Naukovedenie (literarily meaning ‘science studies’), was first institutionalized in the Soviet Union in the twenties, then resurfaced and was widely publicized in the sixties, as a new mode of reflection on science, its history, its intellectual foundations, and its management, after which it dominated Soviet historiography of science until perestroika. Tracing the history of meta-studies of science in the USSR from its early institutionalization in the twenties when various political, theoretical and institutional struggles set the stage for the development of the field, to the sixties when the field resurfaced within the particular political context of the Cold War, and using the history of Moscow Institute for the History of Science and Technology as a case-study, I situate Soviet naukovedenie project within the culture of late-socialism in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, asking what this discourse meant for its creators and practitioners, as well as for the high-ranked Soviet officials who provided the authoritative support for this field.
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Stoletov (1966: 422). The quote is from Stoletov’s afterword to the translation of the collection of essays in honor of John D. Bernal, The Science of Science: Society in a Technological Age, originally published in 1964.
See the useful review of the field of naukovedenie in the Soviet Union: Rabkin (1976).
Levin (1984: 464).
Mongili (1998b: 170–180, emphasis added—EA).
As John Zammito noted, “this disputation of the authority of philosophy of science emanated most forcefully from David Bloor. Bloor’s book Knowledge and Social Imagery was aptly characterized as ‘a sustained tirade against philosophers.’ Bloor ‘sets out to redefine the disciplinary boundaries for the study of science, giving sociology pride of place … and dealing philosophers … largely out of the game” (Zammito 2004: 137).
Recent studies highlighted the political context of the emergence and institutionalization of science studies as an academic discipline during the Cold War. Thus, as Steven Fuller argued, Thomas Kuhn’s account of science fitted the demands of the time in successfully promoting the conservative cause of maintaining science’s status quo in the hostile political environment of the Cold War, forging the “conservative agenda” and a “neutral,” apolitical stance of science studies (Fuller 2000). Similar argument was made by David Hollinger (Hollinger 1995). On the ways the Cold War anxieties and concerns affected the intellectual agendas of historians and philosophers of science in the US see Reisch (2005); Solovey (2001).
These debates came to partition the opposing groups of leading Bolshevik theoreticians in the twenties. The group of scientifically inclined Marxists (the so-called “mechanists,” most prominently Aleksandr Bogdanov-Malinovskij and Nikolaj Bukharin) argued that the methodologies of natural sciences required no “working over” by Marxism, because Marxism was compatible and indeed continuous with all genuine science. The other, more defined group lead by Abram Deborin (“Deborinists”), prompted in part by the publication, in 1925, of Engels’ Dialectics of Nature by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, called for systematic application of “dialectical method” to natural sciences, denouncing the “mechanists” for their alleged failure to appreciate the importance of Hegelian dialectics. In 1931, however, the dispute was terminated by the resolution of the Party’s Central Committee and both positions were officially condemned as “right” and “left deviations” respectively. Nevertheless, the same discussion, with the same positions, resurfaced in the sixties, although without the old labels (on the debate between “mechanists” and “Deborinists” see Joravsky (1961); Scanlan (1985).
Boričevskij’s visionary proposal was materialized, at least to some extent, in the establishment of the Institute for the History of Science, headed by Nikolaj Bukharin, with which Boričevskij was affiliated from its inception in 1927.
Published in English translation as Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology (Bukharin 1925).
The institutional consequence of these discussions was the elimination of the Department of Social Sciences at Moscow University that included the chair of sociology, which was disbanded in 1924, after five years of existence. For an overview of the history of sociology in the Soviet Union see Weinberg (1974).
The research themes listed in the institute’s research agenda ranged from “mathematical method in biology” and “the application of quantum theory to the theory of chemical reactions” to “the disciplinary structure of biology” and “the role of statistics and abstract analysis in scientific research.” Although the Institute never became an influential center of theoretical coordination, as initially envisioned, it was, in words of one of the Institute’s members, “the first attempt at collective meta-scientific study” (cit. in Bastrakova 1978: 37).
Programma kabineta po istorii estestvoznanija, on p. 4.
