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Systems, Experts, and ComputersThe Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After$

Agatha C. Hughes and Thomas P. Hughes

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780262082853

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262082853.001.0001

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Planning a Technological Nation: Systems Thinking and the Politics of National Identity in Postwar France

Planning a Technological Nation: Systems Thinking and the Politics of National Identity in Postwar France

(p.132) (p.133) 5 Planning a Technological Nation: Systems Thinking and the Politics of National Identity in Postwar France
Systems, Experts, and Computers

Gabrielle Hecht

The MIT Press

Abstract and Keywords

The main focus of this chapter is addressing two questions pointing to the importance of a deeper and more complex consideration of the comparison between systems thinking and how we currently attempt to describe the heterogeneous relationships that constitute technological activity today. First, the question of how systems thinkers conceived of relationships between technology and politics is addressed by examining how the systems thinking of state engineers, planners, and economists in France fit into broader debates about the relationship between technology, politics, and the national future during the 1950s and 1960s. Second, the question of how to deal with their conceptions and constructions in our own explorations of these relationships is addressed by presenting examples. The chapter begins with an analysis of French debates between technologists, social scientists, and humanists over the meanings of the terms “technocrat” and “technocracy.”

Keywords:   systems thinking, heterogeneous relationships, technological activity, technology, politics, France, French debates, technocrat, technocracy

The relationships between technology and politics have been a major theme in technology studies in the past decade or more. How, we have asked, do politics shape technology? What kind of politics shape technology? How, in turn, do technological activities or artifacts shape politics? How do these relationships vary across time and place? And no less important: how should we describe, analyze, and theorize these multiple and complex relationships?

Systems thinking in the early Cold War period provides an ideal site for deepening our investigation of these questions. This volume reveals considerable variety in the philosophies, methods, and goals of systems thinkers. But systems advocates shared at least one point in common: all engaged in what we have come to call “heterogeneous engineering.” At its core, it seems to me, systems thinking consisted of deliberate attempts to fit heterogeneous elements—artifacts, institutions, people, and ideas—into a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.

This extremely general description might give pause. How different was the systems thinking of engineers, planners, economists, and operations researchers in the 1950s and 1960s from our own attempts to describe the heterogeneous relationships that constitute technological activity? A facile answer might be “very.” After all, we typically position ourselves outside, rather than inside the system. Our analytic goals differ starkly: we do not attempt to use our conceptions and theories about these relationships to shape the systems themselves (though perhaps we should?). And our analytic tools differ from theirs: we rely on qualitative rather than quantitative modes of reasoning and we do not aim to build formal predictive models. The case seems closed, the question trivial.

Yet it would be a mistake to dismiss the comparison between us and systems thinkers too quickly. Two additional questions point to the importance of more complex consideration. How did systems (p.134) thinkers conceive of relationships between technology and politics? And how should we deal with their conceptions and constructions in our own explorations of these relationships? This chapter addresses the first question by examining how the systems thinking of state engineers, planners, and economists in France fit into broader debates about the relationship between technology, politics, and the national future during the 1950s and 1960s. It addresses the second question by example.

I begin by analyzing French debates between technologists, social scientists, and humanists over the meanings of the words “technocrat” and “technocracy.” Ultimately, these debates were about who should hold which kinds of power in France. Who, in particular, should have the power to define and construct France’s future? They thus hinged on fundamental questions about the nature of technology, politics, and the relationships between them. State engineers, planners, and other technologists thus promoted their visions of the future of France and their own role in shaping that future. In so doing, they attempted both to describe a new technological France and to define a specifically French technological style; the next part of the chapter examines these attempts. Technologists argued that they had a crucial role in shaping this new French national identity. Their conceptualizations ofthe means by which they would construct a new technological France relied on qualitative, informal versions of systems thinking. Finally, I explore the more formal attempts to apply systems thinking to shaping France’s future and identity made by the Planning Commission. A state agency founded after the Second World War to direct the reconstruction and modernization of the nation, the Planning Commission produced multiyear Plans aimed at modeling and shaping national development. By the early 1960s these Plans constituted attempts to apply qualitative and quantitative systems thinking on a national scale; they were also self-conscious efforts by technologists to enact a certain kind of politics.

As we shall see, formal as well as informal attempts at systems thinking provided technologists with a means of articulating both their conceptions of the relationships between technology and politics and their hopes for the future of those relationships and of their nation. In the process, these attempts also gave them ways to define and legitimate their own means of doing politics.

What Is a Technocrat?

The aftermath of the Second World War led the French to rethink the role of the state in directing the economy in general, and industrial, (p.135) scientific, and technological development in particular. Dominant political groups in this period agreed that by investing and guiding the modernization and expansion of French industry, the state would accomplish the dual aim of resuscitating the economy and restoring the country to its rightful place among the world’s great nations. Despite considerable disagreement over procedure and form,1 enough consensus emerged to allow the creation or reform of several state institutions and national companies.

This profusion ofnew and reformed institutions proved extremely congenial to a growing class of state experts. Issuing primarily from the grandesécoles, these men included engineers, economists, and professional administrators. They cultivated an ideology of public service, polyvalent knowledge, and meritocratic leadership that dovetailed with the prevailing view that state institutions should take primary responsibility for directing national reconstruction and modernization. Denouncing the conservative, protectionist practices of traditional French businessmen, these state experts poured into the top ranks of ministries, the Planning Commission, nationalized companies, and other state institutions. There they vigorously forged their visions of a French technological identity. Charles de Gaulle’s return to power in 1958 provided political support and leadership for such efforts, which gained correspondingly in momentum, visibility, and prestige.

The important role played by state experts in running the nation did not escape the attention of their contemporaries. Quite the contrary: as the euphoria ofliberation gave way to the hardships of reconstruction, private industrialists and opponents of domestic policies from both ends of the political spectrum began to accuse state experts of undemocratically imposing their will on the nation. The word “technocrat,” which had been a fairly neutral term before the war, became a derogatory epithet.2 At the same time, “technocrats” attracted the attention of social scientists and humanists as an identifiable group to be analyzed and critiqued. Debates sprang up over the meaning of “technocrat” and “technocracy.” At the root of these debates lay passionate defenses of a separation of technology and politics. For social scientists as well as more virulent opponents of state experts, “technocrat” designated someone who had breached a boundary, who had moved from his area of expertise into the domain of political decision making. The dangers inherent in breaching this boundary were considerable. First and foremost among them was the capitulation of democracy to technocracy.

