This article positions the vogue for cybernetics as a key driver of the transformation of the institutional structures and epistemic order of Soviet technoscience that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. Inseparable from the rapid growth of Soviet military science, Soviet cybernetics was both the result and medium of surprising recombinations of different forms of scientific and engineering expertise to create novel military technologies. Military computing was the point of entry for cybernetics, while its focal tasks—the bomb, rocketry, and radar—in turn shaped cybernetic understandings. The rapid growth and cyberneticization of these new areas of militarily driven science caused a tectonic transformation of the Stalinist articulation of science, technology, and politics. A crucial moment of these latter shifts, the article further suggests, was the transformation of Soviet economics into a properly mathematical economics. In a series of analogical transfers, mathematicians and engineers derived a radical vision of cybernetic communism from their specific military engineering tasks. Their encounter with reformist economics, mediated by computational utopias, enabled the transfer of advanced mathematical techniques, metaphors, and personnel from military science to the social sciences. This complex process constituted Soviet mathematical economics. Soviet cybernetics’ challenge to the Stalinist order of knowledge and its attendant institutional reconfigurations thus opened up a critical space for political reflection for the Cold War era “scientific-technical intelligentsia” at the heart of the party-state.
Dreams in Cybernetic Fugue: Cold War Technoscience, the Intelligentsia, and the Birth of Soviet Mathematical Economics
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Adam E. Leeds; Dreams in Cybernetic Fugue: Cold War Technoscience, the Intelligentsia, and the Birth of Soviet Mathematical Economics. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 November 2016; 46 (5): 633–668. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2016.46.5.633
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