Programma kabineta po istorii estestvoznanija, on pp. 4–5. The reference to Alphonse de Candolle (whose Histoire des Sciences et des Savants (1873) drew on genealogical and statistical data to explore how various variables influenced the rates at which different European countries produced eminent scientists) concealed a peculiar appropriation by the new Institute of the studies of the social composition of Russian scientific and intellectual elites, conducted in the twenties by geneticist Jurij Filipčenko as part of the work of his Bureau of Eugenics in Petrograd. Filipčenko and his students collected and statistically analyzed data on the genealogies, demographic composition, sex ratio, etc., of the co-opted Russian Academy of Sciences for more than 80 years, the time span that covered both the Academy’s pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods. At the time when the future of the Russian Academy of Sciences was undecided, Filipčenko highlighted the “essentially democratic” composition of the Russian Academy, stressing its difference in this regard from foreign Academies of sciences: “in comparison with de Candolle’s statistical data on foreign members of Parisian Academy of Sciences, our data … [show] that our outstanding scientists descend from much more democratic background than the members of the Parisian Academy of Science…” (Filipčenko 1922). On Filipčenko’s eugenics program see Adams (1990).
In 1932 The Cabinet for the History of Science was merged with the Commission for the History of Knowledge, created in 1921 by the initiative of Vladimir I. Vernadskij under the auspices of the All-Union Academy of Sciences, to form the single Institute for the History of Science and Technology (IINT). The creation of IINT was preceded by the replacement in 1930 of Vernadskij, in his role of the head of the Academy of Sciences’ Commission for the History of Knowledge, by Bukharin, as a consequence of 1929 “cleaning” of the Academy of Sciences from “bourgeois” elements (the so-called “1929 affair of the Academy of Sciences”—“delo Akademii Nauk”). IINT was established under the directorship of Bukharin, and now was formally affiliated with the All-Union Academy of Sciences, ceasing its earlier affiliation with the Communist Academy. This reorganization signified the major trend started in 1932 (the beginning of the Second Five-Year Plan) towards the centralization of Soviet scientific and educational institutions. By the mid-thirties, the parallel existence of the two academies, All-Union Academy of Sciences and the Communist Academy, ceased to exist, and in 1936 two academies were merged into one, centralized system—the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Most infamously, Soviet philosophers attacked the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and genetics, during the “public debates” on science, in search of various “philosophical deviations” of scientific theories (Krementsov 1997).
As proclaimed by Andrej Ždanov in 1946, cit. in Krementsov (1997), on p. 130.
During the following decade, various departments and “laboratories” for training and research in sociology, social planning, and “concrete social research” (konkretnye social’nye issledovanija) were opened in several universities and research institutes. Sociology as an independent field with its discrete functions was legitimized officially in 1966 at the Twenty Third Party Congress, and 2 years later the separation of sociology from philosophy was institutionalized in 1968 with the transformation of the Division of Social Research of the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow into a separate Institute of Concrete Social Research (see Weinberg (1974), Greenfeld (1988).
See discussion in Pollock (2006).
See discussion of the strategies of Soviet historians of science and technology during the rise of Russian nationalism in the forties and fifties in Gerovitch (1996). On the politics of historical profession in the Soviet Union and the appropriation of historical memory under different Soviet rulers over the course of the twentieth century see Koposov (2011).
G. K. Khrushchov, cit. in Krementsov (1997), on p. 219.
Cit. in Gerovitch (2002), on p. 166.
For a discussion of the strategies used by scientists to unsure a greater autonomy and independence from the control of the party ideologists, see Gerovitch (2002).
For example, as historian Douglas Weiner has observed, philosophers became a distinct subgroup of the “environmentalist community” in the sixties and seventies. Environmentalism came in a variety of flavors in the Soviet Union. For Soviet philosophers, however, the engagement with environmentalist issues was mostly rhetorical. As Weiner noted, “social scientists could not engage in Marxist analysis of the political economy of their own society,” which made nature protection a purely rhetorical exercise for them. Even ‘unmasking’ the “myths” of inexhaustibility of nature or the desirability, let alone possibility of “man’s domination of nature,” philosophers could not expose the structural or socio-economic causes that led enterprises and ministry officials to externalize environmental costs. As Weiner pointed out, “nature protection-as-rhetoric” led to the promotion of “picaresque new careers” of these new men of environmentalism, at the same time making environmentalism safe for the Soviet regime (Weiner 1999: 399–401).
See discussion in Pollock (2006).
In the seventies and eighties the literature on STR was thoroughly reviewed by American and Western European Sovietologists and political analysts. The most important overviews of the literature include: Hoffmann and Laird (1982a, b, 1985), Black (1979), Buchholz (1979, 1985), Hoffmann (1978), Rapp (1985).
