JF Ptak Science Books Post 1421
The unnamed author of The New City, an American Plan of Social and Economic Reorganization (1938), makes a hard-edged plea for the formation of a new American society—and by “new” the author really means it, advocating a different economics, social structure and even the physical development of new cities and abandonment of the old physical and philosophical structures. (The rare original of this deterministic futuristic publication is located at our blog bookstore.)
Sprinkled among the Swiftian notions of rightness, quixotic lancings of social ills and a general bombardment of the structure of society are some interesting and isolated points:
“America is the supreme user of the machine…ravishing the irreplaceable wealth of one of the earth’s richest continents, tearing down forests, looting the treasures of coal and draining the reservoirs of oil and natural gas, by methods scandalously wasteful.”
It is the profit-deliverers, not the machines or people, who are to blame. One way of addressing the distribution system, was, unfortunately, Russia—“a form if society set up to overcome this impasse of the capitalistic system of production and distribution”. Of course the Russians--the Soviets--were just in the middle of their enforced starvation/gulag/brutalization period under Josef Stalin, the gigantic negative parts of which were still in general not known to the great unwashed.
The unnamed author dips lightly into Socialism, and then into Fascism and Nazism, though the only thing he/she really has to say about the later two is that “their answer [to economic woe] was in the seizure or control of the means of production by the state”, their own brutal means skipping off unnoticed into a pinkish glow, though the loss of personal freedom is “disdained”.
The New City is actually a new world order, a new governmental form to take advantage of technological advancements leading to “nationalized urbanization” The first city in this new order is Neopolis, and this pamphlet was a call to those who would stand as its citizens. (There’s actually a sort of application form, though all it really is a bill-of-sale for ordering more copies of the New City pamphlet.)
Even though the pamphlet is easily obtained, membership, the possibility of being a Neopolitan, is something entirely different. The difference is actually exceptional, perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this whole misguided idea. “Membership is to be carefully controlled at all times” we read. . “It is not desired to build up a huge and unwieldy membership of poorly-assimilated elements….interesting educational instruction…with tests to determine the fitness of the member for loyal, cooperative activity, leading, necessarily, to the elimination of those who may be found undesirable”.
That’s some pretty muscular, steroidal stuff, particularly after such a glancing blow against the Soviets and Nazis.
Since this is just an “abridgment” of a soon-to-be-written 250-page explanation of the concept, the complex and concentric organization of society is left mainly to the drawing of its plan, the physical layout of the city based upon this ideal.
The Seattle-based author never did quite make it past page 29, never did name themselves, and never provided a concrete place where all of this heady stuff was being think out. It is a sort of pretty design in a creepy/queasy way, there on the front cover, but that’s about as far as it goes. If anyone actually did send any money to this quack thinker, it wound up in a nicely metaphorical place: at “Terminal Box 3463”.
This may be the very best idea to come out of touching this pamphlet—a place where people can send correspondence regarding Bad and/or Dead or Dying Ideas: “Terminal Box ______”. I guess that box number would be pretty high by now.