Performativity of Economics in Late Socialist Romania

Alina-Sandra Cucu, University of London

The paper investigates the field of Romanian economics between mid-1965 and 1989, in its encounter with the global crisis-led transition to neoliberalism. It focuses on the emergence of a field of expertise around economic prognosis, future thinking, and the creation of markets, a phenomenon that extended across the region and was deeply influenced by global trends in financialization and politics of calculation. In this particular instance, I examine the activity around the Institute for World Economy, the oldest public institute for economic research in Romania, which in the 1960s became a special entity for studying foreign trade dynamics, for examining the latest conjunctures and development perspectives of the world economy, for discovering the best deals for primary resources, and for keeping track of the price fluctuations on the world markets in real time. Based on the rich materials produced by the Romanian economists in the period, their training programmes, and their ethos as manifested in interviews and life histories, I propose a critique of the performativity of economics approach from an Eastern European corner. Thinking with and against the bourgeoning body of literature on performativity in market economies, the paper builds a threefold argument about planning in state socialism: 1) The performativity of the plan was something to be achieved and struggled for, a fact the economists of the period were highly aware of. 2) The last decades of state socialism were dominated not simply by the logic of planning but by the thorny encounter between national, regional, and global dynamics of capital accumulation. In this sense, economic discourse had to be performative for different aims and at different scales. 3) The performativity of the economic discourse underlying the plan and the market were not fundamentally different in terms of effects, supporting practices, and politics of justification.

No extended abstract or paper available

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