Fallen Behind: Science, Technology and Soviet Statism


  • Chi Ling Chan Stanford University


Why, despite the overwhelming enthusiasm from the state for science and technology, did the Soviet Union fail in its project of modernization? This essay argues that the fundamental reason behind the Soviet Union's technological lag, and its consequent catastrophic decline, is the incompatibility between the logic of statism and the demands of 21st century informationalization. The damaging logic of Soviet statism manifested itself in five key areas: 1) the extensive military-industrial black hole exhausting the Soviets of key resources; 2) the ideological capture of science; 3) bureaucratic logic, risk aversion, and structural disincentives against innovation; 4) technological conservatism and a dependence on the West; 5) the dominance of vertical structures in closed information loops at the expense of horizontal linkages.

Author Biography

  • Chi Ling Chan, Stanford University
    531 Lausen Mall PO Box 12511 Stanford, CA 94309






Research Articles