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close this bookScience, Hegemony and Violence (UNU, 1988, 301 p.)
close this folder4. Atomic physics: The career of an imagination
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By World War II, capitalism had lost its poetic power, and the free market lay as a desiccated myth. At this juncture, science took over as the sustaining force of the liberal imagination. In the discourses of university dons, science was the model of communitas. The Republic of Science was deemed an open society, sustaining a creative tension between individual initiative and collective truth. In this more liberal world, the scientific method was substituted for the invisible hand and Popper and Polanyi became the Adam Smiths of this new regime.

This contemporary theology of science has been challenged from three perspectives. First, from within the philosophy of science itself, Thomas Kuhn has redrawn science as a totalitarian gestalt, observing heretically that science, like Stalinism, rewrites histories, in which the defeated became non-persons. Second, from political psychology (trying to come to grips with the Nazi phenomenon) came the writings of Arendt, Bettelheim and Frankl. They have shown that as rational structures the concentration camp and the research laboratory were easy bed-fellows, that Eichmann had the particularly prized quality we call scientific detachment. Frankl summed up this argument in his observation that the 'gas chambers of Auschwitz and Treblinka were ultimately prepared, not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.' 1 Third, complementing these critiques in filigreed detail, if not philosophical power, are the writings of journalists chronicling the scandal called science: the works of reporters like Daniel Greenberg, Gordon Ratray Taylor and Edward Goldsmith. To this last genre belongs the work of the Viennese journalist, Robert Jungk.

Robert Jungk is the most comprehensive historian of the nuclear regime. He represents liberal humanism at its best - secular, rational, aesthetic, Erasmian; he is knowledgeable about evil but always surprised by it. This vision stems not solely from the impeccable sociography of a liberal humanist Jew, but also from his self-view as a survivor (he barely escaped death in a Nazi concentration camp). As a survivor of one holocaust, he has become the futurologist of another, goaded by the memory of one to warn against the possible occurrence of another. Jungk sees nuclear energy as cancerous imagination, and his books are an attempt to understand its career.

His Tomorrow Is Already Here2 is a study of America as a threat to the liberal future; Brighter Than a Thousand Suns3 is the classic history of the making of the atom bomb; Children of the Ashes4 is a study of the survivors of Hiroshima, of death as vivisection contending with death as sacrifice; The Big Machines is a gentler essay on the research laboratory CERN, where Americanized science sought to recover its lost European civitas; and, finally, The Atom Staat,6 a statement of nuclear energy as occidental despotism.

Underlying the anecdotal richness of the books, one discerns a set of typological constructs that determines the structure of the narrative. These are the proverbial dualisms of western science: the hiatus between the secular and the sacred, sciences and humanities, truth and power, theory and praxis. Even in his moment of uniqueness, the scientist as hero remains a creature of this captive text. The theatre for the ritual enactment was inevitably the modern university. The modern university encapsulated in the classificatory organization of its faculties these dualisms, representing also a particular relationship between knowledge and power, and the various forms of knowledge as power. Jungk becomes the master story-teller in his pages on 'Once there was a university in a town called Gngen.'

Jungk sees nuclear physics as socio-drama. He observes that each age finds a peculiar site to act out its fantasies. It becomes a magical domain that attracts the most gifted and adventurous. Atomic physics possessed such a magnetic power after World War I. By that time, the researches of Rutherford, Bohr, Planck and Einstein had ruptured the nineteenth-century world of fin de sie physics, altering the epistemic relations between subject and object, cause and effect, observer and observed. Physicists had begun their lovers' quarrel with the Newtonian world. It was a moment of discovery which became a moment of communitas: 'Old and young became comrades of this journey into the interior.'7 Otto Frisch recounts an anecdote about Bohr's seminar, where

A young scientist [Lev Landau] sat down on a lecture bench tired from his walk and lay down flat on his back. In that position he continued arguing and gesticulating at Niels Bohr who was bending over him, earnestly trying to convince him that he was wrong. Neither of the two appeared to be aware that this was an unusual way of conducting a scientific discussion before an audience.8

At Munich, under Sommerfield, the conversation would move to the cafes where

Marble topped tables were covered with scribbled mathematical formulas The waiters had strict instructions never to wipe the tables without special permission. For if a problem had not been solved by the time the cafe had closed for the night, further calculations were carried out the following evening. It happened fairly often that some unknown person would have the audacity to jot down the solution during the interval.9

Years later, when the mathematician John von Neumann emigrated to America, he longed for these cafes 'where one could gossip for hours over a cup of coffee'. He even thought of investing his savings in one such institution. When his American colleagues objected that the citizens of Princeton would not know what to do with a Viennese cafe, von Neumann replied, 'Don't bother about that, we'll recruit a few of our European colleagues. They will sit in my cafe every afternoon for a few days just to show you how it's done.'10

In Homeric epics, the bard would list the names of the ships sailing off to war, the very names sounding a magical incantation. Jungk's list of scientists who passed through Gngen in those years has a similar incantation. There were the childlike George Gamow, the gentle James Franck, Dirac and Pauli, the American wunderkind, Jules Robert Oppenheimer, Lev Landau and Norbert Wiener, Houtermans and Blackett, Fermi and Rabi and Heisenberg and Weizacker. The account reads like a troubadour singing of the romance of a distant court. These were the beautiful years of nuclear physics, of science at play, of discovery and communitas. That, combined with the epistemic openness of atomic physics, made up the paradigm for the liberal imagination. One is reminded of Rilke's lines - a thing of terror conceived in a moment of beauty....

In 1949, an old scientist at the company town of Los Alamos made a confession to Jungk. His outburst serves both as an epitaph for atomic physics and as the problematique of this genre of books. The scientist exclaimed:

What an extraordinary and incomprehensible thing, my whole youth was absolutely devoted to truth, freedom and peace, yet fate has seen it fit to deposit me here where my freedom is limited, the truth that I am trying to discover is locked behind massive gates and the ultimate aim of my work has to be the construction of the most hideous weapons of war. Could fate have been more perverse?11

It is the Dostoyevskyian paradox of freedom culminating in tyranny and being resolved in a many-layered fashion. Jungk wonders repeatedly whether the subversion of science was caused by the external environment of politics or whether its perversions were inherent in, and normal to, it. What emerges is a split-level analysis - a synchronic portrait of the repertoire of roles available to the scientist during a crisis of conscience and a description of the basic changes in the structure of the nuclear regime.

Jungk is a master of what anthropologists call thick description. The multitude of anecdotes he provides coalesce into a choreography of positions available to science in relation to the violence of the atom bomb as a social fact. Within such a perspective, scientists like Einstein, Szilard, Teller, Bohr and Oppenheimer appear not as idiosyncratic figures but as permutations within a scientific code. Names become role tags listing various possibilities as the table shows.

We begin with Enrico Fermi's statement, 'Don't bother me about your conscientious scruples. After all, the thing is beautiful physics.'12 It embodies a picture of apartheid science - aloof from politics. The accompanying positions reflect various amalgams of the scientific and the political.

The atomic scientists realized the irrevocable nature of the bomb which had triggered forces science could no longer control. They sought for a Maxwell's demon to control the entropy of the resulting socio-political system. Inevitably, one of the first models offered was the social organization of science itself as a model of communitas. Archetypal of this attitude were the efforts of the Danish physicist, Niels Bohr. The great physicist believed that the scientific community was the homunculus of the future international order.

Good science, indifferent politics

Social organization of science as a model of politics

Use of politics to further science

Political control of science





Scientization of politics

Scientist as political Prometheus

Retreatism without retrieval


Von Neumann

Klaus Fuchs


Helen Smith


Alternative science

Good science, bad science

Humanist Hamlet, Promethean scientist

Norbert Wiener

Nazi Science

Hans Bethe


Pure science had managed to avoid the violence of war by sublimating it into agonal play. The scientific paper was a precious gift, and it circulated in joyous exchanges between the three centres at the Cavendish, Gngen and Denmark. Every conference was a kind of potlatch, each scientist showering the others with knowledge in return for eponymous recognition.

The internationalism of science withstood the pressures of war. When the English scientist, James Chadwick, was interned in a war camp during World War I, his German teachers, Nernst and Reubens, helped him establish a small laboratory where he carried out important researches. Even during World War II, Wolfgang Getner saved his former teacher's laboratory in occupied France. When the German was appointed director of Joliot-Curie's laboratory, the two sat in a cafe and drew up an agreement on the back of a menu card that Joliot's laboratory would never be used for research devoted to war. For Bohr, scientists were never at war. He hoped to use this internationalism of science to bridge the hostility between nations, particularly between the USA and USSR. Hoping to initiate informal contacts that would facilitate an arms control agreement, he approached Roosevelt and Churchill for permission. Of the fate of the first interview, we know little; but the report of the second reveals the endemic dualism of knowledge and power. Churchill listened to the physicist for half an hour in silence and then turned around to his scientific adviser and asked, 'What is he really talking about? Politics or physics?'13

If Bohr proposed science as the model of the ideal polls, Edward Teller used politics to perpetuate science by promising to perpetuate politics. Lewis Strauss, chairman of the AEC, once remarked that there were three kinds of scientists: pure, applied and political. The last category sums up his henchman; Teller embodies the scientist as a political lobbyist playing on military and political fears to obtain larger financial sanctions for research. All he needed was the sealing-wax morality of Reader's Digest anti-communism. The father of the H-Bomb was the first of the 'sputnik scientists', scientists who played on political fears to perpetuate their own research interests.

Opposing them was a larger group of scientists who believed that it was only political organizations that could control science. These scientists, led by Szilard and Franck, participated in the democratic process, urging greater public understanding and control of science. Szilard and Franck represent the scientist as political visionary. By 1945, Szilard had already proposed international supervision of the entire product cycle of uranium. His futuristic measures included partial surrender of national sovereignty, Soviet police on American soil and vice versa. Ironically, while the scientist campaigned for the political control of science, the politician, with odd objectivity, realized that science as a text was politically indifferent. This increased the catchment area from which scientists could be recruited to further national policies. Jungk reports that despite the protests of scientists, the USA recruited former Nazi personnel who had worked on V-2 rockets to assist the armaments industry. Needless to say, Soviet Russia matched this ideological cynicism.

The indifference of science to context and ecologies makes it a powerful vector, an exponential virus. The effects are immediately obvious in the scientization of various domains, particularly modern politics through the introduction of game theory. Game theory was an innovation of von Neumann. Game theory facilitated the planning of future nuclear wars. For von Neumann's computer, 'the end of the world was only one more question to be answered by calculation'.14 Neumann's scenarios and the later ones of Herman Kahn represent science as a futurological exercise. They represent the eventual denial of the meaning of death in the scientific community, of Thanatos that lacks a supporting eschatology.

What frightens one is the poverty of language in these scenarios. The end of the world has been an important and continuous concern. Yet these impoverished scenarios lack an occult dimension, the poetry that magic and religion provide. They are numbers sans numerology, calendars sans ritual, the emptiness of clock time pretending to be history.

