Search results for: technology-in-postwar-america-a-history

Technology in Postwar America

Author : Carroll Pursell
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Carroll Pursell tells the story of the evolution of American technology since World War II. His fascinating and surprising history links pop culture icons with landmarks in technological innovation and shows how postwar politics left their mark on everything from television, automobiles, and genetically engineered crops to contraceptives, Tupperware, and the Veg-O-Matic. Just as America's domestic and international policies became inextricably linked during the Cold War, so did the nation's public and private technologies. The spread of the suburbs fed into demands for an interstate highway system, which itself became implicated in urban renewal projects. Fear of slipping into a postwar economic depression was offset by the creation of "a consumers' republic" in which buying and using consumer goods became the ultimate act of citizenship and a symbol of an "American Way of Life." Pursell begins with the events of World War II and the increasing belief that technological progress and the science that supported it held the key to a stronger, richer, and happier America. He looks at the effect of returning American servicemen and servicewomen and the Marshall Plan, which sought to integrate Western Europe into America's economic, business, and technological structure. He considers the accumulating "problems" associated with American technological supremacy, which, by the end of the 1960s, led to a crisis of confidence. Pursell concludes with an analysis of how consumer technologies create a cultural understanding that makes political technologies acceptable and even seem inevitable, while those same political technologies provide both form and content for the technologies found at home and at work. By understanding this history, Pursell hopes to advance a better understanding of the postwar American self.

Handbook to Life in America

Author : Rodney P. Carlisle
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Changing International affairs and the forces of technological innovation shaped the lives of Americans in the last decades of the 20th century. While the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union gave rise to hopes of peaceful international relations, the Gulf War and the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center in New York shattered these aspirations. In the social sphere, cell phones, CDs, and the Internet completely transformed the ways by which people communicated and conveyed information. The election of an African-American man to the presidency marked the successful continuation of the struggle for equal civil rights, bolstering America's reputation as a radically changing place in this contemporary period.

The Pursuit of Technological Superiority and the Shrinking American Military

Author : Daniel R. Lake
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Why has the US military begun to suffer from overstretch in recent decades? Why is one of the largest militaries in the world, and the most expensive by far, periodically stressed by the operational demands placed upon it? This book argues that recent problems with overstretch are the result of a heavy reliance on technology to solve tactical and strategic problems. Over the last seven decades, the US armed services have consistently chosen to push the technological frontier out in an effort to first gain, and then maintain, qualitative superiority over potential foes. The high procurement and support costs associated with cutting-edge weapon systems has resulted in a military that is shrinking in both absolute size and in the relative share of combat forces. The culmination of this process is a US military that increasingly lacks the capacity needed to conduct operations without putting significant stress on its personnel and equipment. Lake argues that this pattern is a manifestation of an American cultural disposition favoring technology. He shows that this affinity for technology is present in the organizational cultures of all the armed services, though not to the same degree. By examining procurement programs for each armed service, this book reveals how attempts to develop and leverage superior technology has resulted in some notable program failures, high procurement costs for the latest generation of equipment with associated production cuts, and the high support requirements that are causing the relative share of combat forces to shrink. Lake’s analysis of recent initiatives by the armed services suggests that this pattern is likely to continue, with the US military remaining prone to overstretch whenever its operational tempo increases above the peacetime baseline.


Author : Marin R. Sullivan
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A new look at the interrelationship of architecture and sculpture during one of the richest periods of American modern design Alloys looks at a unique period of synergy and exchange in the postwar United States, when sculpture profoundly shaped architecture, and vice versa. Leading architects such as Gordon Bunshaft and Eero Saarinen turned to sculptors including Harry Bertoia, Alexander Calder, Richard Lippold, and Isamu Noguchi to produce site-determined, large-scale sculptures tailored for their buildings’ highly visible and well-traversed threshold spaces. The parameters of these spaces—atriums, lobbies, plazas, and entryways—led to various designs like sculptural walls, ceilings, and screens that not only embraced new industrial materials and processes, but also demonstrated art’s ability to merge with lived architectural spaces. Marin Sullivan argues that these sculptural commissions represent an alternate history of midcentury American art. Rather than singular masterworks by lone geniuses, some of the era’s most notable spaces—Philip Johnson’s Four Seasons Restaurant in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, Max Abramovitz’s Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center, and Pietro Belluschi and Walter Gropius’s Pan Am Building—would be diminished without the collaborative efforts of architects and artists. At the same time, the artistic creations within these spaces could not exist anywhere else. Sullivan shows that the principle of synergy provides an ideal framework to assess this pronounced relationship between sculpture and architecture. She also explores the afterlives of these postwar commissions in the decades since their construction. A fresh consideration of sculpture’s relationship to architectural design and functionality following World War II, Alloys highlights the affinities between the two fields and the ways their connections remain with us today.

