The Search for Peace

In January of 1957, the U.S. Department of State Press released a statement in favor of the initiative to create a European common market. The economic community included Belgium, France, the German Federal Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, and desired unfettered trade between member nations. To bolster the union further, members planned to instate a tariff on trade from all non-member nations.1 Those not directly included in the common market were not excluded entirely; the United Kingdom entered an agreement with the six nations which waived many trade barriers between the UK and the “free trade arena,” while upholding member nation’s common tariff on British goods.… Read the rest here

Instinctual Scapegoat

The turn of the twentieth century saw the end of the Victorian Era in Europe, and the disciplines of literature, natural science, philosophy, and psychology spearheaded a backlash against formerly dominant middle class ideals. The psychologists Ivan Pavlov and Sigmund Freud studied conditioned reflexes and human instinct, bringing into question mans’ own agency, and thus his ability to marshal infinite progress. Freud’s “Civilization and Die Weltanschauung” was written in the waning days of World War I in 1918.… Read the rest here

The Battle against Victorian Values

Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the “Women’s Social and Political Union,” was an integral contributor to the women’s suffrage movement in Britain. Born in Manchester to politically active parents, Pankhurst was introduced to the suffrage movement at a young age. She subsequently married Richard Pankhurst, a supporter of women’s suffrage who supported her activist work. In her 1913 writing “Militant Suffragist,” Pankhurst asserts that the suffrage movement in England, unlike its counterpart in the United States, had progressed past the state of advocacy into a revolutionary and civil war.… Read the rest here

The Great Russian Melting Pot

The 1936 Soviet film “Circus” follows Marion Dixon, an American woman who flees to the USSR after giving birth to a biracial child. Once in Russia, Marion becomes a popular circus artist and falls in love with a fellow performer, Petrovich Martynov. The film was laced with comical antics and melodramatic, intertwining romances, but the end blatantly revealed underlying political messages concerning race and nationality, and the power of the Soviet government to inspire and mobilize its population.… Read the rest here

The Race to Consume

Thorstein Veblen wrote his “Conspicuous Consumption” towards the end of the industrial revolution in 1902. The work intended to highlight what Veblen saw as frivolous consumption for the sake of status rather than for a necessity. Veblen witnessed large scale consumerism in its early stages and pinpointed the essential characteristics of a caste system based entirely upon one’s ability to purchase the correct things.

The upper level of Veblen’s caste system was known as the “leisure class,” a class which ostensibly consumed luxuries, and was wealthy enough to indulge in leisurely activities.… Read the rest here

A City Upon a Hill

The onset of Stalin’s five-year plan in 1930 spelled disaster for peasants living in the countryside of Soviet Russia. Agricultural collectivization forced many peasants on to mass collective farms where they worked for little to no return, and organized “dekulakization” was decreed by the center in 1931. Dekulakization was meant to oust the kulaks, or well-off peasants, and was carried out through executions or deportations to mass construction sites.1 These sites popped up around the Soviet Union, one of the largest was a city known as Magnitostroi.… Read the rest here

Redrawing the Map of Europe

Europe witnessed a dramatic rise in nationalist fervor in the middle of the nineteenth century, leading to the unification of Italy and the German states. Giuseppe Mazzini’s On Nationality highlighted the trend towards uprisings under the banner of liberty rather than uprisings for the sake of power or wealth.1 With cries for liberty came cries countries to be united based on nationality. Mazzini campaigned for Italy to be a country comprised of “a human group called by its geographical position, its traditions, and its language,” which he believed would result in a peaceful nation of common peoples.… Read the rest here

The Victims of Industrialization

The nineteenth century saw an explosion of industrialization which spurred innovation, but had grave consequences for the growing working class. Child labor was rampant and the conditions in factories were detestable. Richard Oastler, a proponent for the ten hour working day, bemoaned the new economic system under which parents had to send their children off to the factory in order to make ends meet. He claimed that children laboring in factories destroyed familial connection as their parents became nothing but a wakeup call and someone to put them to bed after a thirteen hour or longer work day.… Read the rest here

The Divinely Rational

518NyrtPIkL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_

In 1917, Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia, was toppled, leaving in his wake a slew of provisional governments which could be likened to anarchy. In the midst of a bloody three year civil war, Yevgeny Zamyatin wrote his dystopian novel We. The work presented a futuristic society in which people were identified by letter and numbers and worked mindlessly for the betterment of the “One State.”1 The main character, D-503 recounted his descent from a respected mathematician of good standing within the state, to the accomplice of a revolutionary looking to return society to its natural state.… Read the rest here

Progress Through Necessity

At the turn of the nineteenth century, most of Europe had become embroiled in the enlightened idea that society could progress nearly infinitely through the use of reason.  Writing in England in 1798, the Reverend Thomas R. Malthus proposed a view of economics centered on population patterns. His Essay on Population suggested a view on human progress tainted by inevitability. He established two constants: food is necessary for mans’ survival and reproduction from the union of the sexes is necessary for mans’ survival.… Read the rest here