Transportation Infrastructure

More on the high school topic to follow, an interesting choice given the space exploration topic because exploring and developing could be seen as increasing investment in transportation infrastructure, particularly with a broad interpretation of “in the United States” as “initiated in the U.S.”

Here is the wording and the brief overview provided by the NFL:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States
Over the last ten years, there have been a series of significant transportation infrastructure failures indicating the nation’s once world-class infrastructure is falling apart and other nation’s are pulling ahead of the United States. Transportation infrastructure policy featured prominently in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address and is likely to be a main component of his re-election campaign. This topic offers debaters a rare opportunity to consider how government and policy affect the physical structures of daily life; at the same time as the public at-large considers these investments. The national policy debate topic has only discussed transportation policy once, in 1939-40, and the national topic has never considered “infrastructure.” Proponents of increasing investment in transportation infrastructure argue there is a substantial need to invest in transportation infrastructure and that infrastructure is central to a modern economy, the United States’ leadership position in the world, the security of our nation and a high quality of life. Opponents argue that government spending in this area is unnecessary and further complicates fiscal policy. Examples of affirmative cases include direct investment in high-speed rail, highways, bridges, airports and seaports. Other affirmatives might propose new federal structures to finance transportation infrastructure projects. Negative positions could focus on the economic consequences of additional spending, the effectiveness of various transportation solutions, the political implications of infrastructure investment and critiques of economic development.

…This is a helpful overview, to be sure, laying out the main controversy and justifying debate in this area.  The main issue for the affirmative will be finding the resources to substantially increase investment and the main issue for the negative will challenging the large impact claims made by most affirmatives.  A few angles/approaches to keep in mind at the outset involve scope, reach, and history.  The scope of the topic will involve definitions of transportation and infrastructure and how narrow or broad that phrase becomes–everything from “only the material/physical condition of roads, bridges and runways” to “all aspects of human movement.”  The latter implicates areas such as the mobility of particular groups, real time data exchange, military readiness, the internet, circulation of goods and services, and mass communication.  The reach of the topic will center on infrastructure–will we limit debates to the blueprints or expand our discussion to include future possibilities (oceans, space, other scientific explorations)?  And, perhaps, most telling, where have humans been and where are they going?  Do we maintain or can we build?  How have we “progressed” from human power, to animal power, to steam power, to fossil fuels, and now beyond?  Should this include urban planning or is it about travel–the movement to and through our current conception of the City? The long-term history of transportation, not just in the U.S. (destiny, expansion, colonization), but throughout time will shed light (pave the way) toward a more complete view of the topic.  One example–just a sliver of the iceberg, is here:  Transportation means progress and life, but also clash, accidents, and destruction.  Infrastructure needs propping up, but to what ends?  A quick little story to ask more of these questions can be found here:  Be creative with this topic because transportation is nothing if not the imagination of change and the human capacity for expanding circulation.  Ambulate your arguments! Enjoy and frequent puttingthekindebate for further updates.

7 Responses to “Transportation Infrastructure”

  1. kevin kuswa Says:

    Two comments up top. First, this is an essay that was published on Matt Stannard’s Shared Sacrifice website in 2009 (Jan. 15, 2009) that is not posted on his new site ( – which is great by the way, check it out. It’s not directly about the topic, but certainly related and provides some of the historical context that is so important to debating about improvements in transportation infrastructure. Where are we going requires determining where we have been. Part two of this essay will be posted eventually along with some other pieces that are related—they will either be posted here or on their own thread over the next month or so. I also have an article about transportation, suburbia, and race. This will also connect to the topic area but emphasizes another point in the recent discussion on the DRSB interview—debaters can make scholarship in addition to repeating the academic work done by others. It may take some adjustment and shifting the format/presentation of evidence slightly, but it is ultimately a win-win for educational purposes and the extension of debate into other avenues for change. Here’s the suburbia citation (available on lexis):

    Kuswa, Kevin D. “Suburbification, Segregation, and the Consolidation of the Highway Machine.” The Journal of Law in Society, 3/1. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University School of Law. Winter, 2002: 31-66.

    A Brief Genealogy of Fordism in Two Parts

    Part One: (Dis)Assembling Production Through the Military Machine

    Kevin Kuswa, 2009

    I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for….it will be so low in price that no man (sic.) making a good salary will be unable to own one—and enjoy with his (sic.) family the blessings of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.

