The Neo-Rubble Film?: The Significance of ‘Lore’ (2012)

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Reif with ideas about the German past, all clearly enunciated while wedged between storylines, Cate Shortland’s Lore (2012) is a coming-of-age fiction based on the novel The Dark Ship by Rachel Seiffert and set in the social, psychological and physical rubble of the Second World War. Hannelore, her pre-pubescent sister Liesel and their two younger brothers, Gunter und Jürgen, begin a journey from their family’s summer home in Bavaria up to Omi’s house in Hamburg. Directed by their Nazi mother in fairytale fashion to take the trains, go through the mud and find Omi’s house at the end, all while she is packing her Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter before her arrest, the children are left alone to face Germany at Stunde Null. On their way between survivor camps, trying to find a singular running train, Hannelore (Lore) meets Thomas, a Jewish boy going on 18. Between the developmental sexual tensions and starvation frustrations, Lore is an a-typical rubble film, but belongs in the category because of its dealing with the immediate post-war German psyche and environment. Using the framework of Professor Robert Shandley’s ‘Seven Rs of Rubble Film’ (Redemption, Reconciliation, Redefinition, Restabilization, Reintegration, Reconstruction, Reprivatization), this paper will position Lore within the genre, while complicating and delineating the genre paradigm with its inclusion; directed by an Austrailian of German heritage, produced with documentarian attention to realism and historical detail, set primarily in the American zone and Schwarzwald, Lore represents a neo-rubble hyperrealistic depiction of womanhood during occupation from the perspective of an adolescent’s journey through the rubble.

Thematic Placement of ‘Lore’ and Other Rubble Films

Essential to the rubble film is being among the rubble. Though this is the constant, the original genre of rubble film finds its departure into “The Lost Years” from 1949-1963, the post-Oberhausen Manifesto (OM) generation (Franklin, 1983) and finally, the neo-rubble generation (Moeller, 2014). Why are there only four years of original rubble, when it took 30 years to rebuild the Frankfurt Altstadt? Suggested by MUBI to occupy the postwar period of 1946-1949, “original” rubble films have a character deeper than authenticity of the rubble. Of course, this four-year time span does not represent the remaining rubble in both Germanys. It discounts the authenticity of the rubble used as the set for The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979). By virtue of ending in 1949, what the postwar period suggests about original rubble films is that they are pre-Konrad Adenauer and pre-68er student movements. Ideologically, “original” rubble films stand for a time when those producing the rubble films were the same people who had staffed the Nazi Dream Factory (Shandley: 181), those filmmakers who were “employed to deceive, distract and mold the German public” during the Third Reich (10). This generation of film has been criticized for not giving an honest depiction of the past. Shandley suggests that the second generation of rubble films “used this alleged failure on the part of their predecessors and parents as a rhetorical foil against which they posited their own cinematic project,” (181) alluding to the signatories of the Oberhausen Manifesto. This paper advances the genre towards a neo-rubble turn, meaning that the original rubble film is being revived after many years of its existence within a “cinema of confrontation” (181). Lore is notably absent of significant political ideological preoccupations, and rather sticks to a realistic depiction of rubble life.

Perhaps because director Cate Shortland is an Australian documentarian, but Lore doesn’t quite pass within the nostalgic lineage of post-OM generation rubble films like Deutschland Bleiche Mutter (1980) and Das Wunder von Bern (1994). Even though Lore “revisualizes and revises the past” (Frey, 2013) like any historical film, it doesn’t fall decisively within the heritage genre and stands out as an art-house film without post-OM qualities – a neo-rubble film. Lore does not satirize original rubble film like the fake bombings in Maria or the melodrama in Bleiche Mutter, but it still belongs alongside these films in the rubble category. In the book Postwall German Cinema, Matthias Frey cites Shandley’s 7Rs to contend that Das Wunder is indeed in the rubble category because it includes a restabilization of society and a restoration of “moral security” (27), and suggests that Das Wunder, like Maria, has a reconciliation at the end. Claiming that Das Wunder and other post-OM films used “tropes” (28) of postwar films, Frey might entice a Deleuzian reading of Das Wunder as a “monopoly of reproductions,” a “utilisation of the residue of conventions,” (Cinema 1: 26). Such artificiality is avoided in Lore by virtue of its unique placement outside the city rubble, in the Schwarzwald, its complication of art-house genre’s melodramatic nature, and its collective protagonist-viewer consciousness. Frey discusses how the reconciliation is actually a reaction of Das Wunder against original rubble films. Original rubble films often hinted towards reconciliation with the (former) enemy but never fully achieved it (Shandley: 184). What brings Lore forward as a neo-rubble film is its engagement with original rubble film metanarratives without a critical reaction to them.  Lore does not have a reconciliation with the enemy, though the opportunity arises during her journey with Thomas. Nothing between the Jew and the Hitler Mädel becomes resolved.

Considering Lore within the genre of “neo-rubble”, it is necessary to look into what makes a genre “neo”. Neo-noir is an applicable comparison by virtue of its cultural and historical proximity with rubble films. In The Philosophy of Neo-Noir, author Mark Conard implies the “neo” turn as a self-reflective genre that itself “functions as a kind of philosophy of noir”. If philosophy, particularly existentialist philosophy, defines the noir genre, Shandley would say that Vergangenheitsbewältigung defines the rubble genre (182). Lore stands out from the post-OM generation because it doesn’t mock original rubble films. Instead, I argue that Lore takes a reflexive turn, functioning itself as Vergangenheitsbewältigung – an ongoing process of coming to terms with the past. It does this through its unclosed endings and hyperrealistic aesthetic choices. In Theodor Adorno’s lecture “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” (1959), the continued process of reconciliation is positioned against the idea of guilt, much like Lore’s engagement with lived reality is positioned against post-OM critical realities. Adorno says:

Bei alldem jedoch hat die Rede vom Schuldkomplex etwas Unwahrhaftiges… Das zöge die Moral aus jenem >>Und ist so gut, als wär’ es nicht gewesen<<, das von Goethe stammt, aber an entscheidener Stelle des Faust, vom Teufel gesprochen wird, um dessen innerstes Prinzip zu enthüllen, die Zerstörung von Erinnerung.
In Sonja Boos’ introduction to Adorno’s lecture, she reminds us that the preoccupation with guilt is seen by Adorno as an “objective constellation… it is the destiny of political entanglements that constitutes the nexus of guilt.” This objective and political construal of society is notable in post-OM films; in both Das Wunder and Maria Braun, the camera views them from the outside. In Lore, the camera becomes one with Lore’s and with Thomas’s emotions, and, apart from the longshot cross-cuts of landscapes, occupies itself with nothing else – nature is the backdrop, instead of a berubbled Berlin. Adorno’s commentary about subjectivity engages the feelings the viewer has alongside Lore’s journey through a callous world:

“Nach der subjektiven Seite, in der Psyche der Menschen, steigerte der Nationalsozialismus den kollektiven Narzißmus, schlicht gesagt: die nationale Eitelkeit ins Ungemessene. Die narzißtischen Triebregungen der Einzelnen, denen die verhärtete Welt immer weniger Befriedigung verspricht und die doch ungemindert fortbestehen, solange die Zivilisation ihnen sonst so viel versagt, finden Ersatzbefriedigung in der Identifikation mit dem Ganzen.”
Lore’s dependence on her National Socialist identity, the world she was born into, carries her throughout the film. Her continued ideological battle with Thomas and her steadfast, in Ordnung character confirms this internal battle that has little to do with guilt or politics. It is in this sense that Lore is a reflexive and therefore neo-rubble film, because it doesn’t work on the project of Vergangenheitsbewältigung through objective criticisms like guilt, but rather, she experiences the process of coming to terms with the past.

