The movements of the interwar years

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In the early twentieth century new kinds of social movements developed in the colonies of European imperialism, as well as in the defeated imperialist powers. Then, the movement critique was primarily of the scientific-technological civilization, and what Gandhi in India called its "propagation of immorality." As he wrote in 1908 in his Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule, "This civilization is irreligion, and it has taken such a hold on the people in Europe that those who are in it appear to be half mad" (Gandhi 1938: 37). Gandhi was notopposedto technology as such, but to the "disease" of a technological civilization. In the name of modernism, science and technology had come to stand for the future and it had legitimated, in the colonies as well as in Europe, a wholesale destruction of the past and of "traditional" knowledge - the other ways of knowing -that had been developed in other civilizations (Tambiah 1990; Harding 1998).

The critique of the scientific civilization entered into the "reactionary modernism" of fascism and Nazism, and inspired such thinkers of the right as Martin Heidegger in Germany and Knut Hamsun in Norway (Herf 1984). But it also led to new sciences of ethnography and anthropology, as well as to the sociology of knowledge and the history of ideas. Perhaps even more important were the various attempts to combine the artisan knowledge of the past and of other peoples with the modern science and technology of the present in architecture, design and industrial production itself. Many of the regional development programs of the 1930s and 1940s in Europe and North America can trace their roots back to the mistrust of modernism that was inspired by Gandhi and Tagore in India and by William Morris and Patrick Geddes in Britain. Both Roosevelt's New Deal and the Swedish model welfare state can be said to have mobilized critical perspectives in their projects of social engineering (Hard and Jamison 1998).

It seems particularly appropriate to approach the interwar years from a cyclical theory of social change, in which relatively brief and intensive intervals of social movement are seen to be followed by periods of institutional consolidation and incorporation. Ideas or intellectual positions which are combined in social movements are decomposed in periods of incorporation. In this way, social movements serve to recombine ideas that, in "normal" times, tend to be formulated by different types of intellectuals linked to separate, even opposed, social actors and/or political projects. From such a perspective, the 1920s represent a period between movements, that is, between the socialist and populist movements of the late nineteenth century and the mass mobilizations that came in the 1930s in the wake of the Depression. The 1920s, we might say, were a time when the ideas from one movement were transformed into the intellectual seeds of another.

On the one hand there came to be articulated a "technocratic" position that saw in science and technology the building-blocks of a new technological civilization. Opposed to the technocrats were the upholders of traditional values, among not only conservative politicians and cultural elitists but also "populist" intellectuals like Carl Sandburg and Lewis Mumford in the United States and Rudolf Steiner, Elin Wagner, and Romain Rolland in Europe. A basic distinction was between those who would seek to adapt society to the imperatives of the machine - the technocrats and the pragmatists - and those who sought to assimilate technological development into one or another cultural framework. Another debate was between those who sought to counter the emerging technological civilization with "authoritarian" or "democratic" means -the elite traditionalists, who would influence the Nazis, and the more populist-minded humanists, who would take part in the mobilization against fascism (Pells 1973).

Of particular significance for the articulation of a technocratic belief system were the institutional economists Thorstein Veblen and Joseph Schumpeter, both of whom developed economic theories which stressed the central role of technological innovation in the modern industrial economy. For Veblen and Schumpeter, it was the rules of behavior, the legal and organizational structures that govern economic relations - what have come to be called institutions - that were of central importance. Where Marx had emphasized the means of production, giving a role for the state and for planning and for a broader social steering of technology, Veblen and Schumpeter focused attention on the institutional relations of production and on the "entrepreneurs" who were seen as the embodiment of instrumental rationality. Veblen's writings from the early 1920s, The Engineers and the Price System (1921) and Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise (1923) provided a view of technology's role in economic life that was influential, particularly in what came to be called the technocratic movement in the United States.

As David Noble has shown, the 1920s were a time when engineers did try to design corporate America in their image, and their achievements are still with us (Noble 1977). One of their main achievements was the development of management science, as well as the emergence of corporate research managers and production consultants. As Noble has put it, "Modern management issued from the requirements of machine production in a capitalist mode and provided the social basis for technical developments designed to reinforce this mode. In essence, it reflected a shift in focus on the part of engineers from the engineering of things to the engineering of people" (Noble 1977: 263-264). In America, the iconoclastic Veblen served as theorist, while Herbert Hoover came to embody the engineer as politician and state bureaucrat. In his activities at the Department of Commerce, Hoover sought to bring technological logic into the center of state economic policy.