As historian of Czechoslovak reform movement has noted, “The Dubček leadership could, from the very beginning, count on unprecedented expertise of a kind that the previous regime was in part denied and in part refused to accept. … Few regimes had ever been able to rely on such formidable theoretical support” (Kusin 1971), see also Kusin (1977).
In the Soviet Union, in the economic sphere, the mid-sixties was a period of innovative thought and experimentation. New institutes created at this time, such as the Central Economic and Mathematical Institute and the Institute for Concrete Social Research, along with the Institute of Economics in Novosibirsk, formulated ideas and proposals calling into question many established Soviet economic principles (see Josephson (1997)). Numerous debates and positions were adopted on such issues as pricing, value, the plan and the market. The broad conclusions which slowly filtered out of these discussions—the emphasis on efficiency, intensification and productivity, need for greater autonomy for the lower levels of the system, more scope for individual initiative and incentives—formed the core of the Kosygin economic reforms of 1965, adopted soon after Brzezhnev replaced Khrushchev.
The technology transfer involved the importation of entire factories. Thus, during 1965–1972, two giant vehicle manufacturing plants, one for cars (Tolyatti) the other for trucks (Kama River plant), were constructed by purchasing the equipment and general technical services from Italian and American companies. On the cultural history of cars manufacturing in the Soviet Union see Siegelbaum (2008).
Materialy (1971), on p. 57, emphasis in the original.
See discussion in Hoffmann and Laird (1985).
This point was made in Black (1979).
The “collective volumes” on STR published by IHST researchers or under the supervision of IHST included: Stokova et al. (1967), Naučno-tekhničeskaja revolucija i social’nyj progress (1972); Čelovek—Nauka—Tekhnika (1973); Naučno-tekhničeskaja revolucija i izmenenie struktury naučnykh kadrov (1973); Naučno-tekhničeskaja revolucija i obščestvo (1973); Partija i sovremennaja naučno-tekhničeskaja revolucija v SSSR (1974). Only few names of these volumes’ authors, however, appeared on the title pages, usually the supervisors, but sometimes collective monographs were published without any names of the authors listed. In the case of the 1973 volume Čelovek—Nauka—Tekhnika the omission of the names concealed the collaboration with Czechoslovak philosophers who were involved in the Czechoslovak reform movement and were displaced (and in some cases disgraced) after the crushing of the Prague Spring.
Commissions established at the end of the war at the Academy of Sciences included the “Commission on the study of scientific legacy of D. I. Mendeleev,” the “Commission on the study of scientific legacy of A. M. Butlerov,” and the “Commission on scientific legacy of M. V. Lomonosov,” among many others that were focused on the study of scientific heritage and publication of the works of prominent Russian scientists.
During this reorganization the first director of the institute after WWII, physiologist and the corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences, Kh. S. Koštojanc, was replaced by the vice-minister of education, A. M. Samarin.
On Hessen’s background see Graham (1985).
In 1938 the program of lectures on the history of physics of the Institute of Red Professors in Philosophy, taught by Hessen, included following topics: (1) the law of conservation and transformation of energy; (2) the problem of determinism in classical physics; (3) second law of thermodynamics; (4) the problem of matter in classical physics; (5) time and space in contemporary physics. The readings included texts by Engels, Lenin, Einstein, and Rosenberger. Kedrov’s program on the history of chemistry highlighted the following topics: (1) The metaphysical period in chemistry; (2) Atomic theory in the first half of nineteenth century; (3) Atomic theory in mid-nineteenth century; (4) Periodic law; (5) The development of physical chemistry and the crisis of chemistry in the twentieth century. The readings included texts by Engels, Lenin, Boyle, Lavoisier, Mendeleev, Ostwald (Gosudarstvennyj Arkhiv Rossijskoj Federacii (GARF), fond R-5205: Institut Krasnoj Professury—Filosofija, opis’ 1, delo 511).
On the former graduates of the Institute of Red Professors see Berendt (2002).
Former “ikapists” (graduate of IRP), such as Suslov, Pospelov, Il’ičev, Pelše, made astonishingly rapid and successful careers, since the very terror made many vacancies available and facilitated the rapid promotion of those who escaped the purges. The surviving graduates of the IRP became the politicians who shaped the politics of the Soviet Union after Stalin. From 1927 to 1989 at least one former graduate of the IRP was in the Central Committee. The Party’s main organ supervising science policy, Agitprop (Committee for Agitation and Propaganda), was headed by the former graduates of the Institute of Red Professors throughout its history: A. I. Steckij (1930–1938), M. A. Suslov (1947), D. T. Šepilov (1948–1952), F.V. Konstantinov (1955–1958), and L. F. Iličev (1958–1965). Many of the foreign graduates of IRP (which was truly an international institution admitting students from all over the world) later played an important role in shaping the political agenda of East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland (Berendt 2002).
