Taking on Technocracy - Nuclear power in Germany, 1945 to the present
|Author||Augustine Dolores L.|
|Classification||2.01.2.10/32 (GERMANY - ANTI NUCLEAR MOVEMENT - GENERAL)|
|Remarks||The German abandonment of nuclear power represents one of the most successful popular revolts against technocratic thinking in modern times—the triumph of a dynamic social movement, encompassing a broad swath of West Germans as well as East German dissident circles, over political, economic, and scientific elites. Taking on Technocracy gives a brisk account of this dramatic historical moment, showing how the popularization of scientific knowledge fostered new understandings of technological risk. Combining analyses of social history, popular culture, social movement theory, and histories of science and technology, it offers a compelling narrative of a key episode in the recent history of popular resistance.|
From the publication:
Introduction In February 1975, images flickered across West German television screens of farmers and middle-aged villagers being assaulted with police water cannons and truncheons as they sought to block the construction of an atomic power plant in their village, Wyhl, located in what was then West Germany. Soon, the television station that had dared to transmit these images was decried by politicians and television executives as a communist stronghold. Thirty-six years later, on 6 June 2011, German chancellor Angela Merkel—a physicist by profession—announced that Germany would abandon nuclear power by 2022. Dissent to this unprecedented decision was muted, coming mainly from the ranks of the leftist, environmentalist Greens, who felt Merkel’s timetable unnecessarily delayed the shutdown of nuclear plants. The slogan, Atomkraft—Nein, Danke! (Atomic Power—No Thanks!), once the rallying cry of a marginalized, radical movement, had come to be embraced by an entire society, it would seem. The Chernobyl and Fukushima reactor disasters of 1986 and 2011, respectively, had a far more muted long-term impact in most industrialized nations. In Germany, by contrast, opposition to nuclear power won the upper hand, and environmentalism became central to most Germans’ sense of national identity. This was not always the case. In the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, East and West German leaders charted a course that involved a break with the Nazi past and an embrace of technological progress. Nuclear energy1 was central to this vision. East and West Germans shared futuristic, utopian visions of the Atomic Age as an era of peace and progress for all humankind. With the help of science and technology, they hoped, East and West Germany could leave the Nazi past behind and become modern, forward-looking nations. Within a few years, however, thinking changed dramatically in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The younger generation viewed the alliance between the political authorities, nuclear industry, and technical– scientific experts as rooted in the power structures and authoritarian think- ing that had made National Socialism possible. West German activists strove to surmount Germany’s pariah status by becoming part of the vanguard of transnational, progressive movements. Even in the GDR (the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany), the atomic consensus came to be questioned by a brave few.
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