    Henry Ford, 1909 (1)

    Kenneth Jackson, a historian of the suburbs, quotes Henry Ford in support of the argument that Ford had a common touch that he converted into a marketable product. Unlike the people working on new inventions and the next wave of vehicles, Ford wanted to take the vehicles that he knew how to produce and make them affordable on a mass scale. In tandem with an affordable automobile that had the potential to saturate the market, Ford was also instrumental to a new phase of labor politics. Even though the labor pool may have been in opposition to Ford’s management, the company decided that cooperation and inducements to ensure compliance were generally better options to pursue than confrontation and overt exploitation of the workers. According to Jackson (1985, p160), “Ford’s genius lay in his ability to reduce the cost of his popular Model T even while increasing the wages of his employees.” Ford manipulated the market for automobiles in at least three unique ways, bringing forth a new formation of capitalism and an economic motion of monumental proportions. The three major manipulations were related to the product itself, the process of production, and the management of labor.

    By reducing the act of producing an automobile to a level of simplicity that permitted extremely low prices, Ford was able to bring a desirable product to the market that a large percentage of consumers could afford. In one dramatic example, during a period of rising wages and price hikes by his competitors, “Ford dropped the price of his Model T from $950 in 1910 to $290 in 1924” (Jackson, 1985, p161). The process of production also experienced a transformation under Ford, as workers were objectified in a paternalistic and suspiciously benevolent way. Ford increased wages in an attempt to obtain higher productivity and lower absentee rates from his employees. The process of making cars depended on large numbers of semi-skilled laborers performing dangerous tasks, and raising wages during tough economic times gave Ford a potent supervisory grasp on the workforce. Trying to fight worker apathy with the same determination he used to fine-tune the assembly line, Ford announced the $5 day during a time when the average worker was making less than half that. By tackling productivity concerns at the source, Ford “stabilized his work force, increased the pace of his assembly lines, and created more potential customers for his product” (Jackson, 1985, p161). And, concurrently, the third way Ford manipulated the industrial terrain of the automobile industry was to develop a firm and aggressive stance against unions or labor organizations of any kind. Not only were automobiles themselves a luxurious distraction that gave workers an alternative to attending union meetings, Ford also used tyrannical tactics to root out union members from the factories. In some instances, the Ford Company “used spies and armed thugs to resist attempts at unionization” (Jackson, 1985, p161).

    Before getting lost in the minutia of Ford’s labor policy, a number of general questions present themselves: What context opened the door to these three changes in the organization of (and demand for) industrial manufacturing? How did the highway machine provide a backdrop and an implicit place of freedom for the consumption of automobiles and the rise of an automobile culture? Ford may have formed the Ford Motor Company in 1903 with the $28,000 he earned through race car victories, but what else defined the automobile at the turn of the 19th Century? Before 1905, the petrol engine remained in experimental stages, not really emerging in large numbers until the United States expanded production and began to supply other parts of the globe with engines. From 1930 onward, Japan and a handful of other nations began to reduce the gap in production between the U.S. and the rest of the world. These types of histories would be incomplete without consideration of Fordism as a program, particularly in the context of the highway in America.

    Fordism not only articulates a unique mode of production, it also marks the intersection of industrial expansion, large-scale production, distribution, and consumption. Perhaps more extensive than the mere back-and-forth of transportation, distribution incorporates circulation, mobility, and speed into its orbit. Thus, Fordism is both the assembly line and its movement, both the automobile and its path, and both a scheme of production and the management of consumption.

    Without economical and effective transportation the economies of large-scale production would not be possible. We would not be able to afford the cost of assembling raw materials at key manufacturing locations nor to bear the expense of nation-wide distribution. Without economical and efficient transportation our standard of living would suffer, because the various regions of the nation would no longer be able to produce those goods for which they enjoy a comparative advantage (Arbuckle, 1960, p153)

    Fordism goes beyond theories of comparative advantage and national living standards, as does the highway machine. Nonetheless, this statement demonstrates the types of threats and fears (loss of security and economic growth) that began to accompany pleas for highway construction.

    In addition, the ever-expanding mileage of paved roads in America, the social prestige of automobile ownership in some quarters, and the necessity of gasoline-powered engines to maintain low prices and transport goods to the market in other quarters, all combined to propel additional public highways and fuel large-scale increases in automobile manufacturing. It is no coincidence that in 1921 two important events marked the initial arrival of the highway machine and the ascendancy of Ford’s style of management. First, a new Federal Highway Act was passed, legislation that began the numbering of U.S. highways (I-35, I-10, I-95, etc.), and legislation that provided 50 percent of funds for all rural road building (McShane, 1997, p58). The federal matching funds were excluded from assisting the construction of urban highways, but the blueprints were firmly in place for a federally-funded (public) highway network that would link the nation, ensure civil defense and national security, as well as pull the country out of recession into an era of unprecedented market expansion. Those were the highway’s aspirations, many of which, if they did appear, came along with equally devastating social consequences. Also in 1921, in the midst of a major auto recession, Henry Ford convinced his bankers and dealers to finance the company through the recession, a safety net that enabled Ford to stay afloat despite a 90 percent failure-rate among American automobile makers.

