In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, changing social and cultural climates challenged the position of scientists in Western society. Ringer and Harwood have described how scientists reacted by adopting either pragmatist or ‘comprehensive’ styles of thought. In this article, I will show how a group of Dutch intellectuals, including many scientists, came up with an alternative approach to the dilemmas of modernity, and eventually became influential in shaping Dutch society. They combined elements of both styles into what I call a ‘synthetic technocrat’ ideology, a reaction against intellectual and political fragmentation. These ideas were often combined with pleas for educational reform, culminating in a plea for gebildete Tatkraft. I will analyse the development of the synthetic technocrat movement from the late nineteenth century into the 1940s. During this period, the movement became increasingly political in nature, but in a radically different way to comparable movements in other countries, especially Germany.