When Oppenheimer was defeated in the struggle to control the superbomb, he summed up his reactions thus:

I find myself in profound anguish over the fact that no ethical discussion of any weight or nobility has been addressed to the problem of atomic weapons.... What are we to think of such a civilization which has not been able to talk of the prospect of killing everyone except in prudential game theoretic terms.15

Jungk sees this as the greatest threat to the liberal imagination; and we shall elaborate it later.

Returning to the repertoire of models, we now confront a most cryptic figure in the scientist-as-politician Klaus Fuchs. Jungk's terse pages on him are fascinating and suggestive. They consist basically of two long extracts, one from an interview with the scientist's father, a Quaker pastor, and another from a long essay by a family friend, Margaret Hager.

In modern mass media as ersatz folklore, Klaus Fuchs is the scientist who betrayed a generation, the scientist who delivered the atomic secret to Russia. But in Jungk's report, the espionage agent as traitor becomes a quiet Prometheus. Fuchs' act had all the irrevocability of the Promethean enterprise. It altered human history, shattering the American monopoly of the bomb, ironically unleashing the race for the 'super' bomb. Like the Promethean gift, it was a stolen one and thus perpetually embedded in violence and guilt. Fuchs' father remarks, 'I can understand his extreme inward distress.... He said to himself: "If I don't take this step, this imminent danger to humanity will never cease." '16 If the Promethean spirit of arrogance and doubt adheres to any scientist, it is to Klaus Fuchs. Like Prometheus, Fuchs was forced to live with the strange ambivalence of the stolen gift. Like Prometheus, he was the real thief of fire; he stole fire from the men who played God. In his acceptance of punishment lies a touch of grandeur that all Oppenheimer's later crucifixion fails to capture. Yet, ironically, in a small way, the scientist as the political Prometheus is still captive to the scientific text. The scienticized world has psychiatrized the language of guilt. One of the opening lines of Fuchs' confession reads: 'My father was a parson and I had a happy childhood.'17 One is almost afraid of a link between toilet training and the atomic bomb.

Margaret Hager, a family friend, contends that by contemporary standards of morality Fuchs was guilty, and maintains that he was so that 'nations, individuals and humanity at large might learn in principle where the present social organization is taking us'.18 She believed that Fuchs' act was morally a stopgap, safeguarding the human race in its forward movement to a more creative humanity. Hager's observations tempt one to complete the Promethean myth as in Plato's Protagoras:

Then Prometheus, seeing man was defenceless, stole fire. Now men were in a position to maintain themselves from day to day. But each lived apart. When they tried to form communities they failed and quarrelled to death amongst themselves. Then Zeus, touched by pity for man, sent Hermes to make up for Prometheus' deficiency. Hermes brought to man the civic art of justice and order that men might live peacefully together on earth.19

In the final pages of The Atom Staat,20 Jungk explores such a return to Hermes.

The description, so far, has sought to emphasize the political reconstruction of science. The next list of possibilities centres round the social construction of the scientific role itself. We begin with retreatism. Einstein, and, later, Oppenheimer returned to the seclusion of Princeton to speculate on the pure sciences. Their attempt marked the return of pure science to monasticism, but the monastery was the most exclusive of scientific clubs, the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton. The Institute reflected the pursuit of pure science as truth leavened with humanism, seeking to build pathways between the 'villages of art and the villages of science'. Here the pure scientist had annulled the pretension of applied science to call itself scientific, contending that technicist science was an instrument of power. Einstein's retreatism was marked by intermittent forays into politics. He told Ervin Strauss, his scientific assistant at Princeton, 'Yes, we now have to divide up our time between politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics is only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands for ever.'21 His name continued to be associated with a rag-bag of pacifist movements. Jungk tells the story of Lew Kowarski, Joliot-Curie's associate. The Polish gr/I>scientist, later to spearhead the French atomic effort, once asked a group of young American academics what they were discussing. They replied, 'Oh, we are just wondering what we are going to say in Einstein's latest letter to the President!'22

There is a touch of Francis of Assisi about Einstein; the same compassion and gentleness. The secluded Princeton institute in fact resembles the great monasteries of the Middle Ages seeking to preserve culture against encroaching barbarism. Yet, behind the music of intentions, one senses the same captive disjunctions between knowledge and power, the arts and the sciences, pure science and applied science. One is reminded of Walter Miller's Table of the nuclear age, The Canticle for Leibowitz.23

It is a tale of a strange epoch, in which a group of monks live in the wilderness preserving religion after the great cataclysm called the fallout. A young monk discovers within a sarcophagus, actually a fallout shelter, a circuit diagram and an accompanying set of words. Its meaning eluded the monks, but they treated it as sacred, preserving it in the finest calligraphy, a relic of a-great saint. Through gradual exegesis, they decoded the diagram and its accompanying text, and the story ends with the world once again engulfed in a fallout.

There are two alternatives which Jungk mentions but never explores in detail. These are the possibilities of an alternative science and the notion of renunciation. He mentions the case of one of Max Born's English students, Helen Smith, who, when she realized the possible applications of the atom bomb gave up physics for jurisprudence. The renunciation of scientific research seems remote to the progressive rhetoric of science. Science can be organized, redirected, but not renounced. Implicit in the genetic structure of science is a technological Circe who programs every 'can' to mean a 'must' - that is, whatever technological reality indicates as feasible is interpreted as morally imperative. 'Can', a neutral statement of feasibility, is raised to 'ought', a normative imperative.24 It is the can-implies-ought tenor of science that accounts for the instability of many of the solutions. Jungk hints that science as a cognitive system lacks a notion of restraint, the equivalent of an incest taboo. All it possesses is the proverbial package of dualisms. You can save the head but not the heart.

If renunciation appeared remote, even self-imposed restriction seemed problematic. But it is a pragmatic policy and deserves consideration. One recalls Heisenberg's observation that the self-imposed restriction of a dozen scientists in the 1930s would have halted the atom bomb. Ironically, it is the German scientists under Hilter - Max von Laue, Houtermans, Weizacker - who secretly decided that they would 'avoid working for Hitler's war machine or only make a presence of doing so'.25 Sadly, this is in sharp contrast with the almost paranoid frenzy with which Allied scientists went for the bomb. Jungk cites von Laue's statement, sad and sardonic, that 'no one ever invents anything that he does not really want to invent'.26

In the post-war era, a specific proposal regarding the restriction of scientific communication was made by the American mathematician, Norbert Wiener. Wiener believed that the scientist must take personal responsibility for the results of his research rather than hide under the cloak of value-neutrality. When an American armaments firm requested Wiener for one of his papers, he refused, stating 'that to disseminate information about a weapon in the present state of civilization is to make practically certain that the weapon will be used'. He added: 'If therefore I do not desire to participate in the bombing or poisoning of defenceless people - and I most certainly do not - I must take a serious responsibility as to those to whom I disclose my scientific ideas.'27 Jungk reports that Wiener's ideas were decisively repudiated by the scientific community which contended, with a sense of the mysterious, that no one could predict the final consequences of one's research. In this milieu Wiener's statement comes as breath of fresh air.

The necessity for an alternative science, that is, a science grounded in an altogether different metaphysics, was not seriously considered because of the coerciveness of immediate history. Possibly because of his faith in humanism, but also because of the spectre of Nazi science, Jungk himself dismissed the notion of such an alternative. The Nazi regime forced the dismissal of some of the finest physicists from Gngen replacing Jews with mediocre party functionaries. Jungk's sentiments regarding an alternative science are captured in an anecdote he relates about Gngen in the Nazi era. About a year after the great purge, the mathematician David Hilbert was seated in the place of honour next to the Nazi minister of education. The minister asked, 'Is it really true, Professor, that your institute suffered from the departure of Jews and their friends?' The scientist replied, 'Suffered? No, it didn't suffer, Herr Minister. It just doesn't exist anymore.'28 The perfidies of Nazi and Stalinist science have given the idea of an alternative science a parochial or totalitarian odour of politically distorted truth. Yet one feels today a deep need to work out the axioms of an alternative science. For example, the ethical power of the anti-vivisection movement needs to be separated from the fact that Hitler and Mussolini were advocates of such idea. Faddism and political accident must be separated from the logic of an alternative metaphysics.

Jungk is ruthlessly honest in exposing the unstable nature of many of the solutions caught in the dualistic grid of western science as a collective representation. We observe cases of official science and extracurricular humanism, of atoms for peace and atoms for war. We have cases of scientists warning the public against the dangers of atomic warfare while simultaneously pursuing a science devoted to it. This instabilitymarks the remarkable scientists' movement against the bomb. Inspired by Szilard, Franck and Einstein, the scientists' movement had all the innocence and futility of a children's crusade. Its initial successes were impressive. It was mainly because of their efforts that civilian control of atomic energy became possible. Yet it is this great movement that reveals that idealism alone is inadequate. To understand this, one has to see it through the cynical eyes of General Groves, overall military co-ordinator of the bomb. Leslie Groves is usually portrayed as a bumbling peasant among the aristocratic scientists of Los Alamos. When Groves observed the initial retreat from the company town of Los Alamos back to the freedom of the university, the shrewd peasant in him made him retort that 'his little sheep would find their way back'.29 He was right. By 1947, the scientists' crusade against the bomb had failed and they were trudging back to Los Alamos. Groves remarked later, 'What happened is what I expected, that after they had this extreme freedom for six months, their feet began to itch, and, as you know, almost everyone has come back to government research because it was just too exciting.'30 Jungk analyses this pendulum-like swing between good science and bad science through the career of Hans Bethe, an outstanding physicist.

During the war years, possibly because he was an gr/I>from Nazi Germany, Hans Bethe felt no qualms about atomic research. But after the bombing of Hiroshima, his attitude changed. He felt personally responsible and became a leading opponent of armaments research. He left Los Alamos, returned to the university and established at Cornell an outstanding centre for theoretical physics. Jungk's description turns biblical here. He reports that in the middle of 1949, 'That paradise of pure research was invaded by Teller, advocate of the Hell bomb. Teller intended to lead Bethe to temptation. He begged him to return to Los Alamos for one year, since his collaboration in the production of the bomb was indispensable.'31 When offers of money failed to work, Teller offered the prospect of knowledge, new insight into thermonuclear reactions and the opportunity of working with new computing machines, hitherto restricted to military uses. Bethe was flattered but hesitant. He sought the advice of his colleagues. He saw Oppenheimer at Princeton, but the scientist was ambiguous. Then, during a walk with his friends Placzek and Weisskopf, Bethe became convinced that in a nuclear war there were no victors, for 'We would lose the very thing we fought for.'32 Between 1949 and 1950, Hans Bethe still remained an extreme opponent of the bomb. He was among the twelve scientists who questioned Truman's ordinance to pursue research into the H-Bomb. These twelve condemned the act as genocidal, inimical to the basic tenets of Christianity. Yet by 1951, Hans Bethe, along with Oppenheimer, was participating enthusiastically in H-Bomb research.

Jungk asks, 'How does one explain such macabre enthusiasm which has swept away all earlier scruples and objections...?'33 Oppenheimer himself provides a clue in his later ruminations:

It is my judgement that when you see something that is technically sweet you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you had your technical success. That was the way it was with the atomic bomb. I do not think anybody opposed the making of it. There were some debates about what to do after it was made. I cannot very well imagine if we had known in late 1949 what we got to know by early 1951 the tone of our report would have been the same.34

It is this technicist imperative (what the scientist finds 'technically sweet', he finds nothing less than irresistible) that haunts Jungk.

