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Chapter 34. An Age of Anxiety. Postwar Pessimism. The “Lost Generation” Term coined by Gertrude Stein, the writer/playwright/art patron and godmother of Americans in-exile in Paris after the war.

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Chapter 34

Chapter 34

An Age of Anxiety

Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Postwar pessimism

Postwar Pessimism

  • The “Lost Generation”

    • Term coined by Gertrude Stein, the writer/playwright/art patron and godmother of Americans in-exile in Paris after the war.

    • Shortage of marriageable men in Britain, France, and Germany; surreal spectacle many men on the street lacking limbs in Paris, London, and Berlin

  • Disillusionment after WWI and pessimism over idea of human progress

    • Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West: multi-volume work by a retired school teacher theorizing that civilizations are like organisms, and that Western civilization was dying.

Postwar pessimism1

Postwar Pessimism

Many attacks on progress: Scientists and technological innovations were deemed responsible for the making of poisonous gas and explosives that killed millions and destroyed agriculture and cities.

Science and technology blamed for the industrialized mass killing and maiming of World War I.

Most western democracies granted suffrage to all men and women following the war, but faith in democracy’s ability to deal with complex problems of the modern world was waning.

Many intellectuals became disillusioned with democracy because they saw it as lacking positive values. Some worried about the democracy’s “rule of inferiors” and its tendency to reward mediocrity.

Revolution in physics

Revolution in Physics

  • Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

    • Theory of special relativity

    • Neither time nor space are absolute values as they vary with observer; destabilizes orderly system of Newtonian physics

  • Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)

    • The uncertainty principle: the act of observation interferes with whatever is being observed

  • Concepts extended to humanities and social sciences

Revolution in psychology

Revolution in Psychology

  • Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

    • Explored the life of the subconscious mind

    • Repression of sexual desires and fears cause

      psychological disorders

  • Interpretation of dreams

  • Free association

  • In the 1920s and 1930s: Widespread application of his theories to mythology, religion, literature, art, etc.

Experimentation in art

Experimentation in Art

  • Photography makes realism irrelevant

  • Art as creation, not reproduction

  • Retreat to abstraction

    • Les Fauves (“wild beasts”)Group of artists led by Henri Matisse and André Derain in the first decade of the 1900s. Favored wild colors and stepped away from realistic representation.

    • Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

  • Non-western and ancient “primitive” styles influence modern European art

Experimentation in art1

Experimentation in Art

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra), 1907

André Derain, Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1906,


Experimentation in art2

Experimentation in Art

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1905-06

Bust of a Man, 1908

Guitar, 1912


Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

Experimentation in architecture

Experimentation in Architecture

  • Staatliches Bauhaus: First school for modern design

    • Director: Walter Gropius (1883-1969)

    • Operated from 1919 to 1925 in Weimar and from 1925 to 1933 in Dessau; shut down by the Nazis

  • Teachers are practitioners and artists rather than academics

  • No extraneous ornamentation; designers should work for industry and mass production

  • Bauhaus Aesthetic Leads to New Style of Skyscrapers

    • “Glass boxes” of the “International style”

      • Loved by businesses and governments

Experimentation in architecture1

Experimentation in Architecture

Bauhaus Dessau building designed by Gropius, opened in 1926

Poster for a 1923 Bauhaus exhibition

Oskar Schlemmer, Bauhaus Stairway, 1932

Experimentation in architecture2

Experimentation in Architecture

“Glass Boxes” of the “International Style”

United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan designed by Le Corbusier, completed in 1952

Lever House in Manhattan completed in 1952

European origins of the great depression

European Origins of the Great Depression

Austria/Germany borrow money from U.S. to pay war debts to France and England

France and England pay debts owed to U.S. for WWI

System dependent on easy credit from U.S. banks

U.S. investors begin to call in German and Austrian loans in 1928 in part to put the money in the booming New York stock exchange

New technologies and the great depression

New Technologies and the Great Depression

  • Countries that rely economically on certain raw commodities are hurt by new technologies that lessen demand for them

    • Reclaimed rubber destroys rubber-based economies of Dutch East Indies, Malaysia, Ceylon

    • More widespread use of oil hurts the coal industry, which is vast and employs many people in the U.S.

