In a paper that has recently been published online in the journal The American Sociologist, Karlheinz Steinmüller has given an outline of the development of futures studies in the German Democratic Republic: „The Rise and Decline of Prognostics. Futures Studies, Ideology and the Sociology of Knowledge in the German Democratic Republic”. As part of the Springer Nature Content Sharing Initiative, one has full-text access to a view-only version of the paper by using the SharedIt link.
Abstract From the beginning, a science-based approach to questions of the future and – more precisely – thinking in alternative futures was in latent conflict with the official ideology of the German Democratic Republic, according to which East German society (and indeed, the whole humankind) was heading towards a communist future. During the 1960ies, however, prognostics – the socialist type of futures studies – fitted well into the ambition of political leaders to foster economic development by promoting scientific-technological progress and adopting new management systems of the national economy. Prognostics was to a certain extent institutionalized and obtained in parts a cybernetic underpinning, but ideological constraints on knowledge never vanished. Moreover, prognostics had to distinguish itself clearly from “late-capitalist” futurology. With the reorientation of politics after Walter Ulbricht lost power, prognostics was cut back as was its cybernetic underpinning. As the official belief in the communist future eroded during the 1980ies, there was no longer any room for governmental foresight. Futures thinking was taken up by the dissident movement.