What was technocracy, and what relationship did it subsume between politics and technology? According to some humanists and social (p.136) scientists, technocracy entailed the replacement of politicians by experts. Some, like the eminent writer André Siegfried, saw this process as the quasi-inevitable result of technological civilization:

Indeed, is it not normal that we should be pulled toward technocracy? The primacy of our material preoccupations demands this, for the standard of living depends on technology: the quantifying spirit, the geometrical spirit in machine civilization has come to dominate. With the expert replacing the politician, it has even invaded a domain where the spirit of finesse should continue to reign. These transformations were inevitable, but perhaps they pulled the State too far down the road of a potentially oppressive technocracy. The defense of the individual, of liberalism must reorganize itself by finding new positions.3

Social scientists echoed these anxieties. “Techniciens”—a more polite, less loaded term than “technocrate,” which I shall translate here as “technologists”—were eroding traditional political power. For some, “technologists” referred primarily to state engineers; for others, the term encompassed any expert or high-level bureaucrat involved in state administration. Either way, this erosion posed a grave danger to democracy. While in theory power remained in the hands of elected officials, in practice these officials no longer played any significant role in policy making. State planning offered a striking example: plans were devised by state experts, while elected officials, who had neither the time nor the qualifications to understand the calculations, merely approved the budget without questioning the plan. “Government by opinion is giving way to the power of initiates who have the secrets of technology, or who simply know its rules.”4 Democracy, the essence of the French republic, was threatened: crucial decisions were being made by an unelected elite.5

To some extent, these anxieties echoed age-old French fears about the encroaching power of the state. But they represented more than simply renewed expressions of historical themes; they also expressed fears about the apparently relentless advance of technological civilization. Without any deliberate human agency, these intellectuals feared, technological change and the lure of material goods had conspired to change the very structure of social and political relationships. Would technology go so far as to make politics irrelevant?

One might expect these anxieties to fade after General de Gaulle’s return to power: he was, after all, the very incarnation of a strong and (p.137) decisive politician. But they did not. True, de Gaulle made it clear that he had no intention of leaving serious decision making to experts; he himself lambasted “technocrats” on a number of occasions. But the general believed in a strong state. Powerful leadership, he felt, had to rise above party politics. He appointed several state experts with no history of professional politics to his ministerial cabinets.

Under these circumstances, debates about the nature of technocracy intensified. In 1960, for example, political scientist Jean Meynaud accused the French state of becoming increasingly technocratic. He described the technocratic mentality as “that state of mind which makes us conceive of technological achievements as the supreme evidence of humankind and that invites us to expect everything from scientific progress.”6 He located the intellectual foundation of technocracy in an unlimited faith in the value of scientific analysis. The end result of technocratic action was the “abdication (dessaisissement) of the politician in favor of the technologist.”7 Numerous leftist critics claimed this had occurred in 1940 with the institution of the Vichy government8 and again in 1958 with the Gaullist overthrow of the Fourth Republic. Ultimately, Meynaud agreed. He judged technocratic ideology to be little more than an apology for the technologist and a justification of the desire to reduce politics to technology.

Meynaud was particularly suspicious of that ideology’s exaltation of the technologist and his supposed ability to take a “vue d’ensemble”—a systems view. When paired with the alleged moral qualities of the technologist—such as a highly developed sense of public responsibility—this ability supposedly enabled men to make choices in the general interest. But Meynaud argued that men possessed of the technocratic mentality frequently did not have such an elevated moral sensibility. Uncertainties abounded in any kind of decision making, and technologists were no better qualified to deal with such uncertainty than politicians. Furthermore, any kind of decision, no matter how “technical,” necessarily incorporated political considerations. Most ridiculous of all were those cyberneticians who proclaimed the arrival of a “governing machine” that would ultimately mechanize political decision making. For Meynaud, the advance of technocracy heralded the weakening of democracy.9 Meynaud’s analysis was representative of the writings of many social scientists. Technocrats, in this literature, were men who proclaimed the irrelevance of all ideology, called for the introduction of operations research in political decision making, argued that France had to find a middle ground between Russian (p.138) rationality and American efficiency, and vehemently denied being technocrats.10

Social scientists and humanists found technocrats most threatening when they breached the boundary between technology and politics. Clearly, these intellectuals deemed the maintenance of this boundary crucial to the proper and decent functioning of society. When someone like Jean Meynaud acknowledged that technical decisions had political dimensions, he did not mean, as historians and social scientists of our generation might, that technology and politics could not be separated (much less that the very process of design was political). Rather, he meant to make his own political statement: namely, that elected officials should be presented with a range of technical options so that they could make the final decision. Democracy and justice, in other words, demanded a clear demarcation between technology and politics.

How did the men thus accused defend themselves? They adopted two strategies, contradictory on one level but eminently compatible on another. The first denounced the negative connotations of the “technocrat” and attempted to salvage a positive meaning for the word. This consisted of arguing that “technocratic” modes of action, accused of being authoritarian, in fact fit perfectly well within the democratic process. The second strategy involved articulating an identity for technologists that opposed that of politicians. On the surface, this strategy consisted of affirming separate and opposing identities for the two social groups. But in arguing that technologists were superior to politicians, this strategy ultimately militated for a kind of conflation between technological and political means of action. I will examine each strategy in turn.

Alfred Sauvy (polytechnicien, director of the Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques) maintained that the pejorative sense of the word “technocrat” had emerged unjustly. All technologists did was propose ideas for reforming the nation, and ideas were part of the democratic process.”11 While Sauvy admitted that the defenders of the general interest did not always communicate and negotiate as much as they should, this was largely because such men didn’t have any forums where they could express themselves. Developing more and better channels of information could easily remedy this situation. It was absurd, he said, that French citizens were more suspicious of the “technocrat” who defended the public interest than they were of private interests.

(p.139) Sauvy thus argued that disinterested expertise was perfectly compatible with democracy. He dismissed the word “technocrat” as nothing but a petty insult. Others, however, attempted to reappropriate the word and restore a positive meaning to it. In Plaidoyer pour I’avenir [Plea for the Future], Louis Armand (polytechnicien, prominent member of the Corps des Mines) and his coauthor concluded that “it is not being a ‘technocrat’ in the insulting sense of the term to want to base oneself on realistic data, to seek to understand [this data], and to finally attempt to synthesize it. This is being a man who loves life and wants to figure out what he can do to love it even more and to ensure that others love it.”12 Thus, far from being inhuman or mechanical, the technocrat was full of passion. Technocracy, said another enthusiast, was “exercising power inherent in scientific … and mathematical technology in order to [ensure] the good operation of society and the success of large social entities: large companies, nations, tomorrow perhaps all of humankind.”13 Technocracy was good because it contained within it the power to transcend the petty boundaries of national politics (and indeed Armand and others like him were ardent defenders of the European Community).

Such attempts to salvage a positive meaning for “technocracy” failed. Somewhat more effective was the second, parallel strategy that technologists used to counter accusations against them: articulating an identity that explicitly opposed that of the politician—or, more accurately, the politician as seen by the technologist. In the pages of La Jaune et la Rouge (the alumni magazine of the Ecole Polytechnique), politicians emerged as corrupt, dishonest, and ineffective. One Polytechnique alumnus defined the contrast with particular eloquence in a speech entitled “The Cardinal Virtues of the High-Class Engineer”:

Do we want the best of our engineers to participate, through their acts, their pens, and their words, in making our economy healthy again? Well then! We must immunize them, from their very first steps, against the disease known as political thinking of which Machiavelli was the champion … The Florentine did not hesitate to claim that the individual should sacrifice to the State not just his fortune and his life, which is very noble [très beau], but also his honesty, which is detestable…. In the twentieth century, … a democracy cannot accommodate long-standing deception, and I cannot conceive that economic recovery could occur without the country being fully aware of the difficulties to surmount and having full confidence in the sincerity of its guides.14

(p.140) Democracy—a cardinal virtue of the social order about which everyone could agree—could not be served with politicians and their political values. The guiding spirit of Machiavelli would only lead the nation into further chaos. France needed different heroes: Galileo and Pasteur, for example. Such mentors could teach boys to stand up for truth and rigor under the direst of circumstances, turning them into fine, upstanding young men who would “restore our economy and give France the place it deserves in Europe. Let us pray, my dear comrades that, in the expert hands of our imperturbably devoted teaching personnel, and with the help of its cadre of officers whose enthusiasm is infectious, our old establishment can still shape men who, thanks to their talents, their virtues, and their culture of Science, will have the Glory of accomplishing the task that the Nation demands of them!”15 In contrast to the corruption and decadence of politicians, the eternal values of the Ecole Polytechnique would thus guide the nation.

