The trajectory of OTL 20s and 30s was quite technocratic, aping US development: these decades gave us the the dystopias of Zamyatin, Stapledon, Huxley, Orwell, Lewis, and Vonnegut. This TL is a little ASBish--"What if the Wellsians got the political power they wanted"--but in spite of all this it's not that far a stretch from our world: all the hotlinks are to a real and rather influential writer or doctrine. It's the world continuing along as it was doing in 1916. Germany wins decisively, though it can't really impose all that much: it's not a superpower. The 20s and 30s then see the (small-T) technocrats taking over entirely: they handle tensions in colonies and between Powers as a technocrat would, so of course there's wars. But TTL is not to spank technocratic thinking for leading to soul-crushing factories and apartments and wars, or for making us live too long and well at another's expense, but to expose its very weakness as a philosophy or a way of looking at the world: it's bankrupt because it's fatally blinkered, terrifyingly shallow, built on lies, all while thinking it's more omniscient than ever. It turned out to be an updated dystopia--not Zamyatin or Orwell with new technologies and sociological tricks, but an entirely new problem: we've encountered so much in the intervening 70 years that the early-century writers' complaints seem outdated. It's not that we'd be too long-lived and healthy to have any real problems so we get mopey, it's not that collectivism would grind us into powder, it's not that surveillance would control our every breath or thrust in the dark, but that the threat isn't a monolithic Edifice but a whole worldview.
Ludendorff could finally sleep. 1916 was done with and he would win this war. The rail carriage rocked him through the Rhenish forest under the hard stars. Lying stiff as a cadaver he dreamt of the Central Powers’ order--a German order, from the French Antilles and Tahiti to Namibia and Qingdao. But war came once again . . .
The 19th-c. doctrine had said that resources are free and unlimited--prosperity in raw form. The natural world is incomplete, fulfilled by human intervention and needing that improvement to justify its existence. Lakes, mountains, grasslands, taiga, swamps are all destined to become farmland--flat, healthy, productive, and populated. Nature has an obligation to serve Man with Her renewable bounty, dams preventing rivers from wasting Our property, from stealing it from the thirsty and hungry. Instrumentalism and reductionism split the world into edibles and vermin: wolves are the Devil's spawn, condors kill cattle, and bald eagles carry off babies from their cots. Rain follows the plough and deserts are caused by lack of cultivation: Frank Lewis Nason called irrigation a "higher Nature asserting itself ... We are really only doing here what nature herself did and then undid": not irrigating would be unnatural because it thwarted Nature expressing and asserting Herself through us. Horace Greeley
wrote that Progress gave the poorest in the 19th c. the enjoyments and luxuries that were "exclusive privilege of kings and nobles" in the 18th c.--every man a king through the evolution of the machine and ever-increasing power sources (and without having to fight another class for it). Technology was a divine expression, unlocking matter's latent destiny, an inherent teleology--prairies existed for farming, forests for cutting, deserts for irrigation: human activity was natural since the world was created solely to be used, completing God's Design to supply our needs. Mastering Nature would end all the ancient ills of the tearful world: technology (and, soon, technocracy) offered an utopian end to war, homelessness, inflation, poverty, crime, disease, and the smallest personal problem--the goals for which wars are fought. Rat poison, parliamentary reform, and taxing unused land would bring about the Millennium without God having to do much of anything.
US technocracy was rooted in this view, but quickly became managerial, recognizing infinite growth as impossible by 1910. Society'd already been destroyed and remade 1720-1920: humans were reduced to labor and nature to land, social dimensions erased for the economic, villages and artisans becoming producers and wage workers. Growth was claimed to be self-healing regardless of consequence: but in fact producers had to be sheltered from the market's consequences--depredation, an end to folkways and families, beggaring the English to beggar the Bengalis. Fulfilling economic needs isn't living, while its creators noisily pretended it's in everyone's benefit. Kinship, neighborhood, craft, creed, tribe, temple, guild, church were turned into gruesome throwbacks that caused superstition and incest: even WWI was called a "tribal" affair. Eating with one's hands or having dark skin are habits of ignorance and indiscipline--childish atavisms. Culture and religion were mere epiphenomena: the real work was production, distribution, and consumption--and redesigning the world to serve Man.
