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Turner argued that nineteenth-century America was not a patchwork of European traits but something unique. What made America different was the presence of the frontier; vast stretches of land symbolizing unlimited opportunity and an absence of rules. The frontier stripped the European migrant of his cultural baggage and endowed him with essentially American traits of strength, inventiveness and restless energy. It was the frontier which created American democracy and individualism. Yet, Jungk observes, the frontier, which both as myth and history shaped the American imagination, carried within it the seeds of tyranny. 'Looked at historically, the tendency away from freedom seems to spring from the same source which yesterday and the day before watered the tree of American liberty, that is, the constant striving to open up new domains, the constant pressure towards new boundaries.'60
The nature of violence encoded in each myth needs to be elaborated. America was a society born in genocidal violence. Yet, the structure of violence in the old frontier was still Promethean, of an individual struggling against great odds. It was the violence of colonization and anomie. It was violence towards the other, which rendered the other bestial, animal or savage; what was human had to be perceived as wild and animal to be encompassed into the notion of wilderness and conquered.
The structure of science as the new frontier, on the other hand, is hegemony of a different order: 'The battlegrounds of the new frontier lie in the science laboratories and workshops. It aspires not to ownership of land or conquest of any class or race.' It seeks, instead, the total domination of man over nature 'to recreate and organize a man-made cosmos, according to man-made laws.... It destroys whatever is primitive, whatever grows in disordered profusion or evolves through a patient mutation... nothing is left untouched, nothing unexplored.'61
The old frontier vision of creative violence is inadequate to understand the new genre of violence, of science as vivisection. While the violence of the old frontier was softened by Christian and humanist values, the violence of vivisectionist science is indifferent to context. The frontier was physical space, and thus subject to physical limits, to closure. But the vivisectionist science is a perpetual machine which creates continuous spaces through erasure and obsolescence. Science as the technological frontier is indifferent to both nature and culture. Nature appears a flawed machine; and culture, a mechanical artefact. The old frontier emphasized individual control, but now the individualism of the pioneer gives way to organized omnipotence. The new pioneer's individual impotence is the price for collective omnipotence. In the iconography of the old western, the gun was still an extension of the man's body. But in the new regime the body is an unstable factor to be replaced by a more reliable machine. Jungk observes:
Never before has the human species been subjected to such systematic tests as in the laboratories of American aviation medicine. Here weak flesh is valued only as material. It is examined as objectively and pitilessly as a textile fibre, as a metal alloy. They ask: what pressure can the lungs bear?... When does fear overcome spiritual and moral resistance? None of these things shall be left to chance. They even measure pain with the newly developed unit 'dolor'. They set up an equation for death by freezing, stake out a zone between consciousness and unconsciousness with a stopwatch.62
This text could easily have been transposed to the industrial research laboratories of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Death in the old frontier was still a personal encounter; it now yields to vivisectionist indifference, reflected in the bombing of Hiroshima.
Jungk believes that the new frontier also mediates the western categories of America and Europe. The America of technical omnipotence embraces both USA and Russia and differs from Europe. America, to Jungk, is Europe minus its humanism. One represents amnesic obsolescence, the other humanist memory. The question Jungk then asks is whether Europe can redeem America, restore to the frontier the values it has discarded in the drive towards technological progress. Can one offer the revived communitas of Göttingen to the company town of Los Alamos? The return to Europe is inevitable. It is the heart the head now lacks. The Big Machine63 is an evaluation of such an exercise.
Mushrooming spontaneously across post-war Europe was a collective dream of an international science embodied in the internationalism of a laboratory, a belief 'that the Dutch, Swiss, French, Scandinavians, Italians, Germans, Belgians, British, could build something together, something that could belong to all of them'.64 As a consequence, they built at Geneva a high-energy physics laboratory, CERN, one of the great research centres of the modern world. CERN was to epitomize the internationalism of pure science. Its originators believed that pure science, to remain pure, must be delinked from technology. As an official explained, 'Atomic and hydrogen bombs have absolutely no place in the work done at CERN.' Bombs were gadgets, war toys peripheral to science, whose frontiers now lay, not in weapons laboratories, but in the high-energy physics centres at Brookhaven, Dubna and CERN. 'It was here that the family of nuclear physics scattered by politics was once again united.'65
The Big Machine is the story of the political, technical and organizational problems which arose in the construction of the giant particle accelerator at CERN, and the realization that a retreat to a simpler past, the Cavendish of Rutherford, was impossible. Rutherford's entire apparatus is still reverently kept in a small glass case at Cambridge. 'In his time, a few volts were adequate for the investigation of particles. Today research into the nucleus involves the mobilization of a few billion volts.'66 Almost prophetically, the machine becomes the real hero of the book. The scientists appear at best as managers of a craft-aristocracy in a special totemic relation to it. Jungk and the scientists describe it with a tender awe: 'There it was below me: the horizontal ferris wheel almost one-third of a mile around, its spokes each more than a hundred yards long... seen from the air the structure reminded one of an excavation site of ancient ruins',67 a modern Stonehenge. Jungk appears to both domesticate and theologize about the machine. It is like a huge hearth around which an occult fraternity gathers, watching the accelerator plot 'the exciting ballet of the birth, death and transfiguration of elementary particles'.68
It is, in the preponderant image of the book, like the building of the great cathedrals of Europe, each particle event an etched stained-glass window, an icon to a strange and baffling god. The making of the machine has all the air of a cultic revival, a mimetic act attempting to relive and recreate a lost cosmos, a community that scorned power. It is a return to the Round Table. The interplay of medieval archetypes marks the book: of the scientist as a jousting knight, the gadgeteer as a crafty peasant-technologist-troll who has seduced the good knight from his pure science chivalry. We hear of a return to 'higher forms of combat'.69
Jungk himself wishes that science would somehow salvage itself. The 'muck-raking' toughness disappears in the first pages of the book, where art almost turns into artifice, where this seasoned journalist resolves to return almost childlike to this reconstructed world of picture-book physics, where the structure of elementary particles is explained in metaphors of cheese and raisins, explanations that make science more edible. Jungk celebrates the non-bureaucratic nature of CERN, the fact that no passes were required to enter it; the uniformed guard barely examined his credentials when he entered, a far cry from the company town called Los Alamos. Science, he feels, has once again become the esperanto of the resurgent international order.
