Pamela M. Lee


1973: or, the Arché of Neoliberalism

This paper considers the history and afterlife of Cybersyn (1971 – 1973) as the arché of neoliberalism: as both cosmography and commandment of a cold war history bleeding into the neoliberal present. A partnership between the British management cybernetician, Stafford Beer, and the socialist government of Salvador Allende’s Chile, Cybersyn was designed to enable Allende’s planned economy in real time, connecting some 400 telex machines distributed throughout the country by two computers. Its Santiago-based control room (the “Opsroom”) remains a flashpoint in science and technology studies not only for prefiguring the Internet, but also for its strikingly modernist aesthetic.

Pamela M. Lee is Osgood Hooker Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, where she teaches the history, theory and criticism of modern and contemporary art. Her publications include Forgetting the Art World (MIT Press, 2012) and New Games: Postmodernism after Contemporary Art (Routledge, 2012). Lee is currently completing two books: Think Tank Aesthetics: Midcentury Modernism and the Cold War and The Glen Park Library: A Fairytale of Disruption.