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Research seminar

The Experts of Prediction

Cold War Social Scientists at the Crossroads between Authoritarianism and Democracy

Add to calendar 2023-06-15 13:30 2023-06-15 15:00 Europe/Rome The Experts of Prediction Zoom YYYY-MM-DD


15 June 2023

13:30 - 15:00 CEST



In this presentation, Anna Eva Grutza (Central European University) will concentrate on two guiding concepts, namely prediction and social diagnosis, that emerged as focal points for her PhD research on 'Imperial Laboratories of Governance in Disguise: Seeing Through the Grid of Cold War Information Analysis'.

As both terms, prediction and social diagnosis already suggest, this presentation traces a historically particular entanglement between various disciplines that converged through their common reference to and their use of the social laboratory and the social experiment. Grutza looks at the genealogy of mass communication, propaganda, and public opinion research from the 1930s to the 1970s. She tries to understand how this historically significant conflation between the medical and psy-sciences, on one hand, and the social sciences on the other, allowed for a global knowledge regime to take shape and to spread beyond ideological and systemic borders during the Cold War. This knowledge regime was especially characterised by (neo-)positivistic premises for the calculation and prediction of human action, attitudes and behaviour. It was also practical in its approach to matters of propaganda and propaganda analysis as well as to scientific studies, social engineering, policy- and decision-making, social and economic planning, and finally surveillance. The experts of prediction encompassed therefore a variety of actors who defined and used their unique agency in relation to the state and state ideology. In narrowing her focus to US-American and Polish sociologists and psychologists, Grutza asks what made prediction and social diagnosis attractive for democratic and authoritarian countries, such as the US and Poland respectively, that would foster academic exchanges between the two countries to such an unexpected degree. To which extent were the experts of prediction themselves able to shape the policies and decisions of those countries? How shall one define their special status in politics and Cold War history? And what do these two phenomena, prediction and social diagnosis, tell us about dependencies within and divergencies between democracies and authoritarian regimes?

Zoom link to the event will be provided after a completed registration.

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