Kedrov’s father, Mikhail Kedrov, was one of the founders of the CheKa (later NKVD), who, along with his youngest son Igor was arrested and executed following their alleged attempt to reveal the compromising facts about Beria (Hahn 1982). The fate and terrible torture of Mikhail Kedrov during the purges figured prominently in Khrushchev’s “secret speech” of 1956. As Loren Graham recounts, the fate of his father was something that Bonifatij Kedrov never forgot (personal communication).
The Communist Academy’s Institute of Philosophy was organized in 1923 initially as a section headed by G. G. Špet. In the twenties and thirties the members of the Institute included A. M. Deborin, Bukharin, Ja, E. Sten, L. A. Akselrod. In the thirties a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and one of the founders of Western Marxism, György Lukács was affiliated with the Communist Academy’s Institute of Philosophy during his time in the Soviet Union, working on his doctoral dissertation on young Hegel, which he defended at the Institute (Gusejnov and Lektorskij 2009).
Kedrov’s book, Mirovaja nauka i Mendeleev: k istorii sotrudničestva fizikov i khimikov Rossii (SSSR), Velikobritanii I SŠA, was not published until 1983.
“Stenogramma zasedanja 23 i 28 fevralja 1949 g.,” Archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ARAN), Papers of the Institute of Philosophy (Thereafter IP Papers), fond 1922, opis’ 1, delo 286.
Kedrov also found a refuge at the Great Soviet Encyclopedia where he held a modest position of a researcher, simultaneously being affiliated with the Academy’s “Commission for the study of Mendeleev’s scientific legacy.” Work in this Commission led to Kedrov’s perhaps most original work in the history of science—a meticulous hour-to-hour reconstruction of Mendeleev’s discovery of the periodic law (Kedrov called his method “the microanatomy of scientific discovery”), in which he pointed out to the role of textbooks in the construction of the periodic system—a line of reasoning quite resonant with the present day science studies approaches: see Kedrov (1958, 1970), discussed in Gordin (2002).
Voprosy Istorii Otečestvennoj Nauki (1949), on p. 662.
During his time at the Institute (from 1962 to 1973 as a director, and from 1974 until his death in 1985 as the head of the “section of the logic of science”) Kedrov cultivated close connections between the Institute for the History of Science and Technology and the Institute of Philosophy. From the sixties through to the eighties the Institute served as an alternative institutional affiliation for leading Muscovite philosophers from the Institute of Philosophy.
G. V. Bykov, “Ob osnovnom napravlenii v dejatel’nosti našego instituta,” 22 janvarja 1965, Archive of the Institute for the History of Science and Technology (thereafter IHST Papers). Before joining IHST Bykov was the Scientific Secretary of the Academy of Sciences’ Commission on the scientific heritage of A. M. Butlerov, and became the researcher at IHST after the Commission was merged with IHST in 1953 (Ilizarov 1993: 48).
The retreat to descriptive and factological style, or to “textology” (the publication of original texts with only minimal commentary and with no interpretation) was widely employed by historians and literary critics (literaturovedy) in general (see discussion of the strategies of Puškin scholars during Puškin Centennials in the late thirties when Puškin was redefined and mythologized as a Soviet hero: Petrone (2000), on pp. 113–149).
Priloženie “O napravlenii naučnykh issledovanij i strukture Instituta istorii estestvoznanija i tekhniki AN SSSR” k postanovleniju Prezidiuma AN SSSR ot 12 oktjabrja 1962, IHST Papers).
Priloženie “O napravlenii naučnykh issledovanij i strukture Instituta istorii estestvoznanija i tekhniki AN SSSR” k postanovleniju Prezidiuma AN SSSR ot 12 oktjabrja 1962, IHST Papers).
On the reception and the responses to Kuhn’s Structure in the United States see Zammito (2004).
In 1963 American historian of science from Cornell University, Henry Guerlac, visited IHST and gave a lecture on “The development of the history of science in the USA” (“Otčet o rabote Leningradskogo otdelenija Instituta istorii estestvoznanija i tekhniki AN SSSR v 1963 g.” IHST Papers, Protokoly zasedanij direkcii). The first Soviet review of Kuhn’s Structure was published in 1965 by a researcher of IHST L. Markova and offered a sympathetic summary of Kuhn’s book, stressing its significance as a turning point for the history of science (Markova 1965).