Religion was an intriguing curio, lumped together with painters and witch doctors, a prior way of comprehending reality back when people didn't know its laws--an imperfect early prototype of science in fact
, and/or an obstacle to remaking the world. Churches were patriotized
and some tried to sublimate religious sentiment into temples to Minerva
, or Mankind
. The inchoate and mysterious was now merely the unexplored and unexplained, awe and sublimity a subtype of confused ignorance.
Technocracy generated scientism
--a substitute for meaning, a science ministering to soul as well as body (TTL has a lot of gorgeous astronomy books). Chemistry, biology, and astronomy of course disproved any religion: how can anyone be a Catholic if they knew about atoms? (In fact, one could only be an atomic Catholic through the magic of "special pleading": Aquinas is not read TTL.) Conservation of matter in turn was deemed a theological doctrine. The world was split--technocrats on one side, and on the other feudalism, ignorance, superstition, fanaticism, despotism, bigotry clamoring for the "right" to be old or unhappy or diseased or hungry or bury your children. The state's historic mission was to make everyone well-fed, clean, and long-lived--the more things for more people. Mastery of nature meant freedom from scarcity, want, calamity, myth, bear-baiting, and witchcraft.
Technocracy in fact secretly unleashes the power of Man's dark side. Any dissidence was an attack on intelligence and reason and threatened everyone's lives: technocracy spoke for all Mankind. The division of all good things on one side and all bad on the other was extended to one's own nation (and, later, bloc); resistance was irrational, to be educated or swept aside, the intelligentsia dragging an unschooled, starving population into longer lifespans, housing, plus electrification.
19th-c. fulfillment of Nature turned to replacement: J.D. Bernal wrote in 1929 that scientists would become a separate, emotionless, star-hopping species, leaving the childlike, "larval" rest of us to an unspeakable "Melanesian existence of eating, drinking, friendliness, love-making, dancing and singing." The "humanity that counts ... leav[es] behind in a relatively primitive state those too stupid or too stubborn to change." Once us kine had served their purpose of birthing this corpse-eyed scientist-deity species "There may not be room for both types in the same world ... The better organized beings will be obliged in self-defence to reduce the numbers of the others, until they are no longer seriously inconvenienced by them." The stars "cannot be allowed to continue in their old way" and must be bent to human purpose--until we outstrip God and made Him puny! (He's just a really big guy, after all.) Man's true nature, of course, "is solely to think," the body to be "dispensed with altogether" and the soul engineered and rewritten. "At present, I allow, we must have forests, for the atmosphere. Presently we find a chemical substitute. And then, why any natural trees? I foresee nothing but the art tree all over the earth. In fact, we clean the planet." There's no difference between the human and the natural sciences--math was ethical and morality arithmetical.
Ultimately, even the scientists were superfluous: they're just there to get the facts out--mere mouthpieces for Nature--and the interpretation and theorizing could really be taken over by computer when the time came (since computers think, but better!). The narodniks who blew up Alexander II had left rocket-nozzle designs as their wills. Their doyen, Nikolai Fyodorov, was "militantly antitranscendental" and his thought rooted in the heresy of an all-human Christ Who came to perfect us and take us to apotheosized "god-manhood": he declared that Man's natural home is space and that would end all classes, strife, and sorrows. We were the center of everything in existence, receiving God's prerogatives and His duties--to order the universe, end disease, resurrect everyone who'd ever died (via "knowledge and control over all atoms and molecules of the world" and collecting the etheric mind-waves previously released
, or just by manufacturing a new soul), bring design, will, and purpose to blind matter, and grow food and medicine for the 70 billion brought back en masse
--totally controlling the climates of a vigintillion worlds and shoveling blue dwarfs into Our furnaces, ensuring that the universe is self-creating and self-renewing.
This all leaves the world's deciders with tremendous moral blinkers: they erase any other epistemology, philosophy, or worldview, as well as their own history. Purging emotion, religion, and tradition only leaves them unable to perceive their own values (and how eccentric they really are) while they work to reveal Man's "true" values. The ideologues are above ideology, so they never study it and never realize their own. Sentimentalism aside, they would in fact complain that OTLs' Holocaust was made on faulty assumptions: Jews are indeed classed in the human species, so the mass murder was basically an anthropological misclassification; child labor is merely "irrational" and not wrong. Non-Western culture may be discredited as unable to uplift the wretched of the earth (in fact, Britain, Germany, and France are the three countries were anyone can really know the truth)--but their well-purged worldview sees suburban comfort and security as the ultimate values: we live by bread alone and it comes in a van, and our gardens are pretty and fairy-free. Humanity was of no enduring value: we're only currently useful--disposable servants of the upward evolution of Intelligence, in whatever form.