    This essay continues the Ford narrative, turning to Fordism and mass production as motions moving in tandem with the highway machine. The motion diagram then moves from Fordism to the notion of security and Virilio’s military machine. This reconceptualization of warfare and statecraft concludes with a criticism of Fordism’s application to conditions after World War II. Instead of trying to adapt or generalize the vague tenets of Fordism, a more enabling perspective would tie Fordism to the automobile industry before World War II, primarily in America. As an effectivity of the highway machine’s arrival, Fordism can also open a path for the articulation of logistics and the military machine.

    1. Massifying Production: Ford(ism) and Henry’s Wild Ride

    The historical narrative of Ford himself has been written hundreds of times from countless angles. Those accounts fill in the context of Ford’s automobile empire, but they often leave the effects of mass production understated and incidental. Fordism must tie in and relate to the accomplishments of Henry Ford, but the motion of Fordism–its particular flow–extends far past the life of any given individual. Most importantly, Ford and Fordism mark a battleground in an-ongoing war between states and economies, between positions of privilege and positions of poverty, and between humans and machines. It cannot be understated that “Ford’s mass production drove the automobile industry for nearly five decades and was eventually adopted by almost every other industrial manufacturer” (Dauphinais & Gareffa, 1996, p58) but the effects and transformations of mass production went far beyond industrial manufacturing, perhaps beyond the explanatory value of Fordism itself.

    Let us travel along on Ford’s wild wide before honing in on a few tropes uniting the machine: the (dis)assembly line, interchangeable parts, mass production, and the Five Dollar Day. These tropes are, in part, generated by the arrival of the highway machine (and vice-versa). Henry Ford entered the market a decade or so after the first manufactures began in Europe. Taking cue from the successes of Frederick Taylor, one of the first industrialists to study time and motion in the workplace in relation to a number of discrete and specialized tasks, Ford also worked to encourage specialized and skilled labor. He began assigning skilled workers to particular machines, maximizing efficiency by making individual workers or groups of workers responsible for specific parts and not others. Rather than devoting the entire crew to the assembly of one vehicle at a time, Ford established a production process that effectively assembled multiple automobiles at the same time in successive stages. While the assembly line was implicit in a continual flour mill used by Oliver Evans in 1787, not to mention the ways Chicago beef and chicken packers slowly disassembled animal carcasses for meat packaging as they moved along a conveyor belt (McShane, 1997, p7,15). Mimicking the disassembly lines common on chicken farms, Ford decided that a moving belt with chickens being slowly taken apart by lines of workers, each worker contributing a small act to the overall preparation of the chicken for consumption, would be ideal for the (re)assembly of an automobile. Especially with the advent of interchangeable parts, Ford was easily able to compartmentalize the manufacturing process into thousands of complementary steps. The “progress” of the car along the assembly line allowed for much greater economies of scale–the belt itself could always be extended, widened, or regulated by rate (“parts is parts”).

    The circumstances of Ford’s short-lived but long-lasting supremacy will help to fill-in a map of state and economic conflict and fusion. More specifically, Ford’s success foreshadows the ways state regulation would solidify its alliance with a certain economic configuration. Eventually, that alliance would dominate the highway as a mode of circulation in an attempt to polarize society. Elements were cornered into one of two dichotomies based on producing: “productive” vs. “consumptive” or “productive” vs. “counterproductive.” State involvement in the economy, particularly through public works projects influenced by Keynesian economics, propped up the incomes of consumers to the point where large-scale mass production of consumer durables would be guaranteed by a large and steady demand. The depression and the following World War (what Virilio calls the Second Total War) marked high and low points for production and consumption, but alongside these changes Ford continued to make tens of thousands of “affordable” automobiles.

    The first factory-made Model T appeared in 1908 and sold for $850. Over 17,000 Model Ts were sold during its first year, a phenomenal record. Just four years earlier, the world’s entire automobile industry produced 22,000 cars; by 1914, the Ford Highland Park Plant alone produced almost 250,00 Model Ts, and over 700,000 were built in 1917. In 1913, a Model T was produced every 12.5 hours, after mass production and the assembly line were in place in 1914, a Model T could be produced every 1.5 hours; and during an intense day in 1925, a Model T was produced every 10 seconds! Over 9,000 cars were produced that single day. This ever-increasing efficiency was reflected in the price–an all time low of $295 for a 1924 Model T. (Dauphinais & Gareffa, 1996, p55).

