From Regulating Markets to Managing Individuals: The Diebold Group’s Planning for Change

Domestic economic decline, fear of unemployment driven by advancements in digital computing, and consensus on market driven growth generated a crisis of legitimacy for New Deal Planning, prompting the Kennedy administration to seek alternative modes of macroeconomic governance. Acting on this crisis, a management expert named John Diebold and his consulting firm, The Diebold Group, produced and circulated a form of market-oriented planning designed to resolve the administrative rigidity of New Deal Liberalism (Brinkley, 1995). Influenced by Michel Foucault's work on governmentality, I reveal how the founder and his firm shifted the organization of state power from New Deal Liberalism to Neoliberalism through the production of a novel administrative technology. To delineate this shift, I analyze The Diebold Group’s report for the Office of Manpower, Automation and Training, established by Kennedy in 1962, in which the firm created a statistical criteria for forecasting transformations in the organization of production. The firm’s approach was based on Diebold’s concept of market-oriented planning developed in his books, Automation (1952) and Beyond Automation (1964). Shaped by computers as metaphors (Edwards, 1995), Diebold applied the technical control of automatic systems as forms of social control through planning. Additionally, his framework anticipated capitalist conceptions of the future, understood as uncertain (Beckert, 2016), by enabling organizations to adapt to change. Consequently, the U.S. Federal Government adapted its training initiatives to the fluctuating demands of labor markets, by applying Diebold’s mode of market-oriented planning. As a result, they reoriented the boundaries between states, markets and individuals (Sparrow, 2015) causing a shift in macroeconomic governance—from regulating markets to provide job security, as in New Deal Planning, to managing individuals to adapt to market fluctuations, as in Neoliberal planning.