Politically, alt!20s-40s technocracy wasn't so blazing-eyed ideological as described above: it was bureaucratic, hard-headed, high-handed, managerialistic, antipolitical, and open to humanisms besidesthan those of its loudest advocates. It's so much more than a matter of tyrannically expansive definitions of politics, law, and courts. Scientific farming of course knows better than any local farmer: crops, infrastructure, and prefab housing could be laid down anywhere, cities and megafarms laid down like sod
in desert, tundra, or reef. Detroit and the Dakotas were both productive and controllable: they meant interchangeable units, fungible deskilled labor, and rigid discipline and schedules. In order to develop the planet, humans must serve the machines--adapt to them, accept anything they demand, and ultimately become like them, reliable and rationalized. Labor and management is united, a "solidarism" promising a "classless" society: regulation extends as well as restricts freedoms, with labor able to moderate capitalism and guarantee the basics, though less so than OTL. It's a Bismarckian "welfare state," coopting and preempting, able to absorb Gramsci's "organic intellectuals." The most overtly authoritarian systems are Japan and Russia, followed by Germany--but that's only because they make explicit what the other systems keep concealed: there's no reason why any individual should exist, or continue to do so. Outside the U.S. and the Anglosphere, people are disappeared from their garages and beds and streets and their children redistributed. Retarded children were systematically murdered during the dark 1940-42 period in Germany, and the poor are still sterilized everywhere, though there's less enforcement in Asia and the French and South American blocs are natalist.
Universities are turned toward predicting behavior (and ensuring that there's no frame of reference to question the System). Efforts were made to create a system capable of conditioning people into accepting anything--giving up their children (who belonged to society), enjoying death: anything that the eccentric managerial culture deems to be The Only Way. Philology, history, and memory are nauseous because they're about the Horrid Past: TTL's a world of information, not knowledge. There's a proudly philistine streak: their Futurists
praised WWII's firebombing for letting them replace superstitious painting and architecture
with lovely Art Deco (or hateful Brutalism). OTL's Le Corbusier calculated that each person needs 10 square meters for air, heat, light, and space: happiness was a number, so they count each day's impulses and how many of them get satisfied. Le Corbusier dreamt of purging the city of stone with steel, glass, and concrete. Nevertheless, the interwar years see Romanticism, avant-gardism, and neo-aestheticism. A few Red Scares made political naïveté a virtue, with E.A. Blair's "successful impersonation of a plain man who bumps into experience" providing a "homespun empiricism" "that the truth was just there to be told in a straightforward common-sense way." Blair thereby positioned himself as the very "embodiment of human values." Blair of course became a listmaker for British agencies just as they themselves become sub-bureaux of a secret organization operating based on a totalizing ideology that recruited socialist rhetoric in the service of repression, to fight the totalitarian Other System
. His political stance would be seen as "culpably self-deluding" as WWIII comes around the corner, but his geopolitical contribution is to give the Inter-Oceanic Treaty Organisation (IOTO, "the Anglosphere," "Oceania") a moral aspect outside of the technocrats'--there can be no stint or quarter in the fight against the "Eurasian" threats (Moscow, Berlin-Paris, Tokyo-Beijing): the peace socialists "who 'abjure' violence against Eurasiatic oppression can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."
Hot war is the only way to do anything besides contain those who want to take away our freedoms with their forced labor, mass deportations, torture, civilian bombings. Opponents of the fight against France and Germany don't just evade the Hard Choices That Have to Be Made but in fact their "unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism ... an admiration for power and successful cruelty ... [that] statesmen of the type of Bruening and Gaulle are preferable to those of the type of Churchill."
