Central Institute of Labour

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The Central Institute of Labour (CIT; Центральный Институт Труда, ЦИТ; also known as the Institute for the Scientific Organization of Work and the Mechanization of Man) was an organisation set up in Moscow for the study of work.


This section is sourced from Andrey Smirnov, Sound in Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th-century Russia, London, 2013, p 99.

The institute was founded by Alexei Gastev in Moscow in 1921 and supported by Lenin. The physiological research at CIT was based on conceptual approaches and experimental methods in the science of biomechanics. It was scientific research with an in­terdisciplinary and broad-ranging agenda.

CIT was an unusual institution that was frequented by fanatical veteran inventors and fascinated youth alike. Alongside the physiological laboratory there were the labs for 'sensorics', 'psychotechnics' and education. A variety of 'multimedia' tools and 'interactive' gadgets were devised including instruments for photography and film, systems for monitoring musical performances and instructorless simulation apparatus for cars and planes.

Gastev investigated the functions of certain "operational complexes" that encompass both worker and machine in a single unbroken chain: "These machine-human complexes also produce the synthesis between biology and engineering that we are constantly cultivating. And the integrated, calculated incorporation of determinate human masses into a system of mechanisms will be nothing other than social engineering."[1] By 1926 Gastev had put forward the idea of training automata. He declared:

We start from the most primitive, the most elementary movements and produce the machine-ization of man himself... The perfect mastery of a given movement implies the maximum degree of automaticity. If this maximum increases... nervous energy would be freed for new initiating stimuli, and the power of an individual would grow indefinitely.[2]

According to the CIT methodology every physical motion of cadets was precisely planned and assessed so that by the end of training, full automatism could be achieved. The human body was to become a machine. The elaborate and functionally differentiated composition of the modern factory suggested to him a gigantic laboratory in which new patterns of human interactivity and cultural value come into being. Because of its emphasis on the cognitive components of labour, some scholars consider Gastev’s approach to represent a Marxian variant of cybernetics. As with the concept of Organoprojection (1919) by Pavel Florensky, underlying Bernstein and Gastev’s approach lay a powerful man-machine metaphor.

In 1928 Gastev organized the Ustanovka [Setup] joint-stock company which audited the work of industrial enterprises and provided recommendations on efficient organization of their work processes on a commercial basis, which led to the complete financial independence of CIT from the State. By 1938 CIT had produced over 500,000 qualified workers in 200 professions and 20,000 industrial trainers in 1,700 educational centres.


  1. Gastev, "Organicheskoe vnedrenie v predpriiatie" [Organic Penetration into the Enterprise], in Kak nado rabotat [How One Should Work], p 223. Trans. Andrey Smirnov.
  2. Quoted in Slava Gerovitch, "Love-Hate for Man-Machine Metaphors in Soviet Physiology: From Pavlov to 'Physiological Cybernetics'" Science in Context 15 (2002), p 344.