In the singular other article classifying a film as “neo-rubble”, Maria Moeller suggests that The Good German, directed by Steven Soderbergh in 2006, is “a film not made in the aftermath of WWII, but which revives and further develops some of the most distinctive narrative and visual patterns of the rubble films, with the technical possibilities of a modern Hollywood studio,” (98). We can immediately see a generational relationship between Soderbergh and Shortland’s films, though I find Moeller’s positioning of The Good German as a neo-rubble film to be as superficial as its Hollywood interpretation of Stunde Null. On a most basic level, the plot doesn’t enter German life – the film is about Americans visiting Berlin on a mission – it is inherently objective and political. Her commentary on neo-rubble echoes Conard’s cinematic evidence for neo-noir as an uptake of modern technology to depict themes enigmatic of film noir. She also cites Shandley’s thematic umbrella for rubble films as “‘good Germans’ during ‘bad times’” (87), which she claims is enigmatic of the “escapist attitude in dealing with the past and present period in the aftermath of the war and Nazism,” (ibid.). Moeller focuses on Shandley’s R for redefinition of the Germans as the guilt of The Good German’s leading characters, who actively try to “endanger their lives to serve justice” (92), which implies their reconciliation with the past. Unlike Das Wunder and The Good German, Lore maintains the original rubble film tendency to not have a full reconciliation, rather, it presents a new scope to the greater problem; in the end, Lore rebels against the conventions of her lineage and destroys the final porcelain figure of her mother’s. Unlike Das Wunder and The Good German, Lore maintains the original rubble film tendency to avoid a full reconciliation. Rather, Lore presents a new scope to the greater problem; in the end, Lore rebels against the conventions of her lineage and destroys the final porcelain figure of her mother’s.

NPR movie critic Ella Taylor suggests that the porcelain figure is a “sentimental symbol of her shattered harmony”. Lore’s rebellion against Omi and her mother reflects the generational conversation of Deutschland Bleiche Mutter as well. Unlike the observational standpoint in Lore, by which the audience is meant to know as little as Lore and yet know more from a historically omniscient perspective, Bleiche Mutter quite clearly depicts the Nazi as the rapist aggressors and makes use of more dramatic acting to convey trauma. Perhaps in reaction to this type of stereotypical realism of Maria and Bleiche Mutter, Shortland’s style relies heavily on ambiguity. Tight close-ups and shallow focus narrow viewer attention to the journey of Lore amidst the political tension, rather than actively involved in it. As well, the sexual tension between Lore and Thomas drives this rubble film forward towards reconciliation, not unlike Die Mörder Sind Unter Uns (1946), while romances in Maria, Bleiche Mutter, and Das Wunder were supplementary to this process.

Though Shortland maintained a strict historical hyperrealism which guides the viewer alongside the postwar rationality of a Hitler Youth, she thinks that Lore can address current ideological occupations by virtue of unsettling the audience (Filmmaker Magazine). Phoenix, directed in the same year as Lore by Christian Petzold, also takes this unsettling approach to retrospective. Instead of disturbing the viewer with graphic imagery, Phoenix maintains a constant psychological unease also on the basis of a romantic relationship between a Jew and a German. In both films, rubble was created for a set rather than in reality (Women and Hollywood). In the Evan Calder Williams tradition of salvage punk, this could be considered salvage rubble because it “returns to the repressed idiosyncrasy of outmoded things” (Socialism/Barbarism). Lore does not depict the landscapes of winding spires of rubble as in Murderers, but the rubble among the wider landscape of Germany. In an interview with Collider, Shortland says that the houses they used in the Black Forest were in fact remaining relics:

“The two houses we shot early in the film were Jewish houses that had been taken off the families in the 1930s.  When we found those houses, they were all boarded up.  They had been completely gutted and their fireplaces had been taken out and the windows were shattered.” (2012)

Shortland also emphasised that Lore was shot at a remaining armaments factory in Görlitz which had been a concentration camp. The importance of the factory to rubble film is echoed in Bleiche Mutter, as they journey through factory ruins. Phoenix, on the other hand, used artificial set design for all of its rubble scenes (Variety, 2015). Whether rubble restored from its current state to that of its past, or non-rubble with precise resemblance, they transform “rubble into representation” (von Moltke, 2010) giving them the genre description of ‘rubble film’. To ‘salvage’ the rubble, in Williams’ terms, would be to expose Walter Benjamin’s “residues of a dream world… the underground currents that actually expose the loops and fuses of repression and its expectations,” (ibid.) rather than abide by a “falseness… the wrong dream image, ideological blind that is the dream image proper to the liberal escape plan,” (ibid.). This differentiation recalls the suggested political/ideological departure from the post-Oberhausen Manifesto generation into the more personal neo-rubble film.

In the Senses of Cinema Petzold dossier, Jaimey Fisher also notes a Benjaminian turn in the rubble film Phoenix, he writes: “Phoenix marshals remnants and fragments of a particular historical moment,” using Denkbilder (thought-images) that “collide with the present moment to conjure moments of insight” (ibid.) in their filmic bricolage. He says that Petzold, like Benjamin, “investigates the very fantasy that private life of love and/or family can provide a hermetic space of resistance sealed off from public events,” (ibid.). Like Lore, Phoenix’s character Nelly (Nina Hoss) exists in a constellation of life forces that are always interacting with the postwar reconciliation. The personal life does not stop when the political life exerts itself into it. Like Lore, Phoenix deals with themes only implicated in original rubble films, such as the Jewish question, the female’s perspective in a world suddenly devoid of healthy male figures other than the occupying forces, and, perhaps most thanks to film technology and the possibility for historical research, an increasingly realistic retrospective about life in the rubble. Lore’s neo-rubble departure from Phoenix also has to do with the difference in resonance of these Denkbilder. In the sense of Rainier Maria Rilke’s interpretation of thought images, “The work of the eyes is done, tue nun Herzwerk an den Bildern in dir,” Lore’s aesthetic makeup focuses mostly on her journey rather than on stereotypical images from the post-war period. That is not to say that seeable, physical post-war images are absent, but rather, in the words of Shandley, “the rubble film project is the attempt to separate film discourse from political discourse by reprivatizing the narrative itself,” (187).

Other visual ‘fragments’ of rubble films which cue us to Lore’s postwar residue include trains, tonal relationships and a few direct references between Lore and Maria. Shortland uses fragments of historical research, authentic physical objects and intertextual reference to build a salvaged rubble film, a neo-rubble film. Though Shortland, Petzold and Fassbinder share striking tonal relationships, Shortland’s film stands out for its contrastive aesthetic and the commentary on children’s lives and the situation of rubble-life outside the cities. It balances out other films in the neo-rubble category like the soldier-focused A Good German (2004) and Phoenix. Trains are an element shared between Maria, Phoenix and Lore which spans across the original rubble films, too. In Lore, trains serve the elemental purpose of pushing her journey of redefinition forward. Maria uses trains to contrast her waiting for Hermann. In Phoenix,

she uses the train to imitate her recent return from Auschwitz and her reintegration to society. It is safe to say that trains are the first part of a reconstructed society and are as essential to the rubble film as the U-Bahn is to Berlin. Another rather significant visual callback exists between Lore

and Stunde Null film Der Untergang (2004). Both depict the shooting of


a German Shepard and the burning of Ordner in a pile during the onset of occupation.  According to Fisher in his comparison of rubble films with the Deleuzian idea of neo-realist films, another essential part is the

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instance and effect of occupation (1997). Maria merely makes fun of the occupying forces by depicting them diving for cigarettes and being duped by a German woman. This metaphor certainly doesn’t seem to apply in Lore and Phoenix, which both depict the perverse constraints of occupation upon German women.In both films, the subjection to soldiers is made clear, but this political tension doesn’t drive the plot. Lore reconciles the past with attention to the inward coming-of-age story as a “complex study of moral relativism” (Indiewire, 2012). Shandley would position Lore next to original rubble films, “including The Murderers Are Among Us and Love ’47 [which] dwell on personal rather than materialrehabilitation,” (187), Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.08.18.png

which also make the case for Lore’s neo-rubble classification. Compared to post-OM films, Lore comes aesthetically and thematically closer to original rubble films without making a satire of them. To that end, the is not fully reconciled and Lore’s redefinition remains still in process.
The (De)Nazification of Lore 

“The opening montage of Lore suggests a more complex image of childhood than that of pure innocence… images of Lore bathing, Liesel playing hopscotch, and a brief but sharply focused image of a swastika on a piece of her clothing… suggest a mutli-faceted construction of childhood as traditionally innocent and playful, but also eroticized and politicized” Debbie Pinfold, “The Sins of the Fathers” (2015)

From the outset, Lore represents childhood innocence of the Hitler Youth and the aggressive anti-Semitism they were indoctrinated into during upbringing. Reminding us immediately of Lars Von Treier’s Europa (1991), Lore’s beginning scenes use both montage and a non-diegetic countdown until Stunde Null and Lore’s transition from childhood. Pinfold’s analysis of this scene is that the sister’s “slap of the rope on the barn floor; the chink of the pebble on the hopscotch court,” emphasize that the sister is “standing on solid ground,” while Lore’s Nazism is about to be in question. Marked ‘Himmel’ and ‘Hölle’ at either end of the hopscotch track, the cross-cut to Lore exposing herself out of the window and the arrival of ‘Vati’ foreshadows the lightness and darkness of their family unit. Lit red internally by an outside bonfire of what seem to be Konzentrationslager Inhaftierungsunterlagen belonging to Vati, the feeling is that house, the Heim, of the family is burning into a rubble just like the documents they are trying to hide.