The German Bloc
covers Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe out to the Caspian; Berlin has increasingly dominated Paris, Sofia, and Istanbul since WWI. The 20s' middle classes had fought to keep the workers from public life and win over the peasantry, but the Army had its own plans, plans less enamored with the sacredness of contract and property. Jews aren't separated, let alone killed--who'd be your doctor, or your scapegoat? The rural Pale Jews don't do too fabulously under Byelorussia and Ukraine, so there's emigration to Alaska, the Outback, Palestine, the Caribbean, Brazil, a few Russian borders--but Germany-Austria attracts the most Russian Jews. That said, OTL Nazis just took contemporary ideas several steps too far: prudery against the corruption, Expressionism, cabarets, and liberated sex, Ariosophy and hiking, and national mysticism: there's literary, artistic, architectural, and philosophical vibrancy alongside (Grad)grinding utilitarianism: there's bureaucratic authoritarianism, populist veterans' groups, "Conservative Revolutionaries", Freud, Spengler, Nordau, Nietzsche, Jung, Hesse, Schleicher, Strasser, von Seeckt, Kapp, Hugenberg, Noske, Groener, von Papen--there's even Hitler, but he can't keep up a lasting organization and gets buried under the rest. There's even political room for the Zetkins and Luxemburgs. The Continent is under the jackbooted exploitation of the Generalämte, though it's hardly a hell on earth--Poland's still Polish, and the Swedish Folkhemmet is a model south of the Baltic as well: the Swiss fortress-nation model is also adopted by everyone. In 1940 Wilhelmina wakes up and finds herself a sovereign monarch--no less so than Rupert I of Bavaria. This bloc's undemocratic, but no antidemocratic ideology has been articulated.
's Bolsheviks and Mensheviks both owed Berlin, which opted to reconcile them. In 1918 Menshevik rule crumbled into Bonapartism
under Nicholas III
and then collective leadership upon his 1929 death. The Reds occupied themselves with administration, running the Katorga Archipelago (boo!), Constructivism (yay!)
, building Man into a prosthetic God (aiee!). Bolshy-Menshy administrators helped generate swathes of starvation in the 30s and then the 50s, while the ex-Whites sometimes round up the Jews, especially during this WWII.
The Integralist French Bloc
is to the right of the German (since Germany's "plunder the East" doesn't count as an ideology). Paris is tricky for Berlin to deal with: getting Brussels wasn't enough, so it gets its own sphere, following Berlin without being subordinate. They manage Germany's Suez Canal, Gibraltar and its dam dam
, and other Mediterranean megaprojects
to keep them busy. Interwar French forces are even more vindictive than OTL, but they're taken on joint exercises in Central and Eastern Europe (which'll in turn make the Fulcrum's repression of Anglo spies easier west of the Moselle during WWII). It's as big a hotbed of technocracy per se
as Britain. It's more anti-Semitic than Germany and racism has political, cultural, and psychological as well as ethnic definitions in its bloc (like under OTL Franco). Italy had pissed off everyone one time too many by 1941 and is now in pieces. The POUM only bothers Barcelona now, but the French left and right fought a proxy battle in Castile and Italy. France's integralists get to play "sister republic" in Italy and Iberia, while the politically-muddled Leaguists romp through Mediterranean hills and dales as knights in a land they can pretend never head Jews or Masons: Don Quixote gets a revival, because near-fascists are bad at irony.
had pushed science, investment, and infrastructure in alliance with Church and landowner in the 19th c., providing a model for France and Latin America
: its Maximato
never ends and its muralists are key to depicting Man as God
. Argentina falls to various Jew-baiting generals as in OTL
. Latin America wavers between Paris, Berlin, and Washington and will often a hot spot between the Anglos and the Fulcrum in the 30s. Rebels' heads are taken to the provincial capital--for scientific measurement as well as display
The "Ottoman" "Empire" makes Russia look fun: they're very militarized and have commandos for every terrain--mountain to forest to jungle to underwater. There's no room for non-Turks in the north or non-Sunnis (or, ultimately, Sunnis!) in the south as the country is overrun and consolidated by technocrats. Anyone not in the approved groups is left out and persecuted, with combat against Kurds, Druze, Hebrews, Palestinians, Shiites, Maronites, etc., etc. The military constantly encourages India's Muslims to revolt against London. The US
never gets a New Deal, its System being designed to control and prevent rebellion rather than just hand out money to improve life: it withstands FDRs from inside and Huey Longs from outside. It's friendly to German experts like Kundt
, Moeller van den Bruck
, and Beger. The relative conservatism means there's lots of Red Cafés. Nevertheless firm managerialism means that contraception, divorce, dancing, and race-mixing are all legal by 1950. Britain has been rearranged into the 26-province British Imperial Federation, with paternalistic nobles vs. un-socialist or developmentalist Labour. They have some Roman pretensions, though not in architecture or art or literature or philosophy or ...
