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The Skin of the SystemOn Germany's Socialist Modernity$
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Benjamin Robinson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804762472

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804762472.001.0001

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Plans, Leaps, Heaps: The Measure of the Human

Plans, Leaps, Heaps: The Measure of the Human

(p.220) Chapter Eight Plans, Leaps, Heaps: The Measure of the Human
The Skin of the System
Stanford University Press

This chapter focuses on the institutionalized form of providential reasoning that lies somewhere between normative law and factual description, focusing on the philosopher Georg Klaus. Klaus, the leading proponent of cybernetic systems theory in East Germany, proposes a cybernetic project that aims to find an efficient quantitative measure of the socialist system, but runs up against the problem of maintaining a substantial quality of socialism. The chapter considers how Klaus's systems theory circles around a gap in the very criteria of modernity that decided the outcome of the Cold War. These criteria include openness, pluralism, experimentalism, and incrementalism. The chapter then turns to Franz Fühmann's science fiction story “The Heap,” which asks when a quantity becomes a quality and answers it by referring to the unresolved problems of East German socialist identity: sovereign quality and quantifiable system must both yield again to transformation.

Keywords:   Georg Klaus, cybernetic systems theory, East Germany, socialism, Cold War, Franz Fühmann, The Heap, modernity, experimentalism, transformation

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