In contrast to relying on an art of administration to set strategic goals, RAND wanted to develop a science of top-level decision-making: rigorous, formalised and technical. The technologies of management that emerged were designed to mathematically model executive decisions and ground them in apparently objective facts.
It was an ambition that drew not fro the needs of profit-maximising private industry, but from the necessity of organising and refining America's cold war strategy. RAND had been established precisely to capitalise on the innovations in statistical analysis and military planning made during the second world war. Weapons system analysis (soon renamed systems analysis) was its key development. And from this sprang many of the neoliberal managerial techniques that revolutionised the public sector over the second half of the 20th century. [...]
this is interesting. should ask Sahil more about this at the reading group next week
Indeed, the rhetoric of technocratic management and cold data analysis underpinned the depoliticisation of discussion around public sector management that we witness in the neoliberal age. By insisting governance was simply a data-led assessment of performance, responsibility for the continued failures could be passed onto lower orders, while responsibility for decision-making was reinforced at the top.
The deployment of the new management science, with its suite of metrics and decision technologies enabled a new form of control at a distance. Top managers cast themselves as neutral arbiters, who simply allocated resources to those who performed. [...] the managed competition that characterises neoliberalism belongs firmly within a framework intended to empower managers, rather than enforce 'the market'.
From the beginning, proponents of systems analysis shad doubted the ability of market-like mechanisms to adequately assess the information it was given [...]
For that reason, public sector reform was built on new techniques of costing and performance assessment, so as to compensate for the inability of the market to correctly assess needs and costs. The point was not to 'let' competition choose winners and losers. Instead top managers expected to arrive themselves at a verdict on what performance indicators really meant and what their implications should be. [...]
gotta think about this more in the context of tech's fetish of data-driven decision making