Accepted paper:

Politics by other means? Czech chemical industrial R&D institutes before and after 1989


Hana Dankova (Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences)
Nina Fárová (Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The paper contributes to STS scholarship on the position and role of science and technology during and after the Cold War with an archival analysis of Czech chemical industrial R&D institutes which played a distinct political role in international relations both before and after 1989.

Paper long abstract:

Times of open ideological contestations offer an outstanding opportunity for studying the relations between official politics and other areas of social life, including science and technology. The Cold War and its demise have proven to be a rich resource for such explorations (Balázs, Faulkner, Schimank 1995, Bauer, Vuković, Dányi, Fabók and Tchakalov 2014). Our paper contributes to this line of research by offering a preliminary analysis of archival material from Czech chemical industrial R&D research institutes. Having a distinct status from universities and academic research, industrial research institutes and departments were part of complex geopolitical relations of both the Cold War and the transformation period starting after its end. As part of industrial facilities, the R&D institutes were established to primarily serve the needs of the given facility, transform existing knowledge into usable technologies but also to play a role in international business relations. After 1989, the institutes and departments were either abolished or forced to transform into (semi)entrepreneurial units (Couderc 1996) and engage in complex relations stemming from the need to enter into new types of competition. This fact alone represents a distinct example of using science in diplomacy as the disbanding of R&D institutes was framed as a nodding to the claims of the obsolete state of local industries. We will highlight the political aspect of the functioning of these institutes, which may easily be identified in the pre-1989 period but is equally present after 1989 as our analysis will show.

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Making science and diplomacy: historical and contemporary entanglements