    Generated, transformed, plotted, and programmed by the highway machine, Fordism marks a primary form of circulation associated with the arrival of the highway. What takes place between 1903 (the start of the Ford Motor Company) and Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times, is a revolutionary surge in manufacturing, automation, market expansion, and mobility on a global scale. More importantly for Fordism, though, is a post-World War II surge in industrial manufacturing, growth driven by mass production, the logistics of a permanent war economy, and the politics of labor and unemployment. In other words, as the highway made an entrance on the American scene, Fordism was also beginning to emerge as a given trait of the industrial era. John Allen, an economic geographer at Open University, contends that the main elements of Fordism–assembly line production, leading industrial sectors transmitting growth to other areas, a hegemonic or socializing organization of labor, and state-driven regulations managing production and consumption–were not prevalent until the 1950s. Allen (1996, p288) explains his chronology:

    So far, we have loosely referred to a Fordist mode of growth as a feature of the advanced industrial economies in the 1950s and 1960s. However, in terms of actual growth rates, a more precise periodization is usually given, starting in the 1950s and tailing off in the early 1970s around the time of the “oil crisis” of 1973 and the economic downturn of 1974. If we look back at that period, it is difficult not to be impressed by the sheer scale and pace of growth across the economies of Europe and the US, as well as that of Japan.

    As we shall see, this phenomenal growth was uneven and complicit in the segregation and exclusion of large pockets of people across the country. It is necessary, in the meantime, to map the emergence and transformation of security and Fordism as its motion works to capture the highway machine. (2)

    Allen borrows from Sayer (1989) to lay out four aspects of Fordism as an industrial mode of organization. Once again, these four aspects chart Fordism as, first, “a labor process involving moving assembly line mass production;” second, an expanding industrial sector; third, a hegemonic organization of production, work, and labor; and fourth, a mode of regulation with “political and cultural considerations” (Allen, 1996, p287). In sum, Fordism marks a period of time late in the industrial era, for Allen, when “technological progress” began to solidify a normalizing model of manufacturing and consumption: “Fordism is conceived as an era of mass, standardized goods produced for mass markets, created by an interventionist state which gave people the spending power to make mass consumption possible” (Allen, p282). The vision of labor as a type of motion, a vision most directly related to Ford’s manufacturing processes, concerns the moving assembly line and mass production. Allen (1996, p283) contends that “mass production began with the combination of moving assembly lines, specialized machinery, high wages, and low-cost products.” Where does the worker fit into the flow? Or, on the contrary, does the laborer provide the flow itself? Does specialized machinery stand-in for the worker?

    The impact of Fordism on the worker was debilitating. The individual became an anonymous, interchangeable robot who had little chance on the job to demonstrate his (sic.) personal qualifications for upward mobility into the echelons of management. Thus, the American myth of unlimited individual social mobility, based on ability and the ideal of the self-made man (sic.), became a frustrating impossibility for the assembly-line worker. As the job became a treadmill to escape from rather than a calling in which to find fulfillment, leisure began to assume a new importance. The meaning of work, long sanctified in the Protestant Ethic, was reduced to monetary remuneration. The value of thrift and personal economy became questionable, too, as mass consumption became an inevitable corollary of mass production. (Flink, 1988, p119-120)

    Machinery finds a critical niche during this period, but is the machining of production a sign of modernity? Or, on the contrary, does the combination of social subjection and machinic enslavement within Fordism mark a moment beyond modernism? Is this a juncture where the pre-modern enslavement of humans to the machine and the disciplinary subjection of humans come together? Tying these questions to an intersection between Fordism, the state, and national security, it becomes evident that a revolution in circulation rearranged the modern far before World War II, the revolutions of 1968, or any other historical watersheds. If modernism and its aftermath are eras or conditions, two axioms jump to the forefront: 1. We have no “choice” whether we follow the postmodern sensibility or perspective–it is a trait of the times; and, 2. The rupture in modernity was not generated by a series of critical theorists challenging the Enlightenment project, but rather by a machinic battle with labor in and amidst another battle between warfare and statecraft. As one way of noting the rupture, Allen (1996, p283) characterizes the difference between Taylor and Ford: “Whereas Taylor sought to organize labor around machinery, Ford sought to eliminate labor by machinery.” Unskilled laborers were the next to hit the chopping block, as family farms and horses as means of transportation failed the test of efficiency. Flink (1988, p114) contends:

    Far from identifying with the Jeffersonian yeoman farmer glorified in populist rhetoric, Ford looked forward to the demise of the family farm. As a youth he had hated the drudgery of farm labor, and he longed to rid the world of unsanitary and inefficient horses and cows. The Model T was conceived as “a farmer’s car” less because Ford empathized with the small farmer than because any car designed in 1908 for a mass market had to meet the needs of a predominantly rural population.