Not all technologists felt this need to attack the political class in order to articulate a distinctive identity that would naturalize their participation in running the nation. Some—like Armand—defined the difference as one of method and thought process. The problem with politicians was their inability to think synthetically and systemically. This ability constituted the great strength of technologists, and their most important difference from politicians.16 Allowing technologists to produce and direct organized systems would not render politicians superfluous, but it would render ideology “obsolete.”17 Thanks to the systems thinking and building of technologists, politicians would no longer need ideology to demonstrate the validity of a policy. Good policies would now emerge from rational, not ideological, choices. Systems thinking, therefore, both defined and legitimated the participation of technologists in public life. I shall return to this point later.

Another strand of efforts to elucidate a distinctive technological identity crystallized in the portrayal of technologists as supremely masculine. The technologist was virile, decisive, and forward looking. He was, in a favorite expression of Pierre Masse (head of the Planning Commission), a “man of action.”18 Politicians, by contrast, were not men of action—or at least not very efficient men of action. “The political man of the Republics … the product of chance, [is] badly prepared for the awesome task of a man of State, ignorant of international and economic problems, duped by his own ease of expression. He will be vanquished by facts.”19 It followed that only technologists, who had a true mastery of “facts,” could be real “men of action.” It also (p.141) followed that the virtues of the man of action were honesty and directness. In Masse’s experience, some politicians did possess these virtues—men who laid their cards on the table and engaged in rational discussion. With them, he could talk “man to man.”20 But such politicians were rare.

Contrary to the image that political detractors painted of the cold, hard technocrat, men of action were not without heart. Indeed, another technologist showed a passionate desire to procreate and nurture—actions, indeed, which could come directly from the male technologist, completely bypassing any feminine assistance: “in the literary mind, the love of man is merely a platonic love, [a love] which does not create human life. The technologist loves man with a more carnal love and wants to continue to nurture the being whom he loves. He will therefore try to protect [this being].”21 Technologists were thus the virile, passionate protectors of mankind (and presumably of womankind as well). Love spurred them to action. Politicians and writers did not act—they wrote, they talked, they waffled, but they did not act. Action was what made technologists masculine and therefore powerful.

Clearly, technologists as well as humanists, social scientists, and political leaders found it vital to enact a boundary between technology and politics. But the boundary had different meanings and locations for the two groups. For nontechnologists, the boundary upheld one of the foundations of democracy. Its transgression therefore signified the collapse of the social order. The boundary was thus located in the domain of practice: technologists should not behave like politicians, nor should technological methods be applied to political decision making. For technologists, the boundary was located primarily in the domain of identity. The relevant difference was above all one between themselves and politicians. In constructing this difference, technologists adopted extremely narrow definitions of politics. Politics could mean the implementation of classic ideological stances such as communism, socialism, or liberalism. Or it could refer to the activities of politicians, caricaturized as corrupt, indecisive, irrational, manipulative, and Machiavellian.

“Politics” in the sense of classical ideology and corrupt machinations may have been “other” at one level of technologists’ identity discourse. But at a deeper level lay the implication that, because of their values and knowledge, technologists were ultimately better equipped to pursue at least some of the activities in which politicians engaged than were the politicians themselves. At this level, stripped of connotations of ideology and corruption, politics took on a broader (p.142) meaning, becoming part of what technologists did and should do. At this level, technologists sought to efface what they claimed was an outdated boundary between technology and politics.

The Future of France

One important site for the effacement of the alleged boundary between technology and politics was in the discourse about the role of technology in the future of France. This discourse attempted both to describe what a future technological France would look like and to define a specifically French form of technological and industrial development. General forms of these descriptions and definitions constituted a relatively mild erosion of the alleged boundary between technology and politics: they proposed that technological achievement replace more traditional measures of national power and prestige. Discussions of how to attain such futures, however, attacked the boundary much more aggressively. Shifting from goals to means meant searching for ways to shape the future and control destiny. Systems thinking—both qualitative and quantitative—loomed large in this drive to control destiny, constituting an important means for technologists to blur the technology-politics divide and define their own role in shaping France’s future and identity. In order to understand this function of systems thinking, though, we must first examine the national goals technologists sought to attain.

The fundamental premise of these discussions about a future technological France was that in the postwar world, technological achievements defined geopolitical power. A typical article stated that “the possession of industry, especially heavy industry, appears to be a necessary element for respect and independence.”22 Technologists who had sometimes vainly insisted on this equation during the early postwar years found ample political support for it once General de Gaulle returned to power: “We are in the epoch of technology,” declared the general on one occasion. “A State does not count if it does not bring something to the world that contributes to the technological progress of the world.”23 Contributing to the “technological progress of the world” had several concrete meanings for both technologists and de Gaulle: among them, technological development would provide the basis for a new relationship between France and its former colonies. Writing just one year after the Algerian crisis that had brought de Gaulle to power, for example, one civil servant saw tremendous (p.143) potential for this new way of conceiving geopolitical relationships: “In 1958, destiny knocked on the door…. In came the technocrats who would build the Franco-African industrial community. In them, the science of engineers is united with the will of captains. The new French strategy, French peace, will be brought to the world.”24 It followed from this equation of geopolitical power and technological achievement that France needed more scientists and engineers, and the 1950s and 1960s witnessed frequent appeals to this effect.25

But technological achievement as the new measure of power did not mean that technological pursuits all over the world were identical. Indeed, one of the great dangers of adopting this new standard lay in the loss of cultural specificity. In this respect, the American model posed the biggest danger.26 The Groupe 1985, a collection of technologists convened by Pierre Masse in 1964 to think about the long-term future of the nation, issued a clear warning on this theme: “First and foremost it is the intellectual and cultural survival of an original and individual France which is the object of an unexpected challenge. Indeed this scientific civilization will tend increasingly to attenuate national specificities and deformities. From now on our presence in the world depends on our ability to imprint our mark on this civilization by means of significant contributions from French technology and French science.”27

