Soudobé dějiny 3 / 2017

Expertní kultury v socialistickém Československu

Studies and essays

A managerial odyssey

Theory of management in Czechoslovakia between the 1950s and 1980s

Vítězslav Sommer

The study examines the revival of the management science in Czechoslovakia after 1956 and its activities in the context of political reforms of the 1968. The second part of the article monitors changes of the theory of management since 1968, focusing on the introduction of social planning and its relation to corporate management. The theory of management is presented as an expert activity which was influencing then existing concepts and ideas of the organization of economic life, from the development of complex planning and management systems to efforts aimed at establishing the profession of a socialist manager. The authorʼs goal is to describe the scope of the expert activity referred to above and also to analyze its political functions in different stages of the development of state socialism. He claims the attempt to create a management science consistent with specific feature of socialist economy led to different concepts and perceptions of methods and objectives of economic management, including different concepts of socialist managership. The reform policy of the 1960s permitted a vast reception of Western management science, development of an institutional base, and creation of an expert culture drawing from a number of different professional disciplines, from psychology to system engineering. The reform management science was promoting socialist entrepreneurship; the idea required economic decentralization and the creation of a system based on an interaction between the plan and the market. The “consolidated” management science of the 1970s responded to a departure from the market socialism and a return to a central planning system by producing a different concept of socialist managership. The managerʼs mission was to ensure a level of economic and organizational efficiency comparable to that of a capitalist enterprise and, at the same time, implement socio-political strategies of the socialist regime through social planning.

Wealth under an invisible cloak?

On psychotherapy in Czechoslovakia after 1968

Adéla Gjuričová

The study opens the topic of the functioning of the expert environment of psychic disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, etc.) in socialist Czechoslovakia; not in the sense of their intradisciplinary evolution, but rather with a view to transformations of their social and cultural function and relationship to political powers-that-be. The authoress monitors the professional community of psychotherapists since the 1960s, its semi-official institutional and educational platforms, promotion of psychotherapy in the socialist system of medical care, relation of psychotherapy to other psychic disciplines, and communication with professional trends in the West. She focuses mainly on the first educational psychotherapeutic system in Czechoslovakia known as SUR (it is an acronym consisting of the initials of its three founders – Jaroslav Skála, Edmund Urban and Jaromír Rubeš), which was in use since 1967 and which some 2,000 participants passed through by the end of the 1980s. It was characterized by a self-experience training principle, with therapists applying the same methods and regimens to themselves as to patients. Since 1989, the discipline has experienced a tremendous boom and psychotherapeutic approaches to interpersonal relations and to the “ego” have become not just an “in” thing and a good business, but also a deeper part of everyday life. The authoress confronts the transformation with literature dedicated to the so-called psychotherapization of society in Western Europe. She concludes that analyses of psychic disciplines as tools of expert rule (Nikolas Rose), which were inspired by Michel Foucault, while potentially tempting as an interpretation tool of the period of neo-liberal dominance in the Czech Lands, ignore the specific historical context of the subversive nature of psychotherapy during the period of late socialism, utilization of resources of the socialist medical care system, and their failure after 1989.

Crisis of modern urbanism under the socialist rule

Case study of the land-use plan of Prague between the 1960s and 1980s

Petr Roubal

Using the planning in Prague between the 1960s and 1980s as an example, the article deals with the transformation of the concept of a socialist city among urbanists and architects. The author describes how the generation of the inter-war modernist avant-garde inspired by works of Karel Teige (1900–1951) started reasserting itself again after Khrushchevʼs speech on architecture in 1954. Its influential member, Jiří Voženílek (1909–1986), became the Chief Architect of Prague. It was under his leadership that the General Plan of the Capital City of Prague was drafted at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s. The author analyzes the plan as an example of the socialist modernism and urbanistic optimism of its creators who believed that, subject to a correct application of principles of inter-war avant-garde architecture, an urbanistic transformation might become the base of a social transformation of socialism. The plan envisaged sacrificing not only all residential quarters of Greater Prague built at the turn of the century, but also the very principle of a traditional city with a network of living streets which socialist urbanists saw as an incarnation of all evils that the development of towns and cities had thitherto been governed by: mixing of functions, too high density of population, lack of light and air. New housing projects comprising high-rise prefab residential buildings set in greenery were to become the opposite of traditional streets. The article explains how criticism of the housing schemes, the chief representative of which was urbanist Jiří Hrůza (1925–2012), had been growing stronger since as early as the mid-1960s. Influenced by works of US journalist and urbanistic activist Jane Jacobs (1916–2006), he presented a comprehensive critique of socialist modernism and questioned they very principle of urban planning as a tool of social transformation. The intellectual skepticism was soon thereafter reflected in urban planning practices in Prague; they abandoned the modernistic principle of zoning and acknowledged the value (first urbanistic, later architectural) of traditional quarters. In the end of the article, the author analyzes how the urbanistic turning point was confronted with building industry practices and political preferences demanding rapid construction of flats and apartments.

