Thesis ID: CBB209101255

The Rocket’s Red Glare: Global Power and the Rise of American State Technology, 1940-1960 (2019)


Falcone, Michael Alan (Author)
Immerwahr, Daniel (Advisor)

Northwestern University
Immerwahr, Daniel
Publication date: 2019
Language: English

Publication Date: 2019
Physical Details: 489

This dissertation, titled “The Rocket’s Red Glare: Global Power and the Rise of American State Technology, 1940-1960,” makes three distinct but interlocking historical interventions. First, it argues that the rise of technology as a central ideological component of global hegemony represents a historical contingency, rather than a reflexive characteristic of great power status. Second, it argues that the United States lagged significantly behind other powers in pursuing state science and technology for much of the industrial era—rather, it was the technological, bureaucratic, and doctrinal tutelage of Great Britain during the Second World War that finally coaxed the American state into pursuing what would eventually become known as the military-industrial complex. Finally, it argues that U.S. inclination toward global hegemony was neither ‘present at the creation’ nor a reluctant assumption of responsibility in the aftermath of war, but rather represented a conscious doctrinal pivot, one informed in large part by the technological changes of the war. The British, eager to prop up their ally, had desperately thrust a number of key innovations into the uncertain hands of the American state, among them radar, jet engines, antibiotics, and the seeds of nuclear weaponry. They had also pressed their American partners to erect new institutions to accommodate further state research into technology—institutions that were previously wholly lacking in the United States. To a surprising degree, then, the military-industrial complex that defined the postwar American landscape represented a foreign import. The dissertation’s chapters follow this theme through the aftermath of Sputnik in 1957, documenting the rocky implantation of a technological vision of global hegemony into an ill-prepared American state, with the military ending up as the only organization at political liberty to realize the vision of a scientific ‘Endless Frontier.’ The way this ideology of hegemony became reified among American thinkers, policymakers, and the public sphere, as well as its projection abroad by the 1960s, came to redefine the pursuit of power among industrialized nations and blocs the world over, from the EEC to the PRC. As the project ultimately reveals, however, powerful nations’ current commitments to science and technology are in fact contingent products of a chaotic historical moment, rather than a natural outgrowth of states’ will to power.

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Authors & Contributors
Baracca, Angelo
Burke, Colin
Jewett, Andrew John
Martin, Lauren Jade
Mody, Cyrus C. M.
Mom, Gijs
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Environmental History
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
History and Technology
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Johns Hopkins University Press
Harvard University
Cambridge University Press
Berghahn Books
Carocci Editore
Harvard University Press
Science and war; science and the military
Globalization; internationalization
Cold War
Military–industrial complex
Technology and society
Science and culture
Osborn, Henry Fairfield
Vogt, William
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
18th century
United States
Great Britain
Soviet Union
United Nations
International Geophysical Year (IGY)

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