Probably the most fascinating figure in this danse macabre is the American scientist, Jules Robert Oppenheimer. Jungk captures the idiosyncratic uniqueness of the man and yet reveals his archetypal qualities as scientist. Even in the epic world of Gngen, Oppenheimer acquired a legendary reputation as the wunderkind, 'often improvising on the spur of the moment entire dissertations so that hardly anyone else had a chance to speak'.35 But the prodigy of the Gngen, era realized that the Muses had eluded him in the later years. While his contemporaries - Pauli, Dirac, Heisenberg - had enormous contributions behind them, Oppenheimer was still not associated with any major discovery. It was at this stage that he was asked to co-ordinate the construction of the atom bomb. As a scientific orchestrator, Oppenheimer was a genius, truly the Toscannini of the atom bomb, a theoretical physicist with experimental brilliance, a polymath who could discuss Proust, Dante, the Gita and pure physics with equal verve, a fox among the scientific hedgehogs. Jungk repeatedly cites the zeal with which Oppenheimer pursued his study of the Gita or his explorations into literature. He recounts that Oppie joined the University of California at Berkeley because of a few old books, the enchanting collection of sixteenth and seventeenth-century French poetry in the library. In his preface, Jungk writes that if Shakespeare had to write Hamlet today, he would have made Hamlet not a prince but an atomic scientist.

What Jungk reveals, however, is that it is a humanist Hamlet struggling against a scientific Prometheus. In fact, it is Oppenheimer who reveals the weaknesses of humanism in controlling science. When the bomb exploded, this was the man who exclaimed that the scientist had known sin. Yet this is the same man whose role in the bombing of Hiroshima was described as providing a technical answer to a technical question, and who participated enthusiastically in the final plans for the H-Bomb. One has to confront the eerie power of the man. He is both innocence and evil, the idiot and the possessed, scientific sophisticate and political innocent, emerging eventually as the most Dostoyevskyian figure in modern science. The other roles mentioned become mere refractions of this archetypical portrait of the scientist as hero. Jungk unravels the structure of this modern myth brilliantly. His interpretation is reminiscent of Akiro Kurosawa's film 'Rashomon' where the same event is seen through three separate viewpoints. Similarly we have three separate variants of the Oppenheimer legend: Oppenheimer as the scientist crucified, followed by Oppenheimer as a self-confessed Judas. But the obviousness of the two stories screens the other equally real picture of Oppenheimer as Pontius Pilate. We begin with the first two versions.

The post-war years saw the heightening of what Durkheim might have termed Oppenheimer's 'mana'. Unlike many other scientists who had retreated to their specialist warrens, Oppenheimer remained a public figure, a charismatic presence translating the esoteric adventures of science to the public at large. Aristocratically distant and yet strangely populist, to the common man he was the scientist as hero. But to the paranoid world of militarist America, he was the hesitant egghead, dithering over the H-Bomb, a rootless scientific intellectual and therefore a security risk. Adding drama to this was the struggle between the two scientists, Teller and Oppenheimer. The man who orchestrated the atom bomb was hesitant about the H-Bomb, while Teller was its most frenzied advocate. The militarist pressure groups manoeuvred an investigation into Oppenheimer's activities, and he was deprived of his security clearance. Oppenheimer became a scientific Dreyfus, stripped of his epaulettes by the country he served. The humiliation of Oppenheimer stirred the public who saw in him the conscience-stricken symbol of the atomic age. 'Even before the proceedings had started, the halo of martyrdom was already bestowed on him.'36

The picture of the scientist as political martyr is then juxtaposed to the picture of the scientist as Judas, particularly because of Oppenheimer's self-confessed betrayal of Haakon Chevalier. In the mid-thirties, Oppenheimer had an elaborate but erratic network of leftist contacts, which he later abandoned. To the American intelligence this fact, however, made him politically suspect. Oppenheimer had been appointed director of Los Alamos despite their objections. Refusing to relent, they kept him under perpetual scrutiny. Succumbing to their hound-like persistence to identify his alleged communist contacts, Oppenheimer invented a colourful story of Chevalier as a communist agent.

Haakon Chevalier, a lecturer in Romance languages in California, was a close friend of Oppenheimer. The two friends spent hours discussing Anatole France and Proust and trying recipes in Oppenheimer's kitchen. Chevalier never realized that Oppenheimer had implicated him. He was subjected to continuous harassment and eventually forced to leave for Paris, where he worked as a translator. Unaware that Oppenheimer was the source of his troubles, Chevalier wrote to him to help him obtain a security clearance. The two friends met in France in 1953, when Chevalier recounted his problem again. Even then Oppie never confessed that he had betrayed Chevalier. On taking leave, he embraced him and his wife. Haakon Chevalier was to shudder later at the recollection of this parting gesture.

The dramatic power of the two variants cannot be denied.

The trial of Oppenheimer had all the stuff of drama, anguish, doubt and ambiguity of a conscience-stricken scientist. The Chevalier affair adds to it. It emphasizes the human frailty of the man in power. The composite picture is that of Oppenheimer as Dreyfus-Galileo, ersatz images that emphasize vulnerability to disguise power. But the subversive power of modern science as myth lay precisely in this. It transformed the vivisector into the sacrificial lamb. As subtle a historian as George de Santillana wrote an essay exploring the similarities between the Oppenheimer and Galileo trials. Even the struggle of the survivors of Hiroshima lacks the mythical power, the poetry of the trial and exile of Jules Robert Oppenheimer. The FBI once convicted the gangster Al Capone for an income tax evasion, an irony which escaped no one. But history offers a greater irony: Oppenheimer was convicted falsely and thus enabled to escape a more serious charge. A petty conviction covered the trial of a war criminal. It is this that we must confront, a seeming innocence that hides genocidal intent. The portrait of Oppenheimer as Judas Iscariot obscures the element that is missing in the triptych: Oppenheimer as Pilate washing his hands of genocide.

We are not merely talking of Oppenheimer's fascination with power, his need to cling to it. Many of the younger scientists were disappointed that he distanced himself from the scientists' crusade against the bomb, with his truth-by-expert-committee approach. They felt that the scientist who claimed he had known sin had made no suggestion as to how he might show remorse in a practical form. We are not even considering his pendulum swings between official science and extracurricular anguish. What makes him Pilate is the eerie inocence of pure science washing its hands of genocidal guilt.

Talking to a French diplomat after the war regarding the prospect of establishing a supra-national European laboratory, Oppenheimer emphasized that the proposed laboratory should be devoted, not to the development of atomic energy and nuclear engineering, but to pure, application-free, fundamental research. Oppenheimer added in the course of the conversation that 'the bomb was in fact no more than a gadget. Now we should be allowed to return to deeper problems.'37 The finality and naively of this statement is amazing. It is as if he had dismissed the applied scientist, the Faust, in him as an aberration. One is reminded of the equally atrocious statement cited by that hagiographer of science, C. P. Snow, that 'when the bomb exploded the scientists were sad and the technicians happy'. This kind of statement can disguise two falsehoods. First, it ignores the technicist imperative within science; and, second, it ignores the scientists' responsibility for the bombing of Hiroshima.

Much is made of the feud between Teller and Oppenheimer. But this struggle only disguises the vivisectional unity of the two opponents. Teller appears as a one-dimensional Oppenheimer, the scientist who had stopped reading his humanist classics. Yet, despite such differences they merge into one another. Both co-operated in the making of the H-Bomb. Oppenheimer does not lose to Teller, he becomes Teller. Behind the occasional humanist anguish is the modern death mask. Oppenheimer is no longer the scientist who has known sin. One senses no pain in him. It is as if he had computed the atomic weight of a new element and moved on. There is no atonement. He encounters guilt in the manner one measures temperature. In Oppenheimer's career we observe not the resolution of moral anguish, but the bureaucratic closure, not heroic denouement but the closing of a file. The scientist as hero collapses into the organization man. He who had read Dante turns out eventually to be a clerk. He who boasted of having read the Gita remains only a fragile humanist. This eventually raises an important question: Can humanism control science, deepen it? Or is it only a quarrelsome sibling, competitive but eventually complementary to it? Jungk attempts to answer the question through a diachronic portrait of the nuclear regime.


The writings of Jungk possess a mimetic quality in the manner in which each work mirrors the epoch described. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, a study of the physicist as the fallen hero, has an epic quality about it. Science in this era possessed hints of the medievalism of the chivalric knighthood and craft guilds. Tomorrow Is Already Here, a portrait of industrialized science, has all the terseness and immediacy of a newspaper report. It is almost a subversive mimicking of the manufacture of information in a mass society. The difference in style between the two books provides a clue to Jungk's perception of the changes in the nature of the nuclear regime.

Jungk discerns three major changes in the movement from one epoch to another: the degeneration of science as a play form; the shift within science from epistemic uncertainty to vivisectionist hegemony; and the displacement of science from the university to the company town. All three are symptomatic of the transformation of western liberalism into occidental despotism, heralding the coming of the atom staat.

For Jungk, as for many western intellectuals, the university, rather than the market-place, was the seedbed of the liberal imagination. Unlike the market which eroded the fraternity of the medieval aristocracy and craft guilds, the university employed heraldry, chivalric codes and craft rituals to create and maintain the fraternity of a modern democratic knowledge system. While both market and university emphasized formal freedom, the latter was successful in embedding it in a framework of communitas. Robert Jungk is fascinated by the ludic quality of the modern university, which was the domain of play. The early years of nuclear physics were the beautiful years precisely because they were the playful years. Jungk does not formally employ the notion of play, but it is implicitly present in his ethnography of physics at Gngen

The category of play38 seeks to understand a cultural form that transcends the more mundane sociological dichotomy between work and leisure, between the serious and the non-serious. Baldly stated, play is any rule-bound voluntary activity, conducted within strict but arbitrarily defined limits, disinterestedly pursued without any specific intention of material gain. As an aesthetic form, it embodies a search for order, an activity deemed valid in and of itself. Jungk perceives pure science as a distinct play form. The paradigms of pure science embody a search for order, and as order is a thing of beauty, we have the affinity of pure science to aesthetics. Pure science is theoria which justifies itself in terms of poesis rather than praxis in that the performance of the scientific act is legitimate in itself. From this we derive the notion of science for science's sake. Rules become important in this context, and any deviation, such as the search for utility, threatens the very existence of the play form. It was this sense of play that made Rutherford insist that his work on the atom was useless, for his was a search for order and beauty, not utility. More particularly, it reveals the understanding that pure science as play must be conducted within strict limits, that play is always enacted within a bounded space that must not be ruptured.

