How Not to Network a Nation. The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet

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236 Notes to Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Economic Cybernetics and Its Limits

  1. Regarding the mutual embeddedness of practice and theory on which this analy-
    sis of Soviet economic problems rests, I take for granted (more or less following John
    Dewey and other early pragmatists) that the two cannot be separated. Without prac-
    tice, theory is a mere abstraction, a desiccation of thought; without theory, practice
    is purposeless action. I understand theory as a form of practice, however subdued
    and meditative its rootedness in modern society may be, and practice as an expres-
    sion of mental purpose, an exercising of theory in a world that knows only action.
    C. S. Peirce put the point thus: “Consider what effects, which might conceivably
    have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our
    conception of those effects is the whole of our conception of the object.” In other
    words, to consider an object is to conceive of its practical effects. To conceive, or
    theorize, an object is, for the early pragmatists, also to understand the full set of its
    practices and implications. With this in mind, the analysis of organizations and
    economics that follows assumes that theoretical and practical judgments must be
    reconcilable. For more, see John Dewey, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, in The Essential
    Dewey, vol. 2 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 169–179; see also
    Charles Sanders Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear,” in The Essential Peirce, vol. 1
    (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992–1999), 132.

  2. Before 1928, the Soviet Union was an indicative economy, not a command econ-
    omy, meaning that the state set economic quotas but did not compel them. Richard
    E. Ericson, “Command Economy,” The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd ed.,
    ed. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume (New York: Palgrave, 2008).

  3. Engels wrote to Karl Kautsky in Vienna: “In any case, it will be for those people to
    decide if, when and what they want to do about it, and what means to employ. I
    don’t feel qualified to offer them any advice or counsel in this matter. They will
    presumably be at least as clever as we are.” Friedrich Engels to Karl Kautsky in
    Vienna, from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Selected
    Correspondence (Moscow: Progress, 1975), accessed July 25, 2013, http://www.

  4. Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography,
    1888–1938 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 93.

  5. Much of the vast literature on the Soviet command economy is dated to cold war
    research concerns. The part that was consulted (and sometimes critiqued) in this
    work includes Mark Beissinger, Scientific Management, Socialist Discipline, and Soviet
    Power (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988); Peter Blau, Bureaucracy in Modern
    Society (New York: Random House, 1956); Michael Ellman, Planning Problems in the
    USSR: The Contributions of Mathematical Economics to Their Solution, 1960–1971 (New
    York: Cambridge University Press, 1973); Michael Ellman, Socialist Planning (New
    York: Cambridge, 1978); Paul R. Gregory, The Political Economy of Stalinism: Evidence

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