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Rohdewald, Stefan

„Futurology – a Bridge between East and West?“ Western and Soviet Visions of a Scientific Form of the „Fight for the Future“

The contribution aims to demonstrate with the example of discoursive practices on „Futurology“ aspects of the role of visions of the future in the concurrence and coexistence between the socialist and the Western world during the „Cold War“. Analyzing the concepts of several leading Western and Soviet acteurs of the attempts to institutionalize futurology as a new scientific discipline, political, societal and cultural aspects of conceptions of science and technology between East and West in the context of the „Cold War“ shall be interpreted in a transnational perspective as the result of international entanglements.

One of the first „futurological“ essays by Osip Flechtheim was a prognosis on prognosis: „The way into the new millenium will surely be marked by the ‘concurrence of planing in East and West’, too“, as he wrote. In this competition, namely futurology should become a „Bridge between East and West“. Flechtheim’s futurology and similar conceptions of Western authors lead in the Soviet Union and other states of the socialist World to a quasi allergic reaction: the claim on future was pivotal for the rhetorics of legitimization of Marxism-Leninism.

In this situation, it can be observed, how Soviet scientists, not only when writing for the Western public, soon no more principally rejected the term „futurology“, but adaptated it to Soviet conceptions. Bestužev-Lada saw the „modern futurology“, thus, as a Western imitation of the „early“, last but not least Soviet futurology. But nonetheless, Bestužev wrote with a similarly international perspective as Flechtheim, when he situated futurology in the framework of a global scientific community: „Modern futurology and thinking in ‘world models’ are some of the ‘hot spots’ on the foremost front of modern science“.
Thus, the aim of the contribution is not so much to find evidence of the transfer of conceptions from one region to another, but to work out phases of adaptations that were mutually interdependent in their entanglement between East and West.

Saturday 31 Oct, 12.00-13.30 SESSION 8
Panel: The Impact of the Cold War on Soviet Scholarship