Thursday, May 22, 2008

Post War Socially Constructed Reality

Key to the social amnesia that occurred around the revolutionary potential of the proletariat after WWII is the social construction of the myth of the middle class. The dull boring fifties as popular history refers to it, was a utopian myth created by the beginnings of a post war boom in America.

It was anything but, with the Cold War, the homosexual and communist witch hunts, the rise of the UAW in the automobile industry and the unification of the CIO and AFL, the war in Korea, mass automation, etc. But by the end of the Fifties the neo-con ideologists who once had been leftists such as Daniel Bell could declare the End of Ideology, that is the end of class war and the end of the potential of Marxism to appeal to the American working class who now owned their own homes, had washing machines, cars, summer vacations.

It was a wonderful myth for in reality America still had poverty and lots of folks missing out on the post war boom as the black listed movie Salt of the Earth showed. Women had been forced out of the factories into the dull and monotonous career of being house wives. Segregation kept blacks and white workers separated through out America and not just in the south, but also in the factories of the north where they worked together.Mexican Americans like those depicted in Salt of the Earth, lived lives of brutal poverty not unlike folks during the Great Depression. But all this was white washed by the myth of the growing American Middle Class. A myth perpetrated by sociologists and other academics as well as the media.

Another myth that had to be created was that of the nuclear family, since the war had destroyed all social relations between the sexes and had opened up sexual opportunities with out the need for marriage. Sometimes war brides had several husbands, homosexual liaisons increased, sex for pleasure became an antidote to pending death, there could be no long term commitments given as those who left for the front might never come back. With the revelations about sexuality published by Kinsey and subsequent social turmoil created by sexual relations during the war, the post war planners saw the need to create the ideal family that returning G.I.'s would fit into, forgetting their real experiences of another kind of sexual relationship, one that was not forever and ever. One based on pleasure, however fleeting, not just for reproduction.

Increased production, automation, the creation of mass consumption, wide spread home ownership, increasing the access to higher education for G.I.'s, the creation of Ozzie and Harriet land, all this was planned in advance of the end of the war. As this amazing web site shows.

Those in charge of America were worried that the revolutionary and radical movements that emerged during the great depression and subsequently in resistance to fascism in Spain would re-emerge after WWII. Johnny had gotten his gun and was coming home, and the last thing the ruling class wanted was an armed proletariat with grievances unresolved from the depression. The creation of the house wife, that paradigm of virtue was the result of the need to move women out of the factories in order to avoid the crisis of post war unemployment that had led to the General Strike wave of 1919 following WWI.

During WWII the U.S. military created a special education program based on comics and propaganda pamphlets aimed at changing the consciousness of their draftees. To create the myth of American Democracy as we know it today, and to create the conditions for a post-war ideology of the Middle Class, the great mushy middle the happy worker consumer who was the 'American Citizen', no longer a 'proletarian' who could be appealed to by socialists, communists and labour activists.

They were pamphlets designed by Management to educate workers about their place in the world, not unlike the Team Work posters you see in your workplace today.

The whole modern management scheme of reification, which takes the socialist ideal of self management and transforms it into a management scheme to get us to work harder for less evolved from this ideological construct that occurred after this WWII experiment. It was the source of the Dimming school of ideology where Team Work Management was used to further enslave the working class through application of modern automation.

The new management strategies of getting us to participate in our own exploitation are well criticized by Kevin Carson.

And they originate in the ivory towers that created the North American post WWII world as this site reveals.


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Constructing a Postwar World: Background and Context

These pamphlets arose from impulses that are generally overlooked in the celebratory historiography of World War II. In a very real sense, the impetus for the pamphlets was fear—fear among military and civilian leaders that enlistees formed a potentially restless, dangerous, and uncontrollable group (particularly among those stationed overseas) who were likely to have difficulty adjusting back to civilian lives.

Social unrest among enlistees after World War I provided some cause for caution, but their concerns were substantially heightened and reinforced by new and extensive efforts to poll and test the mood and morale of the service men and women. Sociologists working for the Army found that servicemen were deeply ambivalent about the war, uneasy about their relationship with the civilian population, and deeply concerned about their lives after the war. In this respect, the emergence of the field of social psychology was critical, as it created new tools to measure morale and discontent in large groups of men and suggested new means of social manipulation.