In preparation for their arrests, Mama and Vati tend to different affairs: he, burning the files and shooting the dog, and she, the packing. Shortland directed this scene “by asking all the actors to hurry” (Indiewire, 2013),but also with sight to the events as they would’ve happened. Shortland states that they did workshops with elderly Germans who were part of Bund Deutscher Mädel, watched a lot of documentaries, and “tried to build [the actors] up gradually from the skin instead of starting with the text, so that they already had an organic understanding of the world,” (Collider, 2012) before shooting. As the little boys are pulling their fathers’ files down the stairs to burn, you can see that the files are nearly as big as them. This is reminiscent of a Benjaminian perception in Berlin Childhood 1900, as he experiences the unheimlich world of adults. The sister, Liesel, is as well imbued in a shielded childhood perspective, as she stares at the designs on the china rather than packing it. All the while, Lore is helping her mother pack the silverware and learning commands she would use with her siblings in the coming journey. Mama instructs her to pull a dangling red thread out of her dress bosom, a notation to the viewer that her Ordnung is tied into feminine aspects.

Lore experiences the breakdown leading to the rubble of her mother’s female dignity. Notable early on that the mother’s smoking has become more fervent, Mama’s character seems no less ambivalent to the children than SS-Officer Vati. She emulates the strong Nazi woman, even quoting a soldier’s expression in Untergang  “Wir müssen Politik machen” when demanding that Vati turn himself in. Berating the father for being a Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.13.29.pngcoward, one of the most arresting traits of rubble film arises: the problematizing of the Nazi masculinity in the twilight of the regime. Not only does Lore witness Mama passively kick Vati in the shins when he forces them to move house, Lore also witnesses Mama’s denial of Vati as a sexual object. Montage cuts from Lore’s perception of Vati’s hand in Mama’s garter, to Mama’s hand meeting Papa’s cheek bring the viewer into the perception of Lore. The camera tends Mama specifically only through Lore’s perception; encounters with the mother are also always encounters with Lore.

In the rubble of Mama’s Nazism, Lore takes on the task of mothering herself (Pinfold, 52-52), while Mama takes on the role of a father. Once Vati is arrested, Mama fixes her hair (in the fashion of Maria Braun, “this is how Americans like it”) and leaves to sell china. Lore discovers Mama with ripped tights and bloodied thighs upon her return, crying hysterically, saying “Er ist tot, Lore! Tot!” Lore looks up from the blood to ask “Vati?!”, and is readily slapped by Mama’s cigarette hand and the response “Unser Führer!” Mama takes on the nationalistic obedience of Vati’s military character and is soon after arrested by American soldiers. The depiction of American soldiers is always brief, as Lore and the viewer only sees them in passing, but Lore’s fear of them is clear when she demands that her siblings obey or the Americans will put them in camps. Though we never see violence committed by the soldiers, Americans are the face of adversity. Pinfold notes the re-use of her mother’s statements when demanding that her siblings obey and suggests that Lore “uses her Nazism to stand tall in the face of adversity”. When the going gets tough, the reversion to recommended Nazi ideals is easy. Shandley’s R for Redefinition applies to Lore taking on the mother role. Her seemingly unwavering anti-semitism is challenged, but there is no reconciliation. Her denazification and coming-of-age constellations are indeed surrounded by political tensions and the possibility to reconcile with the enemy of the semite, but nothing is definite and it is always in process.

Exemplified by the scene of Lore wincing as her father shoots the dog and then learning that he had committed atrocities, Lore’s journey is an informal reeducation. The audience is educated alongside Lore, but with a better historical understanding of the likelihoods and context. Among the ‘educational’ images pasted on the wall by the American soldiers, Lore finds a man with Vati’s uniform and build. She touches the sticky wall, trying to clear away excess glue from the photo, only to cover her fingers in it.  While she lies down at night, playing with the glue’s residue between her fingers, she overhears two women discussing how Hitler would have never allowed them to endure the condition of hunger, and how they had to wait for bread in a line with Jews. They are a residue as well, still clinging to old ideas. The motion of her fingers pulling apart suggests the departure from the past. The children’s journey is the emblematic process of reconciling the reality of their parents’ crimes and their personal moral scope, but it is never resolved and never directly addressed. Rather, their journey is addressed under the scope of a non-political nature.
The Hyperrealism of Neo-Rubble

One thing separating Lore from other rubble films is its relationship with and location in nature. In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Shortland mentioned sticking close to depicting realistic detail from the time, the use of nature was also a conscious choice, as revealed in an interview with Collider:

“We were influenced by two things: documentary filmmaking, because we wanted the film to be fresh and immediate, and the whole aesthetics of National Socialism with nature. Nature became a character in the same was as it was mythologized within the Nazi party… then, as the film continues, all the color is leeched out of their clothes. The landscape becomes more and more desolate until they are standing on the mud and there’s almost nothing left.” (2012)

Shortland continues to discuss nature by citing the discussion of a survivor in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, in which the interviewee says, “Look, Claude, look at the birds. Look at these beautiful trees. See the sun shining. This is what is was like when they were murdering us.” “Post-war films are made,” says Shortland, “really dark and they have this kind of sepia. I thought, that’s actually not the reality in a lot of cases.” Picking up on the southern German aesthetic choice by using feeble, misty fades, overly-saturated color forest tones, and bright reds and blues well known from propaganda material, Shortland establishes a layered visual field that challenges the sensibilities of previous rubble-films (Cook and Stone, 2014:26).

Cook and Stone comment on Lore’s aesthetic hyperrealism in their 2014 book “Screening European Heritage” by saying that the camera’s “self-conscious use of restraint and authenticity foreground a sense of performativity that invites us to distance ourselves from, and thus reflect upon, the world we are watching,” (xxiv). Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.16.43.pngThis is notable in the forest-play scene when the camera is handheld and shaky, so while the subjects are joyfully running and dancing through the forests, the viewer is given a voyeuristic foreshadowing that doesn’t allow one to forget the larger context. As it follows the boys running, and advances from outside the girls’ dance circle and down to their feet, the camera distances the viewer from the play. It is creepy not only because of the suddenly cheery Volksmusik and lighter, almost neon colors amid a sickness of Endkrieg worry, but also because of the notably märchenhaft ambience, which transports the viewer to an omniscient position of knowing that something more negative is on the horizon.

While director of The Good German treated filming as if it were on the black and white level of 1945 but with more CGI, Lore made use of its technical advantages to represent reality. The forest becomes an operable element of realism for Shortland. Using a 25mm and 35mm lens because they are “the closest to human eyes in the world,” lead camera operator Arkapaw had a sense for the reality he depicted. He told the American Cinematographer: “Amongst all the human angst and tragedy, nature has an enduring quality. Its lushness, beauty and survival instincts are a way of [suggesting] the future… using tungsten balanced negatives, it takes the warmth out of the skin tones, giving flesh a kind of purity.”