The location of the laboratory was itself symbolic of a return to an Athenian dream. What especially enthuses Jungk is that, for the first time, issues were systematically discussed at the grass-roots level and not decided behind closed doors and imposed from above. Science was 'brought before the voting public for open discussion and decision',70 'something that had not occurred since the days of Athens'.71 For several weeks Geneva became one large lecture hall. Physicists, psychologists, clergymen and political scientists spoke in convention halls and gymnasiums on scientific issues, which until then had never been discussed in such depth and before so wide an audience.72
The network of communication between the great high-energy physics laboratories at CERN, Brookhaven and even Dubna revives memories of the links between the gentle fiefdoms of early physics - the Cavendish, Denmark and Göttingen The co-operation between CERN and Brookhaven was particularly remarkable as they were basically rivals. Yet, the competitive complementarily between the greatest high-energy physics laboratories became a model for fair play. Science became public knowledge once again. Militarized science yielded to the more agonal spirit of play. Pure science as a play form acquired an almost sacred quality, an aesthetic search bordering on the mystical, unravelling an atomic domain 'where a hundredth of an inch is as large as a continent and a second lasts a century'.73 Jungk cites the instance of one of the scientists explaining:
Suppose our civilization were destroyed in the atomic war and rediscovered centuries later by the descendants of a few survivors, what would they think this was, this gigantic circular structure precise to the thousandth of an inch. Most probably it would be taken as a place of worship. Please don't laugh at this idea. For I now ask myself in all seriousness whether what goes on at CERN cannot be considered a kind of worship in the language of the so-called scientific age.74
The scientist sees research as prayer, the big machine as an equivalent of the cathedrals of Europe, the workers like the medieval craftsmen, working in anonymity, and devoted to the creation of the new cathedrals of the scientific era.
The model of CERN, as Jungk shows, has relevance for science in the post-industrial age. The question that has been asked by philosophers and economists is, whether science can be delinked from the production process and function once again as an aesthetic pursuit, a cultural act, a platonic search embodying the good, the true and the beautiful. Jungk cites as an example an essay by the British philosopher, Stephen Toulmin.
Toulmin observes that, as an occupational category, manufacture would involve only a minority of the population in a post-industrial society. The problem, as Keynes had anticipated in the Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, would no longer be production but meaningful employment. Toulmin suggests that pursuit of science could be one of the meaningful tertiary occupations. He visualizes a series of such research towns where people would engage in the pursuit of research as an aesthetic or creative activity. Pure science would be delinked from production and retain its form as play. Toulmin claims that such a laboratory would be as characteristic a feature of the late twentieth century as the mill towns were of the mid-nineteenth. The mind's eye is enraptured by the picture of a scientific Las Vegas.
Jungk is enamoured of the possibility. But the journalistic toughness in him reasserts itself in his doubts, more concretely about the experiments at CERN. Romanticism and scepticism combine in this strangely Jekyll-and-Hyde portrait of the Big Machine. The problem that worries Jungk is whether the attempt embodies a real striving towards truth or towards the construction of an effective mass image of a more humanistic science. He acknowledges that many scientists honestly believed that they could exorcise the demonic connotations of the term atom, that atoms for peace was distinct from atoms for war, that high-energy physics was a search for knowledge and not power, and public knowledge at that. The location of the laboratory in Switzerland was symbolic of this concern. Yet the return to innocence seemed facile.
It was Niels Bohr who expressed this doubt. Critical of the debate on the proposals, Bohr and his circle felt that the proposals were grandiose and presumptuous, and warned that the university style of research would be lost in this research megalopolis. Bohr's circle discerned in it 'an expression of that hubris that since Hiroshima had possessed some of the scientists in the spotlight of attention'.75
Bohr's fears were not baseless. Jungk recounts a conversation with one of the makers of CERN who naturally wished to remain anonymous. The scientist remarked:
What was the general feeling towards science in the years after the war? Politicians and economists had learned from experience that work in the natural sciences, even when it seemed far out and abstruse, could under certain conditions have revolutionary practical implications. This was particularly true of a field called atomic research. Therefore they hoped that nuclear physics would sooner or later produce something tangible for them, just as atomic physics had earlier. A super source of power perhaps, or a super weapon. In any event, one had to keep up with this undertaking in order not to be left behind again. We did not especially encourage this widespread speculation among laymen in high political positions nor did we especially discourage it either, for we knew it would serve our purpose intimately.76
Jungk wonders whether the ethical foundations of science are not affected, in the long run, through these acts of impression management. He also adds elsewhere that the democratic concerns of CERN were post hoc. Initially, the scientists reacted to the prospects of referendum on science as an annoyance but read back the acclamation as a celebration of the democratization of science.
Jungk's discomfort with the new research towns stems from his commitment to the university as the embodiment of the liberal dream. The university was both an urban and an urbane order, and science as a model of civitas was a constituent part of the modern university. The university as an institution represented the finest ecological balance that knowledge as a system had achieved in western society. It reflected both classical continuity and modernist innovation. It captured both the tumult and the music of knowledge, its ritual grace and its raucous notes of dissent. The politicization of nuclear physics disrupted the institutional rhythm of the university.
