Duke University (USA)
E-Mail: yooseong.heo [at] duke.edu
Photo: Eun-Joo Woo
Rationalizing Socialism: Management, Information, and Technocracy in East Germany, 1953–1990
My dissertation explores the making of knowledge infrastructures for industrial management in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In the early 1970s, the GDR started to build a countrywide network of computerized information systems that would connect all industrial associations, enterprises, and factories centered on several state information processing centers. This large-scale management information system would, the system builders expected, allow economic planners and high-ranking managers to make more informed decisions and, more fundamentally, perfect ‘complex socialist automation and rationalization.’
With the conception of technocracy not merely as the rule of experts but also as the infrastructural world-making process, my dissertation elucidates what ‘complex socialist rationalization’ really meant not only for the history of the GDR but also for the history of governance in the late twentieth century. To do so, I look into the abstract and material infrastructures that enabled the countrywide management information system. Besides the material system-building process making use of East German information technology—mostly reverse-engineered though—I specifically scrutinize interdisciplinary efforts of scientists and engineers in the field of business informatics to make sense of complex industrial and political realities and put them together into standardized and computerized information bases for the socialist knowledge management of a ‘rationalized’ form. By doing so, my dissertation will show that this complex ontological engineering lay at the bottom of the discourse of ‘complex socialist rationalization’ in industrial and technology policies of the late GDR. Building on recent historical studies about infrastructure, ‘scientization of the social,’ and ‘bureaucracy as knowledge,’ my dissertation further suggests reconsidering the historical arc of twentieth-century technocracy in relation to high modernity.
Heo Yooseong researches during his stay at the ZZF in department II: Knowledge – Economy – Politics.