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Cognitive artefacts: remaking economies, 1917 - 1947

Vogelgsang, Tobias (2016) Cognitive artefacts: remaking economies, 1917 - 1947. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis investigates how political actors remade key aspects of Europe’s economic landscape after World Wars I and II. The first and the second case deal with the borders of the Polish state; the third case investigates German reparations after World War I; the fourth case looks at the internal processes of the American administration in dealing with Germany’s reconstruction after World War II. The thesis argues that actors remade Europe’s economy by using cognitive artefacts, such as cartographic maps, statistical tables or accounting procedures. Because cognitive artefacts are explicit where written and spoken statements are vague, they complement and expand the textual and verbal record. One of the consequences is that we gain a different perspective of the performance of political actors, which leads to a re-evaluation of diplomacy after World War I. It has received a largely negative appraisal so far. That seems rather disproportionate if due consideration is given to cognitive artefacts. Moreover, the analysis of cognitive artefacts shows that the results actors achieved, were not solely outcomes of rationality or policy discourse. Actors used maps, statistical tables etc to develop jointly ad hoc ways of reasoning that were synthetic, open-ended and considerably nuanced. Therefore, the thesis proposes cognitive artefacts as an analytical framework for political agency. By producing, circulating, rejecting and modifying them in an iterative process, actors identify and structure their individual and their joint agency. As actors go through this process, their cooperation as well their noncooperation take shape. In using cognitive artefacts, actors are at the same time aligning and legitimising their agency. That involves persuasion, coercion and deceit, but not necessarily shared views.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Tobias Vogelgsang
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Morgan, Mary and Schulze, Max-Stephan

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