Make It Rain

Author : Kristine C. Harper
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Weather control. Juxtaposing those two words is enough to raise eyebrows in a world where even the best weather models still fail to nail every forecast, and when the effects of climate change on sea level height, seasonal averages of weather phenomena, and biological behavior are being watched with interest by all, regardless of political or scientific persuasion. But between the late nineteenth century—when the United States first funded an attempt to “shock” rain out of clouds—and the late 1940s, rainmaking (as it had been known) became weather control. And then things got out of control. In Make It Rain, Kristine C. Harper tells the long and somewhat ludicrous history of state-funded attempts to manage, manipulate, and deploy the weather in America. Harper shows that governments from the federal to the local became helplessly captivated by the idea that weather control could promote agriculture, health, industrial output, and economic growth at home, or even be used as a military weapon and diplomatic tool abroad. Clear fog for landing aircraft? There’s a project for that. Gentle rain for strawberries? Let’s do it! Enhanced snowpacks for hydroelectric utilities? Check. The heyday of these weather control programs came during the Cold War, as the atmosphere came to be seen as something to be defended, weaponized, and manipulated. Yet Harper demonstrates that today there are clear implications for our attempts to solve the problems of climate change.

Escape Velocity

Author : Bradley Schauer
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Today, movie theaters are packed with audiences of all ages marveling to exciting science fiction blockbusters, many of which are also critically acclaimed. However, when the science fiction film genre first emerged in the 1950s, it was represented largely by exploitation horror films—lurid, culturally disreputable, and appealing to a niche audience of children and sci-fi buffs. How did the genre evolve from B-movie to blockbuster? Escape Velocity charts the historical trajectory of American science fiction cinema, explaining how the genre transitioned from eerie low-budget horror like It Came from Outer Space to art films like Slaughterhouse-Five, and finally to the extraordinary popularity of hits like E.T. Bradley Schauer draws on primary sources such as internal studio documents, promotional materials, and film reviews to explain the process of cultural, aesthetic, and economic legitimation that occurred between the 1950s and 1980s, as pulp science fiction tropes were adapted to suit the tastes of mainstream audiences. Considering the inescapable dominance of today's effects-driven blockbusters, Escape Velocity not only charts the history of science fiction film, but also gives an account of the origins of contemporary Hollywood.