The forest is not part of the rubble, but contrasts it. Sensually depicted with long shots, non-diegetic bird chirping and still shots of changing tree colors, the psychological rubble is conflicting in comparison. Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.18.05.pngNature’s redemptive quality ties together aesthetic concerns with ideological assertions, moving beyond Shandley’s 2001 assertion that “rubble films are, on the whole, long on ideological assertions and short on aesthetic ingenuity,” (189) and supports the neo-rubble focus on a revival of reality.
Thomas’ Masculine and Jewish Character

Citing Lutx Koepnick and von Moltke, Fisher suggests that “tales of private friendship and even love between German gentiles and Jews foreground a Germany at stark odds with the Nazi regime and its racist, biopolitical, ultimately genocidal agenda.” (Senses of Cinema, 2017). Not only does Thomas provide ‘Lore’ with an extra layer of personal experience, which creates a sacred space of sexual satisfaction and friendship despite the rubble, but he also occupies a space of the ethnographic ‘Other’ in opposition to the family’s typically Aryan biology and disposition. Thomas’s ‘Otherness’ is established sooner than when we (and Lore) initially see his Judenstern – his ‘performative’ masculinity sets him apart: the first encounter with Thomas, he is judging Lore for her request of the Jewish woman to clean herself before feeding Lore’s baby brother. Thomas’s disapproving gaze makes her lower her eyes and forget the request. Their second encounter, in which he attacks her with the attempt of figuring out what she tore off the wall of pictures, symbolizes the aggressive blame and education of Germans. On their third and final encounter, before Thomas joins the family, he and Lore negotiate their perceived meanings of each other as “Nazi” and “Jew” by humming the same tune. Framed almost like a standoff, the two fixate on the other as both a threat and the problem. Lore is worried that he is a rapist and her humming while holding the baby is motherly, nurturing and based in values of decency and respect. She is holding on to meaning in a world where she has no control. His whistling is sinister because we are not yet aware of his intent, and it is at first non-diegetic, much like the whistling in Fritz Lang’s M (1931). She hums back at him and approaches him almost as a surrender to death in order to hold on to her old values, i.e. her mother telling her to “remember who she is” on a forested path not unlike this one. In this third meeting, the negotiation of meaning comes through the symbolic content of a shared song, and he becomes the redeemer of her Nazi habits. Thomas is integral in Lore’s educational process.

Thomas is notable because he occupies a masculine role – a role more masculine than Lore’s “coward” of a father. According to Fisher’s 2007 article, “On the Ruins of Masculinity”, rubble films emasculate the German man as a reaction to a world where the “Führer ist tot, Lore!”. They do so in such a way that “masculinity was implicated in the devastating destruction” (Hester, 2009). Lore’s Vati is emasculated by his unhealthy appearance, poor relationship with his family, passionate outbursts and also bluntly by his wife, which fulfils this rubble film’s attention to the downfall of the hegemonic Nazi male figure. The acne-faced soldier crying in the truck while the family is escaping to their summer home depicts the boyish image given to German men of a rubble film (Fisher, 2007).

The depiction of Thomas, on the other hand, as both a survivor and the masculine figure, is also the depiction of hope for a future Germany. Like Susan Jeffords portrays in her book The “Remasculization” of Germany in the 1950s, masculinity is not absent from Germany after the war, but rather occupied by outside males who assume the roles of protectors (164). Portraying this point is the scene when Lore decides to proposition a German man to use his boat and yet Thomas ends up rowing her and the family to safety. Lore stumbles upon this Kerl and his boat while he is listening to the radio, and with a heavy accent he implies that he is untergebildet. Next to him, the camera focuses in on a bucket of eels using the sharpness and precision of hyperrealism that Shortland and her production team are known for. Slithering and shiny, they look like a bunch of slimy dicks, which a bucket of fish or crabs wouldn’t have. This makes the scene eckliger, but Thomas killing the Kerl neutralizes the eels – the eels return to their symbolism as the nasty patriarchy of the past, less focused upon by the camera and castrated by the moral righteousness of the present. Despite the foreboding music, nobody is bitten once they take the boat and cross the water. This was a false foreshadowing, which keeps the viewer as naïve as Thomas about the upcoming scene after they are safely across. After Lore offers herself to the Kerl, which causes Thomas to strike him dead, she tries to kill herself, but instead is bathed of her sins in the river and carries on to another survivor camp.

Following Sigmund Freud’s coming-of-age theory known as the ‘Elektra Complex’, this scene can be interpreted as a transition from adolescence, loving the father(land), to adulthood, loving another. Lore’s act of offering herself could be seen as progeny – enacting the traditions of the mother, and perhaps her perceived-values of German women getting raped – and then transferring her trust of the father to a non-kin male in the same milieu – the Kerl. But the scene of Thomas killing the Kerl and her rebirth in the water is also about Lore giving up her ‘father figure’ Nazi ideals and realizing that her parents had been schuldig, and so was she, for doing something immoral to solve a perceived problem. Indignantly, Thomas saves her from suicide and the viewer is confronted by the reality of guilt that Germans were experiencing. He gains empathy for her, despite her continued anti-Semitism; this is enigmatic of a Nachkrieg reconciliation in Germany and throughout Europe. The racism was not gone, it was simply recognized. Complicating the image of Thomas is his habit of stealing and his false papers; though we have seen the tattoo on his arm, we and Lore both consider that he was just using the image of being Jewish to get past the Americans. It is possible that Thomas is a dangerous Kapo. His departure from the movie upon losing his stolen papers switches the role of ‘redeemer’ back to Lore. Her exposure to Thomas helped her reflect on Nazi ideology of good and bad and transition into womanhood, but there was no reconciliation of her sexual demands or her denazification.

Reception of Lore 

The reception of Lore confirms its belonging to a neo-rubble genre. As nem baj says on, “Lore is both ‘wartime’ and ‘post-war’, that’s a paradox the movie never solves.” Existing within a paradox of unfinished metanarrative Rs (reconciliation, restabilization, redefinition) and finished cinematic Rs (reprivatization), Lore fulfills “The tendency of all [rubble] films to bring the story to the point where the characters can return to ideally constructed private, apolitical lives,” (Shandley, 188). The neo-rubble character exists within its stylization; while post-OM films use politically critical tropes as aesthetic and “shut down discussion about the Nazi past” (ibid.), Lore continues the project of Vergangenheitsbewältigung through the hyperrealistic stylization and extending its storyline into the future. “Lore is an anti-Heimat film that explores the breakdown of such links and experiences of young characters brought up with a Nazi family,” says Roy Stafford of Global Film Studies, “Lore is kind of a modern version of a rural Trümmerfilme. The film narrative is not ‘resolved’ as such,” (2014). When Lore disobeys Omi and proceeds to smash the porcelain figures important to Mama, “The telling of this history is not a one-time project to be completed and left behind,” (ibid.) – cue German punk scene. One must imagine Lore protesting with the 68ers, rather than knowing that her character has been influenced by them via cinematic criticism of the post-OM generation. Shortland’s Lore sets the stage for the neo-rubble genre.



New Media as a Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge


New Media as a Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge

Erin T. Altman

21 March 2013



Conceptualization of the nation-state has a geopolitical history in territorial definition. Defined by political borders, the nation-state is comprised of citizens and non-citizens. Regulated by national policy, national education systems, economy and (other state regulation), citizens and non-citizens have specific experiential boundaries within the nation-state. Fast-forward to the 21st-century, introduction of the Internet increased rapid global communication. Uniting experiential differences with cross-border commonalities, the institution of “New Media” allowed life spheres once bounded by the nation-state to thrive in a global community. In this vein of rapid and broadened communication, does New Media undermine political hegemony?

An epoch of globalized knowledge has intrigued geographers and political philosophers alike. The Internet’s spectrum of information is mediated by the formalized interest in communication studies, and reaches a point of practical convergence in the field of Communication Geography. Beginning through the discourse of globalization under the Association of American Geographers’ ‘Geography of the Global Information Society’ in the late 1990s, Communication Geography now represents phenomenal points of geographic and political intrigue. Dissemination of knowledge over a non-physical space indicates a differentiation in geopolitical power from that of the post-modern age of print media. The epoch of New Media signals a revision in philosophies of communication, geography and power.