    The increase in miles of paved highway and affordable automobiles accomplished much more than “reaching the rural market.” The same motion of extending access also promoted white flight–the migration of businesses and professionals–from the city to the suburb. The farm would also never be the same again as the large industries slowly extended the economic advantage of mass production to the agricultural sector.

    Cycling through the highway machine, a massive change occurs in the distinctions between rural and urban during the 20s and 30s. A third way, or space, opens up between the rural and the urban, inverting a normative framework that can be traced back to feudalism and the Middle Ages. In many ways, the implicit hierarchy between rural and urban still persists, with the city-dweller assumed to be a “city slicker” and the country-dweller assumed to be a “hayseed.” This hierarchy has changed its dimensions, however, as a transformation beginning in the 20s began to divide city-dwellers into the frequently outnumbered city slickers and a growing number of “inner city” inhabitants–primarily immigrants, minorities, the under- and unemployed, and the otherwise contained and overcrowded members of many metropolitan environments. Likewise, country-dwellers found themselves split into the traditional “hayseeds” or “hicks” and the emergent corporate farmers and upper middle-class seeking refuge from the tumult of the city. And, in-between these urban and rural subjectivities, the suburbanite sought out a middle ground some distance from the central business district, but still close enough to access the city’s amenities on a daily or weekly basis.

    How, then, did the beginnings of the highway machine and the rumblings of Fordism participate in this transformation? How did circulation between the rural and urban areas work to bring certain places together and spread others apart? What operates in tandem with the condition of saturation the automobile experienced among American families in 1925?

    Not surprisingly, a major theme of rural reformers was the extension of city amenities to the village, hamlet, and farm, while urban planners and reformers of the so-called Progressive Era stressed the need to decentralize the city. In densely populated Western Europe, where no one lived much further than ten miles from a railroad, this critical American problem of homogenizing space was not nearly so important. (Flink, 1988, p137).

    In short, we have to put the car and the road back into Fordism. It simply is not about linking Fordism to economic configurations, for that only accomplishes another generalization. The specific and unique attributes of Fordism within the highway machine must bring us back to, and rescue, a tangible intersection. The concrete intersection in question is one that diagrams transformations in cities, in rural communities, and in America as those places experience the motions of the highway machine. In these ways and others, Fordism contributes to an American national imaginary of “time over distance” (Virilio, 1989, 1991, 1997a, 1997b).

    2. The Military Machine and Logistics: Putting the Ford Back in Fordism

    This history demands an encounter with the genealogy of speed and the diagram of motion as war coming out of Virilio’s interview with Lotringer in Pure War (1997). Virilio begins this series of interviews with the declaration that he is an urbanist, an urbanist that simultaneously becomes a politician through a focus on the city. In a complementary position with the “city as a place” hinted at in the previous chapter and diagrammed in the discussion of American suburbia, the “city as motion” ties together Virilio’s notion of politics with the speed of Fordism and the state’s capture of the highway machine. The city not only marks a particular motion, it also displaces ideology from politics in favor of a more immediate connection between politics and polis. Two concurrent genealogies come into play here, one mapping the city as an effect of warfare and the other mapping modern warfare as total and spatial. In both instances, war generates space–often a space at odds with place as physical and time as memory. For Virilio, war’s spatiality attacks physicality and time through destruction and consumption.

    I suddenly understood that war was a space in the geometrical sense, and even more than geometrical: crossing Europe from North to South, from the shelters of the German cities to the Siegfried Line, passing by the Maginot Line and the Atlantic Wall, makes you realize the breadth of Total War. By the same token you touch on the mythic dimension of a war spreading not only throughout Europe, but all over the world. The objects, bunkers, block-houses, anti-aircraft shelters, submarine bases, etc. are kinds of reference points or landmarks to the totalitarian nature of war in space and myth. (Virilio, 1997b, p10)

    Bracketing judgment on the ways war works through destruction, it also produces certain arrangements within and surrounding its space. This move–charting war as spatial–suddenly allows a project that treats the city as both the logistics and aftermath of warfare.