The records of the Army’s Information and Education Division (IED) demonstrate that as early as the summer of 1943, military and civil leaders became concerned that after the conclusion of hostilities, the absence of common enemies and goals might unleash widespread social unrest. The definition of the problem and the resulting efforts at a solution were shaped by two important factors—the particular personality and background of the division’s commander, Frederick Osborn, and the emergence of social psychology as a discrete discipline with its own institutional imperatives.

As early as the summer of 1943, Osborn and others in the War Department were tying these issues together, and pointing to the need to ameliorate wide-scale social disruption after the war. They were particularly concerned about the period between the end of fighting and the moment when the servicemen could be shipped home. In a memorandum to the chief of personnel, Osborn noted the experience of the services after World War I, which “amply demonstrated that without an adequate substitute for military training, administered with vigor and conviction, cases of absence without leave, desertion, insubordination, petty misdemeanors, and even serious crises mounted week by week.” The solution offered by Osborn’s staff was a comprehensive program of nonmilitary training, recreational and athletic activities, and an educational program in which the G.I. Roundtable series would be a featured component.




In his first report on preparing for the postwar transition, to the Chief of the Personnel Branch, Osborn sets out four avenues for ameliorating potential negative behavior: a nonmilitary education program (a system of correspondence courses for high school and college credit), “information activities,” recreational activities, and an athletic program. Under information activities, Osborn sketches out a program of information, “derived from nonmilitary sources and prepared so far as possible by nonmilitary agencies,” on such issues as jobs; “local, state, and national problems which men will find confronting them as citizens with explanations of the historical, geographical, and economic backgrounds of these problems”; and “international problems facing the United States.” This sketch would form the basis for the G.I. Roundtable series.


However, as William Graebner has noted, similar programs were being developed in the civilian world in the same period. This notion had fairly deep roots, stretching back to notions of progressive education, which had gained credence at the end of the 19th-century and been further developed by progressive philosophers and social scientists like John Dewey.These ideas had a particularly strong advocate in Francis T. Spaulding, chief of the Education Branch, and another civilian pressed into temporary service for the war. Spaulding joined the division from a post as dean of education at Harvard to accept a temporary commission as colonel for the duration of the war.[21] In articles and a variety of consultant’s reports, he had been actively promoting these ideals of democratic education, noting in one article that
the conventional school teaches history out of books, and civics also out of books. As a result, its graduates know a good many of the facts of American history and something of about the machinery of national government, and perhaps recognize their rights as American citizens to freedom of speech and of assembly and of the press. But most of these pupils, as studies of representative schools have shown, have no clear realization of the social and political problems to be found in their own local communities; few of them know how to go about the task of being active citizens in their own right; only a minority are willing even to say that they would do certain things necessary to make democracy actually work, in situations where the task of making democracy work involved some personal effort or self-denial.

Spaulding would bring these ideals of an engaged form of education into the military, and was quite active in advocating the “democratic” form of the discussion group as a necessary leisure-time activity.An important component in their thinking was a very similar program being conducted by the British military under the Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA). Both Osborn and Spaulding had traveled to England and been noted that it was a deficiency that the U.S. military lacked a similar program.Osborn was particularly impressed with the way these were carefully structured to “guide” discussion into certain topic areas, and promote small group cohesion. While the discussion on how to establish a specific program comparable to ABCA is not recorded, in early September 1943 Spaulding approached the American Historical Association about producing the materials for these discussion groups.

