Mobilizing Modernity: The Nuclear Moment

By Ian Welsh | Go to book overview

5

Modernity's mobilisation stalls

Introduction

The 1960s should have been the decade of consolidation and expansion for the scientific social movement which had developed nuclear techniques during the post-war period. At global and national levels the movement's institutions produced predictions about the growth of atomic energy dwarfing all other energy sources. Faith in the global relevance of techniques developed by scientific movements from the North became a pervasive feature of an era which sought to export technical expertise to solve a wide range of problems. 1 The promise of progress inherent within classical conceptions of modernity now became increasingly mobilised in a material sense at a global level. In the face of massive technological innovation which inundated societies with new 'gadgets' reminders of the need to keep the public positively engaged with science were quietly forgotten. The self-evident superiority of new techniques was sufficient to secure the future.

As the gadgets of the modern age became increasingly visible the public profile and symbolic embroidery of scientists' position as saviours of society became less pronounced in the UK. In America the emergence of space as an area of exploration granted astronauts the heroic status previously endowed on atomic scientists. In terms of the nuclear scientific movement in both countries the move from the limelight into a more bureaucratic and commercial environment resulted in a marked reduction in public profile. High-profile expressions by senior scientific figures promising to revolutionise life in industrialised societies began to lose prominence. The material promise of this revolution also became subject to radical revision. Early casualties were atomic powered aeroplanes, and space flight. 2 Even apparently secure developments such as nuclear powered ships failed to materialise outside the military realm.

Apart from nuclear weapons which continued to be central to international power relations, granting status to the nuclear nations, the remaining promise of the nuclear moment remained the supply of plentiful and cheap electricity. In the UK senior figures from the atomic science movement had warned that this would require an act of faith on the part of society.

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Mobilizing Modernity: The Nuclear Moment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Acronyms x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Nuclear Moment 34
  • 3 - Resisting the Juggernaut 68
  • 4 - Accidents Will Happen 95
  • 5 - Modernity's Mobilisation Stalls 118
  • 6 - The Moment of Direct Action 150
  • 7 - Networking 183
  • 8 - Conclusions 206
  • Notes 228
  • Bibliography 244
  • Author Index 256
  • Subject Index 259
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