This article explores the political effects of the development of systems analysis as a form of “infrastructural knowledge”—that is, as a form of knowledge concerned with infrastructure, and an infrastructure of knowledge—that contributed to internal dissensus among scientific experts in the Soviet Union. Systems expertise is largely missing from existing work on the history of Soviet infrastructure. The article analyzes the development of governmental, managerial, and industrial applications of systems analysis in the Soviet context, as well as the transfer of Soviet systems expertise to developing countries. It argues that systems analysis constitutes a form of infrastructural knowledge that enabled Soviet scientists to criticize governmental policies, particularly largescale, top-down infrastructure projects. This critique is interpreted as an expression of a new normativity about what constitutes good governance; it became particularly salient when Soviet scientists were facing infrastructural projects in the global South. Systems analysis, in this way, constituted an important intellectual resource for endogenous liberalization of the authoritarian regime.
Systems Analysis as Infrastructural Knowledge: Scientific Expertise and Dissensus under State Socialism
Eglė Rindzevičiūtė is associate professor of criminology and sociology at Kingston University London. She is the author of The Power of Systems: How Policy Sciences Opened Up the Cold War World (2016) and the editor of The Struggle for the Long-Term in Transnational Science and Politics: Forging the Future (2015, with Jenny Andersson). Her articles have appeared in such journals as Modern Intellectual History, Slavic Review, International Journal of Cultural Policy, Current Anthropology, and Cahiers du monde Russe.
Eglė Rindzevičiūtė; Systems Analysis as Infrastructural Knowledge: Scientific Expertise and Dissensus under State Socialism. History of Political Economy 1 December 2019; 51 (S1): 204–227. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-7903300
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