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From Warfare to Welfare

Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America

Jennifer S. Light

Publication Year: 2003

During the early decades of the Cold War, large-scale investments in American defense and aerospace research and development spawned a variety of problem-solving techniques, technologies, and institutions. From systems analysis to reconnaissance satellites to think tanks, these innovations did not remain exclusive accessories of the defense establishment. Instead, they readily found civilian applications in both the private and public sector. City planning and management were no exception. Jennifer Light argues that the technologies and values of the Cold War fundamentally shaped the history of postwar urban America. From Warfare to Welfare documents how American intellectuals, city leaders, and the federal government chose to attack problems in the nation's cities by borrowing techniques and technologies first designed for military engagement with foreign enemies. Experiments in urban problem solving adapted the expertise of defense professionals to face new threats: urban chaos, blight, and social unrest. Tracing the transfer of innovations from military to city planning and management, Light reveals how a continuing source of inspiration for American city administrators lay in the nation's preparations for war.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Cover/Title Page/Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

This book had its origins in a summer I spent working at the RAND Corporation. I joined a team working on new methods for defense science and technology planning, designing a WWW-based tool for collaborative public policy decision making. The plan was to use this technology to lead military officials through a decision-making environment ...

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pp. 1-9

At the 1966 meeting of the National League of Cities, the league’s president, Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh, called attention to a troubling contradiction of the era in his opening speech. “Our readiness to jump into wars when they are outside the three-mile limit seems much greater than our readiness to jump into wars inside our national boundaries,” ...

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1. Planning for the Atomic Age: Creating a Community of Experts

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pp. 10-32

In a presentation to the American Municipal Association in November 1945, University of Chicago sociologist Louis Wirth asked a question that was on many minds in the months following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “Does the atomic bomb doom the modern city?” ...

Part I: Command, Control, and Community

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2. The City as a Communication System

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pp. 35-54

In “How U.S. Cities Can Prepare for Atomic War,” a 1950 article in Life Magazine, Norbert Wiener, a professor of mathematics at MIT, joined the dispersal conversation. Wiener expressed his fear that centralized American cities— difficult to evacuate and difficult to defend—were easy targets for a nuclear strike. ...

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3. Cybernetics and Urban Renewal

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pp. 55-92

In October 1964, the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies hosted a conference on “computer methods in the analysis of large-scale social systems.” Many of the era’s most distinguished communication researchers, social scientists, and computer scientists were in attendance, among them Ithiel de Sola Pool, ...

Part II: Cities in the Space Age

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4. Urban Intelligence Gathering

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pp. 95-123

In 1968 remarks to a forum on “systems analysis and social change,” U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey offered his analysis of military technology transfer to date. The nation’s military-industrial complex had developed a robust variety of managerial innovations, he observed, but there was still much that the aerospace community could do. ...

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5. Moon-Shot Management for American Cities

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pp. 124-160

In 1968, William Mitchel, deputy assistant secretary for management systems at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, attended a workshop on technology transfer for local government leaders organized by McDonnell Douglas. Such meetings were commonplace in this era—organized efforts to bridge ...

Part III: The Urban Crisis as National Security Crisis

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6. Cable as a Cold War Technology

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pp. 163-194

RAND Corporation analyst Paul Baran was keenly aware, in the early-1960s, of the importance of decentralizing U.S. infrastructure to prepare for a nuclear attack. Working on contract research for the U.S. military, Baran pointed to the vulnerabilities of the nation’s centralized defense communications systems. ...

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7. Wired Cities

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pp. 195-230

In his 1972 remarks at the MITRE Corporation Conference on Urban Cable, just months after the report and order, Herman Kahn offered his thoughts on the future of wired cities: “If I had a guess, I would say this kind of TV will not be successful in removing the alienation or in education or in changing the minority groups.”1 ...

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pp. 231-238

Histories of twentieth-century science and social science in the United States are filled with discussions about how large-scale investments in defense research and development have changed the practices of many fields, from communication research to physics to psychology. ...


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pp. 239-274

Note on Sources

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pp. 275-280


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pp. 281-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780801881466
E-ISBN-10: 0801881463
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801882739
Print-ISBN-10: 0801882737

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 6 halftones, 3 line drawings
Publication Year: 2003