Governmentality of the Future

modern_intellectual history

Soviet Policy Sciences and Earth System Governmentality

This article introduces non-Western policy sciences into the burgeoning field of the intellectual history of Earth system governmentality, a field that studies the ideas, institutions and material systems that enable action at the global scale. It outlines the rise of debates on the idea of the governability of the global biosphere in late Soviet Russia (1970s–1980s), focusing particularly on the extension of Vladimir Vernadskii’s famous theory of the biosphere and its governance (the stage of the noosphere) into computer modeling and systems analysis. As a result, a new notion of governance as guidance through milieu arose to conceptualize global governance of the biosphere. This conceptual innovation was part of Soviet scientists’ attempt to liberalize the centrally commanded Soviet governmental system.

Open access: Modern Intellectual History


A Struggle for the Soviet Future: The Birth of Scientific Forecasting in the Soviet Union

Slavic Review, 2016

This article introduces the history of Soviet scientific future studies after World War II, discussing in detail the foundational debates among Gosplan economists in 1966 and providing a new perspective on the work of the most famous promoter of Soviet social forecasting, Igor’ Bestuzhev-Lada. It argues that the theory and methods of scientific future studies undermined the utopian certainty of the Communist future and made it clear that Soviet governmentality had to acknowledge the intrinsic uncertainty of future development. The emphasis on uncertainty, but also the need for more data which would be freely circulated across different branches, and hence more transparency, called for radical revisions of Soviet notions of effective governance. Whereas some used future studies to criticize the actual practices of Soviet economic planning, others used this new type of expertise to extend personal influence and accumulate organizational power. Both cases, however, made it clear that Soviet governance had to accommodate the shift to new constellations of power/knowledge in which scientific experts would play an ever increasing role in shaping policy with regard to a fundamentally uncertain future.


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Future as an Intellectual Technology in the Soviet Union:

From Centralised Planning to Reflexive Management

This article examines the ways in which future as a dimension of goal-oriented behaviour was used to organise and legitimise informal practices of management and planning in the Soviet Union. This study introduces hitherto unexplored history of reflexive management under the authoritarian regime focusing on the work of the Russian philosopher and management guru Georgii Shchedrovitskii. Drawing on the cybernetic notion of teleology, which posited reflexive goal-setting as a key condition of control, Shchedrovitskii taught Soviet managers to formulate their own goals, thus contributing to the erosion of the Communist Party’s monopoly of goal-setting. Furthermore, through the means of organisational-business games this new teleology not only transformed bureaucratic administrations into informal collectives, but also provided informality with an unprecedented legitimacy, emancipatory in the Soviet context, but highly ambiguous in post-Soviet era.

Cahiers du monde Russe, 56 / 1 (2015)

Full text here.



Introduction: Toward a New History of the Future

In Andersson, J. & Rindzeviciute, E. eds., Forging the Future: The Struggle for the Long-Term in Transnational Science and Politics (London & New York: Routledge, 2015), 1-15 [with Jenny Andersson]



Toward a Joint Future beyond the Iron Curtain: East-West Politics of Global Modelling

In Andersson, J. & Rindzeviciute, E. eds., Forging the Future: The Struggle for the Long-Term in Transnational Science and Politics (London & New York: Routledge, 2015), 115-143.

Full text available here.


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Rindzeviciute, E. & J. Andersson,

“The Political Life of Prediction: The Future as a Space of Scientific World Governance in the Cold War Era”.

Les Cahiers européens de Sciences Po, no.4 (2012): 1-25.

Full text available here.