Systems Revolutionaries: Making a Transnational Expert Community during the Cold War

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Egle RINDZEVICIUTE, Kingston University London, United Kingdom
In this paper I analyze the origins of the concerns with global complexity and uncertainty among Soviet social and economic planners. While the failure of the Soviet planning system as well as the limitations of the idea of centralized control have been widely analyzed by historians, we know little about the role of the ways in which the idea of global systems influenced Soviet governmentality. Tracing the emergence of global modeling communities in the Soviet Union, I will discuss the discursive, institutional and social strategies mobilized to deal with uncertainty in the Soviet system from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Drawing on archival documents but also oral history this paper charts the hitherto neglected aspect of Soviet governance and puts it in a dialogue with the growing literature on governing complexity and uncertainty in the Global North. Particular focus is on the Soviet debates on systems analysis and computer-based global modelling that took place at the Academy of Science’s Computer Centre, the All-Union Institute of Systems Research (VNIISI) and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. In the main, this paper will assess the strength and limitations of ideas of global complexity and the long term in the modernization of the Soviet governance.