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Knowing Nukes

Knowing Nukes: The Politics and Culture of the Atom

Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Knowing Nukes
    Book Description:

    Countering critics who charge that postmodern positions on language, authority, and power cannot inform effective political responses, this compelling analysis employs these same methods to examine antinuclear politics. Star Wars (the movie and the antimissile system), the Freeze movement, Reaganism, and “lifestyle” politics all receive new treatments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8433-5
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Nukes “Я” Us
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    The path to understanding nuclearism can be traced, these days, to unexpected places. Early in 1988, Richland (Washington) High School emerged as just such a place, earning for its efforts a few moments of national attention.

    The Richland High community strained to examine key themes of contemporary life, although few there seem to have thought about life in the terms I will use. Ostensibly, the school debated over whether the mushroom cloud was an appropriate “mascot” for the school’s sports teams, the Bombers. In doing so, students and teachers wandered into a space where symbols and what they symbolize collide...

  5. 1 Knowing Nukes
    (pp. 1-22)

    Like few other issues, nuclearism strains to become more than an instance. It aspires to be context and case, to shape public and private life. It seeks a symbolic position of such force that other concerns would arise within the context of nuclear technology, sometimes even when explicit connections are absent. The policies, practices, and discourses of nuclear technology seem to have a capacity to capture attention that rivals even their destructive capability. In short, nuclearism organizes public life and thought so thoroughly that, in another era of political theory, we would analyze it as anideology.The framework of...

  6. 2 No More Warriors
    (pp. 23-42)

    The events of 1989 —Tiananmen, the Berlin Wall, the release of Mandela — were stunning. Even so, these events have yet to produce even a ripple in the political thought of an age that is, at the same time, so obviously displaced in the wake of the sudden end of the Cold War. Each successive event was stunning all over again, but each was also transparent. Once the impossible happened, we were all left to nod at a certain inevitability, never visible before it happened.

    Political analysts were only able to note a detail we might have missed, here and there,...

  7. 3 Robotics (The Bomb’s Body)
    (pp. 43-67)

    The humanoid machine, perhaps semi-autonomous, has a long history in Western thought. As Andreas Huyssen notes, when eighteenth century scientists began to understand the human being in terms of machine metaphors, popular culture followed suit.¹ Performances of automata who sang, played musical instruments, or danced became major hits. But these embodiments were only the first, enthusiastic expressions of scientific breakthrough. As the nineteenth century brought the image of the threatening android to the fore, danger replaced hope and confidence. No subsequent embodiment of hopes could reconstruct the naive delight of the previous century. The twentieth century names those pseudopeople (“robots”)...

  8. 4 Star Wars and the Freeze
    (pp. 68-85)

    The micro controls of the nuclear era are not the only form of power emerging at the end of modernism. Therapeutic and disciplinary discourses play a social role; they are, in effect, new agents that both constrain and produce contemporary political possibilities. These new practices of power interact with thoroughly constituted, nuclear-age selves. In the mix, there is a solution. The instability and perversity of the nuclear age no longer imply the fraudulence of humanity. The nuke is not a code of our failure; in a stunning reversal, it stands for progress. The chaotic paradoxes of our time carry the...

  9. 5 Immodest Modesty
    (pp. 86-104)

    In an interview, Michel Foucault once noted that the local and partial interventions (from what we might call the left opposition) have succeeded more frequently, over the last several decades, than have more global and ideological approaches.¹ By “local and partial,” Foucault recalled issues confronted on some personal (rather than universal or theoretical) basis—even if the issue has a global, foreign-policy dimension. In this chapter, I want to consider what this insight might say about the politics surrounding foreign policy in the advanced media culture of the United States. To address this question, I will generally assume the (admittedly...

  10. 6 Power/Cheekiness
    (pp. 105-125)

    Looking back on the first half century of the nuclear age, we can begin to plot the questions and answers that have had an absorbing effect in politics. If all of the extraordinary events of 1989–90 have been surprising, that may suggest we have missed some crucial aspects of this age.

    These dramatic political events have not yet produced an analysis that would match the spectacle of the events themselves. Most analyses emphasize “popular will,” “freedom,” and the triumph of capitalism over communism, but each of these points had been undermined long before 1989 gave them a last breath....

  11. 7 On Lastness: Nuclearism and Modernity
    (pp. 126-138)

    Of the many paradoxical dimensions I have been associating with the nuclear age, perhaps the most important one is that day to day life continues, frequently forgetting the nuclearist transformations that really are impossible to ignore. Politics finally went orbital; encircling us in the most general way possible, but at a sufficient distance that it seldom intervenes very directly in our picnic and softball game. Most reminders of nuclearism thus take on an ironic or absurdist quality: “How can you call that pitch a strike when nuclear war could break out any time now!” Certainty vanishes in this context; there...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 139-154)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 155-158)
  14. Index
    (pp. 159-164)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-165)