The chapter “Public Works” from Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals covers the transformation of undeveloped land through industrial means as a form of social mobilization. It is first explained that all major powers looked to the Soviet Union’s collectivism for inspiration. Prior to the Great Depression, Western countries perceived the Soviet agenda as “fantasy”- but as capitalism failed those countries leading up the the 1930s, they began to imitate Soviet policies. ((Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. “Public Works” in Three New Deals, 140-141. New York: Picador, 2006.))
Fascism in Italy was the first to take the reigns on this matter through the project of the Agro Pontino. Mussolini’s regime attacked the problematic swampland, transforming it into a productive area through various policy initiatives. They also used it to public effect, presenting the problem as a matter of national participation. Three New Deals contrasts this to the Tennessee Valley Authority, claiming that the Agro Pontino focused more on settlement than development. Following this segue, the reader is presented with a detailed look at the operations of the TVA. Its works are described as “monuments to the New Deal”, a comparison with the symbolism of the public works of the Fascists. ((Schivelbusch, “Public Works”, 160.)) The common vein here, as Schivelbusch argues, was that both regimes used these works as propaganda in themselves, to appeal to the national attitude and move the public to action. ((Schivelbusch, “Public Works”, 167.))
Finally, the German Autobahn is addressed. Finding commonality with the New Deal but difference from Mussolini’s policies in its emphasis on technology, it served as a powerful form of public mobilization. However, emphasis was placed on making it stand out from the environment, unlike the works of the other two nations. What qualities of the Nazi regime, I wonder, led the Germans to try to make more of a distinction?