At a disciplinary level, the contrast between the involvement of the history profession and that of social psychologists is quite instructive. While social psychologists were provided an abundance of resources to apply the tools of their discipline, the history profession was feeling largely excluded from the work of the war. The historical profession and particularly the leadership of the AHA were casting about for some way to support the war effort. Even before war was formally declared, the papers submitted for the AHA annual meeting in December 1940 were dominated by discussions of war, and the analogical evidence that could be brought to bear on the forthcoming conflict.The subsequent correspondence of the AHA’s executive director, Guy Stanton Ford, over the first two years of the war reflects a clear sense of frustration at the marginalization of the profession, which had enjoyed a prominent role in World War I

According to Spaulding, the criteria for selecting the AHA were largely based on the discipline’s pretensions to social scientific objectivity, which he praised as the profession’s “recognized disinterestedness and impartiality.” At the same time, the AHA had the added benefit of being free of the taint of being seen by Congress as a social science, noting that an earlier collaboration with the Social Science Research Council ran into heavy criticism because “Congress does not know the difference between socialist, social science, and social worker.

The War Department was quick to publicize the relationship, noting in a press release that, “With the birth of the voluntary group discussion forums and its rapid fire spread, the Army is undertaking to provide informational pamphlets presenting basic facts of special concern to the men as evidenced by their own choice of subjects.” In a rather fulsome review of the new program (which also fails to note the significance of the program to postwar planning), Fortune magazine expanded on this, stating,

The men who are behind the orientation program ...want above all, and with the greatest disinterestedness and democratic faith in the world, to make the American soldier conscious. They have no desire to give him political notions; they do want to give him a democratic-mindedness, a faith in what he is fighting for, equal to his pride of outfit and his physical courage. They do not ask him to take sides; they ask him to be aware of the fact that there are sides to be taken in the world, and that some principles can be as lethal as weapons.

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The authors initially commissioned to write the pamphlets tended to come from the same spheres, typically senior-level faculty and management in many of the same organizations. Among the domestically related pamphlets, for instance, Clifford Kirkpatrick, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, would author essays on war marriages and working wives. Francis Brown, assistant director at the American Council on Education, would write on G.I.’s returning to school. Grayson Kirk, professor of government at Columbia University, would draft a pamphlet on universal military training that was subsequently censored. Emerson Schmidt, deputy director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, would author a pamphlet on small businesses, and Thorsten Selden, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, would author a pamphlet on the possibility of a postwar crime wave.

While both the Historical Services Board and military described their potential readers as “democratic citizens,” there was a fundamentally different way in which they each conceived of the term. The historians and social scientists serving as authors and on the board placed the accent on “democratic,” envisioning readers who would read and discuss these in a non-hierarchical setting, who would be improved simply in the process of learning, thinking, and discussing their subjects. For the military, the accent was always on the “citizen,” in the term. While democracy might serve as a cause and goal for the prosecution of the war, there was no intention of permitting free and full expression on these topics. From the first, the pamphlets were intended to provide the basis for guided discussions in which their role as citizens who had given up certain rights afforded by a democracy were to be clearly understood

As important as the ideological differences were, the convergence in the normative outlook of the board and the military, seems equally important. The pamphlets addressing postwar domestic issues all share the same underlying premise, holding up an ideal that was essentially white, heterosexual, and upper middle class. It is not surprising that the target audience is clearly enlisted men who were young, white, and male. To make the point explicit, the authors often use the device of injecting a Private (sometimes promoted to Sergeant) Pro and Private Con on different sides of an issue (in the pamphlet on war marriages, they are called Private Hasty and Private Wait). In every instance where this device is used, their differences are viewed by an omnipotent narrator as arising, at least in part, from ignorance of the “facts.”[44] But whatever the differences, the omnipotent narrator typically aligns with certain norms and ideals.


Figure 1: This image from the War Marriages pamphlet is fairly typical in depicting women as problems that men will have to deal with on their return.

Apart from their general exclusion as participants in the discussion, women are typically depicted in domestic, maternal, or sexualized roles. Given the largely male military audience, it’s hardly surprising that pamphlets treating the subject of women directly—Do You Want Your Wife to Work after the War? and Can Wartime Marriages Work?—present them in highly objectified terms, as a problem to be solved. However, throughout the pamphlets women are often depicted as disturbing domestic harmony—in a pamphlet on consumer credit, for instance, women are depicted as potential spendthrifts who threaten to plunge the family into debt (Figure 1). And despite the pro-and-con debate on whether working women should return to the home after the war, the pamphlets typically depict only male figures as workers, producers, and managers.