“Whoever manages – supervises!”

Corporate management and pitfalls of “socialist supervision” in Czechoslovak enterprises in the 1980s

Tomáš Vilímek

The study deals with issues of corporate management and pitfalls of the “socialist supervision” in Czechoslovak enterprises in the period of late socialism. Using documents of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the State Security, period texts and specialized publications, it shows how party organs and state authorities were unsuccessfully trying to make supervisory mechanisms and audits a functional tool of the implementation of the ruling party´s economic policy. The author analyzes the supervisory and audit mechanisms that were used, and outlines basic reasons of the almost fatal failure of supervisory activities of the system which was, in a way, obsessed with supervision and control. He explains the systemic conditionality of the supervisory system which socialist managers often and in many respects bent to suit the needs of the enterprises they were in charge of; such situation naturally did not match the needs of the society as a whole. Using many specific cases as an example, the study graphically shows that members of the Czechoslovak corporate management community in the 1980s were fully aware of systemic, political and social limitations of the supervisory system which they managed to modify, fairly successfully, to suit intra-corporate conditions. The result was a situation in which the party leadership was reacting to increasingly obvious symptoms of the “agony of the centrally planned economy” by adopting various directives and guidelines to make the supervisory process more effective and to consistently promote the “whoever manages – supervises” principle. However, the anticipated effect did not materialize and, at the end of the day, the non-functional supervisory mechanisms made a substantial contribution to the collapse of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.


(Post)socialist economists as an object of historical studies

Current state of affairs and future outlooks

Václav Rameš

The article examines the current state of research in the field of the history of economic sciences and activities of Czechoslovak economists in the era of socialism. It provides an overview of basic contributions, both domestic and foreign, on this topic since the 1990s, examining works of Johanna Bockman, Jiří Suk and Gil Eyal in a greater detail. It also mentions the latest research projects concerning this topic. In the end, the author offers a list of available sources (archival documents and published memoirs) which can be used in future research.


The country at the crossroads

Pavol Jakubec

Smetana, Vít. Ani vojna, ani mír: Velmoci, Československo a střední Evropa v sedmi dramatech na prahu druhé světové a studené války. Prague: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2016, 664 pp. and 33 photographs, ISBN 978-80-7422-358-7. Using selected topics, the monograph Neither war, nor peace: The powers, Czechoslovakia and Central Europe in seven dramas at the threshold of the Second World and Cold Wars describes the relationship of the powers to Czechoslovakia during the dramatic decade between 1938 and 1948. The reviewer comments on how these topics are dealt with in each chapter, appreciating the authorʼs erudition, ample use of sources, as well as a broad contextualization and convincing power of interpretation. He concludes that Smetanaʼs work deviates from traditional Czech and Slovak approaches to the themes in that it assigns priority to attitudes and motives of foreign political players and takes into account the international context in all its complexity the analysis of which leads the author to conclusions open for further discussion rather than to categorical judgments. The author´s approach does not make the personality of President Edvard Beneš (1884–1948) stand out as much as is usually the case; instead, the author views President Beneš rather critically. According to the reviewer, Smetana´s monograph, which he characterizes as a colourful canvas of historical plots stretched in a solid frame, should become a classical work for historians studying the period of the Second World War and beginnings of the Cold War.

Swing music and its fans during the Protectorate

Vít Hloušek

Koura, Petr. Swingaři a potápky v protektorátní noci: Česká swingová mládež a její hořkej svět (Šťastné zítřky, vol. 23.) Prague: Academia, 2016, 922 pp., ISBN 978-80-200-2634-7. The reviewer presents the monograph Swing fans and zoot suiters in the Protectorate night: Czech swing kids and their bitter world as the outcome of long-term, comprehensive, and almost exhaustive research of sources, impressive in both its content and its scope. The author concentrates on the Czech youth subculture associated with jazz (swing) music at the time of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939–1945), their lifestyle, habits, fashion, speech, and attitude to the occupation regime, as well as the attitude of Nazi and Protectorate authorities to them and the music they professed. He sets the topic into a broad historical, social, political, and cultural context, for example when describing in an erudite and gripping manner the evolution and propagation of jazz dances, formation and existence of similar youth subcultures in Western Europe and United States, or the survival of jazz and its fans in the Nazi Third Reich. The author covers in depth the criticism aimed at jazz and its fans in the Protectorate and repressions against them, analyzes the relationship between jazz music and freedom in an inspiring manner, and his interpretations and explanations abound with facts. The reviewer would personally welcome only a better arrangement of some parts and more attention paid to jazz music as such.