As a result of this process of subversion, the autonomy of the university as a liberal axiom has been devalued. American scientists campaigning for civilian control of atomic energy in the post-war era were confronted with the ironic fact that the US defence forces had become the major financiers of scientific research in the university. What is even more discomforting is the scientists' attitude to it. Philip Morrison, aware that defence funding of some schools constituted go per cent of their budget, reflected:
The physicist knows that the situation is a wrong and dangerous one. He is impelled to go along because he really needs the money. It is not only that the war has taught him how a well-supported effort can greatly increase his effectiveness.... There is a real need for large machines - the nuclear chain reactors and the many cyclo-, synchro- and beta-trons to do the work of the future. He needs support beyond the capability of the university. If ONR or the new army equivalent G-6 comes with a nice contract, he would be more than human to refuse.77
Universities, once the home of free speech and dissent throughout the western world, are now parties to secrecy, willingly subservient to the militarization of research in contemporary society. Complementing the infiltration of the passive university was the creation of think tanks, epitomizing knowledge for the market-place, with the military and giant corporations as the amoral bidders. Not content with creating this breed of highly advertised intellectual harlots, the state has made assurance doubly sure by establishing research towns like Los Alamos. If the university embodied the openness of science, the company towns represented the location of scientific activity in a total institution.
At first sight, the appearance of these towns is deceptive. Their antiseptic affluence hides their totalitarian intent; their suburban comfort, the banalization of evil in modern society. 'Walking through its main street, with artificially watered lawns... in front of standardized houses painted in bright Easter egg colours', Jungk notices children playing a new variant of hopscotch with squares marked radioactive and un-contaminated.78 Los Alamos is advertised as a virtuous, high-IQ town with no one either idle or unemployed. Jungk remarks:
It would not need all these superlatives to show me that Los Alamos is a quite exceptional place. Actually this walled settlement on a plateau three thousand feet high should not be called a town at all. For any town must have some proportion of freedom in order to be able to develop and live, even to be able to die. But the collection of houses and workshops on the hill above the Rio Grande is an artificial and arbitrary product. It will never be anybody home because no right of permanent residence may be acquired and the whole population is looked upon as transient. If a man gives up his job, if he is discharged or pensioned, he must give up his house which belongs to the government and leave Los Alamos.79
For this reason, one never sees old people here, except a few indispensable scientific pundits. The children will have to leave once they reach working age. They can remain only if they find a job here after passing security department's personality and aptitude tests. 'There is no staying on in the town where they are born and reared.'80
Los Alamos represents the final resolution of liberal science. For liberalism, the private was sacred and the public was open and accessible. In a bizarre inversion, vivisectionist science has opened up the privacy of body and soul to the public scrutiny of the clinical gaze, while science as public knowledge has become increasingly secret and forced into the most monstrous of total institutions - the research cities of the twentieth century. One is left with a deep suspicion that the transition from the university to the company town was effected not on grounds of efficiency but for reasons of state. The company town facilitated external control of scientific research.
Kahler, in The Tower and the Abyss,81 points to the etymological intimacy between the words atom and individual. According to Kahler, Cicero introduced the word individuum as a translation of the Greek word atomon, when he wished to expound the theories of Democritus. The two words are synonymous, both meaning indivisible. Today, the atom has been split and the integrity of the individual undermined through processes of which science forms an integral part. Robert Jungk's The Atom Staat82 is an exploration of this etymologically rooted irony.
The atom staat is the nation-state as company town. It reflects the violence of a double hegemony. Science as expertise refines and validates the state as power, and the state ensures and extends the conditions for the production and reproduction of scientific discourse. Both tend to emphasize the powerlessness of the individual, who must surrender to the tutelary expertise of the modern state. The atom staat is the final technocracy and marks the eventual reification of the machine as metaphor. It is also the embodiment of one of man's grandest dreams, the search for the perpetual-motion machine. Within an occult vision, it might have embodied hidden meanings symbolizing notions of mystery, of limits, of humanity participating in the divine. The language of modern science has, however, reified it into a secular unmetaphorical pursuit. The machine as an esoteric code, instead of leading to an understanding of limits, becomes tied to unrestricted desire. The machine as a mode of thought is incapable of encompassing growth, death, history or plurality. Its vivisectionist power lies in conquest through duplication. It embodies the hegemony of a captive text, doubly violent because it is unable to liberate itself.
In The Atom Staat, Jungk unravels the structure of the double bind at the core of the nuclear regime. Implicit in the notion of the atom staat is a bounded rationality which cannot allow for the irrationalities of the fallible or dissenting man. As a mode of production, it demands a fail-safe system of security to avoid sabotage and superhuman precision and accuracy to avoid accidents through human error. Yet man, fallible man, careless, forgetful, subject to fatigue and day-dreaming, forms a crucial part of this man-machine system at every stage of the product cycle, from mining and storage to waste disposal. The structure of the double bind arises from the above situation:
The plain fact is that nuclear energy demands that man be made safe from himself - his mistakes, his weaknesses, his rages, his cunning and his lust for power. Protect nuclear energy from these foibles and you run the risk of a regimented society that would appear tolerable only in contrast to the dangers it seeks to avoid.83
The logic of the double bind and its accompanying violence can be plotted by locating the atom staat as text within the problem of management theory.