New Media’s relationship with the Internet is a viral one; increased access to the Internet and subsequent Internet enlargement are aspects of New Media’s definition of being ‘new, unregulated content’ (Lister, 2003). Inexorability of New Media has gained the attention of geographers and political philosophers, situating the Internet as an entity ‘without boundaries, without limitations, except through state regulation of media.’ (Lister, ibid). New Media is a broad representation of this exponential production of knowledge, unto a platform which is controllable only through governmental intervention with citizens’ freedoms to information. Content that faces scrutiny and regulation includes pornography, intellectual property, and anti-social movements. New Media’s ethical dimension calls in to question the moral biases, societal pressures and most importantly- political agendas in the globalized community.

The globalized community is defined in this case as those who have infrastructural ability to allow Internet access. Establishment of this ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ relationship echoes the economic mapping of modern nation states, and substantiates the discussion about New Media geopolitical philosophy by outlining the actors. For the sake of giving primacy to New Media politics, rather than global inequities, the ‘Core’ represents those countries whose annual income per capita is higher than the annual cost of an Internet-capable device. Because of the significant difference in income distribution, it is unnecessary to determine the cost of this computer, rather the ‘peripheral’ countries can be outlined by those misfortuned by civil war, populations with 1/3 prevalence of HIV/AIDS, infant death above 50% and other development indicators outlined by the United Nations (2000). Geopolitical inactivity of ‘peripheral’ countries allows ‘core’ countries to enable the discourse surrounding New Media’s information society.

Positioning New Media as an ‘information society’ clarifies its internal discourse separate from that mediated by state-civil society relations. Bringing to light the state-civil society relationship as different from the global-New Media relationship requires the understanding of nation-states as maintaining hegemonic power. Given that the modern livelihood of any societal actor is defined by citizenship through state legibility (O’Tuathail, 1998), New Media represents a differing societal discourse in its allowance for society to remain anonymous from a hegemony. Signifying again the global, a-political aspect of New Media discourse, anonymity of expression is adverse to the legibility of print media. New Media’s exponential increase in communication, coupled with the significant transcendence of non-economic geographic borders, lends to an institution of power that is not the nation-state.

In defining the nation-state against New Media, there is a blatant primacy in their different situations of power (Hanafi, 2005). Reflecting on the resource struggle that established colonial relations, leading to modern-day borders of nation-states (Murphy, 2013), power is expressed over a given territory and over a given population. These two elements of capital, human and territory, suggest a physical embodiment to the nation-state. New Media, on another level, has no physical embodiment. Speculation by the Osmo Project (2008) about mapping New Media, so as to physically represent the ‘Geography of Internet Infrastructure’ proved to be a spatial model of network expansions. So to say, the map of New Media is impossible to represent cartographically, but does maintain a certain taxonomy of expansion. Using the Barbasi-Albert model of evolving networks, which was originally designed for the purpose of tracking military communications in the Second World War, Osmo Project represents the expansionary possibilities of the Internet as limitless. The geographies of nation-states remain steady until a phenomenon of upheaval, as opposed to New Media, which expands without physical boundaries. In the discourse of geopolitics, expansion is akin to power gains, because of the increase in territorial and human resources. Unlike geopolitics, New Media assumes no hegemonic desire for power. Given that geopolitics is etymologically relational- given the root of ‘politics’ in the Grecian division of men based on political affiliation- New Media is merely one actor against no others. Why, then, is New Media involved in the discourse of geopolitics, if it is not an inherently power-seeking institution, with no geographical territory, and with anonymity of societal involvement?

Describing the “constellations” of New Media as representative of globalizing forces, senior geopolitical philosopher Jürgen Habermas suggests that the communicative and geographic scope of New Media leads to political fragmentation. Habermas’s conversation about evolving identities and cultures within the nation-state are significant, due to their representation throughout the discovery of the Internet. Habermas recognizes the global forces of New Media as being overwhelmingly powerful of the nation-state; New Media’s transcendence of borders- omnipresence if you will- acts as a “cultural substrate of civil solidarity.” (Habermas, 2001.) Solidarity is used in Habermas’s conversations about changing geopolitical structures, to power lying increasingly in the hands of civil society, rather than with the state. Phenomenal separatisms highlight the increasing volatility of civil society’s solidarity, and are in a direct rebellion to the increased power of the state (Foucault, 1977). From the beginning of nation-state creation, the consolidation of internal power through citizenship and representation within a hegemonic vacuum has likewise increased the state-civil society bond. Foucault’s notion of rebellion in the face of increased power proves that civil society, although identifiable within the nation-state’s borders, begins to fraction. By centralizing the state hegemony, nation-states are disregarding the smaller substrates of civil society. New Media’s representation of these ‘cultural substrates’ encompasses the ability for members of global civil societies to communicate their alterity from the confines of state legibility- citizenship. This formalized understanding of New Media’s pressure on hegemony can be summed as a platform, which allows civil societies to communicate towards solidarity, which effectively fragments the consolidation of state power.

Defining the discourse of geopolitical theory in to the formal (theoretical), practical (implemented) and popular (societal) expertise, historian Paul Routledge has outlined the three analyses of New Media: the formal being the outside speculation, like this essay. The practical, being the regulated state policy regarding New Media. And finally, the popular, being civil society’s use of New Media. It is important to note here, that the popular is not a reaction to the regulation, but is a discourse within itself. Civil society is divided from hegemony of the state through the anonymity of New Media, which allows for the solidarity among actors. Expanding on solidarity as a popular discourse, the predictions of Habermas have become significant in the recent Arab Spring uprisings.

New Media gained an entirely greater geopolitical significance after the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring. University of Washington study, “The Project on Information Technology and Political Islam” (2011) quantifies the New Media traffic of popular democratic expressions leading up to the Tunisian revolution and subsequent Egyptian overthrow of President Mubarak. The study shows that conversations about liberty, democracy and freedom gained almost 80% of total viewership, and the taxonomy of expansion was proven through the civil society’s rebellion going viral between network clusters in just the week before any given Arab Spring uprising. University of Washington’s study is intriguing, because although touted as the ‘Arab Spring’, the uprisings had very little to do with each other. Egyptian feelings of tax oppression and Tunisian desire for furthered reputation did not exist within the same network clusters, yet the New Media usage patterns were parallel.  Leading the study was Professor Phillip Howard, who claimed that it was not a regional movement, but ‘circumstantial evidence of New Media’s ability to insight solidarity.’

More intrinsically, the solidarity of the New Media movement in the Arab Spring was through the creation of online communities and use of forums. Enabling civil society debate to occur outside the sphere of physical interaction within the state, New Media gave rise to less-geographical, more-ideological communities. In an interview with Egyptian friend and colleague, Omar Hagrass, who took part in both the ‘freedom-blogging’ and Egyptian uprisings, the interconnection between separatist groups through New Media was shocking; not only had Egyptian Computer Scientists created network clusters to divert state attention, but the networks created communities among separatists from the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, and the Ulster Nationalist movement in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. Described by renowned author Benedict Andersen as an ‘imagined community’, the New Media networking done by Egyptian, Mexican and Irish separatists had nothing to do with personal relationships, but instead an imagined kinship in their cause. (1991) Andersen’s prediction of globalized communication as a means to develop a certain consciousness away from that of the traditional nation-state oriented map is congruent with Habermas’s understanding of solidarity between civil society actors as a weakening of the state. New Media becomes a vehicle for shared experience, despite the geopolitical setting.

The anti-geopolitical use of New Media is concurrent to the post-Soviet evolution of geographic theory. Known formally as ‘critical’ or ‘feminist’ geopolitics, the movement for recognition of the intricacies of civil society dominate discourse and shed light on the access to shared experiences. Assuming that the state creation of citizenship creates an empirical definition between one group and another- effectively ‘othering’ them- shows the consolidation of state power in the territorializing of its’ citizens.  This power dynamic is known as the ‘Logic of Alterity,’ which suggests that unified identities are inevitably the hierarchical power. (Isin, 2007. Arendt, 1958.) The Logic of Alterity maintains that subdivision in civil society is seen as ‘wrong’ because of its implied danger to the normative power. The bond between state and civil society consolidations of power are approached monolithically from a macro- to micro-scale. As suggested by New Media’s increased capacity for communication, the state-civil society power is weakened in its normatively unbound allowance for subdivision.