Human Rights and Technological Change

Author : Michael Homberg
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Über das Spannungsverhältnis zwischen Menschenrechten und modernen Technologien für die Zeit seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Werkzeug der Unterdrückung oder Vehikel der Emanzipation? Moderne Technologien sind zu einem wichtigen Thema der Menschenrechtspolitik geworden. Überwachungstechnik, militärische Drohnen und digitale Datenanalysen stellen die internationale Menschenrechtsbewegung vor neue Herausforderungen. Gleichzeitig eröffnen diese Techniken auch neue Chancen, Menschenrechtsverletzungen zu dokumentieren, anzuprangern und ein zivilgesellschaftliches Engagement zu fördern. In diesem Band wird diese ambivalente Beziehung in historischer Perspektive analysiert. Gezeigt wird, wie die Verbreitung moderner Technologien die Menschenrechtspolitik herausforderte und unterstützte. Hervorgehoben werden dabei vier Schlüsselbereiche: 1. Entwicklungspolitik, allen voran bei Infrastrukturen und technischen Großprojekten, 2. Bevölkerungspolitik und demographisches Wissen, 3. Medien- und Kommunikationstechnologien und 4. die gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen der Computerisierung. Indem diese Debatten für die Zeit nach 1945 nachgezeichnet werden, erhalten aktuelle Diskussionen über die Herausforderungen neuer technologischer Entwicklungen eine historische Dimension. Der Band erscheint vollständig in englischer Sprache. _____ The volume analyses the ambivalent relationship between human rights and modern technologies since 1945. Tools of suppression or agents of emancipation? Modern technologies have become a major subject of human rights policy. Surveillance technology, the military use of drones, and the possibilities of Big Data analysis pose new challenges for the international human rights movement. At the same time, these techniques offer new ways to document and denounce violations of human rights and to promote mass mobilization. The volume analyses this ambivalent relationship between human rights and technological change in a historical perspective. Showing how the spread of modern technologies both challenged and served human rights policies, the volume focuses on four key areas of technological change: 1) development politics, infrastructures and large technical systems, 2) population politics and demographical knowledge, 3) media cultures and communication technologies, and 4) the societal impact of computerization. By sketching these debates since 1945, the volume adds a historical perspective to current debates about the political and ethical challenges of new technological developments. The volume is published entirely in English.

Hybrid Nature

Author : Daniel Schneider
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A history of of the industrial ecosystem that focuses on the biological sewage treatment plant as an early example. Biological sewage treatment, like electricity, power generation, telephones, and mass transit, has been a key technology and a major part of the urban infrastructure since the late nineteenth century. But sewage treatment plants are not only a ubiquitous component of the modern city, they are also ecosystems -- a hybrid variety that incorporates elements of both nature and industry and embodies multiple contradictions. In Hybrid Nature, Daniel Schneider offers an environmental history of the biological sewage treatment plant in the United States and England, viewing it as an early and influential example of an industrial ecosystem. The sewage treatment plant relies on microorganisms and other plants and animals but differs from a natural ecosystem in the extent of human intervention in its creation and management. Schneider explores the relationship between society and nature in the industrial ecosystem and the contradictions that define it: the naturalization of industry versus the industrialization of nature; the public interest versus private (patented) technology; engineers versus bacterial and human labor; and purification versus profits in the marketing of sewage fertilizer. Schneider also describes biotechnology's direct connections to the history of sewage treatment, and how genetic engineering is extending the reaches of the industrial ecosystem to such "natural" ecosystems as oceans, rivers, and forests. In a conclusion that shows how industrial ecosystems continue to evolve, Schneider discusses John Todd's Living Machine, a natural purification method of sewage treatment, as the embodiment of the contradictions of the industrial ecosystem.

Science Studies during the Cold War and Beyond

Author : Elena Aronova
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This book examines the ways in which studies of science intertwined with Cold War politics, in both familiar and less familiar “battlefields” of the Cold War. Taken together, the essays highlight two primary roles for science studies as a new field of expertise institutionalized during the Cold War in different political regimes. Firstly, science studies played a political role in cultural Cold War in sustaining as well as destabilizing political ideologies in different political and national contexts. Secondly, it was an instrument of science policies in the early Cold War: the studies of science were promoted as the underpinning for the national policies framed with regard to both global geopolitics and local national priorities. As this book demonstrates, however, the wider we cast our net, extending our histories beyond the more researched developments in the Anglophone West, the more complex and ambivalent both the “science studies” and “the Cold War” become outside these more familiar spaces. The national stories collected in this book may appear incommensurable with what we know as science studies today, but these stories present a vantage point from which to pluralize some of the visions that were constitutive to the construction of “Cold War” as a juxtaposition of the liberal democracies in the “West” and the communist “East.”

Growth and Decline of American Industry

Author : John F. Wilson
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This shortform book presents key peer-reviewed research selected by expert series editors and contextualised by new analysis from each author on how the specific field addressed has evolved. The book features contributions on the history of government-business relations, regional and local business relationships, the development and formation of Silicon Valley, and the rise and fall of the US machine tool industry after the Second World. Of interest to business and economic historians, this shortform book also provides analysis that will be valuable reading across the social sciences.