While the texts express a measure of ambivalence about the future role of women, the images in the pamphlets, prepared by military artists, are less ambivalent. In a wide variety of pamphlets, women are depicted in sexualized contexts ranging from the young Eskimo woman casting an appraising glance over three single G.I.’s (in a pamphlet encouraging young men to move to Alaska), or the bare-breasted women in a pamphlet on the Pacific Islands, and the happy mother of triplets in the pamphlet on working women.[45]

Equally striking in the pamphlets is the near total absence of people of color except in exoticized settings like the Pacific Islands. The only mentions of African Americans appear in the pamphlet on crime and in a picture of black sharecroppers in the pamphlet on farming.[46] In this the pamphlets reflect the characteristics and the attitudes of their audience, most of whom felt that African Americans needed no further benefits in the postwar world.

Middle-class economic roles are generally privileged throughout the pamphlets, as (typically men) are directed toward business or other forms of white-collar work, such as business and civil service careers. There are a few exceptions to this norm, including an entire pamphlet devoted to farming and a few asides in the pamphlet encouraging men to move to Alaska, where they could “use their hands.” However, even in pamphlets that don’t address a specific career, this orientation toward a middle-class norm recurs throughout the pamphlets. In the pamphlets on postwar housing and borrowing, for instance, the ideal is a single-family suburban home—a class ideal that is reinforced by images of white men in suit and tie pondering their future dwelling. And throughout, the pamphlets emphasize individual striving and economic achievement as key measures of success in the postwar world.

The pamphlets privilege a white upper-middle-class lifestyle throughout, and place a particular accent on the veterans returning to a golden future as consumers of a plethora of new goods. This has a particularly technological accent in the series, as pamphlets prepare them for purchases of new radios, televisions, cars, and even private planes.This image of technological opportunities reflects the culture of the time, as a review of the periodical literature reveals a profusion of stories of technological progress in support of the war effort, supported by advertising from war-related industries who plowed some of their war profits back into ads that promoted their own technological creations on behalf of the war effort.

The significant level of technological hubris is suggested most clearly in the pamphlet Will There Be a Plane in Every Garage? which cautions against expecting that the title proposal will come to pass, while nevertheless leaving open the possibility. The authors note that “until private planes can do everything that automobiles can do, and fly as well, they will not displace the automobile.”[55] This is reinforced visually with pictures of a father returning home from work in the family helicopter. The postwar world envisioned by the pamphlets offered not only near limitless possibilities for personal economic progress, but intimately tied the notion of personal progress to vast new levels of consumer opportunities made possible by technological progress.

Figure 2: This image from Will There Be a Postwar Crime Wave? reflects the tone of the pamphlet, which suggests the urban environment is an unhealthy place to be.

The pamphlets also privilege a middle-America view of the world, which is probably not surprising given that the staff of the project were all from the Midwest (with most coming from Minnesota).[56] In discussions of the lived environment of the postwar world, for instance, urban settings are represented almost exclusively as sites of danger and crime, which are juxtaposed with rural and “hometown” settings, which are depicted as places of opportunity and community.[57] In Is a Crime Wave Coming? the authors lay out the social science data on urban crime rates, but generally ignore issues of crime and disorder outside of the city. To reinforce the implications of the data, the pamphlet’s images are typically urban, dark, and intentionally disturbing, in a way that viscerally connects crime to the urban environment (see Figure 2). This is in sharp contrast to the pamphlet on hometown life, which is filled with idyllic images of small towns that are lighter aesthetically, and in tone and spirit. This reinforces a narrative that emphasizes optimism and the nurturing environment of small-town life, noting that, “Going home will not mean going back but going forward from wherever you and your community find yourselves when victory comes.”


Figure 3: This illustration from Can War Marriages Work? was the most frequently reproduced in the media coverage of the series.