Practically speaking, subdivision in society is increasingly unavoidable with ever-increasing flows of immigration, ideas and innovation. Subdivisions could be ignored, like in the extreme case of fascism, or subdivisions could be embraced under greater state regulation. In the case of the Arab Spring, subdivisions were stifled; New Media was blocked on Internet servers, or Internet itself would be entirely cut off from an area. When this occurred during the Palestinian riots for statehood from Israel in early 2012, the international reaction became an official UN movement towards the ‘Right to Internet Access’. Beginning in 2003, upon the introduction of a knowledge-based economy in Great Britain, the Internet became institutionalized by UN members as a significant expression of freedom. Pressure towards sanctions by the German and French governments (and later acting as leaders in the 2012 vote for Palestinian statehood) depicted a civil society subdivision that was actually favoured by the Social Democratic party leaders. German and French states had seen 8-15% more Palestinian refugees since the upswing in Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the mid-1990s (Human Rights Index, 2005), and despite their non-citizen status of asylum, their voices were clearly present in the decision of French and German ministers to the UN. Despite Palestine having the infrastructural and income capabilities for Internet access, Palestinian refugees were unable to connect to their families in a time of crisis, creating a heightened solidarity around immigrants and New Media discourse.

This hegemonic representation of a non-state civil society is based in the power of New Media itself. As a tool not only for the civil society actors, the state uses New Media to analyze changes in society, which could lead to possible separatism or other fractions of state power. Using New Media as a regulatory mechanism, the German and French governments issued an official Eurobarometer forum on the UN’s ‘Right to Internet Access’ (2011). The Eurobarometer, as the official European Union mediation of member states’ citizens’ feelings towards policy and livelihood, is a vehicle for the maintenance of relations between the state and civil society. The European Union (EU) is a supranational regional power, with a doctrine of supremacy over specific member state policy and is exactly the type of burgeoning power that Foucault described as piquing rebellion (1977). Foucault’s description of heightened power leading to heightened rebellion was a founding anti-geopolitical argument; the European Union stifles rebellion through institutions facilitating power-civil society discourse, such as the Eurobarometer. In fact, in an effort to reduce waste, the EU cut all publically distributed paper materials from its budget- leaving only one vehicle of representative democracy (outside of the national legislatures)- New Media.

Presence of the EU in New Media supersedes any other governmental body, because of it’s expansive “The EU and You” section for forum, information and response. Provided in all 27 recognized European languages, as well as Norwegian, Mandarin, Arabic and Japanese, “The EU and You” is a vehicle of power consolidation through civil society connection (Lister, 2003). This use of New Media by a regional economic hegemony is telling of New Media’s coalescence of communities that that never existed before. If we assume that interest in the EU’s New Media campaign comes from the representative desire from these member states, can we also assume that the representation is being fulfilled?

In the case of Palestinian representation to the UN, Germany and France had already written the ‘Internet as a Human Right’ proposals before the Israeli stripping of Palestine’s Internet access. To this extent, the leading question in the Eurobarometer poll read, “Does freedom to access and contribute to the online community part of your rights to expression?” (personal translation,, 2012). Charged with the vernacular of ‘freedom’, ‘contribution’, ‘community’ and ‘your rights’, the Eurobarometer poll had a suggestive slant towards the affirmative. Upon solicitation of the UN for Internet rights, the EU’s New Media campaign expanded to include open access to textbooks, learning tools for production, and other knowledge-based constructions of European hegemony. Recognizing New Media’s potential for a vehicle of neoliberalism, the EU uses the Internet to distribute ‘Western’ ‘knowledges’ under the guise of open access to information towards a emboldened economy (Cooke, 2004). Nuancing the core-periphery status of nations within and outside of the western ideological constraints, the EU is using New Media to create an ideological hegemony.

New Media’s ability to expand communication across multiple geographical confines is seen as both a tool and threat to state-civil society relationships. Established so far, New Media is a supragovernmental concept, which causes state-civil society distress because of the anonymity of its exponentially increasing character. New Media is also seen as a community-building tool, which can provide democratic reflection on society, amongst a wider group of people. This democracy, though, has established a new ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ structure- beyond that of economic difference, although beginning with it. New Media’s discourse is essentially a Western phenomenon (Cooke, 2004). The Internet, begun by economic forces like any other modern capitalist endeavour, is also perpetuated by economic forces through payment for its access (on a device) and use. The specifics of the Internet’s existence through the capitalist market, and with the largest servers (Cisco Systems) and largest domain providers (Google, Apple, Yahoo!, and others) being traded publically, does New Media exist within a predominant power structure of the economy?

The impact of economic distribution of New Media access, through either personal access or promotional capabilities, creates a symbiosis between civil societies, the state and the outlying force within them- capitalism. New Media presents an epoch to this relationship, though, in its force of mediation between geopolitical economic disputes. In this vein, New Media is a disruptive force to the history of trade war and commoditization of political relations, because of the anonymity of online economic actors. The financial industry, comprising over 85% of the British Gross Domestic Product, is almost entirely mediated by New Media forecasting and broadcasting (Rowe, 2013). Global Stock Exchanges use the medium of New Media to freely express geopolitically important resource abundance and exchange value. Intrinsic relations of the very essential definition of power- resource security (Murphy, 2013) and the power of New Media access have made those who hold it increasingly more powerful than before.

In a World Systems Theory analysis of the access to New Media, author Mark Graham suggests that the ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ economies will no longer be defined by income per capita, but rather by their participation in “democratic, capitalist endeavours” (2011). With a strong New Media bias in favour of the democratic system, which promotes and perpetuates a capitalist society, the ‘core’ expands and the ‘periphery’ becomes now a ‘gap’ (et al.). New Media’s perpetuation of dominant capitalist and Westernized communication has created a perilous ‘gap’ between participating countries- and those who do not subscribe to capitalist or democratic idealism- such as Russia, North Korea and greater Africa. Taken on as a practical policy by the United States’ New Rule Association (2005), the ‘gap’ was described as former President George W. Bush Jr. as a, “threat to democracy”. Could it be, that actually New Media is a threat to states that do not so well mediate their civil societies? Or, is New Media just neoliberalization mechanism that is addressed as transnationally important?

The epoch of New Media symbolizes a change in the discourse about communication, geography and power. As a tool for consolidation of both state and civil society power, and as a mechanism of mediation between the two, New Media allows greater flows of knowledge and communication. New Media does not stand without a greater influence, though. Creating a symbiosis between the geopolitical economic sphere and the civil society representative sphere, New Media allows relations to form beyond the control of hegemonic power, but within the influence of it. As seen by the undertakings of both civil society actors and governments, the influence of New Media is strong upon society, and society’s participation in it gives access to the Western powers of knowledge and capital.


Anderesen, B. 1991. Imagined Communities.

Arendt, H. 1958.

Bourges, J. 1940. Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.

Cooke, K. 2004.

Frost, C. 2006. Internet Galaxy Meets Post-colonial Constellation: Prospects for Political Solidarity After the Internet.

Foucault, M. 1977. Power/Politics.

Eurobarometer. 2011. Right to Internet Access

Graham, M. 2011. Time Machines and Virtual Portals: The Spacialities of the Digital Divide.

Habermas, J. 2001. Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe.

Hagrass, O. 2012. Interview: Egyptian Uprisings.

Hanafi, S. 2005. Reshaping Geography: Palestinian Community Networks in Europe and the New Media.

Howard, P. 2011. The Project on Information Technology and Political Islam.

Isin, E. 2007. Logics of Alterity.

Koopman, S. 2010. Alter-geopolitics: Other securities are happening.

Leszczynski, A. 2012. Situating the geoweb in political economy; The Osmo Project.

Lister, M. 2003. Networks, Users and Economics.

Murphy, A. 2013. University of Oregon Colloquium Series: Historical Geopolitics.

Rowe, J. 2013. Interview: New Media Basics.

United Nations. 2005. Human Rights Index Promotions.

United Nations. 2000. Millennium Development Report.

United States’ New Rule Association. 2005. The Pentagon’s New Map.


