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Taking on Technocracy: Nuclear Power in Germany, 1945 to the Present

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Volume 24

Protest, Culture & Society

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Taking on Technocracy

Nuclear Power in Germany, 1945 to the Present

Dolores L. Augustine

304 pages, 7 illus., 2 figures, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-645-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-904-2 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®



“Augustine makes a major contribution to our understanding of Germany’s path to the abandonment of nuclear power. She reveals not only the ability of citizens to participate in high-level scientific debates, but also how their interventions can cause dramatic political change. Such success stories are in short supply—and high demand—in the climate-change era.” • History: Reviews of New Books

“Augustine conveys how Germans on both sides of the Iron Curtain related to the “Atomic Age” in the 1950s and 1960s….[and] offers a fascinating discussion of safety regimes and nuclear accidents in both German states, showing each side as being closely tied to their respective Cold War superpower.” • Environmental History

“All in all, Augustine does not only provide a fascinating, well-written and insightful integrated history of Germany's variegated engagement with nuclear power. She also makes important contributions to cultural history, the transnational history of (counter-)expertise, the history of (new) social movements as well as the history of science and "public technology.”…the book deserves a wide readership.” • Sehepunkte

“Augustine’s thoughtful history contains useful chapter introductions and conclusions… [It offers an] engaging and important story at the heart of the book. As Augustine reminds readers, the story she tells has an open ending. In the era of climate change, as governments struggle to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the future of nuclear power in Germany remains undecided.” • German History

“Impressively up-to-date, this volume’s attention to media and public opinion makes it a valuable analysis of the interrelationship between science and social protest.” • Timothy Scott Brown, Northeastern University

“This study of utopian visions, scientific expertise, state power, and public protest is a crucial contribution to the history of nuclear power – and public concerns about science generally. Focusing on a divided Germany after the war until unification and the present, Augustine explores surprising similarities in the embrace of nuclear power in capitalism and socialism, including transnational aspects of the two German programs under American and Soviet influence, and unquestioned state support. If at first state- and industry-supported notions of technological progress and a higher standard of living prevailed, then criticism burst forth over worries of catastrophic accidents, even before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. In West Germany, many citizens rejected the nuclear alliance between the political authorities, the nuclear industry, and technical-scientific experts un-democratic and even authoritarian. They insisted that safety issues were not only technical but normative. Eventually, violent protest shook the nation. Even in the East, brave citizens also came to worry about nuclear power. Ultimately, Germany has rejected nuclear power, and readers will understand why.” • Paul Josephson, Colby College


The German abandonment of nuclear power represents one of the most successful popular revolts against technocratic thinking in modern times—the triumph of a dynamic social movement, encompassing a broad swath of West Germans as well as East German dissident circles, over political, economic, and scientific elites. Taking on Technocracy gives a brisk account of this dramatic historical moment, showing how the popularization of scientific knowledge fostered new understandings of technological risk. Combining analyses of social history, popular culture, social movement theory, and histories of science and technology, it offers a compelling narrative of a key episode in the recent history of popular resistance.

Dolores L. Augustine is a Professor of History at St. John’s University, New York. She received her doctorate from the Free University of Berlin. Her publications include Patricians and Parvenus: Wealth and High Society in Wilhelmine Germany and Red Prometheus: Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990.

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present Environmental Studies (General)
Area: Germany


List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms/Glossary


Chapter 1. Nuclear Dreams and Radioactive Nightmares: Popular Culture and the Quest for Nuclear Consensus in East and West Germany, 1945-1970
Chapter 2. On the Brink of Disaster?: Safety Regimes and Nuclear Accidents in the Two Germanys
Chapter 3. Dissenting Voices: The Emergence of Counter-Experts in West Germany
Chapter 4. From Local Roots to National Prominence: The Struggle over Wyhl
Chapter 5. Environmentalism as Civil War: Brokdorf—and the Consequences
Chapter 6. The Shock of Chernobyl and the Environmentalist Breakthrough in West Germany
Chapter 7. Not Immune to Error: Chernobyl’s Impact in the GDR
Chapter 8. Abandoning Nuclear Power—Or Not?



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