In The Power of Systems (Cornell University Press, 2016), Egle Rindzeviciute introduces readers to one of the best-kept secrets of the Cold War: the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, an international think tank established by the U.S. and Soviet governments to advance scientific collaboration. From 1972 until the late 1980s IIASA in Austria was one of the very few permanent platforms where policy scientists from both sides of the Cold War divide could work together to articulate and solve world problems. This think tank was a rare zone of freedom, communication, and negotiation, where leading Soviet scientists could try out their innovative ideas, benefit from access to Western literature, and develop social networks, thus paving the way for some of the key science and policy breakthroughs of the twentieth century.
Ambitious diplomatic, scientific, and organizational strategies were employed to make this arena for cooperation work for global change. Under the umbrella of the systems approach, East-West scientists co-produced computer simulations of the long-term world future and the anthropogenic impact on the environment, using global modeling to explore the possible effects of climate change and nuclear winter. Their concern with global issues also became a vehicle for transformation inside the Soviet Union. The book shows how computer modeling, cybernetics, and the systems approach challenged Soviet governance by undermining the linear notions of control on which Soviet governance was based and creating new objects and techniques of government.
You can buy this book here.
Discussion roundtable: H-Diplo 2019.
(London & New York: Routledge, 2015)
co-edited with Jenny Andersson
“This book reconsiders the power of the idea of the future. Bringing together perspectives from cultural history, environmental history, political history and the history of science, it investigates how the future became a specific field of action in liberal democratic, state socialist and post-colonial regimes after the Second World War. It highlights the emergence of new forms of predictive scientific expertise in this period, and shows how such forms of expertise interacted with political systems of the Cold War world order, as the future became the prism for dealing with post-industrialisation, technoscientific progress, changing social values, Cold War tensions and an emerging Third World. A forgotten problem of cultural history, the future re-emerges in this volume as a fundamentally contested field in which forms of control and central forms of resistance met, as different actors set out to colonise and control and others to liberate. The individual studies of this book show how the West European, African, Romanian and Czechoslovak “long term” was constructed through forms of expertise, computer simulations and models, and they reveal how such constructions both opened up new realities but also imposed limits on possible futures.”
Constructing Soviet Cultural Policy: Cybernetics and Governance in Lithuania after World War II (Linköping University Press, 2008).
“This book explores the historical creation of the discourse of the steering of culture, the construction of state cultural policy as a special mode of governance, based on measurement and calculation and assisted by scientific knowledge and technologies.”
Reviewed by Barbara Czarniawska in Baltic Worlds.