Back to the Land: Restoring “Balance” and Morale

In Chapter 4 of Three New Deals, Wolfgang Schivelbusch discussed how the return to and the love for the land was an important component of Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, and FDR’s presidency. The Great Depression and the First World War devastated all three of the nations and balance and morale was completely destroyed. All three of these countries were in search for a response to both events to would build up the economy, as well as the collective community. The land symbolized both wealth and identity, and therefore, it became a crucial component in helping nations recover since it helped restore the balance and morale that was lost after the Depression and WWI. All three systems were in favor of state planning, which is the complete opposite of laissez-faire capitalism, a system that was strongly favored amongst Western nations and the United States.

Schivelbusch stated,”The common denominator among the various ideas in the various countries was the effort to restore some of the qualities of life that had been destroyed or seriously damaged by fifty (in Britain, one hundred) years of laissez-faire capitalism.” (Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, (New York: Picador, 2006), 110.) The revival of regionalism, agriculture, and the decentralization of the economy represent efforts to get rid of the industrialized and capitalist past that “destroyed” these nations in the first place. Furthermore, Schivelbusch added how the land and one’s native soil was seen as “reassuringly elemental and stable” as opposed to “what Edmund Wilson called the ‘gigantic fraud’ of pre-Depression prosperity.” (Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, (New York: Picador, 2006), 115). The way out of the Depression was to revive the “humane” preindustrial society and continue to move forward with technological advances. Would you argue that all three systems were illiberal since they looked for ways to incorporate the pre-industrial past into their modern governments? Why or why not?

The idea of returning to and gaining love for the land in addition to having its economic motives, also had the social motive of creating a community amongst the collective population. One of the many goals of going back to the land was to help create a new type of “organic” and “humane” citizen in contrast to the “mechanized workers” of the industrial period. (Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, (New York: Picador, 2006), 119). However, knowing the history of all three governments, particularly, Nazi Germany, the means used to create a master race were not humane, but were rather systematic. How can we explain this contradiction between nature and “mechanized” culture that pertains to the industrial age? Is there a medium in the case of Nazi Germany? Is there a medium in any one of these three systems or did they all fail to pull away from the “mechanized” culture of the industrial age?