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Textocracy, or, the Cybernetic Logic of French Theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalHISTORY OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Jan 2019

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Abstract

This essay situates the emergence of cybernetic concepts in postwar French thought within a longer history of struggles surrounding the technocratic reform of French universities, including Marcel Mauss’s failed efforts to establish a large-scale center for social scientific research with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the intellectual and administrative endeavors of Claude Lévi-Strauss during the 1940s and 1950s, and the rise of communications research in connection with the Centre d’Etudes des Communications de Masse (CECMAS). Although semioticians and poststructuralists used cybernetic discourse critically and ironically, I argue that their embrace of a “textocratic” perspective—that is, a theory of power and epistemology as tied to technical inscription—sustained elements of the technocratic reasoning linked to these efforts dating back to the 1920s to reform French universities.

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