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Fracture: Life and Culture in the West,…
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Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918-1938 (2014)

by Philipp Blom

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Picking up where "Vertigo" left off, Blom continues his examination of the impact of Modernity on Western civilization. The difference here with this year-by-year examination of the shocks of the Twenties & Thirties is that with "Vertigo" Blom could adopt the pose that history was an unwritten book, and that World War I was not inevitable. With this book you're dealing with an environment where the question was not whether the war would come, but when. This is also keeping in mind that Blom regards the world wars of the 20th century as being more symptom than cause. While I'm not really the person that this book is written for, I enjoy Blom's writing style and even for an experienced student of the period there are the little details that illuminate. As for Blom's final conclusions, he notes that the great political faiths of the period in question really failed to get to grips with the continuous revolution of Modernity, but the current stasis of the "end of history" seems to mostly hope to hide from the next onslaught, whereas everything suggests that the current era of the global market and the "shock economy" is likely to be as shaken by events as the eras ending in 1914 & 1939 were. ( )
  Shrike58 | Oct 30, 2015 |
Fracture is the 5th book by Blom I have read, he is one of my favorite historians. Blom shows the interwar period was characterized by social and technological revolution that started in 1900 and continued well into the 1950s. Called modernity (or modernism) it was destructive to centuries old traditions and beliefs. The interwar period was not peaceful there were conflicts on many levels, the fighting didn't stop in 1918. Blom covers all aspects of these conflicts from the arts, philosophy, science, economics. The first and last chapters tie together the book's core which is a year by year retelling of events from 1918 to 1938.

The period is useful for understanding our own time. The 1900-1950 conflicts were catalyzed by the second industrial revolution, which started around 1870 but didn't reach critical mass until the turn of the century. It resulted in the Second Thirty Years War (1914-1945). Today we are at the cusp of a third (4th?) revolution brought on by new high technology in computing, biology, materials science etc.. It started a few decades ago but only recently reached critical mass. Autonomous cars and machines etc.. disruptive changes are looming and people are unsure about the future. The old ways are being upended, markets are constantly crashing (or enriching the few), global warming threatens the planet and GDP growth, consumerism has become a hollow pursuit. As Blom says "Our future has become a threat. All we want is to live in a present that never ends." It's like the mood of the 1930s has returned. History doesn't repeat but it does rhyme. The ideologues today are not Communism and Fascism, rather the strongest ideologies are in Silicon Valley - the technocratic Libertarians and the Singularity. It's there where we have both the greatest hope and the most concern.

Curious to note the book's other titles: in Dutch Alleen de wolken ("Just the Clouds"); Die zerrissenen Jahre ("The Torn Years") and it's working English title "The Wars Within" which I think is the best because the interwar period was really a continuous "inner" war - riots, culture wars, ideological disputes, labor disputes, etc.. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jul 20, 2015 |
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The award-winning author of The Vertigo Years argues that in the aftermath of World War I, Western culture redirected energies into hedonistic, aesthetic and intellectual adventures of self-discovery in ways that triggered world-changing innovations.

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