Production efficiency demands clock-time predictability which denies body rhythms. Scientific managers since Winslow Taylor have analytically broken down the body into a set of mechanical motions to improve it. Time-and-motion studies are an attempt to encode clock-time into body-time. However, the human body is a reluctant machine, and it is this that creates difficulties for the atom staat as a paradigmatic managerial system. In response it evolves two procedures: the displacement of man through automation, and the mechanization of man himself where he is considered irreplaceable. It is this that impinges on the rights of the individual. It seeks to standardize him as machine; and when it can't, it seeks to use him as a mechanically disposable part. Thus all the people beyond the pale of the labour commitment thesis (the third world of inmates from old peoples' homes as in Germany, 'unemployed blacks taken right off the street' as in USA, students looking for holiday jobs as in France, or ordinary seasonal workers closer home) are used for the most dangerous jobs, exposed to radiation hazards far beyond permissible limits. This radiation fodder is sent into contaminated areas to do preliminary work for skilled employees - 'such as closing leaks, setting up entry locks around the leaks, and putting contaminated clothing and radioactive waste into plastic bags for disposal'.84
Simultaneously, those officially designated as workers are forced to submit to a battery of psychometric tests. Refusal to submit to the questionnaires spells unemployment. In their obsession with fail-safe security, employment agencies have begun systematic enquiries into the private lives and political associations of the recruits. Other personnel policies have also undermined the cherished humanism of the human relations school of industrial sociology. Scholars have emphasized the importance of informal relations and rituals of resistance in sustaining communitas in a formal industrial regime. Outstanding among these is the buddy system: in situations of danger, workers generally work in pairs to sustain, guard and rescue each other in case of accident. In the plutonium economy, industrial workers in sensitive areas follow 'the two-man rule' in order to maintain a mutual vigil. Rituals of resistance, such as gold-bricking, are the stuff of industrial sociology. Small collective subversions of the official rule spelt a touch of communitas humanizing an otherwise formal regimen. In a nuclear industry such violations of rules, instead of relieving tension, can spell disaster. Sneaking a smoke where it is prohibited, nipping in a bottle of beer where it is banned, fiddling with the pen-shaped radiation counter that each worker has to wear, rather than being a celebration of worker resistance, can be a death warrant.
Conditions of employment in the plutonium industry constitute one of the most systematic inroads into trade union rights. In it, the right to strike has severe limitations because a nuclear plant, unlike an ordinary industry, cannot shut down: 'Physical processes are at work all the time and cannot be stopped without dire consequences. For example, highly toxic elements that could be dangerous both to the plant and to the surrounding countryside could be released if the cooling system were switched off or some of the equipment run at reduced capacity.'85 Workers at the La Hague plant in France had to suspend their strike for such reasons. The more frightening prospect lay in the possibility of their refusal, in which case military intervention would have been necessary, leading to authoritarian reprisal against a genuine strike.
The violence of the state against its citizens acquires even wider dimensions. Jungk's picture of the atom staat as a mode of occidental despotism deserves detailed scrutiny. Its structure of violence can be understood by opposing it to that other fascinating ideal type elaborated in social science writings from Marx to Wittfogel, the notion of oriental despotism. The authoritarianism of both stem from the control of energy. But the structure of violence encoded in each is radically different. The hydraulic complex differs from the plutonium economy in three distinct ways. It counterpoises localized authoritarianism to generalized hegemony; inhuman cruelty to impersonal terror; and, finally, the instruments of violence and the organizations for it have been far more systematically refined in occidental regimes.
The cruelty of oriental regimes is concrete and more personal. It is local and identifiable. While it tortures the other, it does not deny the other's humanity. It is inhumanly human. Cruelty might involve the maiming and torture of the body; yet, even as decapitation, branding, amputation or whipping, it has a quality of ritual control and spectacle about it. The structure of violence in the occidental regimes is impersonal. Its terror is somehow abstract, its potential for coercion more frightening than the act of violence itself. Its impersonal efficiency makes the victim even more defenceless, since it rationalizes terror to the point of abstraction and indifference. But it is the scientization of the instruments of violence and torture that constitutes the unique violence of the atom staat. For example, the concentration camp as research laboratory sought to refine and scientize the means of inflicting pain and death, even industrializing it as genocide. What was once viewed as pathology has become normalized in the structure of the atom staat, enshrining an Eichmann in every bureaucrat.
The modern state, says Jungk, has used every opportunity to refine its means of terror and suppression. Jungk warns in particular against linkages between authoritarian nuclear technology and psychiatry. Among the new innovations of the scientific state he cites:
1. The use of CNC (Chloracetonphenon), a personality-changing gas, against demonstrators at the Gossgen nuclear plant on 3 July 1977.
2. Ultrasonic devices 'whose barely audible sound wave causes a loss of balance among those at whom it is directed'. It was used for the first time to successfully clear an occupied university building at Birmingham.
3. The teaser, 'a gun that fires two barbs attached to thin wires into a victim's clothing or skin. A powerful electronic current triggers immediate unconsciousness.'86
The violence of the atom staat against its citizens has blurred the distinction between internal violence and external threat, each being willingly used as an opportunity to develop for the other. The wars in Vietnam and Northern Ireland have been used as opportunities 'to test on living subjects new ways of combating insurgents, saboteurs, urban guerillas and demonstrators'.87 The spin-offs are a whole range of weapons, the chief beneficiaries of which have been the police and security agencies. Jungk warns that this internal arming of the liberal west has led to the creation of a police-industrial complex to rival and complement the military-industrial complex. The very growth of these structures undermines the human rights ideals enshrined in liberal-democratic constitutions.