Written Supplement; Historical Analysis of the Geographic and Institutional Implications to Economic Development



Varying patterns of development illuminate global inequalities. Measured by the welfare of citizens, ‘development’ is empirically represented by the standard of living in a given nation-state. Originating in 16th century France, development was used to describe the développer, the “unfolding” of centralized cities and expansion of state power. Referring to an increasing spatial-political relationship, development is rooted in understanding welfare as the unfolding of institutional structure within a geographically defined territory. Empirical definition of development is contentious, because it suggests that standards of living are a measurable construct. Applied through a quantitative lens, economic development analyzes the standard of living between national economies. Based in economic growth, economic development suggests the application of resources towards the welfare of citizens- the ‘welfare state’. Through a historical analysis of the ‘welfare state’, economic development is framed as dependent upon empirical geographical and institutional advantages.

What is a Nation?

Europe’s 17th-century rise of nation-states birthed the concept of economic development. French développer of cities gained signification; economic prosperity became institutionalized under the “nation-state”. As a recognized sovereign territory, the nation-state economically integrated cities in to a mercantilist capital accumulation regime. Since the 16th century, the economic doctrine of mercantilism drove the imperial practices of western European powers towards the creation of nation-states. Focus on capital accumulation towards a strengthened central military can be assumed as the first consideration of economic growth. Differing from economic development, economic growth is the measure of domestic production, without heeding to increase in the standards of living. This important difference between ‘growth’ and ‘development’ is illuminated in the mercantilist ideology; the extraction of resources towards the benefit of the central state was not dispersed through social programs, but rather towards the infinite growth of the state. These protectionist policies played the role of early political economy, as mercantilism was an effective tool in strengthening the centralized state. Important to economic development, the birth of the nation-state created a founding institutional centralization of the economy. Despite territorial convergences in later decades, the role of geographic recognition was to create a territorial commonality under a centralized economic institution.

Specific to the 250 years of Mercantilist theory is the concept of extraction. Framed by authors James Robinson and Daron Accemoglu, strong mercantilist nations of Great Britain, France and Spain practiced extractionary politics through colonization. Extraction describes the mercantilist theory of economic growth, described by Acemoglu and Robinson as operating a ‘zero-sum game’, wherein benefit to the state was at a loss to another. Extraction becomes important to economic development of colonized nations, because, unlike the centralized institutions within territorially defined nation-states, colonized nations experienced a decentralized organization of labor, effectively destroying possibilities for a welfare state.[1]


The Role of Inclusive Institutions

Although the idea of economic development was unconceivable in the Mercantilist period, the birth of the centralized nation-state set the institutional and geographic parameters for economic growth, which is essential to economic development. Moreover, Mercantilist economics engaged Western European nations in the forging of institutions through warfare, effectively destabilizing governments and giving rise to labor and unionist movements. Authors Acemoglu and Robinson address this phenomenon as the process of ‘creative destruction’, whereby established power relations are broken and give rise to innovation. Established trade relations, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company, supplemented the changing tide of institutional relationships with the rising economic nationalism. International trade became a vital source of economic growth, while the role of institutions shifted from centralized to representative.

Acemoglu and Robinson organize their book Why Nations Fail around the supremacy of institutional organization in economic development. The premise of this is derived from the Machiavellian persona of Mercantilist nations, whose collapse preceded inclusive institutions, and a ‘virtuous circle’ of economic development. Suggesting that Great Britain’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 was the first step of an institution towards inclusivity, WNF aligns Great Britain’s success in the industrial revolution with redistributed taxation. Beginning with the 1572 Poor Law, British taxation was given a welfare-like status. Unlike welfare, the Poor Law was parochial and redistributed in the form of workhouse care. Tradition of socially-minded taxation allowances were perpetuated through the settlement of Ireland, and transitioned in to lower taxation for plantation land ownership. This increase in land ownership also increased opportunity for profit, growing the middle class. On the other coin, extractive French taxation maintained allowances only for the noble élite, causing disproportionate growth in wealth. Mercantilist economics allowed élite French to hold almost 90% of wealth, and the French could not sustain their wars leading up to the French Revolution from merely taxing 10% of the economy. The burgeoning inclusivity of Great Britain’s institution of taxation exemplifies the ‘virtuous circle’ role that inclusivity has on economic development. The French institution of extractive taxation caused a ‘vicious circle’, resulting in collapse of public finance. Economic nationalism plagued the Western European nations, particularly France, as military spending became unsustainable. The Bourbon Monarchy came to its knees in the face of public upheaval after the dismissal of a land tax proposal in 1776. French élite chose to act in self-interest and maintain extractive taxation, instead of have their lands taxed. Power in the hands of a few resulted in the upheaval by many.

‘Creative Destruction’ of the French Revolution’s power vacuum established governance by multiple ruling classes. Most poignantly, inclusion of the Tiers État, the third class society members, asserted institutional control by the hands of merchants and laborers. Stressing working class issues and trade priorities, the National Constituent Assembly and successive Legislative Assembly involved conflicting interests of the élite and the Tiers État, resulting in the highly symbolic overthrow of the French aristocracy in favor of a Republic. This highly influential succession of institutional development played a significant role in French public policy, under which solidarity was introduced to French governance. Taking the form of a welfare precursor, French solidarity measures were not direct redistribution of government funding to the lower classes, but rather the levying of land tax and restriction of agricultural tax. Allowing the agricultural sector to flourish, while collecting tax from the élite, the French middle class expanded and pushed towards the industrial revolution.

Inclusive taxation institutions grew the middle class in both Mercantilist nation-states of France and Great Britain. In both cases, this allowed investment of both capital and labor to flow from the agrarian sector to the industrial sector, inspiring the industrial revolution. France and Great Britain developed from Mercantilist nation-states in to nationalist production economies, due to changes in the role of institutions as taxation policy.

The Role of Economic Geography

Mobilization of workers was intrinsic to the movement from agrarian society to industrial society. Political geography of France and Great Britain was changing, as demand for labor in to industrial centers encouraged movement from outlying sectors. The role of this geographical transition to economic growth is clear; new industry heightened national production and demanded labor, and the average wage rose, increasing supply of labor. This spatial adjustment of population did increase production and average wage, but had an adverse affect on standards of living. Assumed by economic geographer Paul Krugman to encounter a ‘rent seeking’ ideology, which is unsustainable for economic development, the industrial revolution in Great Britain and France encountered a changing population spatiality, and thereby, an unequal distribution of wages.

First, in discussing the role of geography to Great Britain and France’s economic development, infrastructural developments must be highlighted. Transportation of workers to the industrial centers- the process of urbanization- greatly exaggerated the core-periphery differentiation within nation-states. Still at the forefront of economic growth, and therefore, economic development, France and Great Britain had a cyclical relationship of wanting to attract laborers to the industry, therefore increasing transportation expenditure, and laborers wanting to make higher wages in the industrial sector, therefore increasing transportation innovation (Krugman, 1991). Urbanization effectively created an economy of scale for laborers to participate in, which, like the introduction of small industry to economies of scale, disvalued the labor.

Krugman suggests that under the marginal production theory of income distribution the ‘rental rate’ of a given industry must equal the production value of laborers to maximize profit. So, as industry expands, demand for labor must increase with wages relative to the costs of production. This ‘rent seeking’ ideology is at issue, because in the case of a large supply of labor moving from agrarian to industrial society seeking employment, profit can be maximized by not distributing wages at the ‘rental rate’ equilibrium. Wage inequality is not an institution, because it was not a policy, but is instead the effect of geography by way of population and labor supply. Wage inequality begets the institution of solidarity movements after the transfer of knowledge from the German welfare state.

Economic Growth to Economic Development

Transfer of knowledge between economies is an effect of trade. The impact of the industrial revolution was the increase in demand and supply of labor and goods, because of the heightened middle-class as discussed through the role of institutions. Trade theory, developed significantly after the industrial revolution, explains the nature of trade and its benefit to industrialized economies. Trade theory is important to the role of geography and the role of institutions, as it conceptualizes reasoning for and effect of actualized spatial-political relationships. Trade theory also further explains the intrinsic nature of Mercantilist desire for economic growth, to the beginning of economic development.

