What's the Opposite of Technocratic?
The personal meets the bureaucratic in organizational management
Several years ago I became a bit obsessed with ‘non-words.’ I think I was puzzling through a dictionary for some type of word game—and probably deep in a mystical study of apophatic theology—and found a listing in the N section of words beginning with ‘non-’. I bring this up because I just did a little googling around the antonyms of “technocratic” and found these:
ANTONYMS FOR technical
It’s easy to imagine a straight swap of the ‘un-’ for a ‘non-’ here; and it’s probably needless to say that I was a bit disappointed to find these (what’s the opposite of rich?) lackluster antonyms. Yet, the synonyms are also illustrative:
SYNONYMS FOR technical
I’ve been thinking about this term as a result of some conversations, discourse and dialogue around managerial and leadership roles and responsibilities. Specifically—how much of leadership and management is technical? How much is nontechnical? How might we characterize or qualify this ‘nontechnical’?
Some further investigation illumines this—in an adjectival sense:
Opposite of involving or concerned with applied and industrial science or technology
general nontechnical untechnical nonspecialized unspecialized straightforward lay universal inexpert overall self-evident common nonspecific nonexclusive nonprofessional self-explanatory unprofessional generalised generalized generic ordinary
I suppose this reveals some of our .. proclivities when we think about ‘work’ in a contemporary or modern sense—the emphasis on specialization, expertise, professionalization, etc. I was startled a bit by some self-reflection, thinking about how I respond to a question like: “Can this person do this work?” What startled me was the implication—or at least perception on my end which influenced my interpretation—that this was a ‘technocratic’ type of question. In other words, I respond to that question thinking about the technical parts of the work—not the ‘untechnical.’
So, what is this ‘untechnical’? Help me out in the comments if you have any ideas here, but where I’m landing of late is, unsurprisingly, in a similar dichotomy to that of dialogue and dialectic, or monologue and dialogue; that the ‘technical’ is this discursive, monologic attempt at organization, procedure, specialization, logic—almost a drive toward a coherent and internally consistent rhetorical argument. On the contrary, the ‘untechnical’ may appear as the ‘unspecialized’—sure—but it may also be characterized by interruption, spontaneity, the personal—almost a trajectory toward the dialogic, the simultaneous, and especially the responsiveness of interpersonal connection.
How do we illuminate the ‘nontechnical’ in our working relationships? In our organizational psychology? In educational leadership? Sure—I’m drawn to coincident opposites, the both/and; there’s absolutely a necessity of professionalism, expertise, specialization in education and educational leadership. How might we better describe these ‘nontechnical’ qualities that are also necessary in the work? How might we shift our responses to “Can they do this?” to a more holistic, integrated statement about both the technical and the personal? The dialectic and the dialogue?