The atom staat also defines the violence of its inverted other. The criminal state and the criminal violence of the guerilla terrorist meet in escalated mutuality. The guerilla is the symbiotic other whom the atom staat requires. It invests him with contrary properties. Nuclear technology is bureaucratic, predictable, centralized; guerilla terror is unpredictable, anarchic and idiosyncratic. The sanitized bureaucracy symbolizing order transfers to the guerilla the feeling of chaos. Terrorism then evokes fear of the destruction of order; the savage reappears as the guerilla, as animality threatening culture. For the atom staat, he represents the irrationality of the body. Yet Jungk's descriptions reveal the strange complementarily of the two orders. It is the presence of the guerilla that justifies the intrusion of the scientific state into private domains, justifying escalating investments in total security.
Guerilla terror becomes the rationale for the suppression of civil rights:
Contingency plans for terrorist assaults in the atomic state call for the mobilization of the police and armed forces on a scale hitherto reserved only for outright revolution.... Troops would undertake house-to-house searches without warrants in entire sections of the city. Detention would also be used as a step in a very troubling interrogation scheme, perhaps involving lie detectors or even torture. The normal deterrent to such practices - inadmissibility of such evidence in court - would be ineffective in a nuclear emergency.88
Jungk cites a number of legal conferences which attested to the legitimacy of such measures in an emergency. He does not deny the importance of quick and concerted action, but warns that security agencies might acquire a vested interest in terror to maintain their control. History has shown that firemen often start fires to consolidate their own expertise. The history of Europe in the nineteenth century reveals that the police often used such tricks to obstruct workers' movements by inciting terrorist attacks against royalty.
Jungk warns against the danger of perpetuating a state of emergency:
In time, laws designed to deal with a crisis - such as an outbreak of terrorism - will become a norm for what is in fact a permanent state of crisis. The watchword will be: Protect at all costs the source of energy. Atomic power continually under threat leads to a permanent state of siege. It brings about harsh new laws to 'protect the people'. It encourages denunciation of atomic energy opponents and environmentalists as a 'precautionary measure'. In the end, it will justify everything from the mobilization of thousands of policemen against demonstrators to the body search of all those arrested simply for exercising their rights as citizens.89
The state finds in nuclear energy an unfailing excuse; to protect nuclear power it continuously extends and consolidates its own. The atom staat becomes an institutionalized Watergate or, to use a more local idiom, a continuous Emergency justifying the state's indulging in all kinds of dirty tricks against its own citizens. This is the crucial part of Jungk's thesis, the vital argument as to why the atom staat is impermissible. The 'sacred complex' of nuclear energy constitutes the most powerful legitimation 'for the abrogation of civil rights in modern society'. Jungk's essay reads like a passionate Amnesty International report of civil rights violation in a plutonium economy.
Jungk's arguments must be located within the context of contemporary political theory. The history of the cold war has primarily determined the logic of these scripts. To the liberal mind, the crisis of Marxism lay in the travesty of science called Lysenkoism and in the long history of the Soviet gulags. Similarly, Fascism was devalued for its parochial caricature of physics as a Jewish science. The influx of Jewish émigré scientists to the liberal world confirmed it as the most hospitable matrix for science as universal truth. Today, as Jungk shows, the crisis of democratic liberalism lies in its use of science to justify violence against its own citizens. Nuclear 'parks' may soon be the equivalent of gulags for the liberal west.
The similarities are disconcerting. Communist violence, as Merleau-Ponty observes,90 was justified in terms of the objectivity of revolutionary truth. Violence was the birth pang of the proletariat. The mechanical vulgarity of Marxists lay in their inability to critically question communism through Marxist spectacles. Those who did were labelled subversive or reactionary, while in fact they constituted the most creative component of Marxism. There is a similar loss of dialectic, a similar submission to the 'dictatorship of truth' in the atom staat. Violence to man is once again justified within a theory of objective scientific truth. The totalitarianism of nuclear regimes is validated as scientifically necessary, and dissenters are labelled reactionary or unscientific. Jungk's book is thus a study of the gap between the projection of science as a model of freedom and its sociological refutation in the atom staat.
Jungk outlines a set of strategies to combat the hegemony of the atom staat. First, he emphasizes the importance of adopting dissenting scientists as prisoners of conscience. The importance of this must be emphasized. Unlike many counter-culture movements which reject science altogether, or radical scientists who feel it is only the socially conscious scientists who can save the world, Jungk insists on the plurality of the critical encounter. Secondly, he emphasizes the necessity of a creative science deconstructing the hegemony of the scientific state, not to deny science but to redeem it. Thirdly, he asks for full scope to be given to the creative urge of everyman to become his own scientist. Finally, he pleads for the coming together of scientists in a creative search for alternatives. Jungk does not underestimate the sacrifice that a high-energy consumerist society must make to renounce the atom staat. But with these measures modern science, as apocalypse, while carrying intimations of the end of western civilization, may also be carrying its dialectical opposite: the seeds of a more human theory of technological choice. We shall now explore each of the strategies proposed by Jungk.
One of the most disturbing of Jungk's revelations is what the atom staat does to its dissenting scientists. Like the robber barons of the earlier industries, the atom staat is ruthless in dealing with those who oppose it. Jungk cites the case of Karen Silkwood.
Karen Silkwood, a 28-year-old employee at the Cimmarion plutonium plant, was appalled at the safety conditions at her workplace. She discovered that, between 1970 and 1974, eight-seven employees had been contaminated by plutonium in twenty-four separate incidents. She initially filed a complaint at the union headquarters in Washington. Sent back to gather conclusive evidence, she found that the company was falsifying laboratory reports and X-ray photographs relating to this. On 13 November 1974, she died in a car accident while on her way to meet her union representative and a New York Times reporter. Needless to say, the concerned files disappeared from her car. There was no attempt to question the visit of company officials to the garage in which the car was kept immediately after the accident, or to follow up the report of the collision expert that there was evidence that her car was rammed from the back. Instead, all employees at the plant were forced to submit to lie detector tests about their union activities and their conversations with Silkwood. Those who refused to comply with such an enquiry were dismissed or transferred to harder jobs.