The pamphlets finally began appearing in the fall of 1944. In early September, the War Department announced the publication of the G.I. Roundtable series, noting that they would begin to replace earlier discussion kits comprised of government- and privately produced materials.[61] The information in the release and related information in news reports makes it clear that these were intended as part of a larger effort to deal with domestic concerns about postwar readjustment of servicemen.The New York Times Magazine devoted five pages to the pamphlets, including a two-page spread showing the covers of all the completed pamphlets. The series received similar coverage from other media outlets nationwide.As Spaulding and Osborn had expected, the AHA’s role in the series provided exceptional cover for the Army, as the media coverage generally extolled the pamphlets’ objectivity in sum and detail.

However, some of the latent misogyny in the pamphlets did not pass by unnoticed. The Christian Science Monitor mocked the pamphlet Do You Want Your Wife to Work after the War? suggesting satirically that “its real purpose may be determined by revealing that one section of this subversive pamphlet actually deals with the need for assisting wives to wash and dry dishes. Can you imagine the effect on the boys overseas just as they are beginning to dream of returning home? Is the War Department trying to slow down demobilization?”The New York Herald and Boston Post offered similar critiques over the coming days. Nevertheless, the rest of the media coverage was exceptionally positive, and the shared insensitivity to the portrayal of women is reflected in the prevalent use of the demeaning up-skirt picture from the War Marriages pamphlet to illustrate stories about the series (Figure 3).

The Army continued to distribute the pamphlets in the quantities of 200,000 through 1946, and made additional copies available to civilians through the Government Printing Office. However, the intended uses of the series to guide and shape the thought of servicemen and women seemed to dissolve, even as the concerns about discontent among servicemen overseas quickly came to pass, as the Research Branch had predicted. Rather ironically, Osborn’s warnings about a sudden and dramatic exodus of personnel proved particularly true among the officers in his own division. The officers who had overseen the G.I. Roundtable project, from Osborn down to AHA liaison Major Goodrich, had departed for other positions within three months. This merely reflected the predicted agitation of servicemen overseas, who began to ask for a quick return.

Apparently in a last-ditch effort to revitalize the program, the lowly captain who had been left in charge of the program conducted another series of surveys of military bases on the West Coast to observe discussion groups of 20 to 100 people, and discuss the continuing use of the program. He found fairly extensive interest and readership for the pamphlets, but this often seemed to be as a relief of boredom, rather than a concerted programmatic effort to use them. The officers at the eight bases visited all said the pamphlets were being widely distributed aboard troopships returning from overseas and in the redistribution centers to which they were returning. The surveys demonstrated that they were popular as reading material, particularly those treating more controversial subjects. But the waning of the ideals that served to produce the pamphlets is evident in the workmanlike report that the captain produced. The language of guiding and shaping the men’s thoughts are completely absent from his lengthy report, noting that they will only “play a valuable role in keeping Army personnel well informed and personally interested in important current problems involving the nation’s best interests.”

In the end, the value of the pamphlet series is not in the actual effect it had, but in what it tells us about the times in which it was produced. The series was an abject failure in terms of the goals of those who initiated it—the evidence suggests that the pamphlets’ role in ameliorating social discontent was never accepted by those further down the chain of command, and they were never implemented on the local level with that goal in mind.

However, as a mirror on their times, the pamphlets illuminate a number of features in the war years that seem to have been lost in the historiography of the period. The notion that servicemen would pose a significant social problem in the postwar world seems largely unexplored in the current literature, which tends to treat postwar planning as either a foreign policy issue (in terms of constructing a postwar international order) or an economic issue (in terms of the supply of available jobs). At another level, the pamphlets highlight many of the cultural presuppositions that were taken for granted at the time. They provide useful evidence of efforts to envision a postwar world even as the military conflict was taking place, and offer some fresh evidence of the cultural representations of women and minorities at the time. They also highlight the early formation of a white-collar ideal and technological hubris that we tend to associate with the postwar world. As such, they open an interesting line of analysis about when the cultural forms of “the fifties” can be said to have started, and provide a suggestive opening to further inquiry into the culture of the period and the military’s role in shaping it.

SEE:

tick-tock-we-live-by-clock


The End Of The Leisure Society

Black History Month; Paul Lafargue

Take Time From the Boss

Work Sucks

Time For The Four Hour Day

Goof Off Day


The Right To Be Greedy



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1 comment:

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