What made a technological or scientific project French? A difficult question to answer, and indeed most technologists avoided addressing it directly, concentrating instead on listing and celebrating French achievements. The pages of La Jaune et La Rouge, for example, were filled with praises for French technological achievements, succinctly expressed by titles such as “French Aeronautics, a Matter of Pride and Hope”; “ ‘The Caravelle’: A National Triumph”; “The Radiance of France from the Builder’s Scientific and Economic Viewpoint.”28 Such pieces described specific achievements with patriotic enthusiasm. In 1960 the explosion of France’s first atomic bomb showed the “entire world the value of French technologists and considerably reinforc[ed] our country’s position.”29 Two years later, the new terminal at Orly airport filled this role: “We deemed it indispensable that an undertaking of this size, destined to be seen by the entire world, should give everyone, inside as well as outside, an example of what we can do in France.”30

Language provided another means of defining a French technological style. Many technologists worried that American terms would (p.144) colonize French technical language. These terms were difficult to pronounce, they sounded ugly in French, and they threatened the precision of the French language. To guard against the wholesale invasion of American terminology, one group of technologists founded the Comité d’Étude des Termes Techniques Français in 1954, a committee dominated by polytechniciens, which included engineers from public and private industry, linguists, university professors, and delegates from technical professional associations. The group met monthly to elaborate or clarify the definition of specific terms and find French equivalents for those that sounded particularly horrible in French. The committee saw itself as a kind of linguistic immigration officer: “Upon entering a country there is a service that sorts immigrants in order to ensure that only the useful ones enter; similarly, we must filter foreign words as soon as they mingle with French vocabulary.”31

There were also attempts to elucidate what was (or should be) specifically French about French technology. Mostly these appealed to a sense of tradition. Tradition, it appeared, could define or describe Frenchness fairly unproblematically. Placing modern accomplishments in a direct historical lineage with accepted traditions would therefore make them demonstrably French.

So, for example, one traditionally French quality was a refined esthetic sensibility. “The beautiful,” noted one group convened to imagine the long-term future of the nation, “is a traditional export of France.”32 The time of hideous industrial landscapes had ended. Modern technology—especially in France—“engenders … its own beauty, [the beauty] of large dams and artificial lakes…, [the beauty] of large bridges…, [the beauty] of large buildings where lines, materials, and light play with each other…, and even [the beauty] of the metal towers of high-tension power lines.”33 Beauty did not necessarily come at extra expense, but even when it did, the cost supplement remained small compared to its benefits: “Beauty brings income for tourism (it is important not to disfigure sites with inadequate equipment), it brings prestige because it represents a considerable attraction, even when there is no commercial profit. The [atomic energy commission’s] installations, which receive numerous foreign visitors, would certainly gain nothing by being hideous, and the esthetic of certain nuclear reactors, whose cost is insignificant with respect to [the cost of the] equipment, does more for the radiance of France than would ten times as many millions spent on propaganda.”34

(p.145) Through beauty, tradition could legitimize modern technological achievements as being truly French. And the relationship worked both ways. France was a nation rich in tradition, but this tradition no longer sufficed to define the glory—indeed, the radiance—of the nation. Armand made a point of this: “The wealth of the setting—churches, castles, rivers and their embankments, towns which each have their own personality …—should mean that France would continue to be a crucible of ideas. Yet all that subsists in France in the way of tradition—in the countryside as in the army—will only have real value and will only be able to radiate if the nation as a whole is solidly of our time.”35 Hence the other side of a symbiotic relationship: just as tradition was necessary in order to make French technology truly French, modernity was necessary in order to make France truly France.

Technologists thus envisioned a future France whose power would rest on technological prowess, yet whose technological achievements would remain distinctly, identifiably French. The type and degree of nationalism in this discourse varied greatly. Some shared de Gaulle’s vision of a strong, independent France, while others argued that henceforth France could be strong only by associating itself with a larger European community. As I argue elsewhere, such differences led to differences in the development strategies pursued by technologists.36 But either way, the goal seemed clear: France had to become a technological nation. Its future depended on planning a wise route to this goal.

To attain this goal, most technologists argued that the French mentalité had to change. This refrain dated from the early postwar period. In those years, advocates of state planning had blamed French defeat on petty industrialists who had clung tenaciously to the status quo and refused to invest in new technologies that could have made France strong. While the most egregious material problems had been corrected by the mid-1950s, advocates of state planning still found much to complain about in the French esprit. For example, one former planner reminisced about an interaction between Etienne Hirsch, high commissioner for planning in the 1950s, and Monsieur de Wendel, the elderly, well-respected head of a steelworks. Hirsch had invited de Wendel to sit on the steel production commission of the Second Plan. De Wendel was puzzled, and replied: “But Mr. General Commissioner, what is this about? After the war you explained to us that we had to make a big effort to modernize the steel industry. We listened to you, (p.146) we did it, we took risks … now we are modern! So what could you possibly want to discuss?” Exasperated, Hirsch replied: “But Mr. de Wendel, modernity is not a definitive state! You made an effort to make up for a delay and modernize certain installations, but this effort will never be exhausted once and for all!”37 The point of this anecdote, which opposed the old-style industrialist to the modern planner, was clear: the listener was supposed to be amused that the old man did not realize that modernity was not a physical condition, but a state of mind.

This idea that modernity began with a change in attitude pervaded the discourse of technologists throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The biggest reproach of technologists, however, centered around the French conception of and approach to the future. The French could no longer stumble blindly into their future; they had to learn how to control their destiny. This involved the cultivation of une attitude prospective.

The notion of la prospective originated with the formation of the Centre International de Prospective. Though most of those involved would have responded to the label “technologist,” a few were also humanists.38 The center was intended to provide a place and a publication (the journal Prospective) for systematic and systemic reflection and action oriented around three related poles: “human problems” such as employment and education; the relationship between Western and other civilizations; and the consequences of new developments in science and technology. The center forbade itselffrom conducting “any political activity”—in the sense of corrupt ideological machinations—and made a point in its publications of lambasting “ideological” modes of reasoning.

What was the attitude prospective? It was one turned toward the future, especially the far future. It differed from short-term forecasting and had to be cultivated by different people. Gaston Berger, the president of the association, explained this using a military analogy:

It would be dangerous for a combat officer to be associated with peace negotiations because his role is to fight even while peace is being discussed. But it would be unforgivable for leaders not to dream of peace while making war. In the adversary of today they must already see the colleague, the client, the friend of tomorrow … It even happens fairly frequently that short-term actions must be taken in a direction opposed to that revealed by a study of the long term. Those who implement such actions must pursue them with vigor, but at a higher level, responsible leaders must calculate the (p.147) importance of these accidents and situate their exact position in events as a whole.39

It was the “responsible leaders,” in other words, who had to take an attitude prospective. The essence of this attitude was systemic: it involved defining a goal and figuring out how human, technical, and economic factors could be synthesized into a plan for attaining this goal. The attitude prospective was thus a qualitative example of what this volume of essays calls “systems thinking.” Ultimately, its advocates argued, this attitude would enable men to “control their destiny,” rather than “submit” to it.40

Many highly placed technologists—Louis Armand, Pierre Masse, and François Bloch-Lainé among others—advocated the attitude prospective. They took it to mean applying systems thinking to problems that were at once technological and social. Armand, for example, sought to define la prospective for national transportation systems, a subject he knew intimately. The issue for the future of transportation, he argued, was no longer maintenance but coordination—not just within subsystems like the railways, but also between subsystems. Airlines, railways, and roads should be coordinated to provide optimal transportation routes for travelers and goods. The current chaotic state of affairs, in which these subsystems competed with each other, merely demonstrated the “need for Governments to apply notions of political economy which are the domain of operations research.”41 He did not, however, specify how operations research might be applied on such a scale or to such problems.