The Silkwood case is only one of a series of instances that Jungk cites to show the reactions of the atom staat to its experts in opposition. Its rituals of segregation and control include studied silence, threat, derision, slander, ostracism, dismissal, blacklisting and murder. It is in this context that Jungk proposes that a special fund be provided to fight civil rights cases vis-ŕ-vis the science establishment. Jungk says, 'There must be many scientists who want to tell what they know, but fear disgrace and financial hardship of being fired.... Such a fund might encourage the scientists who in the past covertly passed information about the conditions that bothered them to finally come out in the open.'91 Jungk realizes that this opposition must be more than a series of eclectic or contingent responses. To constitute a dissenting academy such a movement must attempt to deconstruct science as disembodied knowledge and restore to it its historicity.
Science today appears as disembodied knowledge, and research as mechanically produced truth indifferent to biography, history or culture. This reification of scientific knowledge is etched clearly in an exquisite essay by Roland Barthes.92 He argues that 'Einstein's brain is a mythical object; paradoxically the greatest intelligence of all provides an image of the most uptodate machine, the man who is too powerful is removed from psychology and introduced into the world of robots.'93 Einstein's researches appear as a mechanical act. He produces truth the way other machines produce sausages or grind flour. Barthes adds that Einstein himself contributed to this myth by donating his brain for medical research. Two hospitals are still fighting for it 'as if it were an unusual piece of machinery which it will be possible to dismantle'. The scientific method has become a disembodied mechanical programme producing predictable truth which can be duplicated with clockwork regularity. Jungk insists that the first step in the deconstruction of science is to restore its historicity, to be read not as a mechanical research output but as the sociobiography of individual discovery. He asks, 'Why are we interested only in what scientists do, not what they are?'94 The subtitle he gives his book on the bomb is 'The Personal History of the Atomic Scientists'.
Science, Jungk says, is not only presented as disembodied knowledge, but also as something objective and detached, as expertise. This threatens the basic notion of the individual's ethical responsibility for his actions in two ways. First, the individual surrenders to the expert the right and responsibility for discovering and living out his own truth. Second, the expert himself feels no responsibility for his actions. When scientific expertise combines with bureaucratic impersonality, we produce an Eichmann or a von Neumann. Hannah Arendt's book on the trial of Eichmann reveals that Eichmann considered himself an expert following the logical consequence of his expertise on extermination. She also adds that Eichmann did not feel responsible because he considered himself a bureaucrat under orders to use his expertise. In a similar manner, Compton rationalized Oppenheimer's behaviour on the bombing of Hiroshima 'as a technical reply to a technical question'.95
Jungk's third step in deconstructing science is to question the very content of the expertise itself and thereby challenge the synonymity of expertise and truth. His texts for analysis include the American reports on nuclear safety and the scenarios of scientists at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. The studies of Herman Kahn could also serve as an equivalent and more accessible datum.
The reactor safety study was commissioned by the US Atomic Energy Commission. Popularly known as the Rasmussen report, after its director, its findings claimed that the likelihood of an accident in nuclear plants was extremely low. The report, says Jungk, is a classic example of an 'objective study'. A scrutiny of its methodology reveals that the Committee relied almost totally on material supplied by companies that built the reactors and therefore had a vested interest in the continuity of the nuclear industry. Secondly, Norman Rasmussen himself was a well-paid consultant to the nuclear industry. Thirdly, the report fails to make clear that the question here was not only the probability of an accident but the nature of the accident itself. An atomic disaster is not like a dam break or a gas leak. The effects of an atomic disaster might persist for several generations. The irony lies in the power of science. Its hold is so strong that ordinary men and even other scientists are lulled into believing the assurances of the objective expert.
Jungk sensitizes us in particular to the language of the discourse. The language of nuclear catastrophe as apocalypse is marred by an inadequate vocabulary. The literature on plagues, famines, floods, each has in its own way contributed to the expansion of language, reflected cosmology, mediated between man and nature and the natural and the supernatural. They have added to the verbal quality of our deepest imaginings on pain, death and deformity. The 'scenarios' on nuclear catastrophe seem aridly secular. Denied the availability of both the sacred and the humanist vocabulary, they reflect the terminology of a bureaucratized science. The bureaucratic normality of the genocidal scenario, its clockwork predictability, the timetable of deaths, the extrapolated statistics, all hide the inability of science to talk meaningfully of death and genocide. So lacking in poetry is this futurology that it is forced to mimic the style of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. This mimicry serves as an ersatz substitute for the metaphors of the sacred, and also of humanism. The language of the scenarios is homologous to the machine. Science represents the disembodied mind, the scenario mirroring the disembodied future, and the computer programme provides the decisional calculus. Death and destruction sound woefully banal. Yet the structure of evil lies in this very banality. In the banality of bureaucratic science, genocide becomes an office memo and the census, a death warrant. The nuclear future as catastrophe has the everyday quality of a railway timetable.
