Producing knowledge in productive spaces: ethnography and planning in early socialist Romania

Cucu, Alina-Sandra. 2014. Producing knowledge in productive spaces: ethnography and planning in early socialist Romania. Economy and Society, 43(2), pp. 211-232. ISSN 0308-5147 [Article]

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My paper explores the forms of knowledge which laid the ground for the first economic plans of Romanian socialism, between 1949 and 1955. Building on factory and local Party Committee documents from the city of Cluj archives, I focus on processes of knowledge production within the space of the factory, following industrial management as a fundamental dimension of the exercise of state power in socialism. Against James Scott's concept of ‘legibility’, my research shows that the Romanian Party officials were fully aware of the limitations imposed by standardized knowledge and statistics in their planning activity and tried to counteract these limitations by producing in-depth ethnographic knowledge about economic units, production and people. Narrative and interpretative accounts of factory life proved to be the most efficient tools for a state which managed not only populations and resources, but also social production processes. Investigating the fundamental ways in which knowing was inextricably tied to planning as a condition of possibility for the exercise of state power reveals how the project of transforming economy and society into a totalizing historical configuration depended upon essentially anti-totalizing forms of knowledge.

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central planning, economy in the making, ethnographic knowledge, legibility, scientific management, state socialism

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19 May 2014Published Online

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31 Mar 2020 11:07

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02 Apr 2020 14:59

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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