One is reminded of Jungk's story of David Hilbert. While addressing a Gngen meeting, the crusty mathematician remarked, 'One hears a lot of talk about the hostility between scientists and engineers. I don't believe in any such thing. In fact, I am quite certain that there is no such thing. There can't possibly be anything in it because neither side has anything to do with each other.'39 What appears as the arrogance of the pure scientist embodies a deeper grain of wisdom. The osmotic distinction between pure science and applied science is the only system of in-built control which prevents the erosion of pure science as a play form. Pure science as play also embodies a notion of seriousness. Jungk narrates a story about Rutherford. Failing to attend a British defence meeting on enemy submarines during World War I, the New Zealander was censured for his absence, but retorted without embarrassment, 'Talk softly please. I have been engaged in experiments which suggest that the atom can be artificially disintegrated. If it is true, it is of far greater importance than war.'40 Huizinga notes that play can rise to the heights of beauty and sublimity which leaves seriousness far beneath: 'The inferiority of play is continually offset by the superiority of its seriousness.'41 This statement embodies the cosmic playfulness of physicists like Bohr, Rutherford, Einstein and Pauli in the beautiful years. Yet, paradoxically, the seeds of the atom staat lay in the eerie innocence of this ludic community.

Pure science as play was an aesthetic form sans ethics. In emphasizing the dangers of pursuing science for science's sake, Jungk recounts his encounter with a mathematician he met on his last visit to Los Alamos. 'His face was wreathed in a smile of almost angelic beauty. He looked as if his gaze was fixed upon the world of harmonies. But in fact he told me later he was thinking about a mathematical problem whose solution was essential to the construction of a new type of H-Bomb.'42 Jungk adds that this scientist never bothered to watch the trial explosion of any of the bombs he had helped produce. To him 'research for nuclear weapons was just pure mathematics untrammelled by blood, poison or destruction.'43

Play remains play because of its sense of limits, a realization that it embodies an 'as-if' world played out within strictly defined limits. It is the degeneration of the play form contaminating the serious that horrifies Jungk. This occurs in two ways. First, science as play is taken over-seriously and, like other play forms such as modern sport, becomes overorganized. As science gets managerialized, it is bereft of its playfulness, consequently losing its celebration of artlessness, gladness and detachment.44 The second process involves the contamination of other domains by degenerate forms of pure science. Jungk cites the example of the entry of game theory into such serious domains as death, work, sexuality and politics. Game theory in these domains represents the degeneration of the ludic into the ludicrous:

These methods were spawned in the weapons laboratories of World War II to be tested on major military objectives. 'Thinking about the unthinkable' (as Herman Kahn put it) became the fashion and researchers staged elaborate games that took into account the destruction of entire nations and continents. This gave rise to an entire generation of scientifically trained gamblers oblivious of the inhuman implication of their models. At first only confined to military sciences, their methods have entered the civilian sector and found credence and application in governmental planning at all levels, including the decision making of the industrial complex.45

What impresses one is the reduction of the polysemic worlds of life and death to the formal language of the game. It is the poverty of language that astonishes one. Even death is no longer a cosmic phenomenon, but only an option to be weighed. Neither genocide nor nuclear destruction seems to be grasped through the wisdom of ordinary language. In the world of these new scientists, there is no cosmic rupture, only another managerial game where guilt, death, sin, all get decoded into the selfsame uniform flow to be controlled as game or sport. Not that science as play is not conducted in formal language, but at least it recognizes limits, realizing the polyvocality of ordinary life. Science as a puerile game attempts to reduce the world to a series of formal languages. The destruction of language anticipates the hegemonization of the atom staat.

It is the absence of an effective system of in-built controls in science that worries Jungk: that science has no innate sense of the sacred, of limits, of what it must not touch or must touch gently. Jungk reiterated that within the structure of the university community, the world of science finds its only checks in the humanities. One is fascinated by the ethnographic intensity with which Jungk details the various leading scientists who read poetry or philosophy. He emphasizes that Oppenheimer read Proust and Dante, that Teller wrote poems in secret and even translated the Hungarian works of Ady, that Heisenberg read Trollope. The humanist in him insists that he who has read Goethe cannot be a Faust. But the journalist in him catalogues the technicist imperative of science, the inability of the humanities to recode the scientific text in a more ethical direction. Jungk suggests that what made science impervious to the humanistic idiom was the vivisectional paradigm encoded into it. While the degeneration of pure science as play involves an alteration in form, vivisection relates to the very content of science.


Between the Descartian machine and the vivisectional code there lies a vital difference. The Descartian machine was not half as hegemonic as the latter. The ritualistic segregation of mind and body did recognize limits, allow for spaces which were non-, un-, pre-, scientific. It allowed for differences even if it hierarchized them. Vivisection, however, is indifferent. Everything is mechanical, so there are only more-or-less efficient machines. The laboratory, far from defining the limits of play, becomes the paradigm for the managerialization of the world. It is this that Jungk captures in Tomorrow Is Already Here.46 Science, to the liberal mind, represented knowledge contra power. But vivisection conflated the two by emphasizing the power of science as hegemonic truth. The politicization of science has unleashed the hegemonic power endemic in science.

The epistemic uncertainty of early quantum physics now appears an aberration. For a brief period it had returned the subject back to physics. But the machine was eventually to reassert its hegemony. The career of this cycle can be compared to equivalent phases in the other paradigm of modern science, management science. Scientific management under Winslow Taylor represented the Newtonian predictability of the object. The Human Relations School was temporarily overwhelmed to discover the importance of man as subject in the problem of productivity. Human relations, like quantum physics, occasionally celebrated uncertainty or free will of the subject. But the eventual response was to eliminate man, or to incorporate a less fallible man back into the mechanical code. Science built into its experimental procedure a more formalized vivisectional code, for it realized that that which it could not predict it could not control. Vivisection provides such a guarantee by scientizing the world.

For Jungk, the history of the body becomes the crucial variable for liberalism, so that the fate of the body as metaphor embodies the fate of a civilization. To the liberal mind, the body determined the boundary of the self and the other, and the relation between public and private domains. Liberalism believed in technological progress where the machine was an instrument of man, an extension of his body. The iconography of liberal homo faber, while it lacked an occult sensibility, portrayed the tool as an extension or projection of human sensibility. The body was the grid for the technological imagination, the hand and foot a measure in more than one sense. Vivisectionist technology introduced an inversion into iconography. While man hegemonized nature by mechanizing it, he himself entered into a perpetual foetal relation with the machine.

Jungk cites the picture of a modern pilot umbilically linked to a complex circuit of machines. Every act of technological control necessitates a further foetalization of man. The picture that comes to mind is Bruno Bettelheim's report on an autistic child, Joey, who insisted he was operated by machines. He had plugged himself to an elaborate support system made of radio tubes, light bulbs and breathing machines. During meals, he plugged himself into a socket to facilitate digestion. To Joey, the fact of having a body was insufferable. Security derived from being a machine, because if the parts were bad, they could be replaced by more effective spares. Joey treated his mind and body as mechanical parts to be discarded or replaced if they functioned badly. 'If he spilled something, he would remark, "I must break my arm, it does not work right." '47 Bettelheim cites Joey's case history as a cautionary tale of man losing his perspective as homo faber. Joey's attitude to machine is rorschach, reflecting the anxieties of the modern era. For Jungk, the logic of vivisection - that is, the indifference to the body as subject of the experiment - culminates in the science's attitude to the survivors of Hiroshima.

Jungk's Children of the Ashes48 has to be contrasted with another major work on the same survivors, Robert Jay Lifton's Death in life.49 The Yale psychiatrist published his study, far more comprehensive in detail, almost a decade later. Lifton studies the survivors within the matrix of relations between occupier and occupied, American and Japanese, white and yellow races. He locates the perception of survivor as patient primarily in his chapter entitled 'On Perceiving America'. He embeds the survivors' perception of being 'guinea pig material' as part of the trauma of race and defeat. As a result the language and content of science as objectification eludes him. Jungk's ethnology is far more sensitive to the nuances of the dualisms between research and healing, and to the notion of the patient as Taylorized spectacle submitting to the indifference of the clinical gaze. The events described in the book centre round the establishment of a clinic by the Atom Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC).

The bombing of Hiroshima brought, not a feeling of atonement, but a sense of opportunity. American scientists realized in the studies of radiation sickness the full possibilities of obtaining a Taylorized index of symptoms. Impressed by the pilot plant studies on radiation, the American defence secretary, James Forrestal, wrote a letter to Truman emphasizing 'this unique opportunity for learning the medical and biological effects of radiation', which 'would be of the highest significance for the US'.50 As a result ABCC inaugurated a special clinic for the study of radiation damage.

At first sight, the clinic was something out of a fairy-tale world. 'A patient would be examined for a whole day by the most outstanding specialists and in the most perfectly hygienic conditions. Indeed, the patient was even driven home and deposited at his own door without extra charge.... For many of them - particularly women and children - this was often their first automobile ride.'51 Closer scrutiny revealed that the fairy-tale clinic was a Taylorized scientific boudoir. What fascinates Jungk is the objectification endemic to the scientific act. In the case of Hiroshima it was further compounded by cultural dissonance. But Jungk is careful to differentiate between the two.

The atomic clinic was built at Hijayama Hill, a sanctified military cemetery, despite the protests of the mayor. The ultramodern style and elegance were a source of confusion to Japanese patients. Many skidded on their wooden sandals upon the polished floor. Signs on all doors were in English, and so patients were incapable of finding their way about. 'Many women would not dare go there without having first visited their hairdresser. Poor people such as casual labourers borrowed clothes from their neighbours in order to make a decent appearance.'52 The Japanese were accustomed to being examined by a single doctor, but in the clinic they were treated like something on a factory belt, passed on from one specialist to another. 'The doctors would take specimens of their blood, semen, bone marrow, skin tissues, the patients would be thumped, have lights shone in their eyes, be photographed and pumped full of serum and none of the specialists ever explained why or with what purpose all this was done to them.'53

The scientific attitude added to this impersonality. The researchers imagined that, in a place where patients could get no medical treatment from their own doctors, they could simply examine 'interesting cases', and after establishing the fact that thousands of such cases were suffering from this or that agony, send them home without treatment or even hope of treatment. Jungk remarks, 'The atomic clinic became a greater source of hatred than the bomb itself.'54 While many of the citizens could probably explain away the horror of the bombing itself as an act in war, they regarded the purely scientific activities of the ABCC as inexcusable.

Jungk's only comment on the cultural dissonance is his observation that Albert Schweitzer was often criticized for keeping his forest clinic in a primitive state, for refusing to equip it with the most modern technical devices. The experience of the ABCC with all its ultra-modern equipment shows that Schweitzer was right when he maintained that those who bring help to others must show by their behaviour that they approach in humility those they would help. But beyond the culture lag, what worries Jungk is the disjunction between research and healing:

If a patient were ever to ask the scientist at the clinic, 'What do you advise, doctor? What can I do to get well again?', the doctor's reply was always the same, 'This is not a therapeutic establishment but a scientific institute founded in collaboration with the Japanese health authorities with the exclusive object of carrying out research.'55

Why was it that almost no scientist at the Hijayama clinic offered to heal or help a patient?