Jungk then questions even the basic claims of these scientists to dispassionate objectivity. Wolf Hafele's advocacy of fast-breeder plutonium technology scares even such ardent supporters of nuclear energy as Edward Teller. The scientist has begun to wallow in his own power. To Hafele, the objection that such breeder technology is in its infancy is irrelevant. He sweeps aside the time-honoured practice of painstaking trial runs for new technical installations as irrelevant. According to Jungk, Hafele is not alone in these departures from the unwritten ground rules of technological innovation: repeated prior testing of a prototype. 'Today, new reactors are put into operation in densely populated areas without experimental knowledge about the unpredictable interplay between thousands of components which make up these gigantic systems. Computer simulations and game theory substitute for trial runs.'96
These scenarios function as the equivalent of verbal machines. Like Bettelheim's Joey, the scientist is plugged into these verbal machines. And these machines provide a substitute for the human encounter with danger, pain, error. It is not truth but images that one is concerned with; the necromantic fantasies of Kahn and Hafele masquerade as theories without experimental verification. Seen in this light, the scientist's belief in the objectivity of these simulations is truly remarkable. Again, it reminds one of Joey whose 'pantomime was so contagious that those who watched him seemed to suspend their own existence and become observers of another reality'.97 Yet, Jungk refuses to caricature these scientists. He shows that the problem lies in their expertise, that many are individuals with intelligence and sensitivity. The structure of their expertise, however, desensitizes them, draws them into 'objective acts' whose consequences are evil. It is this evil, this banal evil that Jungk sensitizes us to.
The deconstruction of scientific expertise as truth has its corollary: the emergence of the common man, not in the inverted otherness of the savage, the guerilla or the obsolescent worker, but in the plural togetherness of the protest movements of the post-war era. Archetypically, he embodies the creative search for survival. In Jungk's work, the survivor first emerges in his study of Hiroshima. We had encountered him earlier as the object of vivisection, as an industrialized map of symptoms. We counterpoise to it his biography of pain as suffering, a celebratory search to extract meaning from the indifference of vivisection.
Within the genre of survivor literature, one can discern two roughly differentiated categories. The first, on the Nazi camp and the Soviet gulags, is concerned with how individuals outlived the torture and suffering of these camps; the second, embodied in the studies of Hiroshima-Nagasaki, with how individuals lived out the fact of having survived the holocaust. An encompassing study of both, exploring similarities and differences, is contained in Lifton's classic, Death in Life.98 We shall, however, concentrate on Jungk's reading of the survivor in Hiroshima. It emphasizes the particular nature of vivisection as catastrophe, as opposed to other catastrophes like plagues and natural disasters. Vivisection as a genocidal act denies meaning to both death and life. It is in this context that survival as sacrifice, as a search for meaning, becomes doubly poignant.
The survivor is an individual who has eluded death but carries the perpetual imprint of it. In him the notion of life cycle either as ordered biology or ritual cosmology is impaired, throwing him into a perpetual state of liminality. He cannot return to the living because the memory of death is permanently with him. He cannot die because he now has to live as encapsulated memory, forever reminding life of the Thanatos within it. He thus carries a double burden: the guilt of life for having survived, and our common guilt for all those who died so meaninglessly. He is the living memory of death which, in our amnesic way, we seek to forget. The survivor is the wound in the body and yet he must also become its healer, as poet, philosopher and scientist. Jungk captures all this in his essay on two survivors, Kazuo M, eventually sentenced for murder, and the pacifist Ichiro Kawamoto.
Kazuo M was 14 when he witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima. While digging into the rubble that had been his parents' home, he found his old school book in a half-burned rucksack. It was a perfectly ordinary book, 'a reader issued to the middle schools, a book which at that time everybody in third form throughout the whole of Japan had to possess'.99 When he found the book, he clutched it with joy as if he had encountered an old friend. It embodied many of his childhood memories for him, 'entire poems, proverbs, whose passages of prose... he knew by heart'.100 It represented order for him, the geometrical clarity of the civilization, the world, that he knew. However, the bombing of Hiroshima, the defeat of Japan, the death of his colleague pinned by a fish-tail splinter of glass, the experience of carrying the naked body of a school friend through the bombed streets, shattered this world. At this moment he felt an overwhelming urge to execute the book, to shred every one of its pages into minute fragments so that nothing would remain legible.101 'When anything even remotely resembling what had happened to him "on that day" could occur - could be allowed to occur - then all the beloved words of his reader could be nothing but lies. After that, what value could be attached to thought, to knowledge?'102
Jungk's study reveals that catastrophes can serve as equivalents of paradigm crises, because the weakness and practical consequences of a paradigm emerge with gestaltic clarity at such a moment. Kazuo M's act is a dramatic example of such a repudiation; but the problem, as Jungk shows, is the creation of a new gestalt providing meaning to the survivor's biography. Some of the cases he describes are virtually parables. I shall cite one (but removed from its context and therefore somewhat distorted). When Kazuo M eventually decides to murder a black-market operator, he ponders over the particular method of killing. He is reminded of a sensational trial of that time, known as the Tukoku Bank case:
One day in January 1948, shortly before the bank closed for the night, a painter named Hirasawa had appeared disguised as an official of the Health Department and told the bank manager that he and his staff of fifteen must immediately drink some medicine which would act as a prophylactic against various epidemics then raging. He had brought the medicine with him. The treatment was, needless to say, at government expense. Since there were indeed epidemics rife at this time, sixteen persons immediately obeyed this order which seemed quite reasonable and swallowed the bitter draught. They had collapsed almost at once, whereupon the bank robber had calmly and quietly set about his real business.103
The Goffmanesque subversion of science in the above story recognizes the rules of the dominant order, and seeks to exploit it rather than change it. The ordinary survivor's search, however, marks a more difficult journey.
The survivor's search for a paradigm that imposes meaning on his 'death in life' is forced by two external factors, the indifference of vivisection itself, and the general urge to return to normalcy at any cost. Both deny the survivor's search to preserve memory and meaning.
