Centrally Planned Society: Social Planning, Social Data and Politics of “Socialist Way of Life” in Late Socialist Czechoslovakia

Vitezslav Sommer, Charles University in Prague

After the collapse of Prague Spring reforms in the late 1960s, Czechoslovak authorities as well as significant part of expert community announced a transition from market socialist policies to renewed emphasis on planning and, more generally, highly centralized organization of polity and economy. This return to more authoritative socialism, which was characterized as “consolidation” or “normalization”, influenced the content of expertise provided by economists and sociologists. Highly important social scientific concept and, simultaneously, policy strategy of this period was social planning. Its aim was to broaden planning activities of Czechoslovak state from central planning of economy to systematic and large-scale planning of social development. This planning exercise involved such diverse but interconnected activities as organization of welfare policies in industrial enterprises or theoretical research on “socialist way of life”. The idea was that planning of society, i.e. planning of “soft” variables like consumership, leisure, cultural preferences, values, morals or working habits, could, in the long-term, contribute to the establishment of specifically socialist society of the era characterized as “really existing” or “advanced” socialism. This kind of planning, however, required new set of data, which were not, until then, systematically collected. The aim of this paper is to explore, how economist, sociologist and other experts grappled with this basic problem of late socialist social planning. Given the failure of social planning in the course of the 1980s, this paper will analyzed the case study of “counter-performativity” (Bamford and MacKenzie, New Left Review 113) – it will cover the story of political and expert project which not only failed to deliver its intended outcomes, but also produced various unintended effects.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 44. Performativity from a New Angle: Planned Economies and Their Data