Like modernity, la prospective was above all a state of mind. Taking une attitude prospective involved seeing life as a “continual invention.”42 It demanded intimate knowledge of “large new technologies,” of which the two most important were atomic energy and cybernetics.43 It was an activity for the “elite,”44 an elite composed of “men of action”: “Men who not only have a taste for moral or philosophical meditation, but also a concrete knowledge of men and the experience of command and responsibility.”45 The action in which men should engage involved synthesizing “all the means at the disposal of modern society in order to know and to predict, to organize and to decide.”46 Like the others involved in the center, Berger placed a heavy emphasis on real-world experience: “We do not seek a synthesis of knowledge and writings, but a synthesis of lived experience … only doctrinaires—[who are] inefficient but formidable—start with abstract ideas com (p.148) pletely cut off from reality.”47 Real-world experience thus provided a nonideological foundation for action based on la prospective.

The central figure at the heart of l’action prospective was the engineer. Not just any engineer, but an engineer who could take a “vue d’ensemble,” a “systems view.” Such a systems thinker could master his destiny. He combated the defeatism of those who saw the human condition reflected in the myth of Sisyphus: “If the myth of Sisyphus expressed our true condition, our engineers would have already discovered the means of using the regular fall of the boulder and Sisyphus, freed from repetitions, would devote himself to other tasks.”48 Invention provided the foundation for men to build their destiny; as such, the material world had spiritual value.49 Berger evoked the myth of Faust to demonstrate this point. In the end, he said, Faust found fulfillment not through the gifts of the Devil, but by working for other human beings. For this, God saves him from the Devil’s clutches. “And what does this mean? This means that man had been a magician and became an engineer, but an engineer in the service of others. What is the magician? He is the one who uses spiritual forces for selfish goals. What is the technologist? He is the one who uses his work, his pain, his intelligence to bring men the things they need.”50 Imbued with une attitude prospective, the engineer, man of action and systems thinker, could shape human destiny. This was “decidedly” not technocracy. It was simply good sense.51

What (besides a more rational, prosperous, and powerful nation) would systems thinking produce? Armand’s reply was, “Technology + Organization = Culture.”52 While technological change could certainly have disastrous effects, these could be avoided through heterogeneous, systemic organization. This, in turn, involved overstepping traditional boundaries, particularly those between technology and a certain kind of (presumably nonideological) politics. In the words of another prospective advocate, “If the modern world demands an increasingly large number of specialized technologists and researchers, alongside [such people] a certain number of young men must be able to dominate their technologies in order to define and implement general industrial policy. For this, they must be or become more than just technologists.”53

La prospective essentially consisted of a qualitative approach to systems thinking: by taking into account human and cultural factors in their inventive efforts, engineers and other “men of action” had the means to set goals for the future and trace out trajectories through which those goals could be attained. Though some advocated specific (p.149) methods for tracing those plans—particularly the techniques of operational research—even they kept their contributions to the journal Prospective quite general. This was not the case, however, for the Plan.

The Plan

The Plans elaborated by the Planning Commission were the ultimate instruments for shaping the future and destiny of the nation, the ultimate effort to constitute and define a large-scale system.54 In the Plan and its planners, the various themes examined thus far come together. The planner epitomized the technocrat—or the broad and forward-thinking “technologist,” depending on one’s perspective. Architects and advocates of the Plan often held it up as a quintessentially French achievement, the ultimate marriage of (certain select) traditions and modernity. Making the inevitable reference to Descartes, one enthusiast noted that “the effort towards increased rationality that the French Plan represents conforms to one of our best national traditions.”55 Planners themselves promoted the Plan as an instrument not only of national cohesion and internal economic development, but also of national power. The introduction to the Fourth Plan began thus:

… [G]oing beyond individual destinies, [the national goals of the Fourth Plan] define themselves as survival, progress, solidarity, [and] radiance. They consist of ensuring our defense by combining the modernization of the military with a reduction in its personnel, of giving research the material power necessary to ensure the full participation of the French spirit in the great scientific and technological enterprise of this century, of giving regions and less-favored groups—be they the aged, repatriated soldiers, employees or low-income farmers—concrete proof of a solidarity indispensable to national cohesion, and finally of pursuing our aid to the less-developed nations of the third world, especially those French-speaking African States which decided to keep special ties with our nation.56

Given such lofty goals, serving the Plan was not only an “ardent obligation” but potentially a quasi-religious experience: “Inasmuch as the Plan has become a necessity, all reticence is abnormal, even stupid. The only logical and efficient recipe is to make planification a psychological force of progress and solidarity. Serving the Plan, participating in it at different levels, can feed the transcendence of each one [of us], provide satisfaction for the civic-minded.”57 Thus the Plan could furnish a (p.150) means for enacting the spiritual dimension of the material world, of invention. A quintessential manifestation of the attitude prospective,58 the Plan, by its very existence, would turn the nation into a system.

One way in which the Plan would systematize the nation was by providing information. Left to their own devices, private industries or even larger, organized sectors of the economy would, in the disastrous manner of the prewar period, pursue independent policies conceived from the sole point of view of the industry or sector in question. They would have no way of knowing how their actions affected other industries or sectors; nor would they know how the actions of others affected them. This ignorance might well lead them to make faulty decisions, not just in terms of the national interest, but potentially also in terms of their own interests. By providing decision makers with increasingly detailed maps of the infinite interconnections that bound the nation’s economy together, successive Plans would enable a new kind of decision making: one that was not only more rational and efficient, but also more systemic. Indeed, it would ultimately be in everyone’s best interest to work toward the national goals set by the Plans (for the Plans were not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive), even if in the short term these goals asked people to make decisions that appeared to go against their immediate interests. The whole would be bigger than the sum of the parts, and the parts would benefit in consequence. Thus both describing and prescribing the system were also, in a sense, supposed to create the system—assuming, of course, that the actors operating within it paid attention to the maps and prescriptions provided by the planners. Assuming, in other words, that they accepted the notion of themselves as actors in a system.

More complex and sustained systems thinking in the Planning Commission began with the Fourth Plan. The methods for elaborating the first three Plans had been primarily qualitative, and even the most fervent admirers of state planning conceded that the Plans themselves had been important primarily for psycho-cultural reasons, serving to change the mentalité of the French by articulating a dynamic, modern future. In contrast, the Fourth and Fifth Plans—under the impulse of their new commissioner, economist Pierre Masse, one of the primary French architects of linear programming—were developed using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. As such, they pursued systems thinking on a national scale far more intensely.

The first three plans had used material indices such as industrial equipment and economic indices such as productivity and efficiency in (p.151) order to set goals for national economic and industrial performance. In contrast, the Fourth Plan sought to develop dynamic models that would describe the economy, and the social and material relations that drove it, as a whole. The economy was composed of diverse and overlapping heterogeneous “sub-systems” (“sous-ensembles”). These included diverse sectors such as agriculture, industry, commerce, and transportation; geographic regions of the nation; economic constructs such as balance of trade, consumption, savings, and investment; and socio-economic relationships such as employment and the labor market. These sub-systems interacted in complex ways. With the help of the mathematical services of the Ministry of Finance and the INSEE (the National Institute for Economic and Statistical Studies), planners aimed to model these interactions as closely as possible.