Post-war Hiroshima was a furiously Americanizing city. It had become a tourist resort as an official peace city with commercial peace sales; and during the Korean war it also became a major centre of the armaments industry. This push to normalcy created a world in which the survivor felt he had no part. 'The houses and streets might be rebuilt, but they remained human ruins falling ever into decay with each day that passed.'104 The illness of the survivor was either unrecognized or stigmatized. His complaints about bodily pain were interpreted as hypochondria, his memories of that day as neurosis. For a considerable time the suffering of the survivor was not even recognized as illness either in Japan or in America. When recognized as an atomic disease, it became a stigma, something to be hidden even from friends, relatives and doctors.
Jungk's other story is about a man who acted to fill this breach - Ichiro Kawamoto. 'He did not demand scientific proof that they were suffering. He simply did what he could to help, without asking too many questions.... He would take one a little boiled fish to eat, to another he would give a blanket, a third he would visit solely to encourage and divert him with his conversation.'105
The struggles of Kawamoto and his wife reveal the pain of the survivor and the sterility of a world threatened by nuclear war. The 'hibakusha' - the survivors - were afraid to love, afraid to procreate lest they should bring deformed babies into the world. This particular crisis of the survivor demands that we rethink the conventional liberal notions of the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. We have to broaden our concept of this right to include the right to one's ancestors, to the cosmological continuity of the past, to the ritual dignity of dying and the right to procreate an undeformed child as the future.
The survivors realize that ' "the self-destruction of humanity" which they had been compelled to witness at Hiroshima had not in fact begun with the explosion of the Atom bomb, but much earlier with its invention and creation.'106 They understood that their experiences must give new meaning to their work through poems of everyday life. Everyman became a poet and an artist in post-war Hiroshima: 'Hospital orderlies, patients, factory workers, in brief, human beings from every class of society began to write.'107
Jungk captures this era of sacrifice, the pain and the celebration of life with compassion. Each of us must recapture it for ourselves because the survivor is us. The survivor is everyman in the nuclear age. We have to share the burden. As protectors against the atom staat, we join in the ritual acts of participation in the new body politic. It is in this context that Jungk analyses the protest movements of the sixties.
The protest movements against the bomb lack the monolithic certainty of nationalist and class struggles, crisscrossing across them both in celebration and in confusion. Their very variegatedness signifies a potential for plurality, becoming literally a festival of protest embodying the new semiotics of the body.
To the machine as vivisection is offered the body as sign. The recoding of the new polity begins with the body as the grid for the calculus of suffering. It is the body that recodes the unrestricted individualism of the mechanical man, evolves certain criteria for thinking out certain tentative alternatives in science and technology. The recovered body mediates between nature and culture, rediscovers spontaneity and becomes the gross body and the intimate body of the 'sit-ins' and the new street theatre. The body is the index of its own truth. When the pacifist 'sits in' on a hunger strike, suffers bodily as a protector, he embodies his truth. Only such a sacrifice can redeem the vivisected body. The body as ecology challenges the conventional rationality of economics, demanding that industry rethink its attitude to nature. It insists on a restriction of desire, a restructuring of one's basic needs away from consumerism, embodying a realization that natural resources must be conserved. Simultaneously, it challenges the excretory nature of modern technology, particularly of nuclear energy whose stored wastes may be dangerous to man for over 50,000 years. It complements the conventional categories of political economy - production, distribution and consumption - with the additional category of disposal.
Jungk remarks that the celebratory explosion of the sixties has not died down but has been harnessed into disciplined work. He is impressed in particular by the manner in which the protestor has become his own scientist rather than yield this right, by benign neglect, to some expert:
It is impressive how these people from varied backgrounds will take the trouble to study the implications of nuclear power and master complicated and technical data. They weigh them critically and apply them to their own situations. They are more powerfully motivated to learn than the average citizen and quickly assimilate the new material. Often they come better prepared than do local politicians and representatives of industry. And they can no longer be brushed aside with slogans and weasel words....
At such confrontations it is interesting to listen not only to what is said, but how it is said and to watch the faces of the participants. Invariably supporters of nuclear power plants present an image of casual restraint, boredom, aloofness, convoluted 'objectivity' and smug superiority with scarcely a trace of warmth or empathy. The faces of their opposition are lively and attentive, full of enthusiasm and spontaneity.108
The cultural construction of the recovered body has place for compassion and fraternity: 'The movement takes seriously the huge gap in the standards of living between the developed and the less developed nations.'109 Rather than export its life-style or use food as a weapon in times of famine, by deciding who shall live or die through a scaling of suffering, the protector in the affluent west is learning to restrict desire, practice a more modest life-style.
This model of survival challenges the triage 'ethics' of modern science, which understands inequalities of suffering rather than fraternities of compassion. Triage encounters rationality, not meaning. The decision to bomb Hiroshima was based on a scaling of suffering and death, the assumption that fewer American lives would be lost this way. The ethics of survival seeks to offer a wider ecological understanding, not just of the physical fact of survival, but the meaning of the act. What does one survive for? How should one survive? Such an ethics as the rationale for an alternative notion of science and technology is essential to save it from the socio-biologism which has entered the analysis of the concentration camp,110 and the bounded management rationality of triage ethics. One does not deny that choices cause pain, but to reduce the calculus of suffering to techniques merely adds to the power of positivist science.
Jungk also emphasizes that these acts of celebratory renunciation must be supplemented with creative research into other forms of energy derived from the sun, the wind, the tides and photosynthesis. A search for alternative energy sources constitutes realistic bases for alternative life-styles and eventually life chances. Yet Jungk is cautious: 'Despite these hopeful signs, it is still possible that the new tyranny will temporarily push the nonviolent new international movement into the catacombs.'111 But if it prevails, the work of Jungk and others like him will be remembered as harbingers of this new imagination in histories and festschrifts. During these festivals of remembrance, I should like to take these five books, more mellowed in time, and rewrite them as fables of the gentle angry Aesop of a bygone nuclear age.
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