    Virilio (1997, p11) admits that the “city has existed for a long time,” but he also positions it as “there to bear witness to the human species’ extraordinary capacities for concentration.” So the way information circulates, both globally and locally, creates a humanizing framework that “de-concentrates” the continual reign of state terror and the literal “disappearance of people.” The torture (during and after Nazi brutalities) is equally hideous, for the expansion of the markets that followed the Allied victory against the architects of the concentration camps also ushered in the expansion of state intrusiveness.

    Until the Second World War–until the concentration camps–societies were societies of incarceration, of imprisonment in the Foucauldian sense. The great transparency of the world, whether through satellites or simply tourists, brought about an overexposure of these places to observation, to the press and public opinion which now ban concentration camps. (Virilio, 1997b, p89)

    As Virilio (1997, p89) comments: “These are qualitative differences….No longer the practice of the concentration camps, of German-style enclosure, but the disappearance of people. Sleight of hand. Social magic. It’s the society of disappearance.” This is not to diminish the significance or magnitude of the concentration camps, but to make an argument that the dehumanizing and machinic logic of concentration camps shares a number of traits with the dehumanizing and machinic logic of Fordism and capitalist exploitation propagated by state regulations and a monopoly of force (the military). In other words, concentration (as opposed to circulation) occurs alongside warfare, and both motions have been legitimized by, and assembled into, a state apparatus. When joined by mass production and globalizing markets, the state apparatus mutates in and through the military-industrial complex.

    None of the characteristics of the military-industrial complex (MIC) in America can be cleanly separated from the highway machine and its arrival and consolidation, including the “technical surprise” of World War II and the development of deterrence as warfare: the nuclear bomb. The highway machine contributes to the production of an economy that prepares for war even during peace. The line between civilian and military as well as between peace and war evaporates through Fordism and an era of logistics. Combined with Deleuze and Guattari (1987) who position the military machine in opposition to the state apparatus, Virilio explains warfare as a effect of the constitution of the State. From this perspective, warfare designates the territory of the state’s economy–its economy of space, capitalization, and technology. The result is a school of thought that diverges from the urban planning notion that “the origin of the crystallization of the city, of urban sedentariness, is mercantilism” (Virilio, 1997b, p11). Instead, Virilio suggests, the city’s origin is warfare and continues to be so, making commerce a residual effect.

    Putting the larger analogy in perspective, then, Fordism finds itself reconstituted as the product or effect of the state’s generation of militaristic territories (warfare). The highway machine’s entrance sparked Fordism (and contains Fordism) as another engine contributing to a “tragic revision of wartime economy” (Virilio, 1997b, p17). When both sides in World War II realized that more resources were necessary to wage war than could be produced during the war itself, their mutual response was to extend war into peace. This became the technical surprise of World War I–the discovery that the economy could not rest or divert its focus from war preparation even during peace. Economic and military deterrence joined hands in an attempt to support technological progress and the dominance of the state system.

    They could no longer simply say that on one side there was the arsenal which produced a few shells, and on the other civilian consumption and the budget. No, they noticed that they needed a special economy, a wartime economy. This wartime economy was a formidable discovery, which in reality announced and inaugurated the military-industrial complex….I mean in fact that the situation is no longer very clear between the civil and the military because of the total involvement of the economy in war–already beginning in peacetime. (Virilio, 1997b, p16-7)

    Thus, the many problems with Fordism as a trope, particularly when applied to industrialized economies following World War II, prevent a more contoured understanding of the machinic arrangements involving security, warfare, the state, and the highway machine. If anything, Fordism is, or should be, limited to a specific expression of manufacturing and labor prior to World War II. The exact chronology or periodization of Fordism is not as important as the recognition that the war machine and the state apparatus had already come together as a highway machine in the United States. The logistics of war planning makes Fordism one effect among many. This inversion goes beyond the argument that the state regulated Fordism as a mode of growth, with road-construction being one example. The inversion also places statist motions of security and warfare prior to a given collection of economic characteristics–warfare constitutes collective bargaining, monopolistic markets, mass standardized production (of consumer durables), and economies of scale. That way, Fordism does not over generalize industrial experiences in Europe, under generalize industrialism in the Pacific Rim, leave its automobile and highway specificity, confuse American contexts with globalization, or obscure the operations of statism and the military machine. As Allen frets about Fordism, he outlines a central weakness in its application to non-U.S. settings and effectivities outside modes of growth. Allen’s worry (1996, p296) “is not so much its inability to adequately convey a pattern of national diversity as its failure to see beyond large-scale mass production.”