The disjunction between research and healing has been explained at two levels. First, it is explained away as a political directive. Jungk remarks, 'American official policy from the very beginning up to the present day, has been adamant on one point. Any special treatment for the atom-bombed cities, any special treatment for bombed persons, has been absolutely denied.'56 To do so would have been to admit to a war crime. 'In some respects the radioactive rays disseminated by the bomb could practically be equated with the effects of poison gas.'57 It could thus be read as a contravention of international law and as a war crime. It was this mark of Cain that America refused to bear.

At the second level of explanation, Jungk suggests that the official dismissal of atonement compounds the vivisectionist paradigm of science. Modern science saw within radiation sickness a territory where symptoms could be studied in a Taylorized form. Jungk admits that some individual scientists objected and personally attempted to treat patients. Such efforts were treated as emotional outbursts, and some of the doctors were forced to submit to psychiatric care. Even the 'human relations' techniques only mask the subservience to the Taylorized world. When public hostility to ABCC became intensive, some scientists recommended the treatment of patients. But their letters ran as follows: 'With an increased effort to study more patients more thoroughly, and judiciously offer them therapy, there should be a marked increase in the rapport between the families and the ABCC. Then in the eventuality of death, it would be more possible to have worthwhile autopsies.' The clinic at Hijayama Hill did maintain a ten-bed diagnostic ward but it only dealt with interesting cases. 'It was a corpse production factory, to facilitate better experimentation.'58 The industrial attitude to death is awesome. In vivisection, death and disease are merely obsolescence to be studied experimentally. The vivisectionist act denies the pain of the survivor in the search for meaning and thus precludes the possibility of sacrifice.

Jungk's sense of the tragedy of liberalism is like that of Greek tragedy. He argues that the power of liberalism encodes a fatal flaw. He refers in particular to the liberal commitment to technological progress. But instead of resorting to the metaphors of Greek tragedy, Jungk explains it in the current archetypes of the technological imagination. For Jungk it is America as concept, as utopia, that has dominated current mythology. As a secular myth it has exercised a powerful fascination. America is the new world, the country without a past; it is the frontier, the land of endless opportunity; it is the future telescoped into the present. It is the epitome of Western technological civilization as the perpetual-motion machine. In Tomorrow Is Already Here,59 he explores the contradictions between liberal democracy and the liberal commitment to technological progress. Had Alexis Tocqueville become a science correspondent, he would have written such a book.

Jungk differentiates between the two variants of the myth of America as a frontier. The first is the classic myth of the old frontier glorified in the writings of Frederick Jackson Turner; the second is the myth of science encoded as a bureaucratic text in science-policy documents such as in Vannevar Bush's Science, the Last Frontier. Both frontier myths serve to differentiate Europe and America as cultural categories.

Turner argued that nineteenth-century America was not a patchwork of European traits but something unique. What made America different was the presence of the frontier; vast stretches of land symbolizing unlimited opportunity and an absence of rules. The frontier stripped the European migrant of his cultural baggage and endowed him with essentially American traits of strength, inventiveness and restless energy. It was the frontier which created American democracy and individualism. Yet, Jungk observes, the frontier, which both as myth and history shaped the American imagination, carried within it the seeds of tyranny. 'Looked at historically, the tendency away from freedom seems to spring from the same source which yesterday and the day before watered the tree of American liberty, that is, the constant striving to open up new domains, the constant pressure towards new boundaries.'60

The nature of violence encoded in each myth needs to be elaborated. America was a society born in genocidal violence. Yet, the structure of violence in the old frontier was still Promethean, of an individual struggling against great odds. It was the violence of colonization and anomie. It was violence towards the other, which rendered the other bestial, animal or savage; what was human had to be perceived as wild and animal to be encompassed into the notion of wilderness and conquered.

The structure of science as the new frontier, on the other hand, is hegemony of a different order: 'The battlegrounds of the new frontier lie in the science laboratories and workshops. It aspires not to ownership of land or conquest of any class or race.' It seeks, instead, the total domination of man over nature 'to recreate and organize a man-made cosmos, according to man-made laws.... It destroys whatever is primitive, whatever grows in disordered profusion or evolves through a patient mutation... nothing is left untouched, nothing unexplored.'61

The old frontier vision of creative violence is inadequate to understand the new genre of violence, of science as vivisection. While the violence of the old frontier was softened by Christian and humanist values, the violence of vivisectionist science is indifferent to context. The frontier was physical space, and thus subject to physical limits, to closure. But the vivisectionist science is a perpetual machine which creates continuous spaces through erasure and obsolescence. Science as the technological frontier is indifferent to both nature and culture. Nature appears a flawed machine; and culture, a mechanical artefact. The old frontier emphasized individual control, but now the individualism of the pioneer gives way to organized omnipotence. The new pioneer's individual impotence is the price for collective omnipotence. In the iconography of the old western, the gun was still an extension of the man's body. But in the new regime the body is an unstable factor to be replaced by a more reliable machine. Jungk observes:

Never before has the human species been subjected to such systematic tests as in the laboratories of American aviation medicine. Here weak flesh is valued only as material. It is examined as objectively and pitilessly as a textile fibre, as a metal alloy. They ask: what pressure can the lungs bear?... When does fear overcome spiritual and moral resistance? None of these things shall be left to chance. They even measure pain with the newly developed unit 'dolor'. They set up an equation for death by freezing, stake out a zone between consciousness and unconsciousness with a stopwatch.62

This text could easily have been transposed to the industrial research laboratories of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Death in the old frontier was still a personal encounter; it now yields to vivisectionist indifference, reflected in the bombing of Hiroshima.

Jungk believes that the new frontier also mediates the western categories of America and Europe. The America of technical omnipotence embraces both USA and Russia and differs from Europe. America, to Jungk, is Europe minus its humanism. One represents amnesic obsolescence, the other humanist memory. The question Jungk then asks is whether Europe can redeem America, restore to the frontier the values it has discarded in the drive towards technological progress. Can one offer the revived communitas of Gngen to the company town of Los Alamos? The return to Europe is inevitable. It is the heart the head now lacks. The Big Machine63 is an evaluation of such an exercise.


Mushrooming spontaneously across post-war Europe was a collective dream of an international science embodied in the internationalism of a laboratory, a belief 'that the Dutch, Swiss, French, Scandinavians, Italians, Germans, Belgians, British, could build something together, something that could belong to all of them'.64 As a consequence, they built at Geneva a high-energy physics laboratory, CERN, one of the great research centres of the modern world. CERN was to epitomize the internationalism of pure science. Its originators believed that pure science, to remain pure, must be delinked from technology. As an official explained, 'Atomic and hydrogen bombs have absolutely no place in the work done at CERN.' Bombs were gadgets, war toys peripheral to science, whose frontiers now lay, not in weapons laboratories, but in the high-energy physics centres at Brookhaven, Dubna and CERN. 'It was here that the family of nuclear physics scattered by politics was once again united.'65

The Big Machine is the story of the political, technical and organizational problems which arose in the construction of the giant particle accelerator at CERN, and the realization that a retreat to a simpler past, the Cavendish of Rutherford, was impossible. Rutherford's entire apparatus is still reverently kept in a small glass case at Cambridge. 'In his time, a few volts were adequate for the investigation of particles. Today research into the nucleus involves the mobilization of a few billion volts.'66 Almost prophetically, the machine becomes the real hero of the book. The scientists appear at best as managers of a craft-aristocracy in a special totemic relation to it. Jungk and the scientists describe it with a tender awe: 'There it was below me: the horizontal ferris wheel almost one-third of a mile around, its spokes each more than a hundred yards long... seen from the air the structure reminded one of an excavation site of ancient ruins',67 a modern Stonehenge. Jungk appears to both domesticate and theologize about the machine. It is like a huge hearth around which an occult fraternity gathers, watching the accelerator plot 'the exciting ballet of the birth, death and transfiguration of elementary particles'.68

It is, in the preponderant image of the book, like the building of the great cathedrals of Europe, each particle event an etched stained-glass window, an icon to a strange and baffling god. The making of the machine has all the air of a cultic revival, a mimetic act attempting to relive and recreate a lost cosmos, a community that scorned power. It is a return to the Round Table. The interplay of medieval archetypes marks the book: of the scientist as a jousting knight, the gadgeteer as a crafty peasant-technologist-troll who has seduced the good knight from his pure science chivalry. We hear of a return to 'higher forms of combat'.69

Jungk himself wishes that science would somehow salvage itself. The 'muck-raking' toughness disappears in the first pages of the book, where art almost turns into artifice, where this seasoned journalist resolves to return almost childlike to this reconstructed world of picture-book physics, where the structure of elementary particles is explained in metaphors of cheese and raisins, explanations that make science more edible. Jungk celebrates the non-bureaucratic nature of CERN, the fact that no passes were required to enter it; the uniformed guard barely examined his credentials when he entered, a far cry from the company town called Los Alamos. Science, he feels, has once again become the esperanto of the resurgent international order.

The location of the laboratory was itself symbolic of a return to an Athenian dream. What especially enthuses Jungk is that, for the first time, issues were systematically discussed at the grass-roots level and not decided behind closed doors and imposed from above. Science was 'brought before the voting public for open discussion and decision',70 'something that had not occurred since the days of Athens'.71 For several weeks Geneva became one large lecture hall. Physicists, psychologists, clergymen and political scientists spoke in convention halls and gymnasiums on scientific issues, which until then had never been discussed in such depth and before so wide an audience.72

The network of communication between the great high-energy physics laboratories at CERN, Brookhaven and even Dubna revives memories of the links between the gentle fiefdoms of early physics - the Cavendish, Denmark and Gngen The co-operation between CERN and Brookhaven was particularly remarkable as they were basically rivals. Yet, the competitive complementarily between the greatest high-energy physics laboratories became a model for fair play. Science became public knowledge once again. Militarized science yielded to the more agonal spirit of play. Pure science as a play form acquired an almost sacred quality, an aesthetic search bordering on the mystical, unravelling an atomic domain 'where a hundredth of an inch is as large as a continent and a second lasts a century'.73 Jungk cites the instance of one of the scientists explaining:

Suppose our civilization were destroyed in the atomic war and rediscovered centuries later by the descendants of a few survivors, what would they think this was, this gigantic circular structure precise to the thousandth of an inch. Most probably it would be taken as a place of worship. Please don't laugh at this idea. For I now ask myself in all seriousness whether what goes on at CERN cannot be considered a kind of worship in the language of the so-called scientific age.74

The scientist sees research as prayer, the big machine as an equivalent of the cathedrals of Europe, the workers like the medieval craftsmen, working in anonymity, and devoted to the creation of the new cathedrals of the scientific era.

The model of CERN, as Jungk shows, has relevance for science in the post-industrial age. The question that has been asked by philosophers and economists is, whether science can be delinked from the production process and function once again as an aesthetic pursuit, a cultural act, a platonic search embodying the good, the true and the beautiful. Jungk cites as an example an essay by the British philosopher, Stephen Toulmin.

Toulmin observes that, as an occupational category, manufacture would involve only a minority of the population in a post-industrial society. The problem, as Keynes had anticipated in the Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, would no longer be production but meaningful employment. Toulmin suggests that pursuit of science could be one of the meaningful tertiary occupations. He visualizes a series of such research towns where people would engage in the pursuit of research as an aesthetic or creative activity. Pure science would be delinked from production and retain its form as play. Toulmin claims that such a laboratory would be as characteristic a feature of the late twentieth century as the mill towns were of the mid-nineteenth. The mind's eye is enraptured by the picture of a scientific Las Vegas.

