Reconstruction, Reaction, and
Continuing Revolution: The
1920s and 1930s
The West
The Waste Land
• Heightened anxiety and loss of certainty
colored much literature, philosophy and
theology, after 1918
• Existentialism taught that existence was a
prison and that the universe was devoid of
• A sense of absurdity and waste dominated
visual arts
Building Something Better
• Growth in utopian vision and hope for
improvement in literature, art and
• Belief that art could serve a social purpose
• Celebration of the transforming power of
technology - movement and speed
• Development of airline and automobile
industries, and Hollywood cinema
The Reconstruction of Russia
• Between 1917 and 1921, Russia was wracked by
civil war and economic disintegration
• Bolsheviks turned to authoritarian methods and
terror, to impose order
• Modification of Marxist theory banned political
debate and disagreement
• Retreat from communist economic policies
The Reconstruction of Central
and Eastern Europe
• Continuing ethnic divisions and economic
underdevelopment led to the collapse of
democracy, across Eastern Europe
• A formidable anti-democratic force in the military
and bureaucracy endured, in Germany
• Resentment of the punitive peace settlement of
1918 and of the economic crisis of 1923-1924
fueled popular support for anti-democratic
movements in Germany
The Reconstruction of Gender
• Emergence of the “New Woman” physically, economically and sexually
• Extension of franchise to women and
increase in employment opportunities
• Strong, concerted effort to re-impose
traditional roles by religious, political and
commercial leaders
The Fascist Alternative
• Fascism - condemned liberalism and socialism,
identified the nation as the dominant social reality
• Under Benito Mussolini, the fascists transformed
Italy into a one-party state that reinforced élite
• Mussolini utilized modern mass media and ageold rituals to create a cult of personality and an
elaborate political theater
The Great Depression and the
Spread of Fascism
• By 1925, American investment was keeping
European economies functioning - US
became the financial center of the West
• 1929 US stock market crash led to collapse
of European economies - the Great
Depression became a global event
• Political and social disorder of the Great
Depression enhanced the appeal of fascism
The Nazi Revolution
• Nazism combined fascist ideas with a racialized
view of German political history and an
apocalyptic vision for Germany
• Under Adolf Hitler, Germany became a Nazi
dictatorship, with all authority centered in Hitler’s
• Nazi rule restored economic prosperity and
national pride, and promoted a cultural revolution
in the German identity
• “Nazification” - the violent repression of groups
considered biologically inferior, especially Jews
Women and the Radical Right
• In fascist ideology, the restoration of order meant
the return of women to homes, as wives and
• Nazi régime used incentives to encourage
motherhood, and systematically excluded women
from professional advancement
• In Fascist Italy, incentives and penalties to
encourage marriage and parenthood targeted both
men and women
The Soviet Union Under Stalin
• Josef Stalin advocated the total socialization of the
economy and fast-paced industrialization
• Industrialization was achieved by severe discipline
of workers, and forced labor
• The Great Purge, 1934-1939 - mass executions
and deportations of perceived enemies
• Development of a personality cult around Stalin
and restoration of Russian nationalism
The Search for Middle Ground
• Beginnings of social democratic thought, as
a third way between fascism and
• Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal laid
the basis for the US welfare system
• John Maynard Keynes articulated a theory
of deficit spending to stimulate economic
growth, in times of depression
The Spanish Civil War
• Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy actively supported
the right-wing rebels against the Republican
• Soviet support for the Spanish government split
the Republican cause and prevented official
support from Britain, France and the US
• Defeat of the Republicans became symbolic of the
advance of the radical right in Europe
The Expansion of Empire
• Creation of new British and French
Mandates, in the Middle East
• Development of unique national identities
and parliamentary autonomy, in British
dominions, seen as expanding the West
• New emphasis on the necessity of empire
for economic prosperity
The Erosion of Empire
• Independence of the majority of Ireland,
• Industrialization in the colonies and the
Great Depression fueled anti-Western
sentiment and nationalist movements
• Especially in China, the export of
communist ideology from the Soviet Union
helped the spread of nationalism
The Question of
• Non-Western
independence and economic modernization
• Mustafa Kemal Pasha pursued a policy of
nationalism and modernization that attempted to
Westernize Turkey
• Mohandas Gandhi emphasized Indian customs and
identities to build a nationalist movement that
pursued non-Western modernization
The Power of Primitive
• Following the First World War, many Europeans
lost faith in the idea of Western superiority
• Freud and Carl Jung’s psychological ideas
dissolved the boundary between “civilized” and
• Influence and celebration of African and Asian
traditions in Western intellectual and artistic
The Kingdom of Corpses
• Dramatic re-evaluation of Western cultural
and political assumptions
• Soviet communism, fascism and Nazism all
rejected Western ideas of individual rights
and the rule of law
• The legacy of war, the global economic
crisis and the failure of democracy fueled a
sense of despair about Western civilization

Reconstruction, Reaction, and Continuing Revolution