Cybernetics and Communism:
Cybernetic Thinking in the Polish People’s Republic
If cybernetics can be considered a new science of machines, which launched a new understanding of the relation between the machinic and the organic, this science gained its specific momentum in the communist world of the Cold War era. In this talk, I will discuss this specificity in the historical context of the Polish People’s Republic. Putting a special emphasis on the complex relation between cybernetics, dialectical materialism and ideology in that particular political context. I will comment on the foundation and activities of the Polish Cybernetics Society, as well as on Oskar Lange’s theory of economic cybernetics. The history of cybernetics in Poland, however, dates back to the 19th century, when this term was introduced to the Polish language by the romantic philosopher Bronisław Trentowski. I will discuss the meaning of cybernetics in the precybernetic era commenting on Trentowski’s project of political philosophy in order to show how it helps shedding a new light on the Foucauldian concept of governmentality in the contemporary technological context.
Michał Krzykawski, Associate Professor in philosophy and head of the Centre for Critical Technology Studies at the University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland. His research revolves around continental philosophy of science and technology, critical theory, and political economy. He is particularly interested in a dialogue between philosophical thinking, technology and science in the context of epistemological, psychosocial, and ecological issues related to the current digital transformation. He is the author of The Other and the Common. Thirty-Five Years of French Philosophy (2017, in Polish) and co-author of Bifurcate: There Is no Alternative edited by Bernard Stiegler with the Internation Collective (2021).