sector, London: Routledge,

[E] Sanderson, I. (2002): ‘Evaluation, Learning and Evidence-Based Policy-Making’, Public Administration, 80(1), 1-22

[E] Stoker, G. (2006): ‘Public Value Management: A New Narrative for Network Governance?’, The American Review of Public Administration, 36(1), 41-57


[E] Thaler, R. H. & C. R. Sunstein (2009): Nudge – Improving Decisions about Wealth, Health and Happines, New York: Penguin Books, pp. 1-105

[E] Legget, W. (2014): ‘The politics of behavior change: nudge, neoliberalism and the state’, Policy & Politics, 42(1), 3-19

[E] Esmark, A. (2016): ’The Informational Logic of Liberal Democracy. Making Sense of the Nudging Agenda’, Information Polity, forthcoming


[E] Hay, C.  (2007): Why We Hate Politics, Cambridge: Polity Press, 61-123

[E] Bennett, W.L. & Segerberg, A. (2008): The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[E] Bang, H. (2015): ‘Between Democracy and Governance’, British Politics, 10, 286-307


Relevant bachelor degree and commitment to the subject as well as the seminar model.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28