Jungk is enamoured of the possibility. But the journalistic toughness in him reasserts itself in his doubts, more concretely about the experiments at CERN. Romanticism and scepticism combine in this strangely Jekyll-and-Hyde portrait of the Big Machine. The problem that worries Jungk is whether the attempt embodies a real striving towards truth or towards the construction of an effective mass image of a more humanistic science. He acknowledges that many scientists honestly believed that they could exorcise the demonic connotations of the term atom, that atoms for peace was distinct from atoms for war, that high-energy physics was a search for knowledge and not power, and public knowledge at that. The location of the laboratory in Switzerland was symbolic of this concern. Yet the return to innocence seemed facile.

It was Niels Bohr who expressed this doubt. Critical of the debate on the proposals, Bohr and his circle felt that the proposals were grandiose and presumptuous, and warned that the university style of research would be lost in this research megalopolis. Bohr's circle discerned in it 'an expression of that hubris that since Hiroshima had possessed some of the scientists in the spotlight of attention'.75

Bohr's fears were not baseless. Jungk recounts a conversation with one of the makers of CERN who naturally wished to remain anonymous. The scientist remarked:

What was the general feeling towards science in the years after the war? Politicians and economists had learned from experience that work in the natural sciences, even when it seemed far out and abstruse, could under certain conditions have revolutionary practical implications. This was particularly true of a field called atomic research. Therefore they hoped that nuclear physics would sooner or later produce something tangible for them, just as atomic physics had earlier. A super source of power perhaps, or a super weapon. In any event, one had to keep up with this undertaking in order not to be left behind again. We did not especially encourage this widespread speculation among laymen in high political positions nor did we especially discourage it either, for we knew it would serve our purpose intimately.76

Jungk wonders whether the ethical foundations of science are not affected, in the long run, through these acts of impression management. He also adds elsewhere that the democratic concerns of CERN were post hoc. Initially, the scientists reacted to the prospects of referendum on science as an annoyance but read back the acclamation as a celebration of the democratization of science.

Jungk's discomfort with the new research towns stems from his commitment to the university as the embodiment of the liberal dream. The university was both an urban and an urbane order, and science as a model of civitas was a constituent part of the modern university. The university as an institution represented the finest ecological balance that knowledge as a system had achieved in western society. It reflected both classical continuity and modernist innovation. It captured both the tumult and the music of knowledge, its ritual grace and its raucous notes of dissent. The politicization of nuclear physics disrupted the institutional rhythm of the university.

As a result of this process of subversion, the autonomy of the university as a liberal axiom has been devalued. American scientists campaigning for civilian control of atomic energy in the post-war era were confronted with the ironic fact that the US defence forces had become the major financiers of scientific research in the university. What is even more discomforting is the scientists' attitude to it. Philip Morrison, aware that defence funding of some schools constituted go per cent of their budget, reflected:

The physicist knows that the situation is a wrong and dangerous one. He is impelled to go along because he really needs the money. It is not only that the war has taught him how a well-supported effort can greatly increase his effectiveness.... There is a real need for large machines - the nuclear chain reactors and the many cyclo-, synchro- and beta-trons to do the work of the future. He needs support beyond the capability of the university. If ONR or the new army equivalent G-6 comes with a nice contract, he would be more than human to refuse.77

Universities, once the home of free speech and dissent throughout the western world, are now parties to secrecy, willingly subservient to the militarization of research in contemporary society. Complementing the infiltration of the passive university was the creation of think tanks, epitomizing knowledge for the market-place, with the military and giant corporations as the amoral bidders. Not content with creating this breed of highly advertised intellectual harlots, the state has made assurance doubly sure by establishing research towns like Los Alamos. If the university embodied the openness of science, the company towns represented the location of scientific activity in a total institution.

At first sight, the appearance of these towns is deceptive. Their antiseptic affluence hides their totalitarian intent; their suburban comfort, the banalization of evil in modern society. 'Walking through its main street, with artificially watered lawns... in front of standardized houses painted in bright Easter egg colours', Jungk notices children playing a new variant of hopscotch with squares marked radioactive and un-contaminated.78 Los Alamos is advertised as a virtuous, high-IQ town with no one either idle or unemployed. Jungk remarks:

It would not need all these superlatives to show me that Los Alamos is a quite exceptional place. Actually this walled settlement on a plateau three thousand feet high should not be called a town at all. For any town must have some proportion of freedom in order to be able to develop and live, even to be able to die. But the collection of houses and workshops on the hill above the Rio Grande is an artificial and arbitrary product. It will never be anybody home because no right of permanent residence may be acquired and the whole population is looked upon as transient. If a man gives up his job, if he is discharged or pensioned, he must give up his house which belongs to the government and leave Los Alamos.79

For this reason, one never sees old people here, except a few indispensable scientific pundits. The children will have to leave once they reach working age. They can remain only if they find a job here after passing security department's personality and aptitude tests. 'There is no staying on in the town where they are born and reared.'80

Los Alamos represents the final resolution of liberal science. For liberalism, the private was sacred and the public was open and accessible. In a bizarre inversion, vivisectionist science has opened up the privacy of body and soul to the public scrutiny of the clinical gaze, while science as public knowledge has become increasingly secret and forced into the most monstrous of total institutions - the research cities of the twentieth century. One is left with a deep suspicion that the transition from the university to the company town was effected not on grounds of efficiency but for reasons of state. The company town facilitated external control of scientific research.


Kahler, in The Tower and the Abyss,81 points to the etymological intimacy between the words atom and individual. According to Kahler, Cicero introduced the word individuum as a translation of the Greek word atomon, when he wished to expound the theories of Democritus. The two words are synonymous, both meaning indivisible. Today, the atom has been split and the integrity of the individual undermined through processes of which science forms an integral part. Robert Jungk's The Atom Staat82 is an exploration of this etymologically rooted irony.

The atom staat is the nation-state as company town. It reflects the violence of a double hegemony. Science as expertise refines and validates the state as power, and the state ensures and extends the conditions for the production and reproduction of scientific discourse. Both tend to emphasize the powerlessness of the individual, who must surrender to the tutelary expertise of the modern state. The atom staat is the final technocracy and marks the eventual reification of the machine as metaphor. It is also the embodiment of one of man's grandest dreams, the search for the perpetual-motion machine. Within an occult vision, it might have embodied hidden meanings symbolizing notions of mystery, of limits, of humanity participating in the divine. The language of modern science has, however, reified it into a secular unmetaphorical pursuit. The machine as an esoteric code, instead of leading to an understanding of limits, becomes tied to unrestricted desire. The machine as a mode of thought is incapable of encompassing growth, death, history or plurality. Its vivisectionist power lies in conquest through duplication. It embodies the hegemony of a captive text, doubly violent because it is unable to liberate itself.

In The Atom Staat, Jungk unravels the structure of the double bind at the core of the nuclear regime. Implicit in the notion of the atom staat is a bounded rationality which cannot allow for the irrationalities of the fallible or dissenting man. As a mode of production, it demands a fail-safe system of security to avoid sabotage and superhuman precision and accuracy to avoid accidents through human error. Yet man, fallible man, careless, forgetful, subject to fatigue and day-dreaming, forms a crucial part of this man-machine system at every stage of the product cycle, from mining and storage to waste disposal. The structure of the double bind arises from the above situation:

The plain fact is that nuclear energy demands that man be made safe from himself - his mistakes, his weaknesses, his rages, his cunning and his lust for power. Protect nuclear energy from these foibles and you run the risk of a regimented society that would appear tolerable only in contrast to the dangers it seeks to avoid.83

The logic of the double bind and its accompanying violence can be plotted by locating the atom staat as text within the problem of management theory.

Production efficiency demands clock-time predictability which denies body rhythms. Scientific managers since Winslow Taylor have analytically broken down the body into a set of mechanical motions to improve it. Time-and-motion studies are an attempt to encode clock-time into body-time. However, the human body is a reluctant machine, and it is this that creates difficulties for the atom staat as a paradigmatic managerial system. In response it evolves two procedures: the displacement of man through automation, and the mechanization of man himself where he is considered irreplaceable. It is this that impinges on the rights of the individual. It seeks to standardize him as machine; and when it can't, it seeks to use him as a mechanically disposable part. Thus all the people beyond the pale of the labour commitment thesis (the third world of inmates from old peoples' homes as in Germany, 'unemployed blacks taken right off the street' as in USA, students looking for holiday jobs as in France, or ordinary seasonal workers closer home) are used for the most dangerous jobs, exposed to radiation hazards far beyond permissible limits. This radiation fodder is sent into contaminated areas to do preliminary work for skilled employees - 'such as closing leaks, setting up entry locks around the leaks, and putting contaminated clothing and radioactive waste into plastic bags for disposal'.84

Simultaneously, those officially designated as workers are forced to submit to a battery of psychometric tests. Refusal to submit to the questionnaires spells unemployment. In their obsession with fail-safe security, employment agencies have begun systematic enquiries into the private lives and political associations of the recruits. Other personnel policies have also undermined the cherished humanism of the human relations school of industrial sociology. Scholars have emphasized the importance of informal relations and rituals of resistance in sustaining communitas in a formal industrial regime. Outstanding among these is the buddy system: in situations of danger, workers generally work in pairs to sustain, guard and rescue each other in case of accident. In the plutonium economy, industrial workers in sensitive areas follow 'the two-man rule' in order to maintain a mutual vigil. Rituals of resistance, such as gold-bricking, are the stuff of industrial sociology. Small collective subversions of the official rule spelt a touch of communitas humanizing an otherwise formal regimen. In a nuclear industry such violations of rules, instead of relieving tension, can spell disaster. Sneaking a smoke where it is prohibited, nipping in a bottle of beer where it is banned, fiddling with the pen-shaped radiation counter that each worker has to wear, rather than being a celebration of worker resistance, can be a death warrant.

Conditions of employment in the plutonium industry constitute one of the most systematic inroads into trade union rights. In it, the right to strike has severe limitations because a nuclear plant, unlike an ordinary industry, cannot shut down: 'Physical processes are at work all the time and cannot be stopped without dire consequences. For example, highly toxic elements that could be dangerous both to the plant and to the surrounding countryside could be released if the cooling system were switched off or some of the equipment run at reduced capacity.'85 Workers at the La Hague plant in France had to suspend their strike for such reasons. The more frightening prospect lay in the possibility of their refusal, in which case military intervention would have been necessary, leading to authoritarian reprisal against a genuine strike.

The violence of the state against its citizens acquires even wider dimensions. Jungk's picture of the atom staat as a mode of occidental despotism deserves detailed scrutiny. Its structure of violence can be understood by opposing it to that other fascinating ideal type elaborated in social science writings from Marx to Wittfogel, the notion of oriental despotism. The authoritarianism of both stem from the control of energy. But the structure of violence encoded in each is radically different. The hydraulic complex differs from the plutonium economy in three distinct ways. It counterpoises localized authoritarianism to generalized hegemony; inhuman cruelty to impersonal terror; and, finally, the instruments of violence and the organizations for it have been far more systematically refined in occidental regimes.