The postscript to Russian translation of Kuhn’s Structure by the researchers of IHST highlighted the significance of Kuhn’s book pointing to the “antipositivistic bent” of the Kuhnian account and emphasizing its proximity to Marxist thought through its dialectical interpretation of the revolutions in science (Mikulinskij and Markova 1977). See summary of many positions presented by Russian readers of Kuhn’s Structure in Josephson (1985).
As John Zammito has noticed, Kuhn primarily sought to reach philosophers of science as his major audience. Their reaction (at least in the US and Britain) was rather hostile and largely dismissive. As Zammito put it, “The philosophical community Kuhn sought to join continually rejected his ideas. By contrast, the discipline he invoked somewhat cavalierly to illustrate his views, sociology, took his ideas up in their most drastic formulations and launched a research program in his name, a ‘Kuhnian’ sociology of scientific knowledge” (Zammito 2004: 123). Contrary to the Anglo-American response to Kuhn’s work, the philosophical reception of Kuhn in the Soviet Union was far from being hostile. One of the reasons was that while in the United States Kuhn emerged in the context of a philosophy of science with a strong logical empiricist tradition, this tradition was largely absent in the Soviet Union and the countries of Soviet bloc (with the exception of Poland) until the sixties.
As one of Kuhn’s critics put it, “It is not difficult to find certain points where Kuhn’s concept comes into a contact with dialectical materialist theory of knowledge. These points of apparent proximity between the two include the implied interconnection and interdependence of theoretical and experimental practices in science, the protest against the absolutisation of logical methods of studies of science, the assertion of the social conditioning of scientific research, etc. However, it would be a mistake to talk about any proximity of Kuhn’s views to the basic tenets of the Marxist theory of knowledge. One of these major tenets lies in the answer to question, what is the relation between science and 〈objective〉 truth. This question is out of the scope of Kuhn’s analysis, as the notion of “truth” does not play any role in his concept” (Legostaev 1972: 136).
Kedrov had characterized four “types” of revolutions: the first type was the Copernican revolution characterized by Kuhn. Then there was the “Kantian Revolution” that forged the ideas of evolution. In the late nineteenth early twentieth centuries, the “New Revolution in the natural sciences” consolidated representations of nature based on mathematical abstractions and probability. Finally, there was the Scientific-Technological Revolution, a new phenomenon, which, as Kedrov argued, could not be understood by reducing causes, effects and outcomes to the previous revolutions in science (Kedrov 1980).
The integration of logic with general philosophy through the analysis of language, in the manner of Western analytical philosophy, was not developed in the USSR until the sixties. The logical positivist perspective was officially rejected in Soviet philosophy since the thirties, because this approach was deemed idealistic and not compatible with the materialist focus of Marxism, as being focused on the analysis of language rather than on material entities.
Logical studies of science were on the agenda of the “sector” (department) of the “general problems of history of science,” which was renamed in the late sixties to become the “sector” of the “logic of the development of science” (headed from 1972 by Boris Grjaznov and from 1974 by Kedrov) (IHST Papers, Otčety o rabote sektorov, individual’nye plany raboty, 1965–1973).
Thus, in the late sixties a graduate student at IHST T. N. Khabarova defended a dissertation on Popper’s philosophy (summarized in Khabarova (1968)). The philosopher Boris Grjaznov, a researcher and for a short period head of the IHST sector of the “general problems of history of science,” published prolifically on Popper throughout his career [see for example, Gorskij and Grjaznov (1975), Grjaznov (1976a, b), Grjaznov (1978), Grjaznov (1982)].
The first Russian translation of Popper’s works on scientific method appeared in 1978 thanks to Grjaznov of IHST and V. N. Sadovskij of the Institute of Philosophy. The translation was the compilation of Popper’s articles published in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science in 1963–1971 (Grjaznov and Sadovskij (1978)). Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery appeared in Russian translation in 1983 (translated by Sadovskij). See the history of publication of Popper’s works in Russian in Sadovskij (2002), on pp. 186–189.
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Aronova, E. The politics and contexts of Soviet science studies (Naukovedenie): Soviet philosophy of science at the crossroads. Stud East Eur Thought 63, 175 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11212-011-9146-y
- Soviet philosophy
- Scientific-technological revolution
- Bonifatij Kedrov
- Moscow Institute for the History of Science and Technology