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Defence of doctoral thesis
5 July 2012

Jaume Valentines
cehic 25/06/2012

Technocracy and Technological Nationalism in Catalonia during the 1930s. The industrial engineers: from workshop organization to the rationalization of the State

5 July  2012, 11.30h
Sala de Graus I de la Facultat de Ciències de la UAB (C1/070-1)
Director: Antoni Roca Rosell

Tribunal: Drs. Guillermo Lusa (UPC), Àngels Solà (UB) i Àlvar Martínez Vidal (Universitat de València)

This PhD Thesis, “Technocracy and Technological Nationalism in Catalonia during the 1930s. The industrial engineers: from workshop organization to the rationalization of the State”, argues that the rise of the industrial engineering profession in Catalonia during the 1930s was intrinsically associated with the theoretical and practical development of a project of scientific management of individuals, society and the nation. This agenda was implemented through the combination of two “politically promiscuous” and “conceptually elastic” ideologies: Catalan nationalism and technocracy. We could add a third one: the ideology of (female) domesticity. These projects were reinforced by other professionals of science, technology and medicine, as well as by other key political actors and trade union leaders.
The Introduction, “Economic reason, technological reason, political reason and human-values reason: the struggle for hegemony in the Thirties”, explains that these first three reasons collapsed and at the same time reached their climax between 1929 and 1945. In Catalonia, industrial engineers became the representatives of the technological reason and participated in the reconfiguration of political reason and economic reason as well. Chapter I (“The industrial engineers: social elititzation and spatial segregation”) and Chapter II (“The Association of Industrial Engineers of Barcelona: professional hegemony and corporate unity”) focus on the processes of individual and collective elitization of these professionals, in order to understand their political agenda and public agency. Chapter III, “Industrial engineers, a new ruling class: social mediation and scientific mediation”, shows how they aimed at becoming a "third class"; that is, a "technical class" between Capital and Labour, a “bridge” for social peace and a “compass” for economics and politics.
Chapter IV, entitled “Catalan autonomy and technical autonomy. Technological Nationalism”, presents the redefinitions of national identity by industrial engineers and their vindication of autonomy at the national, corporate and educational levels. These beliefs and claims were used to increase their agency in the new Catalan government and in the organization of the nation. The two following chapters refer to the role of Catalan industrial engineers within the international and interprofessional project of maximizing the efficiency of the “human motor”, and, particularly, of the “female machine”. Chapter V (“From the workshop to the nation and from the worker to the manager: the holistic rationalization project of engineering”) focuses on the rationalization tools: scientific management, standardization, psychotechnics and statistics. Chapter VI (“Technical masculinity and masculinised technics: gender discourses and rationalization”) explores the tacit project of denying women an aptitude for highly qualified technical work.
The last chapters refer to another project of Catalan engineers that ran parallel to the optimization of the efficiency of the “human machine” through scientific management: the maximization of the efficiency of the “state machine” through economics. Chapter VII (“The conquest of the national economy and rational economics: new expertise, old experts”) discusses the historical relationship of engineering and economics in Catalonia, and the work of the engineering associations to overcome the stagnation of economic sciences in Spain during the 1930s. Chapter VIII (“Economic neutrality and political neutrality. Ideological plurality and unity in engineering”) looks into the purpose of the Association of Industrial Engineers to reach scientific homogenization and professional unity and to give shelter to its heterogeneous members and ideological plurality. Finally, Chapter IX (“Technocrats against Technocracy. Circulation, appropriation and application of technological ideologies”), analyses the rejection of the ideas of the Technocrat Movement by Catalan society (and Catalan technicians) as well as the triumph of a non-imported-technocracy in Catalonia, through case studies focused on the II Republic, the Civil War and the early years of Francoism.