Computers for the Planned Economy: Franco–Soviet Scientific–Technical Cooperation during the Cold War
This paper contributes to the studies of governmentalities of the late 20th century which are predominantly focused on the raise and on various national careers of neoliberal ideas and policy prescriptions, and have only rarely taken into account another powerful trend related to proliferation of information technologies. To complement available research on the role of computer and automation of decision-making in (neo)liberal economy, we’re revealing the existence of alternative technoscientific networks associated with different political projects. Based on archival materials and oral history interviews, we’re reconstructing and analyzing the story of the Franco-Soviet cooperation in the field of economic management, from the late 1950s to the 1980s, which was initially motivated by a common interest in promoting and perfecting planning methods, but was later recast as a dialogue dominated by purely technical issues of the information processing and communication, which finally became a part of the commercial strategy aiming to support the French and Eastern European computer industry. We’re showing that this dynamics was underpinned by various interests and visions of “scientific management” and of the role of computers and information technologies in managing national economy. Importantly, we found that both French and Soviet planners criticized an extensive use of formalization and automatization of managerial decisions–which contradicts widely accepted accounts of confluence between cybernetics and planning. However, under the Brezhnevian conservative turn–despite the rhetoric of the scientific-and-technological revolution–the computer was accepted as a means to preserve the existing social and political order.