From Euphoria to Frustration: Institutionalizing Prognostic Research in the Polish People’s Republic, 1969–76

Lukas Becht



In 1969 an interdisciplinary committee for long-term forecasting was created at the Polish Academy of Sciences. Together with the central planning authorities, statistical offices and every branch of government it constituted a system of prognostication which remained legally in place between 1971 and 1976. This article regards prognostication as an institutionalized experiment based on one of the key myths of modernity – that future events can be known and shaped. The genealogy of long-term forecasts in Poland dates back to pre-war experiences with state planning and transnational transfers of knowledge since 1956. After an outline of its pre-history, this article describes the construction and programmatic ideas of the prognostic system and asks how its functioning affected participants’ understandings of the future as a political category. Finally, this article makes the case that this state-run prognostication venture resulted in an amplitude of euphoria followed by frustration regarding future knowledge, which can be understood as an indirect but significant cultural symptom of the emerging political and economic crisis in the Polish People’s Republic beginning in 1976.


future research; history of futurology; modernity; state socialism; Polish People’s Republic

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