  • In the late 1920s, the U.S. economy was in the middle of a transition from a primary reliance on heavy industry to consumer good production.

Agricultural surpluses and the great depression

Agricultural Surpluses and the Great Depression

  • Overproduction in 1920s in Europe, United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia.

  • Strongest harvests in 1925, 1929

  • Wheat at lowest price in 400 years

    • Farm income drops

    • Less demand for manufactured goods in the agricultural sector

    • Inventory surpluses

  • The Dust Bowl: The 1930s drought and overused soil create conditions for massive wind erosion in the Great Plains, causing massive dust storms and exacerbating depression conditions.

Agricultural surpluses and the great depression1

Agricultural Surpluses and the Great Depression

Dust storm in the U.S. Midwest in the 1930s

Black thursday october 24 1929

Black Thursday - October 24, 1929

  • Small Investors: The booming stock market of the 1920s led many brokers to sell to regular, middle-class people. Roughly 16 percent of American households owned stocks.

  • Speculation: Stock could be purchased on as little as a third of the face value on the assumption they would continue to go up; brokers would lend the rest.

  • Hints of slowdown in Europe in 1928-1929

  • Underlying weaknesses of U.S. economy begin to show in 1929

    • Consumer demand weakens early in the year; sales of automobiles had begin to drop off

    • September: Highly volatile stocks market; cycles of falls and recoveries

  • Black Thursday (Oct. 24) and Black Tuesday (Oct. 29)

    • Market turns down, triggering a swell of panic selling; loses $30 billion in the span of a few days; the collapse turns global

U s economic collapse

U.S. Economic Collapse

  • Inventory surplus leads to massive layoffs in manufacturing plants

  • Layoffs lead to decreased consumer demand and businesses fail

  • In 1932, industrial production of the U.S. is half of 1929 levels

  • Forty-four percent of U.S. banks out of business by the early 1930s: Deposits lost (not insured)

    • Because the world depended on the export of U.S. capital and the U.S. import market, this created a global effect.

World economic collapse

World Economic Collapse

  • When U.S. investors called in loans, banks in Austria and Germany became vulnerable because they had been major recipients of U.S. loans.

  • The Germany economy experienced a huge economic slide that by 1932 resulted in 35 percent unemployment and a 50 percent decrease in industrial production.

  • Foreign trade fell sharply between 1929 and 1932 causing further losses in manufacturing and employment.


World economic collapse1

World Economic Collapse

  • Hardest hit: countries dependent on export of agricultural and manufactured goods

    • Chile: Devastated since its economy was so reliant on the export of mined copper and nitrates.

    • Caribbean: Sugar exports decline

    • Argentina: Beef exports decline

    • Brazil: Global devaluation of coffee hurts the Brazilian economy greatly and pushes industrialization efforts for economic diversity.

    • Germany: Reliant on exporting manufactured goods, Germany suffered greatly: 5 million unemployed by 1932, severe hyperinflation, all exacerbated by reparation payments.

    • Japan: Not too hard hit due to aggressive deficit spending by the government to develop heavy industries (especially munitions).


Initial government attempts to increase demand

Initial Government Attempts to Increase Demand

  • U.S.: “planned scarcity” in 1934

    • Vegetables, fruits, crops, and animals destroyed: 10 million acres of cotton and 12,000 acres of tobacco plowed under, 6 million pigs slaughtered, and a whole California fruit crop allowed to rot on the vine.

    • Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath: Bitterly angry passage points to the irony of the government destroying crops at a time when people are starving.

Initial government attempts to increase demand1

Initial Government Attempts to Increase Demand

From The Grapes of Wrath (published 1939):

“The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in

the river and the guards hold them back; they

come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges,

but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still

and watch potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; an in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath.”

