World Projects

World Projects: Global Information before World War I

MARKUS KRAJEWSKI
Translated by Charles Marcrum
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt130jts2
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  • Book Info
    World Projects
    Book Description:

    Markus Krajewski is emerging as a leading scholar in the field of media archaeology, which seeks to trace cultural history through the media networks that enable and structure it. InWorld Projectshe opens a new portal into the history of globalization by examining several large-scale projects that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, shared a grand yet unachievable goal: bringing order to the world.

    Drawing from a broad array of archival materials, Krajewski reveals how expanding commercial relations, growing international scientific agreements, and an imperial monopolization of the political realm spawned ambitious global projects.World Projectscontends that the late nineteenth-century networks of cables, routes, and shipping lines-of junctions, crossovers, and transfers-merged into a "multimedia system" that was a prerequisite for conceiving a world project. As examples, he presents the work of three big-thinking "plansmiths," each of whose work mediates between two discursive fields: the chemist and natural philosopher Wilhelm Ostwald, who spent years promoting a "world auxiliary language" and a world currency; the self-taught "engineer" and self-anointed authority on science and technology Franz Maria Feldhaus, who labored to produce an all-encompassing "world history of technology"; and Walther Rathenau, who put economics to the service of politics and quickly transformed the German economy.

    With a keen eye for the outlandish as well as the outsized, Krajewski shows how media, technological structures, and naked human ambition paved the way for global-scale ventures that together created the first "world wide web."

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4138-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. 1 THE WORLD AROUND 1900
    (pp. 1-32)

    In contrast to the architect of 1800, the world projector had lost the close bond to politicians and thus the necessity to ensconce himself in the chambers of political power. With the abolition of the system of estates, it had been a long time since the path to investments or outside capital led past princely courts or even the king’s throne. The projector must now concentrate his acquisition above all on private capital. No money is to be made with the state, at least not in this way. At the same time, he feels himself compelled to broaden his field...

  6. 2 THE UNITY OF DIVERSITY: Wilhelm Ostwald’s World Formations
    (pp. 33-92)

    What do a currency, a language, and a filing cabinet have in common? Without a doubt, there are countless intersections or places at which these three media coincide in various historical constellations, whether it be on the counting tables in the offices of a high medieval port city, in the back rooms of the Bank of England, or, to name a more current example, in the data sets of a spreadsheet in the revenue office. However, all three objects are likewise subjects of a series of treatises which—provided with the programmatic prefix “world”—begin to spring from the quill...

  7. 3 WORLD HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Franz Maria Feldhaus
    (pp. 93-136)

    What do a saw, a pencil, and a bathtub have in common? No, it has neither to do with a new section from the series of Wilhelm Ostwald’s global conceptions nor with the now long-overworked, presurrealist kind of encounter made famous by Lautréamont.¹ Though an umbrella, sewing machine, and dissecting table are all present where a pencil, a saw, and a bathtub, along with countless other objects, such as a cable railway, a chastity belt, a radio telegraph, a hot-water bottle, a soldering iron, or an ex-champion of gliding meet. The commonality of all these objects lies less in the...

  8. 4 SYSTEMS ECONOMY: Walther Rathenau, Man of the World
    (pp. 137-184)

    What do eighty-four directorships, a Faust mini-drama, and the treaty of Rapallo have in common? No, they are not neatly listed in the Feldhaus Collection, nor are they new Ostwaldian measures or ventures to promote the standardization of the world. Rather, the three merge in one man: Walther Rathenau. The foreign minister of the young Weimar Republic, the millionaire’s son and one-time president of the AEG, patron of art and literature, the culturally critical writer, even the engineer, has been the frequent as well as controversial subject of much writing, particularly following his murder in July 1922—until today. The...

  9. 5 AS FOR THE REST: In Search of the World’s Remains
    (pp. 185-222)

    The aim of the series of world projects is apparent. The plans’ labels carry it in their title. The prefix is the program: the maximum effects concern nothing less than the “world” itself. The reasons can be found in the belief in a specific notion of efficient practices as well as in the desire to advance standardization efforts of as yet unimaginable, namely, global, dimensions, whether they be of economic systems, trusts, “means of transit,” or building blocks of knowledge of index cards. The impetus for total standardization in the context of internationalism appears to be not least a countermovement...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 223-246)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 247-268)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 269-272)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-275)