The cruelty of oriental regimes is concrete and more personal. It is local and identifiable. While it tortures the other, it does not deny the other's humanity. It is inhumanly human. Cruelty might involve the maiming and torture of the body; yet, even as decapitation, branding, amputation or whipping, it has a quality of ritual control and spectacle about it. The structure of violence in the occidental regimes is impersonal. Its terror is somehow abstract, its potential for coercion more frightening than the act of violence itself. Its impersonal efficiency makes the victim even more defenceless, since it rationalizes terror to the point of abstraction and indifference. But it is the scientization of the instruments of violence and torture that constitutes the unique violence of the atom staat. For example, the concentration camp as research laboratory sought to refine and scientize the means of inflicting pain and death, even industrializing it as genocide. What was once viewed as pathology has become normalized in the structure of the atom staat, enshrining an Eichmann in every bureaucrat.

The modern state, says Jungk, has used every opportunity to refine its means of terror and suppression. Jungk warns in particular against linkages between authoritarian nuclear technology and psychiatry. Among the new innovations of the scientific state he cites:

1. The use of CNC (Chloracetonphenon), a personality-changing gas, against demonstrators at the Gossgen nuclear plant on 3 July 1977.

2. Ultrasonic devices 'whose barely audible sound wave causes a loss of balance among those at whom it is directed'. It was used for the first time to successfully clear an occupied university building at Birmingham.

3. The teaser, 'a gun that fires two barbs attached to thin wires into a victim's clothing or skin. A powerful electronic current triggers immediate unconsciousness.'86

The violence of the atom staat against its citizens has blurred the distinction between internal violence and external threat, each being willingly used as an opportunity to develop for the other. The wars in Vietnam and Northern Ireland have been used as opportunities 'to test on living subjects new ways of combating insurgents, saboteurs, urban guerillas and demonstrators'.87 The spin-offs are a whole range of weapons, the chief beneficiaries of which have been the police and security agencies. Jungk warns that this internal arming of the liberal west has led to the creation of a police-industrial complex to rival and complement the military-industrial complex. The very growth of these structures undermines the human rights ideals enshrined in liberal-democratic constitutions.

The atom staat also defines the violence of its inverted other. The criminal state and the criminal violence of the guerilla terrorist meet in escalated mutuality. The guerilla is the symbiotic other whom the atom staat requires. It invests him with contrary properties. Nuclear technology is bureaucratic, predictable, centralized; guerilla terror is unpredictable, anarchic and idiosyncratic. The sanitized bureaucracy symbolizing order transfers to the guerilla the feeling of chaos. Terrorism then evokes fear of the destruction of order; the savage reappears as the guerilla, as animality threatening culture. For the atom staat, he represents the irrationality of the body. Yet Jungk's descriptions reveal the strange complementarily of the two orders. It is the presence of the guerilla that justifies the intrusion of the scientific state into private domains, justifying escalating investments in total security.

Guerilla terror becomes the rationale for the suppression of civil rights:

Contingency plans for terrorist assaults in the atomic state call for the mobilization of the police and armed forces on a scale hitherto reserved only for outright revolution.... Troops would undertake house-to-house searches without warrants in entire sections of the city. Detention would also be used as a step in a very troubling interrogation scheme, perhaps involving lie detectors or even torture. The normal deterrent to such practices - inadmissibility of such evidence in court - would be ineffective in a nuclear emergency.88

Jungk cites a number of legal conferences which attested to the legitimacy of such measures in an emergency. He does not deny the importance of quick and concerted action, but warns that security agencies might acquire a vested interest in terror to maintain their control. History has shown that firemen often start fires to consolidate their own expertise. The history of Europe in the nineteenth century reveals that the police often used such tricks to obstruct workers' movements by inciting terrorist attacks against royalty.

Jungk warns against the danger of perpetuating a state of emergency:

In time, laws designed to deal with a crisis - such as an outbreak of terrorism - will become a norm for what is in fact a permanent state of crisis. The watchword will be: Protect at all costs the source of energy. Atomic power continually under threat leads to a permanent state of siege. It brings about harsh new laws to 'protect the people'. It encourages denunciation of atomic energy opponents and environmentalists as a 'precautionary measure'. In the end, it will justify everything from the mobilization of thousands of policemen against demonstrators to the body search of all those arrested simply for exercising their rights as citizens.89

The state finds in nuclear energy an unfailing excuse; to protect nuclear power it continuously extends and consolidates its own. The atom staat becomes an institutionalized Watergate or, to use a more local idiom, a continuous Emergency justifying the state's indulging in all kinds of dirty tricks against its own citizens. This is the crucial part of Jungk's thesis, the vital argument as to why the atom staat is impermissible. The 'sacred complex' of nuclear energy constitutes the most powerful legitimation 'for the abrogation of civil rights in modern society'. Jungk's essay reads like a passionate Amnesty International report of civil rights violation in a plutonium economy.

Jungk's arguments must be located within the context of contemporary political theory. The history of the cold war has primarily determined the logic of these scripts. To the liberal mind, the crisis of Marxism lay in the travesty of science called Lysenkoism and in the long history of the Soviet gulags. Similarly, Fascism was devalued for its parochial caricature of physics as a Jewish science. The influx of Jewish grcientists to the liberal world confirmed it as the most hospitable matrix for science as universal truth. Today, as Jungk shows, the crisis of democratic liberalism lies in its use of science to justify violence against its own citizens. Nuclear 'parks' may soon be the equivalent of gulags for the liberal west.

The similarities are disconcerting. Communist violence, as Merleau-Ponty observes,90 was justified in terms of the objectivity of revolutionary truth. Violence was the birth pang of the proletariat. The mechanical vulgarity of Marxists lay in their inability to critically question communism through Marxist spectacles. Those who did were labelled subversive or reactionary, while in fact they constituted the most creative component of Marxism. There is a similar loss of dialectic, a similar submission to the 'dictatorship of truth' in the atom staat. Violence to man is once again justified within a theory of objective scientific truth. The totalitarianism of nuclear regimes is validated as scientifically necessary, and dissenters are labelled reactionary or unscientific. Jungk's book is thus a study of the gap between the projection of science as a model of freedom and its sociological refutation in the atom staat.

Jungk outlines a set of strategies to combat the hegemony of the atom staat. First, he emphasizes the importance of adopting dissenting scientists as prisoners of conscience. The importance of this must be emphasized. Unlike many counter-culture movements which reject science altogether, or radical scientists who feel it is only the socially conscious scientists who can save the world, Jungk insists on the plurality of the critical encounter. Secondly, he emphasizes the necessity of a creative science deconstructing the hegemony of the scientific state, not to deny science but to redeem it. Thirdly, he asks for full scope to be given to the creative urge of everyman to become his own scientist. Finally, he pleads for the coming together of scientists in a creative search for alternatives. Jungk does not underestimate the sacrifice that a high-energy consumerist society must make to renounce the atom staat. But with these measures modern science, as apocalypse, while carrying intimations of the end of western civilization, may also be carrying its dialectical opposite: the seeds of a more human theory of technological choice. We shall now explore each of the strategies proposed by Jungk.


One of the most disturbing of Jungk's revelations is what the atom staat does to its dissenting scientists. Like the robber barons of the earlier industries, the atom staat is ruthless in dealing with those who oppose it. Jungk cites the case of Karen Silkwood.

Karen Silkwood, a 28-year-old employee at the Cimmarion plutonium plant, was appalled at the safety conditions at her workplace. She discovered that, between 1970 and 1974, eight-seven employees had been contaminated by plutonium in twenty-four separate incidents. She initially filed a complaint at the union headquarters in Washington. Sent back to gather conclusive evidence, she found that the company was falsifying laboratory reports and X-ray photographs relating to this. On 13 November 1974, she died in a car accident while on her way to meet her union representative and a New York Times reporter. Needless to say, the concerned files disappeared from her car. There was no attempt to question the visit of company officials to the garage in which the car was kept immediately after the accident, or to follow up the report of the collision expert that there was evidence that her car was rammed from the back. Instead, all employees at the plant were forced to submit to lie detector tests about their union activities and their conversations with Silkwood. Those who refused to comply with such an enquiry were dismissed or transferred to harder jobs.

The Silkwood case is only one of a series of instances that Jungk cites to show the reactions of the atom staat to its experts in opposition. Its rituals of segregation and control include studied silence, threat, derision, slander, ostracism, dismissal, blacklisting and murder. It is in this context that Jungk proposes that a special fund be provided to fight civil rights cases vis-is the science establishment. Jungk says, 'There must be many scientists who want to tell what they know, but fear disgrace and financial hardship of being fired.... Such a fund might encourage the scientists who in the past covertly passed information about the conditions that bothered them to finally come out in the open.'91 Jungk realizes that this opposition must be more than a series of eclectic or contingent responses. To constitute a dissenting academy such a movement must attempt to deconstruct science as disembodied knowledge and restore to it its historicity.

Science today appears as disembodied knowledge, and research as mechanically produced truth indifferent to biography, history or culture. This reification of scientific knowledge is etched clearly in an exquisite essay by Roland Barthes.92 He argues that 'Einstein's brain is a mythical object; paradoxically the greatest intelligence of all provides an image of the most uptodate machine, the man who is too powerful is removed from psychology and introduced into the world of robots.'93 Einstein's researches appear as a mechanical act. He produces truth the way other machines produce sausages or grind flour. Barthes adds that Einstein himself contributed to this myth by donating his brain for medical research. Two hospitals are still fighting for it 'as if it were an unusual piece of machinery which it will be possible to dismantle'. The scientific method has become a disembodied mechanical programme producing predictable truth which can be duplicated with clockwork regularity. Jungk insists that the first step in the deconstruction of science is to restore its historicity, to be read not as a mechanical research output but as the sociobiography of individual discovery. He asks, 'Why are we interested only in what scientists do, not what they are?'94 The subtitle he gives his book on the bomb is 'The Personal History of the Atomic Scientists'.

Science, Jungk says, is not only presented as disembodied knowledge, but also as something objective and detached, as expertise. This threatens the basic notion of the individual's ethical responsibility for his actions in two ways. First, the individual surrenders to the expert the right and responsibility for discovering and living out his own truth. Second, the expert himself feels no responsibility for his actions. When scientific expertise combines with bureaucratic impersonality, we produce an Eichmann or a von Neumann. Hannah Arendt's book on the trial of Eichmann reveals that Eichmann considered himself an expert following the logical consequence of his expertise on extermination. She also adds that Eichmann did not feel responsible because he considered himself a bureaucrat under orders to use his expertise. In a similar manner, Compton rationalized Oppenheimer's behaviour on the bombing of Hiroshima 'as a technical reply to a technical question'.95

Jungk's third step in deconstructing science is to question the very content of the expertise itself and thereby challenge the synonymity of expertise and truth. His texts for analysis include the American reports on nuclear safety and the scenarios of scientists at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. The studies of Herman Kahn could also serve as an equivalent and more accessible datum.