    3. Warfare: The Peacetime Mandate of the Highway Machine

    Some might contend, and they are partially correct, that the initiation of the present-day interstate system was the first moment a coalition of market forces and state interests coalesced in opposition to the railroads. (3) Hill (1997) paints an interesting history, pitting the railroad interests against the newly formed alliance among the oil, trucking, automobile and lodging lobbies. The contest was fairly tight until the federal government stepped in with “national security” reasons to support the interstate over the railroads. Concrete began flowing in earnest after the federal government sold the machine “on the Cold War inspired theory that such a network of roads would facilitate evacuation of the cities in case of a nuclear attack” (Hill, 1997, p12). A similar argument is advanced today by the national government that the highways provide an indispensable means of transit for hazardous materials, including dismantled nuclear weapons (Giglio, 1985). Going back to the highway machine’s infancy, though, it was not solely the development of nuclear weapons that catapulted the highway’s expansion. Transportation, especially via roadways, has been a driving factor in countless conflicts, not the least of which occurred in France in the 1800s:

    Logistics occurs at the time of the Napoleonic wars because these wars pulled millions of men onto the roads, and along with them problems of subsistence. But subsistence isn’t everything: logistics is not only food, it’s also munitions and transportation. As Abel Ferry said, ‘The munitions problems runs parallel to the transportation problem.’ The trucks bringing ammunition and the flying shells bringing death are coupled in a system of vectors, of production, transportation, execution. There we have a whole flow chart which is logistics itself.” (Virilio, 1997b, p23).

    To detail and diagram the state’s implementation of the highway machine (and vice-versa), the military and its motions of security must be taken into account. A number of perspectives aid this effort: Yount (1960) hones in on the truck industry during times of peace and war, Medaris (1960) targets the mobility needs of advanced missile systems, and Trudeau (1960) outlines the strategic need for a mobile army.

    Paul Yount, a freight ways Vice President in the 50s, uses the word cooperation to describe the alliance (co-optation) between private industry and governmental regulation in transportation. For Yount (1960, p43), the transportation revolution of the 20th Century “gives promise of a bright future for our industry, for transportation in general, and for our nation.” Yount’s main object of concern is the truck, and it does not take him long to state: “From the German invasion of Poland to the final shot of the war in the Pacific, trucks played a leading role both of support and of direct action in battle” (Yount, 1960, p43). It was not just the Panzer division’s blitzkrieg, enabled by trucks, that connected the highway machine’s arrival to the military machine, for it was also the assembly lines of ammunition–the railroads, waterways, ships, and planes–that served as “faithful links in our logistical chain reaching to foreign shores” (Yount, 1960, p44).

    Yount also documents Virilio’s contention that the two World Wars extended war preparation into peacetime. Yount (1960, p45) posits the consensus: “I think we all agree that we must prepare in peace against the ever-present threat of war.” In particular, Yount connects highway regulation to war preparation when he complains of different taxation schemes and road constraints among the states. Calling for the highway’s entrance, Yount (1960, p45) proclaims: “Overcoming these obstacles (in highway regulation) is a matter of education, constant effort, and patience.” Yount (1960, p46) continues:

    Providing for wartime upkeep and replacement of worn-out equipment is a matter for mobilization planning….The demand for transportation, fast and efficient transportation, is growing. And the various forms of the industry are becoming greatly interdependent. This interdependence is resulting in greater cooperation among different modes than ever before. It is resulting in a revolution in transportation.

    General Medaris, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Ordnance Missile Command during the late 1950s, is even more direct than Yount, contending that “the true history of the United States is the history of transportation” and that, “in time of emergency, the vast transportation industry has always met the national defense requirement” (Medaris, 1960, p71). A major variable for defense systems and missile technology is a functioning highway machine. Access to weapons in an efficient manner is as important to their deployment as is the operation of the weapon itself. General Medaris (1960, p74) supports this argument:

    Because our present strategy requires the deployment of trained combat forces in any area of trouble in minimum time, it logically follows that we must have the capacity to move the weapons with the troops. Immediate availability may be a matter of national survival. If we cannot accomplish this, we would be limiting troops to the firepower of shoulder weapons. Thus, we would throw away the deterrent factor we associate with our modern weapons systems.