Though they fell short of building a single model for the entire nation, they nonetheless produced a set of models that described the national economy as a heterogeneous system composed of technological and economic artifacts, people, and social relationships, and driven by the interactions between these various components. Using these models, they defined an “optimum” growth rate. They then turned the growth rate and parts of the models over to the modernization commissions. Convened separately for each Plan and not composed of expert planners, these commissions studied specific industrial, economic, geographic, or cultural sectors. Based on the information they received from the expert planners, the commissions drew up tentative plans for their sectors. Finally, the expert planners collected these sub-plans and modified them in order to fit them into a system both described and constituted by the final plan.

In passing over the details of these models and the processes by which they were built, I in no way mean to imply that these were unproblematic or uncontested. Planners and experts from the INSEE and the Ministry of Finance negotiated nearly every step. At no point was the planning process seen (by participants or expert observers) as a “black box.”59

Intended to cover the period 1962 to 1965, the Fourth Plan outlined policy directions for a broad swath of French economic, industrial, social, and even cultural life. First and foremost came the need to develop scientific and technical research. “The fate of a people is increasingly determined by the energy it deploys in opening new routes to knowledge, which is the very source of its radiance and the indispensable condition of the [continuous] renovation of its (p.152) technologies.”60 Beyond this, the Plan set growth and development objectives for the sectors of the economy defined by its models, recommending for example that the nuclear industry seek to develop several different types of power plant design. Pointing to increasing international competition, it recommended that large industrial establishments pursue efforts to both merge and specialize. It set goals for urban development throughout the nation, recommending the destruction of dilapidated buildings, the construction of wide roads, and the creation of parks and sporting facilities in city centers. It introduced the idea of regional planning. In prosperous regions, it recommended policies for developing infrastructural facilities to keep pace with local growth, while it recommended that the state offer more substantial aid to poor regions. For all regions, it outlined schemes for the modernization of rural areas, including the widespread development of public utilities such as electricity and running water.

In addition to making recommendations for material development, the Plan promoted cultural harmony through technological and institutional means. A second television station would contribute to “increasing the information and cultural development of the population and to spreading the radiance of France beyond its frontiers.”61 Meanwhile, the construction of “culture houses” throughout the nation would enable “culture” (which remained undefined) to “remedy that which often seems discordant and inhuman about technological civilization, … to penetrate the daily life of men and especially to become, through the exercise of diverse professions, as immediate a concern as hygiene and stable employment.”62

The Fourth Plan thus represented an attempt to chart the future of the nation on every possible front. In theory, the national system that it conceived was open and unbounded. Even if some parts of the system could not be described quantitatively, ultimately no aspect of national life lay outside the whole. In greater or lesser detail, labor policy, industrial growth, urban development, technological change, investment, and cultural enrichment could all be related to each other and planned for the greater good of a new, modern France. The modernity of the nation could be described, in some instances measured, and in all cases enhanced. And sweeping as the Fourth Plan was, the Fifth Plan covered even more ground and used even more elaborate quantitative methods.

Clearly, these Plans were hybrids of technology and politics in the broadest sense of both terms. Indeed, the architects of the Plan saw (p.153) matters in precisely these terms. In an INSEE report written to promote the diffusion of the programming methods of the Fifth Plan, one technologist wrote of the “simultaneously technical and political nature” of the Plan’s “elaboration process.”63 Throughout its entire course, the planning process wove together technical and political methods: “The kind of variables involved in the technical work [and] the determination of their values or of the relationships between them are themselves tied to explicit, or more often implicit, political choices. This web of political choices and technical work is woven during the preparation of the Plan.”64 While no one went so far as to argue, as we might, that the technical and political aspects of the process were indistinguishable, it seemed clear to all those involved that they were at least closely related, and furthermore that a close relationship was necessary for the success of the Plan.

In a sense, taking a systems approach constituted an attempt to naturalize the erosion of the alleged boundary between technology and politics. Conceiving of the nation as a system and arguing that all its heterogeneous components were interrelated implied that all these components could be planned. In other words, all components—technological, regional, cultural, and economic—fell within the purview of the planners.

The enrollment of an extremely heterogeneous group of people into the planning process provided a key means of enacting this erosion. While planners themselves remained a small, select group of experts, the modernization commissions were populated by a great variety of people: industrialists, labor union representatives, bankers, regional administrators, architects, urban planners, even a few artists and writers. Their participation was meant to ensure the democratic character of the plan. It was also intended to increase the investment of different social groups in the plan, thereby increasing compliance.

In a sense, the Plan as a whole formed an attempt to enroll the entire nation in a broad program of sociotechnical development. Because the Plan was not coercive, it could not impose its agenda on industrialists, workers, regions, banks, or flows of money. But it could and did attempt to persuade the nation to follow its lead. Its very existence was one form of persuasion, and the High Commissioners for Planning engaged in other forms by visiting politicians, regions, and industries to promote the Plan. Witness, for example, how Masse described his job two decades after retiring:

(p.154) My profession was to send a message that would not falsify the truth, but that would be accessible to labor union members, politicians, [and] public opinion. I had to convince the Government to adopt my plan project, to convince the Economic and Social Council to emit a favorable overall opinion, [and] to convince Parliament to vote it [into effect]. I repeat the word “convince” three times because this was an essential part of my job, carried out for seven years with a respectable measure of success. Voting the plan [into effect] is an important act—the Nation’s commitment to itself… In sum, I had a responsibility of a political nature that went beyond the mission of the experts.65

Here, politics was not ideological but persuasive, an essential and evidently enjoyable (given the relish with which Masse described his many voyages and conversations throughout his autobiography) part of building a modern nation.


The relationship between technology and politics was a vital issue in debates over running French society and constructing a modern future and identity for France during the 1950s and 1960s. Much was at stake, from the professional identities of political scientists and engineers to the principles underlying the proper functioning of a democratic society. For many social scientists and humanists, keeping technology and politics separate appeared crucial not just for their own professional survival, but for the survival of democracy itself. Technologists also sought to maintain a boundary, but they thought the relevant line of demarcation lay between their identity and that of politicians. This boundary served not to defend an existing order but to valorize a new one, in which technologists, thanks to their expertise and morality, would forge a better and more modern democracy.

Technologists envisaged a modern France whose strength and “radiance” would rest on technological achievement. In articulating the mechanisms through which the nation would attain this future, and their own role in shaping those mechanisms, technologists sought to erode rather than maintain a boundary between technology and politics. Systems thinking provided an ideal means for describing and legitimating this goal. If heterogeneous elements were related to each other in identifiable, describable, controllable ways, and if technologists could predict and control these systems, then they could not only (p.155) engage in politics but could do so better and more reasonably than could politicians.