Initially seen as preventing repression and war, technocracy also tremendously facilitates them. Shortening and sharpening war and creating new weapons was supposed to make it "humane," but WWII's fighting was even harder than the First. Japan attacked China 1932, but Chiang Kai-shek gets killed at Xi'an 1936 and Wang Jingwei is repulsive but isn't as ... crazy putty: Mao'll die in the mountains 1975. Overextended Japanese China is increasingly operated through local puppets, though the IJA remains bogged down by "bandit" rebellions. Pearl Harbor 1940 sticks to getting rid of the "deterrent" B-17s, maintenance, and storage; the battleships are attacked in the second wave, allowing their evacuation: there's around 1,000 American dead, and the cry is "remember Pearl Harbor and Clark Field!" Nevertheless, the eastern Pacific is well-fortified before any moves are considered in the western, and something like a mini-Midway knocks out the IJN in the north Pacific. 1943-44 sees an agonized Combined crawl through the Solomons; the 1945 Anglo reinvasion of the Japanese Philippines actually leaves the Combination pinned between the German Pacific island fortresses and their powerful Indonesian colony. Soon American peace feelers convince Tokyo to flip to IOTO and promise to evacuate China in exchange for garrisons and advisor roles across SE Asia, joining the overstretched British to sweep Malaya and Borneo; fortified Java and Sumatra hold out until the 1948 Accords. India painfully took Russian Afghanistan 1940-44 and was rearranged into 26 provinces after the war, the princes losing their sovereignty but not their thrones. The European Theater is full of mega-shells, machine-dug trenches full of new gases and diseases, suborbital artillery, unneeded pet massacres, unwillingness to surrender, underground rockets and subterrenes, colossal hardened bunkers, heavy-lift blimps airdropping all sorts of multi-ton war machines out of artillery range, and bomber waves burning out city after city, with Germans reaching California and New York occasionally 1947-48. There's no big, conclusive sweeps, nor any Gallipoli-level disaster to disgust the ANZACs, but the Federation is disarticulated by all the Atlantic and Indian fighting: at home in Britain, blockades and bombardment and lack of sharp moral distinction between blocs encourage peace socialism as well as jingoism. Channel artillery leaves the White Cliffs lumpy piles dotted with forts on both sides. US state apparatuses are incorporated into the Federal: there are fewer American deaths overall than OTL, but an Amazonian Theater against the Southern Cone to join the Atlantic and Pacific ones. Instead of an "Axis" we have Mackinder's pivot--the Fulcrum of Eurasia. Berlin encouraged German Swiss nationalism and bribed them into the Empire after two decades of totally subordinating them, while Paris had encouraged Romand separatism. German atrocities are Wehrmacht-, not SS-, level, but still noisily denied. Grand Duke Zhukov does great against Japan 1938-41, but the turnaround is too great for Russia (even with Generals Tukhachevsky, Wrangel, and von Ungern-Sternberg), which gets a Fulcrum "new leadership" in 1942 and will turn and attack Japan/China 1945-56, regaining Xinjiang: what was scary was how long Russia had held out.
The 1948 treaties encouraged integration and standardization of technocracy across the nine blocs. All armed history ended up blurred together--Alamo and Alamaut, Marathon and Masada--mixed together in a worldwide theater of past soldiering: the conflicts of the 60s and 70s would be marked by conflict between three identically-behaving militaries. More importantly, WWII demanded collective leadership, which roved between major cities rather than staying in any single national or provisional capital.
. . . Ludendorff’s Preußisch face betrays nothing as his midnight visions quietly start to curdle . . .
All thanks to Angus Wright, Karl Polanyi, James C. Scott, Michael Holquist, H. Bruce Franklin, Judith Shapiro, E.P. Thompson, Loren Graham, Michael Bess, David E. Nye, Mary Midgley, Lewis Mumford, etc., etc., etc., etc. Title card in Neutra Display.