"Fenster im Staatsrat 1" by SpreeTom - Own work. (Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons)
Project (2013-2017)

Hidden Reserves of Productivity in Socialist Planning: From Historical Consciousness to Science and Expertise

My research focuses on the transformations of central planning in Romania as a historically specific form of “modern technopolitics.” Using archival material from the Romanian government, from several schools of industrial management, and from various factories in Cluj (a town in the northwestern part of Romania), I analyze how the making of “the plan” put in motion a set of practices which made possiblebut also hinderedpolitics of knowledge, anticipation, and calculation that were articulated around the simultaneous pursuit of economic growth and social emancipation. My investigation breaks down the very notion of a top-down “centrally planned economy” through an in-depth exploration of “planning” and “centralization” as processes and relations that were continuously negotiated on the ground by local state agents, factory managers, and workers.

More specifically, I follow the emergence of a new field of expertise and of new mechanisms of knowledge production around the notion of “productive hidden reserves” in the mid-1960s. I look at how this notion was redefined as the domain of the experts, as part of a systematic endeavor to replace the early socialist reliance on workers’ voluntary self-transformation and practical knowledge with contemporary Western methods of industrial management. This historical transition of Romanian industrialism from local and embodied knowledge to a professionalized field of expertise with universalist aspirations opens a broad space for questioning the nature of socialist economies as modern objects of governance and governmentality. It also offers glimpses into the redefinition of the worker, from the subject of a political project to an object of policy and scientific analysis.