Social effects of the great depression

Social Effects of the Great Depression

Thinkers like French physician Charles Richet believed that removing women from the workforce would solve the problem of male unemployment and increase the nation’s low birthrate.

Great Depression caused enormous personal suffering

Millions struggled for food, clothing, and shelter

Marriage and birthrates declined, suicide increased

Intensified social divisions and class hatreds

Social effects of the great depression1

Social Effects of the Great Depression

Great Depression Bread Line near the Brooklyn Bridge

New u s strategies

New U.S. Strategies

Laissez-faire, “planned scarcity” approaches fail

Economist John M. Keynes (1883-1946) challenged classical economic theory: the belief that capitalism was self-correcting and operated best if left alone.

Keynes argued the depression was a problem of inadequate demand, not supply; therefore, governments should play an active role in stimulating economy and consumer demand.

Keynes: Health of the economy is not measured by production, but by employment.

Franklin delano roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The New Deal of President Franklin

Delano Roosevelt anticipated many of

Keynes's ideas.

After 1932, Roosevelt put in place

protections for the banking system, massive public works projects, and farm subsidies

Creates the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Legislation established minimum wage, social security, and the right to collective bargaining for workers' unions

WWII Spending: Whether New Deal worked is still debated; ultimately gearing up production for World War II lifted the depression.

The bolshevik revolution

The Bolshevik Revolution

In October 1917, Lenin led an armed

uprising against the Provisional Government.

Lenin renamed the Bolshevik Party

(“Minority Party”) as the Communist Party

in order to win wider support.

Civil War: Anti-Communist “Whites” fight

against new “Red” regime from 1917 to 1922.

In December 1917 Lenin set up a secret

police force known as the Cheka; agents spied on industrial workers and peasants and reported disloyalty.

Lenin launched the “Red Terror” campaign in September 1918 against anti-Soviet peasants, striking workers, and anyone associated with the White Guard. Some estimates say 50,000 people were arrested and executed in this period.

War communism 1918 1922

War Communism, 1918-1922

Lenin pushes for rapid implementation of Communist reforms during “War Communism” of Civil War period

Rapid collectivization of farms and confiscations of private property

Massively unpopular, Lenin backtracks in 1921

He initiates the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allows for partial privatization of the economy; marks a stepping back from pure Communist program

Lenin crushes workers’ strikes, peasant rebellions, and a sailor’s revolt.

New economic policy nep

New Economic Policy (NEP)

The New Economic Policy (NEP) temporarily restored private enterprise in Russia.

Large industries, banks, and transportation and communications facilities remained under state control

Government returned small-scale industries to private ownership.

The government allowed peasants to sell their surpluses at free market prices.

Technical schools established

Lenin s death

Lenin’s Death

Stalin in the 1920s

Lenin suffers three debilitating strokes and dies Jan. 21, 1924.

Bitter power struggle among Bolshevik leaders ensues.

Lenin had written that Stalin was too rude and lacking finesse to become the Secretary-General.

Joseph stalin 1879 1953

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)

Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky

  • Native of the nation of Georgia

    in the Caucasus

  • Mother’s influence leads to

    Orthodox seminary education

  • Stalin triumphs over party rivals

    • Stalin: Name means “Man of steel”

    • Advocates socialism in “one country”: wants to consolidate Communism in the Soviet Union, not use it as a platform for global revolution as per Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

    • Eliminates rivals; removes Trotsky from power in 1927, deports him in 1929, and has him assassinated in Mexico City in 1940

    • Has firm grip on rule over the Soviet Union by 1928

Stalin and economic planning

Stalin and Economic Planning

  • Stalin initiates the First Five-Year Plan (1928-1933)

    • Gosplan: the Soviet central planning agency controls all aspects of the economy

    • Focuses on developing heavy industry, collectived farms with use of state-owned tractors, and electrification

  • Massive collectivization of agriculture

    • Kulaks: peasant land-holders who resisted collectivization; targets of government persecution

  • Stalin halts collectivization in 1931

    • Proclaims its success, although reduction in productivity and famine resulted in 1932-33: millions die of starvation

    • Destabilized Stalin’s power, heightening his paranoia

The great purge 1937 38

The Great Purge (1937-38)

  • “Congress of Victors” in 1934 was the 17th annual meeting of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, but was the last clandestine attempt to unseat Stalin, but the disloyalty was reported to Stalin.

