Autarky Envisioned

The idea of autarky was present throughout all of Europe as each nation was affected by the Great Depression.  As the Depression impacted each nation’s economy, a new ideology needed to be introduced to the capitalist society.  Individuals were against the rapidly growing materialistic and capitalistic world as it could be the only explanation for the Depression.  But how was autarky envisioned in the totalitarian state such as Germany and Italy, alongside the democratic United States?  In Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals, autarky can be explained beyond the economic standpoint.  ((Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, (New York: Picador, 2006) )).

As the Depression hit, the rush to create a self-sufficient economic was significant.  If a nation was unable to support themselves the nation would suffer even more.  Regionalism was introduced as well as inner colonization.  This inner colonization as Schivelbusch explains brought forward the importance of nationalism.  The nation must find opportunities in which individuals could become an nation and develop a sense of national pride.  Propaganda and public works projects financed by the state were established to find this national pride within the community.  Individuals were brought to live in small communities in where there were able to develop a sense of family within the state.

Establishments of public works projects and state-funded propaganda gave the government a new view of nationalism and the impact it could make to suppress the effects of the Depression.  While several of these public works projects failed such as the settlements located on the outskirts of major cities, nations were able to develop a national pride that allowed them to gain strength that was needed in WWII.

Blut und Boden — Primordialism in Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals

Primordialism is an ancient form of nationalism that is rooted in mono-ethnic relations. As opposed to modernists who promote an imagined, mental conception of nationalism that is possible between multiple ethnic groups, primordialists assert that nationality is based on a common gene pool which creates physical attachments in a singular people. Beyond imagined community asserted by modernists, primordialists believe blood relations tie individuals together through the bonds of kinship, clanship, and tribalism founded on communal inheritance. Do you believe primordialism (mono-ethnic groups connected through blood ties) or modernism (multi-ethnic groups that feel an affinity for each other through created traditions, e.g. The Pledge of Allegiance) is a more cohesive form of nationalism?

As Schivelbusch discusses in his 4th chapter, “Back to the Land”, ((Wolfgang Schivelbusch, “Back to the Land,” in Three New Deals – Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939) (New York: Picador, 2006), 104)) primordial nationalism played a large part in the rise of authoritarian regimes of the 20th century. After liberal politics and laissez-faire capitalist economies seemed to lead to the crash of 1929, rejection of industrial and international mechanisms that went along with them was the norm thereafter. To Schivelbusch, loss of public trust in democracies because of the Great Depression was essential for charismatic leaders like Mussolini and Hitler to establish rule through authoritarianism in the 1930s. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 106)) Nations turned inward instead of outward during national revivals in place of imperialist expansions. The quest for Lebensraum and Fascist colonization would only seem possible after domestic rebuilding and communal reconnection.

In an attempt to imitate the past successes of simpler, pre-modern times regionalism, decentralization, reagriculturalization, and the “organic citizen and society” were all promoted as a return to primordial ties of the homeland in the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement. The Nazi ideology “Blut und Boden” (blood and soil) epitomized this ideology — eugenic authenticity of a naturally superior Volk living on collectively-worked territory. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 112)) Handicrafts and labor tied to the land were promoted as the basis of an autarkic economy. Mechanical and artificial constructions of industrialization were deemed part of a ‘pseudo-community’ that must be reversed for a return to a more elemental, natural national life. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 120)) After a complete return to pre-industrial ways of life was eventually rejected as industrialization was increasingly seen as an irreversible mass movement, “a Utopian vision of a new, crisis-resistant synthesis of town and country, industry and idyll” ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 126)) was promoted, espoused particularly by the concept of a non-specified laborer (farmer-factory worker) and Roosevelt’s term ‘rural-urban industry’ which he believed “would be crisis-proof and crisis-resistant”. ((Schivelbusch, Three New Deals, 127)) Do you agree with Roosevelt’s assertion that the most stable, balanced, self-sufficient industry would effectively maintain a bureaucratically controlled equilibrium of natural and artificial products?