Donald MacKenzie has described how the Americans who designed nuclear missile guidance systems sought to maintain a discursive boundary between technology and politics while at the same time eroding that alleged boundary through their practices.66 The case of French systems thinkers presents a striking contrast: these men explicitly and joyfully advocated the erosion of any such boundary. But the comparison with MacKenzie’s engineers reveals a similarity as well as a difference. In both cases, articulating conceptions of the relationship between technology and politics served a strategic purpose. In both cases, issues of legitimation and authority lay at the heart of these conceptions. What is the significance of this similarity—and of this difference? How did systems thinkers in other nations conceive of the relationship(s) between technology and politics, and what role did these conceptions play in shaping the systems models or schemes that they developed? This questions remain open for discussion.

French planners used a systems approach to naturalize the erosion of the boundary between technology and politics, to defend it and make it normal. In arguing that technological systems are socially, culturally, and politically constructed, we in technology studies have shown that the boundary between technology and politics (and society and culture) is at the very least fuzzy, in some cases not even meaningful. The ineffability of the boundary, we have said, is business-as-usual in the technological world; it reflects the normal state of affairs. Indeed, our modes of analysis appear rather congenial to (at least some) French state engineers. I presented “Political Designs”67—an article in which I analyze nuclear reactors as political constructs and as instruments of political action—to two former members of the French nuclear industry. Their only comments were of a technical nature: both appeared to agree completely with my argument. I still do not know how to interpret this acquiescence. Does it simply mean that I “got it right”? Or that I was merely echoing their vision of the world?

Of course a big difference between us and the systems thinkers I have described in this chapter is that we do not argue that technological expertise constitutes a privileged form of knowledge; nor, therefore, do we argue that the systems approach constitutes a privileged form of political action. Indeed, our analyses frequently contain an implicit critique of this sort of privileging, this means of doing politics that can sometimes appear downright underhanded. And we can also offer a (p.156) different perspective by looking beyond the systems conceived by systems thinkers. We do not, therefore, merely echo technologists’ vision of the world.

Nonetheless, we should not get too comfortable. For social scientists as well as technologists in 1950s and 1960s France, conceptions or models ofthe relationship between technology and politics were themselves political statements in the broadest sense. In what ways is this true for us and our conceptions? Many of us have argued for the inseparability of technology and politics in an analytic sense. Are we thereby also arguing for their inseparability in a political sense? And, if we do not wish to ally ourselves with technologists, what does such an argument imply? These may not be new questions for historians and sociologists of technology, but studying the systems approach gives us a particularly fruitful field in which to explore them.



(1.) The politics of the immediate postwar period have been well covered by historians. For example Jean-Pierre Rioux, La France de la Quatrième République, vol. 1: L’ardeur et la nécessité (Paris: Seuil, 1980); Maurice Larkin, France since the Popular Front: Government and People, 1936–1986 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988); Richard F. Kuisel, Capitalism and the State in Modern France: Renovation and Economic Management in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

(2.) For analyses of technocratic movements before World War II, see Kuisel, Capitalism and the State in Modern France; Gerard Brun, Technocrates et Technocratie en France (Paris: Albatros, 1985); Philippe Bauchard, Les Technocrates au pouvoir (Paris: Arthaud, 1966). This last also functions as a primary source and example of the turns taken by debate about technocracy in the 1960s.

(3.) André Siegfried, “Le Problème de l’Etat au XXe siècle en fonction des transformations de la Production,” 13–25 in Gaston Berger et al., Politique et Technique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1958).

(4.) Marcel Merle, “L’Influence de la technique sur les institutions politiques,” in Berger et al., Politique et Technique.

(5.) Marcel Waline, “Les Resistances techniques de l’administration au pouvoir politique,” in Berger et al., Politique et Technique.

(6.) Jean Meynaud, Technocratie et politique. Etudes de Science Politique (Paris, 1960), 7.

(7.) Meynaud, Technocratie et politique, 39.

(8.) See Kuisel, Capitalism and the State in Modern France, for an analysis of this.

(9.) Meynaud wrote several other critiques of technocracy, including: “Les Mathématiciens et le Pouvoir,” Revue Frangaise de Science Politique IX, 2 (1959): 340–367 (p.157) (this article actually came out in favor of more moderate approaches to cybernetics, in which cybernetic techniques might be used as thinking tools, but still argued strongly against mathematicians having any sort of decision-making power); Jean Meynaud, “A propos de la Technocratie,” Revue frangaise de science politique XI, 4 (1961): 671–683; Jean Meynaud, “A Propos des Speculations sur l’Avenir. Esquisse bibliographique,” Revue frangaise de la science politique 13 (1963): 666–688; Jean Meynaud, Technocracy (Technocratie, Mythe ou Réalité?) (New York: Free Press, 1964, 1968). All make similar arguments to the book discussed here.

(10.) See, for example, Jean Touchard and Jacques Sole, “Planification et Technocratie: Esquisse d’une analyse idéologique,” 23–34 in Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques et Institut d’Etudes Politiques de l’Université de Grenoble, La Planification comme processus de decision (Paris: Armand Colin, 1965). See also articles by the sociologist Nora Mitrani: “Reflexions sur l’opération technique, les techniciens et les technocrates,” Cahiers internationaux de sociologie XIX, 1955; “Les mythes de l’énergie nucl. et la bureaucratie internationale,” Cahiers internationaux de sociologie XXI, 138–148; “Attitudes et symboles techno-bureaucratiques: reflexions sur une enquête,” Cahiers internationaux de sociologie XXIV, 148–166; Bernard Chenot, Les enterprises nationalisées (Que sais-je? n. 695, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1956); Georges Lescuyer, Le controle de l’Etat sur les entreprises nationalisees (Paris, 1959); Henri Migeon, Le Monde après 150 ans de technique (nouv. ed., Paris, 1958); Gabriel Veraldi, L’humanisme technique (Paris, 1958).

(11.) Alfred Sauvy, “Lobbys et Groupes de Pression,” in Berger et al., Politique et Technique.

(12.) Louis Armand and Michel Drancourt, Plaidoyer pour l’avenir (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1961), 230.

(13.) Dominique Dubarle, preface to Jean-Louis Cottier, La Technocratie, Nouveau Pouvoir (Paris: Edition du Cerf, 1959), 26–27. A Catholic priest, Dubarle also wrote his own book on the subject: Dominique Dubarle, La civilisation de l’atome (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1962).

(14.) André Léauté, “Les Vertus Cardinales de l’Ingenieur de Grande Classe,” La Jaune et la Rouge, 120 (1958): 36–42.

(15.) Ibid., 42.

(16.) Armand and Drancourt, Plaidoyer pour l’avenir, p. 107 passim.

(17.) Ibid., 17.

(18.) Pierre Masse, “Propos incertains,” Revue frangaise de la recherche operationelle 2e trim., n. 11 (1959): 59–71. Quote p. 60 and passim.

(19.) Jean Barets, La fin des politiques (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1962), 113.

(20.) Pierre Masse, Aléas et Progrès: Entre Candide et Cassandre (Paris: Economica, 1984). Throughout these memoirs, Masse uses this expression to confer high praise on the reasonableness of certain interlocutors.

(p.158) (21.) Jean Barets, Revue de Défense Nationale, mai (1963).