  • Later nicknamed the “Congress of Victims,” because of the 1,996 delegates, over 1,100 would be arrested over the next three years.

  • The “Cleansing”

    • Stalin removes all persons that he suspects of opposition from 1935-1938

    • Two-thirds of Central Committee

    • Half of army’s high ranking officers

    • Sent to labor camps or executed

The growth of european fascism

The Growth of European Fascism

  • From fasces, Roman symbol of state authority

    • Axe surrounded by wooden rods

  • Originates with Benito Mussolini in 1919

  • Mussolini’s doctrine included elements of nationalism, national syndicalism, expansionism,

    and anti-socialism

  • Corporatism: Private corporations maintained, but close control of the economy by the government

  • Outside of Italy and Germany: Argentina,

    Japan, Peru, Paraguay, Romania, Spain, etc.

Fascism common elements

Fascism: Common Elements

Primacy of state over individual

Devotion to a strong leader

Ethnocentric: Faith in superiority of one’s own culture



Chauvinistic: Interests of one’s nation before all others


Fascism in italy

Fascism in Italy

  • Poor showing of post-WWI Italian


    • Public disappointed with weak

      territorial gains

    • Economic and social turmoil

  • Fascist Party of Mussolini, former socialist newspaper editor, has big electoral successes in 1921

  • March on Rome in October 1922: King Emmanuel III offers Mussolini office of prime minister

    • Blackshirts: Paramilitary organization that Mussolini used to bully government to give him more political power

  • In 1926, he seizes power as Il Duce, “the leader”

Adolf hitler 1889 1945 and the nazi party

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and the Nazi Party

  • Hitler becomes chairman of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) in 1921

  • Attempts to overthrow Munich government in 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch”

    • Writes autobiography Mein Kampf in jail, which becomes massively popular; outlines his plans clearly and capitalizes on public discontent with postwar era

    • Articulates anger at war guilt clause of Treaty of Versailles

    • Expresses resentment toward the heavy reparation payments

    • Expresses frustration with the Weimar Republic being imposed on Germany and the major parties’ inability to come to consensus

    • Outlines his ideas about Anti-Semitism

Consolidation of power

Consolidation of Power



  • Nazis become single largest party in the Reichstag

    between 1930-1932, but did not have a majority

  • On Jan. 30, 1933, weak president Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934) appoints Hitler as chancellor; conservative leaders thought they would be able to manipulate Hitler

  • Hitler declares an “emergency” when a Communist terrorist set fire to the Reichstag on Feb. 27, 1933, as a part of a supposed plot to take over the government

  • Nazis consolidate absolute power: suppress opposition, abrogates constitutional and civil rights

    • Make the Nazis the sole legal party

    • Destroy trade unions

    • Purge judiciary and civil service of perceived enemies

The racial state

The Racial State

  • Theories of racial superiority, racial purity

  • Policies of eugenics

    • Compulsory sterilization of 30,000 Germans

    • Abortions illegal for healthy Germans, mandatory for “hereditary ill” and “racial aliens”

    • Euthanasia program kills 200,000 people with physical or mental handicaps between 1939 and 1945

  • Precursor to massacres of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals

Anti semitism


  • Influence of nineteenth-century racism

  • Nuremburg laws of 1935 define Jews on a racial basis

    • Prohibits marriages between Jews and non-Jews

    • Removal of Jews from civil service, schools

    • Liquidation of Jewish-owned businesses or purchase by non-Jews

  • Kristallnacht: major country-wide pogrom on Jews, November 9-10, 1938, encouraged by Nazi officials

    • Means “night of broken glass”

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