Assuming that all actors will act rationally, economic theory always suggests profit-maximizing behavior. Conditioned by Keynesian economics, the gains from trade maximize supply and demand, increasing the opportunity for profit through comparative advantages. The Hecksher-Ohlin model (1933) suggested that even in a situation of absolute advantage, gains from trade were possible due to relative advantages of goods and labor. Relative advantage highlights the disproportionate production possibilities among actors, but does not recognize the disproportionate competition between them. Competition occurs because there is profit-maximizing opportunity in increasing supply, in order to meet the larger demand of trade. With demand increasing through trade, and supply increasing thusly, industries involved in trade will develop increasingly, given that the factors of endowment are also increasing. The Linder hypothesis (1961) shows that competition is essentially dependent on production possibilities, which are dictated by factors of endowment, such as capital, labor, resources and technology. These ‘externalities’ affect growth of industry, creating imperfect competition between actors.

According to Linder, imperfect competition limits the possibilities of trade, because actors with dissimilar factors of endowment are unable to inspire competition in industry. By operating under the assumption that gains from trade are necessary for economic growth, but actors are endowed with different factors, it is reasonable to assume that there are supplementary motivations for trade. The Gravity Model suggests that relative size of economies (their factors of endowment) and relative distance of trade are the contingencies of benefit (Tinbergen, 1962.) Distance of trade is meant to limit transportation costs, similarly to Krugman’s assumption of urbanization as cost saving. Geography’s role in economic growth is shown here- neighboring nations tend to trade with each other.

Tendency to trade with relatively close countries will be analyzed specifically by the parameters of the Gravity Model, to emphasize the process from economic growth to economic development, rather than the socio-political relationships between countries. Although significantly more able to trade due to historical relationships of language and culture, neighboring countries tend to establish trade relations at an institutional level- with underpinnings of geographic spatiality. Coming to a case-in-point, trade relations between Germany and France perfectly represent this Gravity Model, because of their relative distance. Krugman suggests that the geographical relationship supersedes the necessity for relative factors of endowment, and the Linder hypothesis speculates that the syncing of German transportation and industry to the levels of France and French increase in levels of welfare to Germany represents this relationship.

German and French difference in factors of endowment in the industrial revolution must be analyzed first through the difference in institutional arrangement. Present-day Germany did not exist, in that it had not undergone the same pattern of nation-state building as France, due to maintenance of parochial taxation in Germanic territories (Nietzsche, 1885). The reasoning for this 1881 federalization of Germany is speculated as an effect of rising German nationalism, in response to French nationalism and militarization of German territories (Said, 1978), which would correspond to geographic role in synchronization of factors of endowment. Also correspondent, is the upswing in German transportation efforts nearly a century after the industrial revolution began in France and Great Britain. Increasing German nationalism after the Napoleonic Wars threatened German territory began the process of transportation building, especially near the French border and along the Rhein. Germany’s geographic growth in facilitated trade, and the coming of the industrial revolution, under the guise of national protection in warfare.

Learning from France’s regularity in working class institutional change, the development of the German state was based in Otto von Bismarck’s welfare programs. Germany offered the first economic development plan, by learning from the failure of extractive economic growth policies of the French. France, likewise, modeled it’s own welfare program after that of the Germans; policy making in an effort to stabilize the French institutions necessitated working class benefits, because of the severe wage inequality issue due to labor demand and supply. This institutional learning curve is suggested by the Linder hypothesis, because of Germany’s geographical relativity to France. Dialectic of German and French nationalism would soon be overshadowed by the increasing tension over remaining variances in factors of endowment.

Geographic development of infrastructure and institutional development of welfare in the German federation lead to quick expansion in factors of endowment. Coupled with the German access to warfare and industry resources of iron and steel, the French became defensive over the German’s economic development. Political tensions rose and resulted in World Wars I and II, which destroyed both French and German economic development up to that point. Despite the remaining principles in the benefit of a welfare state, when economic growth is depleted like it was due to warfare expenditure, economic development is impossible. Measured empirically by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, ‘economic development’ is a country-based analysis of quality of life (Krugman, 2010). Measuring economic development by GDP per capita aligns all given factors of endowment with the country’s welfare. Maintenance of the welfare state is considered “economic development” because of the definition of welfare within the industrialized Western European countries. After WWII, the concept of foreign aid became related to economic development, as the welfare of Europe gained assistance from the United States’s Marshall Plan for European Recovery.


International Institutions and Economic Development

Politics of development assistance between the United States and Europe did not rest in pleasant diplomatic relations, seeing as world warfare had just cost both sides great deals of money and citizens. Rather, the United States’ interest in European economic development was towards the end of reconstructing the benefit of trade. As the most developed economy next to the United States’, Europeans had a history in purchasing power for traded goods, based on the Gravity Model’s suggestion of relative factors of endowment in industry. Geographical and institutional significance of foreign aid as a means of economic development lies in the globalization of economic growth, and the regionalization of economic development.

Institutionally, the Marshal Plan was significant in it’s ability to suggest peace negotiations among European nations. Instigating the first supranational free trade and common monetary system, the European Recovery Program recognized the tensions between trade barriers, and disregarded the geographically disjointed Europe. The European Union’s force as both an intergovernmental and supranational regime is unique in its configuration, and shares historical commonalities. The successful binding of national economies is fluid in nature, allowing for moderation and stabilization when necessary. With the recent Euro Crisis, this economic unity is threatened by the vacuum of power towards a higher authority, the European Central Bank. Economic development, the process towards increasing welfare, has become a supranational institution, threatening the sovereignty of nations involved. Geographically transcendent, the European Union still maintains tensions between institutional roles of intergovernmental actors.

Shown by the activity of the Development Assistance Committee, international aid is disproportionately decided upon by the 55 wealthiest nations in the world (Ragnar, 1961). The implications of this disproportionate aid include economic development dependence, resulting from the unstable institutions began during the extractionary period of colonization (WNF). Recent global politics suggest that the effect of development assistance created a tertiary extraction regime, whereby trade benefits only the country with greater factors of endowment. Trade between countries with varying factors of endowment can obviously result in tension and warfare, but if the one country is institutionally and geographically disadvantaged, the Linder model fails in applying the logic that it can essentially “scale up” to the factors of endowment of its larger trading partners. Subsumption of smaller economic industry in to economies of scale is represented through trade agreements like NAFTA, suggesting that despite the relativity in distance, the disproportionate factors of endowment negate efficient trade models. Specifically NAFTA represents this issue; the United States, although attempting to boost economic growth of Mexico towards the benefit of its agricultural relative advantage, effectively destroyed welfare of it’s farmers. The cyclical relationship between economic growth and economic development is realized by the downturn in economic growth due to lack of farming development. Farmers, dependent on United State’s investment, are economically unsustainable and suffer severe weaknesses thereby.

Implications of the institution of foreign investment and aid resonate in dependency theory. Unlike the Marshal Plan investment in Europe, which aided the re-growth of economically competent countries, the introduction of small economies with relatively little economic history, to large economies with significant economic competence assumes a sort of dominance of “development” (Ragnar, 1961). Derived from the French concept of the unfolding of political-spatial relationships, is development aid a mechanism of instituting foreign policy? Benefits derived from trade with developed countries are empirically visible in the increase of competition, and the significance of industrial growth to economic development. The role of institutional policy on economic development can be assumed as positive, in it’s responsive nature towards inclusive demands. The role of geography problematizes institutional benefit, because it suggests that a necessary institutional cohesion between geographically different nations, despite their different factors of endowment. Institutional cohesion, as seen on the supranational level of regional free trade agreements NAFTA and the EU, must respect the sovereignty of the country’s policy creation. If policy makers have little experience with economic development and no history in the welfare state, like NAFTA, they can fall in to a ‘vicious circle’ of economic dependence.

Works Cited

Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York: Crown, 2012. Print.

Krugman, Paul R., and Maurice Obstfeld. Internationale Wirtschaft: Theorie Und Politik Der Außenwirtschaft. München [u.a.: Pearson Studium, 2010. Print.

Krugman, Paul R. Cities in Space: Three Simple Models. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1991. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Print.

Nurkse, Ragnar (1961). Problems of Capital Formation in Underdeveloped Countries. NY: Oxford University Press.

Tinbergen, Jan. Mathematical Models of Economic Growth. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962. Print.

[1] This phenomenon of geographic and institutional implications in economic development will be discussed further in relation to foreign aid and economic development.