(22.) Georges Villiers, “Industrie, Technique et Culture,” Prospective 4 (1959): 21–32.

(23.) Quoted pp. 4–5 in Olivier Wieviorka, Charles de Gaulle, la technique et les masses (Paris: 1990), G0004: 1–13. For a more sustained discussion of Gaullist discourse on technology and power, see Gabrielle Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998).

(24.) Cottier, La Technocratie, Nouveau Pouvoir, 41.

(25.) A few examples: Henri Longchambon, “Prenons Garde!” La Jaune et La Rouge 93 (1956): 26–31; Alfred Sauvy, “Lobbys et Groupes de Pression”; Reflexions pour 1985 (Paris: La Documentation Française, 1964); Louis Armand, “Technocrates et Techniciens,” La Jaune et La Rouge 216 (1967): 4–8.

(26.) Richard Kuisel, Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

(27.) Reflexions pour 1985, 13–14.

(28.) Albert Caquot, “Le Rayonnement de la France aux points de vue scientifique et economique du constructeur,” La Jaune et La Rouge 112 (1958): 23–28; Ingénieur general de l’Air Dumanois, “L’Aéronautique Frangaise, sujet de fierté et d’espoir,” La Jaune et La Rouge 106 (1957): 27–28; Jacques Lecarme, “Un triomphe nationale: ‘la Caravelle,’” La Jaune et La Rouge 118 (1958): 25–42.

(29.) Pierre Couture, “Explosion de la premiere bombe A Frangaise,” La Jaune et La Rouge 136 (1960): 32–35.

(30.) Pierre Cot, “La Nouvelle Aérogare de l’Aéroport d’Orly,” La Jaune et La Rouge 158 (1962): 10.

(31.) Anonymous, “Defense de la langue française: Le Langage Technique,” La Jaune et La Rouge 107 (1957): 27–36. Quote p. 29.

(32.) Reflexions pour 1985, 88: “Le beau est une exportation traditionelle de la France.”

(33.) Reflexions pour 1985, 85.

(34.) Reflexions pour 1985, 88.

(35.) Armand and Drancourt, Plaidoyer pour l’avenir, 238.

(36.) See Hecht, The Radiance of France.

(37.) Quoted in François Fourquet, Les Comptes de la Puissance: histoire de la comptabilité nationale et du plan (Paris: Recherches, 1980), 237.

(38.) In particular, Gaston Berger, the founder and president of the Centre Internationale de Prospective, was a philosopher—though a rather special kind of phi (p.159) losopher, since he also sat on the scientific advisory board of the French atomic energy commission. But the six vice-presidents of the Centre all fit under the label “technicien” in its broadest sense: Louis Armand, Frangois Bloch-Lainé, Pierre Chouard, Jacques Parisot, Georges Villiers, Arnaud de Vogue.

(39.) Gaston Berger, “L’attitude prospective,” Prospective 1 (1958): 1–10. Quote p. 4.

(40.) Berger, “L’attitude prospective,” 6.

(41.) Louis Armand, “Vues prospectives sur les transports,” Prospective 1 (1958): 37–44.

(42.) Gaston Berger, “Culture, qualite, liberte,” Prospective 4 (1959): 1–12. Quote p. 5.

(43.) See the second issue of Prospective on “consequences générales des grandes techniques nouvelles,” focused exclusively on these two technologies.

(44.) See for example André Gors, “Avant Propos,” Prospective 2 (1959): 2.

(45.) Berger, “Culture, qualite, liberte,” 6.

(46.) Gors, “Avant Propos,” 7.

(47.) Berger, “Culture, qualite, liberté,” 7.

(48.) Ibid., 5.

(49.) The spiritual dimension of the “attitude prospective” was mainly propounded by Berger, a devotee of the Catholic thinker Teilhard de Chardin. I will not elaborate on this aspect of his thought here; see Gaston Berger, “L’idée d’avenir et la pensée de Teilhard de Chardin,” Prospective 7 (1961): 131–153.

(50.) Berger, “L’idée d’avenir et la pensée de Teilhard de Chardin,” 151.

(51.) Berger, “Culture, qualité, liberté,” 7: “La prospective s’oppose décidément à toute technocratie.”

(52.) Armand and Drancourt, Plaidoyer pour l’avenir, 153.

(53.) Georges Villiers, “Industrie, Technique et Culture,” Prospective 4 (1959): 2132. Quote p. 21.

(54.) Unless otherwise noted, my description of the Plans and of the planning process is based on the following sources (not necessarily in order of importance): “Quatrieme Plan de Développement Economique et Social (1962–1965),” Commissariat General au Plan, 1961; Pierre Bauchet, La Planification Frangaise: du premier au sixieme plan (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1966); Fourquet, Les Comptes de la Puissance; Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques et Institut d’Etudes Politiques de l’Universite de Grenoble, La Planification comme processus de decision; INSEE, “Méthodes de Programmation dans le Ve Plan,” Etudes et Conjonctures 21, 12 (1966); Etienne Hirsch, “Les methodes frangaises de planification,” Mémoires de la Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France 112, II (mars-avril 1959): 81–94; Masse, Aleas (p.160) et Progrès; Frangois Perroux, Le IVe Plan Frangais (1962–1965) (2e édition; 1e éd. 1962 ed. Que Sais-Je? (“Le Point des Connaissances Actuelles”) no. 1021 (Paris: PUF, 1963; Bernard Cazes, “Un Demi-Siècle de Planification Indicative,” in M. Lévy-Leboyer and J.-C. Casanova, eds., Entre l’Etat et le marché: L’économie française des années 1880 à nos jours (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1991): 473–506; Kuisel, Capitalism and the State in Modern France; N. J. D. Lucas, Energy in France: Planning, Politics and Policy (London: Europa Publications Limited, 1979); John H. McArthur and Bruce R. Scott, Industrial Planning in France (Boston: Division of Research, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1969); Henry Rousso, ed., De Monnet à Massé: Enjeux politiques et objectifs économiques dans le cadre des quatre premiers Plans (Paris: CNRS, 1986).

(55.) Perroux, Le IVe Plan Français (1962–1965), 126.

(56.) “Quatrième Plan de Dèveloppement Economique et Social (1962–1965),” Commissariat General au Plan, 1961, 4–5.

(57.) Armand and Drancourt, Plaidoyer pour l’avenir, 209.

(58.) Indeed, Pierre Masse, the third high commissioner of planning, was an ardent supporter of this attitude. See for example Pierre Massé, “Prévision et Prospective,” Prospective, 4 (1959): 91–120.

(59.) Perroux, Le IVe Plan Frangais (1962–1965).

(60.) “Quatrième Plan de Développement Economique et Social (1962–1965),” 153.

(61.) Ibid., 274.

(62.) Ibid., 265.

(63.) INSEE, “Methodes de Programmation dans le Ve Plan,” Études et Conjonctures 21, 12 (1966), 11.

(64.) Ibid., 12.

(65.) Masse, Aléas et Progrès, 183.

(66.) Donald MacKenzie, Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990).

(67.) Gabrielle Hecht, “Political Designs: Nuclear Reactors and National Policy in Postwar France,” Technology & Culture (October 1994): 657–685.