In the early 1930s, Howard Scott tried to turn technocracy into a political force, but technocracy was less important as an explicit political movement than as a source of ideas and legacies for corporate managers. What was central to the technocratic position, as it emerged in the inter-war years, was a belief in the central role of technological innovation in economic life. The avowed political ambitions of Veblen and Scott faded from the public stage as a more widespread discourse entered into the academic and corporate spheres.

Academically, one of the important figures was Joseph Schumpeter who, already before the First World War, had articulated a theory of economic development in his native Austria. It was Schumpeter who first formulated many of the concepts that are now central to the growing field of innovation economics. Central to Schumpeter's theory was the distinction between inventions and innovations, and the emphasis on the entrepreneur as the key actor in the fostering of technological dynamism. In Business Cycles, which he wrote in America in the 1930s, Schumpeter identified innovation as the "prime mover" in the capitalist process. Radical innovations ignited new periods of prosperity after the recurrent depressions that had characterized the capitalist development process. He transformed the Russian economist Kondratieff's statistical analysis of cycles or "long waves" into a theory of continuous reconstruction. In his last book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1941), Schumpeter coined the concept of "creative destruction" in order to emphasize the problematic nature of capitalist society. "Capitalist reality is first and foremost a process of change," he wrote, and then went on to prophesy the eventual replacement of capitalism by one or another form of monopolistic socialism (Swedberg 1990: 157ff).

In the 1920s, a different kind of critique of modern civilization emerged in the United States, from social thinkers like Lewis Mumford, Howard Odum, and other "regionalists" who were ecologically, or biologically, oriented (Thomas 1990). Mumford's activities of the 1920s can be seen as a new form of populism; he defined the community as the antipode to civilization, but for Mumford and Odum, the community or region was not merely historical traditions and memories, it was also a socio-geographic environment, a conditioning place (Jamison 1998). Much like Rudolf Steiner in Germany, and Gandhi's village movement in India, the American neo-populist or communitarian critique would articulate new criteria for technological development and new ideas about diffusing knowledge. Its wrath would be directed both against the undesirable social and human consequences of technology as well as the overextension of instrumental rationality into modern American life. What Howard Odum termed "super-civilization" stood, as he put it, "in many bold contrasts to culture ... organization over people, mass over individual, power over freedom, machines over men, quantity over quality, artificial over natural, technological over human, production over reproduction" (quoted in Pells 1973: 102). For these "human ecologists," as they would come to be called, culture included social traditions as well as natural conditions; both needed to be mobilized to encourage what came to be called a regionalist approach to development (Mumford 1938).

In the 1930s this populist, or regionalist, position would split into leftist and rightist versions which would become increasingly antagonistic. The

"reactionary modernism" of the Nazis, with their backward-looking militant nationalism and their violent hatred of other cultures, would include a certain environmental interest in its eclectic mix of messages (Bramwell 1989). The left-wing populism of the 1930s, on the other hand, would encourage a revitalization of popular art and folk music, as well as new sciences of anthropology and cultural history (Aronowitz 1993). It was in the 1930s that Ruth Benedict published her extremely influential Patterns of Culture and Lewis Mumford wrote the two major works that helped to establish the history of technology and planning as academic subjects -Technics and Civilization (1934) and The Culture of Cities (1938).

Regionalism tended to oppose the more adaptive, or acceptant - what Lewis Mumford termed the "acquiescent" - position emanating from the pragmatism of John Dewey and his disciples in America (Mumford 1926). In Europe, the pragmatic position developed among social-democratic "functionalists" and liberal modernists, both in the arts and sciences. The call, from Dewey as well as from other would-be social engineers, such as the Myrdals in Sweden and Maynard Keynes in Britain, was for a new morality, a democratic gospel, or faith, as a way to respond to the new scientific and technological potentialities. In keeping with William Og-burn's influential notion of the "cultural lag," these latter-day progressive intellectuals sought to reform social institutions to meet the challenges of modern technology. As "rationalizing intellectuals" they served to bring the visions of social democracy into the professions and academic disciplines (Eyerman 1994). In the arts, and perhaps especially in architecture and design, this pragmatic position would become influential. In politics, pragmatism would provide ideas and approaches that would enter into the "new deal order" of the 1930s, as well as into the making of the postwar welfare state throughout Europe.

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