From the life of a Prague bohemian

Martin Šrajer

Wanatowiczová, Krystyna. Miloš Havel – český filmový magnát. Prague: Knihovna Václava Havla, 2013 and 2017, 552 pp., ISBN 978-80-87490-75-4. Miloš Havel (1899–1968) was the most prominent film industry entrepreneur of the inter-war Czechoslovakia, and the uncle of dissident-turned-President Václav Havel (1936–2011). The reviewed publication Miloš Havel – the Czech movie tycoon is his first biography, and the authoress intent was to depict his career and private life, particularly with a view to his status as a gay in the society at that time, relations and alleged collaboration with German authorities in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, of which he was accused after the war, and Havelʼs life as an émigré in Munich after 1952. The publication aims at a broad audience, and thus cannot be judged using criteria of film history; still, the reviewer regrets that the capture of the fate of the chief protagonist and other characters lacks a broader historical context. In his opinion, the amount of information the authoress collected in Czech and German archives, from other period sources, or from interviews with contemporaries is more admirable than the manner in which she treats it. It is true that she generally sticks to verified facts, but she prefers attractive episodes and colourful details to asking more poignant questions or undertaking a deeper analysis. The reviewer also views the resulting portrayal of Miloš Havel as overly emphatic and not critical enough.

Jan Hus on a Communist grandstand

Pavel Helan

Randák, Jan. V záři rudého kalicha: Politika dějin a husitská tradice v Československu 1948–1956 (České dějiny, vol. 9.) Prague: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny and Faculty of Arts of the Charles University, 2015, 404 pp., ISBN 978-80-7422-373-0 and 978-80-7308-597-1. In the reviewerʼs opinion, the monograph In the glare of the red chalice: The politics of history and the Hussite tradition in Czechoslovakia 1948–1956 provides a consistent insight into how the tradition associated with preacher and church reformist Jan Hus (1370–1415) and the subsequent Hussite movement was made use of in Czechoslovakia under the Communist rule between 1948 and 1956, i.e. during the period which the author defines as the era of Czechoslovak Stalinism. The author sets the topic in the context of the politics of history which had been intensively applied in the Czech Lands since the 19th century. Since seizing power in 1948, the Communists were using the instrumentalized Hussite tradition for their own historical legitimization, presenting the Hussites as predecessors of the victorious struggle for social justice and national freedom, which was successfully concluded only in February 1948. In the reviewer´s opinion, the book has succeeded in showing how the Hussite cult was reflected in the official ideology, school education, or cultural policy, the tools that were used to spread it, and the forms of its ritualization.

A slapdash biography of the founder of the Czechoslovak Church

Marek Šmíd

Chadima, Martin. Dr. Karel Farský – I. patriarcha Církve československé (husitské). Hradec Králové: Královéhradecká diecéze Církve československé husitské, 2017, 204 pp., ISBN 978-80-906490-5-7. The reviewerʼs opinion of the first biography of priest, theologian and church reformist Karel Farský (1880 – 1927), titled Dr. Karel Farský – the first patriarch of the Czechoslovak (Hussite) Church, is rather critical. Since the formation of Czechoslovakia, Farský joined the reformist movement within the Catholic Church and established a new Czechoslovak Church (later renamed Czechoslovak Hussite Church) in 1920. However, the reviewer believes Farský was a more complex and interesting personality than the book actually shows. The author depicts Farskýʼs life in its entirety, concentrating predominantly on his role in the formation and establishment of the new church, but has not paid enough attention to a number of related issues and, in addition, his biography of Farský is a hagiography rather than a critical portrait. The reviewer also notices a fairly limited list of sources and appreciable factual and text deficiencies.

Displaced archives, destroyed books

Mikuláš Čtvrtník

Lowry, James (ed.). Displaced Archives. London and New York: Routledge, 2017, 227 pp., ISBN 978-1-4724-7069-0; Báez, Fernando. Obecné dějiny ničení knih: Od sumerských tabulek po digitální éru. Translated from Spanish by Daniel Nemrava, Pavlína Švandová, and Radim Zámec. Brno: Host Publishing House, 2012, 597 pp., ISBN 978-80-7294-697-6. The review introduces and compares two books which are to some extent similar as to their topics, but different in terms of the approach to the topic. Both deal with destructive or manipulative treatment of historical and cultural heritage of the past, namely forms of restrictions of access to written documents as a medium containing certain information and possessing a certain value. The collective monograph Displace Archives is dedicated to archival documents which were “displaced” or “moved” from the place of their origin for political reasons and often rendered unavailable or even destroyed in the process; these are generally sets of documents from former colonies moved or liquidated by European colonial states before the end of their rule. The reviewer describes some of the studies, commends their analytical approach, the comprehensive nature of the publication, as well as the ability of its authors to address both the professional community and a broader audience. The second publication A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern-day Iraq (original edition: Historia universal de la destrucción de libros: De las tabillas sumerias a la guerra de Irak. Barcelona: Destino, 2004) became a global bestseller and its author Fernando Báez, a Venezuelan essayist and writer, attempted to cover, in a comprehensive manner, the phenomenon of destruction of written records since their oldest beginnings until now in it. The reviewer appreciates the author´s vivid, almost belletristic language and the remarkable amount of information concentrated in the book; however, he misses its hierarchization, analysis, and evaluation. In his opinion, the author´s effort to make the topic popular is sometimes on the verge of tabloid journalism.

Soudobé dějiny 3 / 2017

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