    Moreover, because these weapons systems are far more valuable than the specific piece of the highway machine involved, Medaris asserts that an imperative exists to improve our highway infrastructure beyond the levels needed for civilian speed, capacity, and passenger comfort. Any delay in the delivery of weapons, for instance, “has profound effects upon our research and development programs, upon the training of our troops who will operate the weapons systems, and upon the logistical support of operational missile units throughout the world” (Medaris, 1960, p75).
    Finally, General Arthur G. Trudeau, the Chief of Research and Development for the Army in 1959, magnifies the links between the state’s preparations for war and the highway machine. Not only does Trudeau (1960, p12) argue that for the Army, “the advent of nuclear weapons requires mobility far greater than any we have known in the past,” he also globalizes the need for security: “We must be able to move our armed forces and those of the free world rapidly to any part of the world in which they may be needed.” Emphasizing the impending arrival of the highway machine, Trudeau (1960, p133), complains that “the speed of movement of the bulk of our ground forces is limited by that of wheels.” By reiterating Virilio’s geography of warfare, Trudeau (1960, p114) helps conclude:

    In discussing a more mobile army, it is important to emphasize the importance of transportation facilities available within our own country. A healthy rail system, together with adequate inland waterways, pipelines, airways, and highways, is vital to the Army. Each has its own unique place in our system of transport. Without any one of them the Army could be handicapped in its drive for increased mobility.

    Of these modes of circulation, it is the highway machine which becomes most transformative immediately following the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 and into the early 1970s. Trudeau solidifies the state’s penetration of the highway and the logistical flows of Fordism and militarism. The nomadic tendencies of entrepreneurship and warfare were overwhelmed by the state apparatus and concerns of global security, particularly the motion of capture led by the state’s need for military readiness and an infrastructure sufficient for national defense. While forcing one mechanism of security, the United States was simultaneously neglecting the development of an energy policy that would prevent an over-reliance on oil from abroad, to be discussed in part 2.

    Works Cited

    Allen, John (1996). “Fordism and Modern Industry,” in S. Hall (eds.) Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies. New York: Routledge, pp280-306.

    Allen, John J, Jr. (1960). “The Revolution and Public Policy,” in Karl Ruppenthal (ed.)

    Arbuckle, Ernest (1960). “Developing Executives for Transportation,” in Karl Ruppenthal (ed.) Revolution in Transportation. (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP): pp148-153.

    Barker, T.C. (Sept., 1993). “Slow Progress: Forty Years of Motoring Research,” Journal of Transport History 14, pp142-165.
    Dauphinais, Dean & Gareffa, Peter (1996). Car Crazy. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press.

    Flink, James J. (1988). The Automobile Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Giglio, Sheila Bond (Fall, 1985). “Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel,” 12 Boston College Envtl Aff L Rev 51.

    Hill, Michael E. (Oct. 19, 1997). “The Concrete Story of U.S. Interstates,” Austin-American Statesman, p12.

    Jackson, Kenneth T. (1985). Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

    McShane, Clay (1997). The Automobile: A Chronology of Its Antecedents, Development, and Impact. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

    Medaris, Maj. Gen. J.B. (1960). “Transportation of Missiles,” in Karl Ruppenthal (ed.) Revolution in Transportation. (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP): pp71-78.

    Sayer, A. (1989). “Post-Fordism in Question,” The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 13, pp666-695.

    Trudeau, Lt. Gen. Arthur G. (1960). “Toward a Mobile Army,” in Karl Ruppenthal (ed.) Revolution in Transportation. (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP): pp112-114.

    Virilio Paul (1989). “The Last Vehicle.” in Dietmar Kamper, ed. Looking Back at the End of the World. New York: Semiotext(e), pp106-119.

    Virilio, Paul (1991). The Lost Dimension. Trans. Daniel Moshenberg. New York, NY: Autonomedia.

    Virilio, Paul (1993). “The Primal Accident.” in Brian Massumi, ed. The Politics of Everyday Fear. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp211-220.

    Virilio, Paul (1997a). Open Skies. Trans. Julie Rose, New York: Verso Press.

    Virilio, Paul. (1997b). Pure War. New York: Semiotext(e).

    Yount, Paul F. (1960). “The Revolution and the Motor Truck,” in Karl Ruppenthal (ed.) Revolution in Transportation. (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP): pp43-50.

    • kevin kuswa Says:


      1. Cited in Jackson (1985, p160).

      2. Across the world, 47 million motor vehicles are in operation in 1940, including 8 million trucks and buses and over 3 million motor cycles (Baker, 1993, p142).

      3. John J. Allen, Jr., Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation in 1959, gave a speech entitled, “The Revolution and Public Policy.” Dividing transportation policy into pre- and post-World War II categories, Allen (1960) contends that regulation was the central issue before the war and that a series of other issues began to share regulation’s importance into the 1940s and 50s: investment, labor, taxation, and government contracting.

  2. Lindsay Van Luvanee Says:

    thanks for posting this kuswa, it provided a good starting place for me to think about discussing next year’s topic with my high school team.

  3. Reblogged this on resistanceanddebate and commented:
    This offers an excellent introduction to the high school topic.

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