The reactor safety study was commissioned by the US Atomic Energy Commission. Popularly known as the Rasmussen report, after its director, its findings claimed that the likelihood of an accident in nuclear plants was extremely low. The report, says Jungk, is a classic example of an 'objective study'. A scrutiny of its methodology reveals that the Committee relied almost totally on material supplied by companies that built the reactors and therefore had a vested interest in the continuity of the nuclear industry. Secondly, Norman Rasmussen himself was a well-paid consultant to the nuclear industry. Thirdly, the report fails to make clear that the question here was not only the probability of an accident but the nature of the accident itself. An atomic disaster is not like a dam break or a gas leak. The effects of an atomic disaster might persist for several generations. The irony lies in the power of science. Its hold is so strong that ordinary men and even other scientists are lulled into believing the assurances of the objective expert.

Jungk sensitizes us in particular to the language of the discourse. The language of nuclear catastrophe as apocalypse is marred by an inadequate vocabulary. The literature on plagues, famines, floods, each has in its own way contributed to the expansion of language, reflected cosmology, mediated between man and nature and the natural and the supernatural. They have added to the verbal quality of our deepest imaginings on pain, death and deformity. The 'scenarios' on nuclear catastrophe seem aridly secular. Denied the availability of both the sacred and the humanist vocabulary, they reflect the terminology of a bureaucratized science. The bureaucratic normality of the genocidal scenario, its clockwork predictability, the timetable of deaths, the extrapolated statistics, all hide the inability of science to talk meaningfully of death and genocide. So lacking in poetry is this futurology that it is forced to mimic the style of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. This mimicry serves as an ersatz substitute for the metaphors of the sacred, and also of humanism. The language of the scenarios is homologous to the machine. Science represents the disembodied mind, the scenario mirroring the disembodied future, and the computer programme provides the decisional calculus. Death and destruction sound woefully banal. Yet the structure of evil lies in this very banality. In the banality of bureaucratic science, genocide becomes an office memo and the census, a death warrant. The nuclear future as catastrophe has the everyday quality of a railway timetable.

Jungk then questions even the basic claims of these scientists to dispassionate objectivity. Wolf Hafele's advocacy of fast-breeder plutonium technology scares even such ardent supporters of nuclear energy as Edward Teller. The scientist has begun to wallow in his own power. To Hafele, the objection that such breeder technology is in its infancy is irrelevant. He sweeps aside the time-honoured practice of painstaking trial runs for new technical installations as irrelevant. According to Jungk, Hafele is not alone in these departures from the unwritten ground rules of technological innovation: repeated prior testing of a prototype. 'Today, new reactors are put into operation in densely populated areas without experimental knowledge about the unpredictable interplay between thousands of components which make up these gigantic systems. Computer simulations and game theory substitute for trial runs.'96

These scenarios function as the equivalent of verbal machines. Like Bettelheim's Joey, the scientist is plugged into these verbal machines. And these machines provide a substitute for the human encounter with danger, pain, error. It is not truth but images that one is concerned with; the necromantic fantasies of Kahn and Hafele masquerade as theories without experimental verification. Seen in this light, the scientist's belief in the objectivity of these simulations is truly remarkable. Again, it reminds one of Joey whose 'pantomime was so contagious that those who watched him seemed to suspend their own existence and become observers of another reality'.97 Yet, Jungk refuses to caricature these scientists. He shows that the problem lies in their expertise, that many are individuals with intelligence and sensitivity. The structure of their expertise, however, desensitizes them, draws them into 'objective acts' whose consequences are evil. It is this evil, this banal evil that Jungk sensitizes us to.

The deconstruction of scientific expertise as truth has its corollary: the emergence of the common man, not in the inverted otherness of the savage, the guerilla or the obsolescent worker, but in the plural togetherness of the protest movements of the post-war era. Archetypically, he embodies the creative search for survival. In Jungk's work, the survivor first emerges in his study of Hiroshima. We had encountered him earlier as the object of vivisection, as an industrialized map of symptoms. We counterpoise to it his biography of pain as suffering, a celebratory search to extract meaning from the indifference of vivisection.

Within the genre of survivor literature, one can discern two roughly differentiated categories. The first, on the Nazi camp and the Soviet gulags, is concerned with how individuals outlived the torture and suffering of these camps; the second, embodied in the studies of Hiroshima-Nagasaki, with how individuals lived out the fact of having survived the holocaust. An encompassing study of both, exploring similarities and differences, is contained in Lifton's classic, Death in Life.98 We shall, however, concentrate on Jungk's reading of the survivor in Hiroshima. It emphasizes the particular nature of vivisection as catastrophe, as opposed to other catastrophes like plagues and natural disasters. Vivisection as a genocidal act denies meaning to both death and life. It is in this context that survival as sacrifice, as a search for meaning, becomes doubly poignant.

The survivor is an individual who has eluded death but carries the perpetual imprint of it. In him the notion of life cycle either as ordered biology or ritual cosmology is impaired, throwing him into a perpetual state of liminality. He cannot return to the living because the memory of death is permanently with him. He cannot die because he now has to live as encapsulated memory, forever reminding life of the Thanatos within it. He thus carries a double burden: the guilt of life for having survived, and our common guilt for all those who died so meaninglessly. He is the living memory of death which, in our amnesic way, we seek to forget. The survivor is the wound in the body and yet he must also become its healer, as poet, philosopher and scientist. Jungk captures all this in his essay on two survivors, Kazuo M, eventually sentenced for murder, and the pacifist Ichiro Kawamoto.

Kazoo M was 14 when he witnessed the bombing of Hiroshima. While digging into the rubble that had been his parents' home, he found his old school book in a half-burned rucksack. It was a perfectly ordinary book, 'a reader issued to the middle schools, a book which at that time everybody in third form throughout the whole of Japan had to possess'.99 When he found the book, he clutched it with joy as if he had encountered an old friend. It embodied many of his childhood memories for him, 'entire poems, proverbs, whose passages of prose... he knew by heart'.100 It represented order for him, the geometrical clarity of the civilization, the world, that he knew. However, the bombing of Hiroshima, the defeat of Japan, the death of his colleague pinned by a fish-tail splinter of glass, the experience of carrying the naked body of a school friend through the bombed streets, shattered this world. At this moment he felt an overwhelming urge to execute the book, to shred every one of its pages into minute fragments so that nothing would remain legible.101 'When anything even remotely resembling what had happened to him "on that day" could occur - could be allowed to occur - then all the beloved words of his reader could be nothing but lies. After that, what value could be attached to thought, to knowledge?'102

Jungk's study reveals that catastrophes can serve as equivalents of paradigm crises, because the weakness and practical consequences of a paradigm emerge with gestaltic clarity at such a moment. Kazuo M's act is a dramatic example of such a repudiation; but the problem, as Jungk shows, is the creation of a new gestalt providing meaning to the survivor's biography. Some of the cases he describes are virtually parables. I shall cite one (but removed from its context and therefore somewhat distorted). When Kazuo M eventually decides to murder a black-market operator, he ponders over the particular method of killing. He is reminded of a sensational trial of that time, known as the Tukoku Bank case:

One day in January 1948, shortly before the bank closed for the night, a painter named Hirasawa had appeared disguised as an official of the Health Department and told the bank manager that he and his staff of fifteen must immediately drink some medicine which would act as a prophylactic against various epidemics then raging. He had brought the medicine with him. The treatment was, needless to say, at government expense. Since there were indeed epidemics rife at this time, sixteen persons immediately obeyed this order which seemed quite reasonable and swallowed the bitter draught. They had collapsed almost at once, whereupon the bank robber had calmly and quietly set about his real business.103

The Goffmanesque subversion of science in the above story recognizes the rules of the dominant order, and seeks to exploit it rather than change it. The ordinary survivor's search, however, marks a more difficult journey.

The survivor's search for a paradigm that imposes meaning on his 'death in life' is forced by two external factors, the indifference of vivisection itself, and the general urge to return to normalcy at any cost. Both deny the survivor's search to preserve memory and meaning.

Post-war Hiroshima was a furiously Americanizing city. It had become a tourist resort as an official peace city with commercial peace sales; and during the Korean war it also became a major centre of the armaments industry. This push to normalcy created a world in which the survivor felt he had no part. 'The houses and streets might be rebuilt, but they remained human ruins falling ever into decay with each day that passed.'104 The illness of the survivor was either unrecognized or stigmatized. His complaints about bodily pain were interpreted as hypochondria, his memories of that day as neurosis. For a considerable time the suffering of the survivor was not even recognized as illness either in Japan or in America. When recognized as an atomic disease, it became a stigma, something to be hidden even from friends, relatives and doctors.

Jungk's other story is about a man who acted to fill this breach - Ichiro Kawamoto. 'He did not demand scientific proof that they were suffering. He simply did what he could to help, without asking too many questions.... He would take one a little boiled fish to eat, to another he would give a blanket, a third he would visit solely to encourage and divert him with his conversation.'105

The struggles of Kawamoto and his wife reveal the pain of the survivor and the sterility of a world threatened by nuclear war. The 'hibakusha' - the survivors - were afraid to love, afraid to procreate lest they should bring deformed babies into the world. This particular crisis of the survivor demands that we rethink the conventional liberal notions of the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. We have to broaden our concept of this right to include the right to one's ancestors, to the cosmological continuity of the past, to the ritual dignity of dying and the right to procreate an undeformed child as the future.

The survivors realize that ' "the self-destruction of humanity" which they had been compelled to witness at Hiroshima had not in fact begun with the explosion of the Atom bomb, but much earlier with its invention and creation.'106 They understood that their experiences must give new meaning to their work through poems of everyday life. Everyman became a poet and an artist in post-war Hiroshima: 'Hospital orderlies, patients, factory workers, in brief, human beings from every class of society began to write.'107

Jungk captures this era of sacrifice, the pain and the celebration of life with compassion. Each of us must recapture it for ourselves because the survivor is us. The survivor is everyman in the nuclear age. We have to share the burden. As protectors against the atom staat, we join in the ritual acts of participation in the new body politic. It is in this context that Jungk analyses the protest movements of the sixties.

The protest movements against the bomb lack the monolithic certainty of nationalist and class struggles, crisscrossing across them both in celebration and in confusion. Their very variegatedness signifies a potential for plurality, becoming literally a festival of protest embodying the new semiotics of the body.

To the machine as vivisection is offered the body as sign. The recoding of the new polity begins with the body as the grid for the calculus of suffering. It is the body that recodes the unrestricted individualism of the mechanical man, evolves certain criteria for thinking out certain tentative alternatives in science and technology. The recovered body mediates between nature and culture, rediscovers spontaneity and becomes the gross body and the intimate body of the 'sit-ins' and the new street theatre. The body is the index of its own truth. When the pacifist 'sits in' on a hunger strike, suffers bodily as a protector, he embodies his truth. Only such a sacrifice can redeem the vivisected body. The body as ecology challenges the conventional rationality of economics, demanding that industry rethink its attitude to nature. It insists on a restriction of desire, a restructuring of one's basic needs away from consumerism, embodying a realization that natural resources must be conserved. Simultaneously, it challenges the excretory nature of modern technology, particularly of nuclear energy whose stored wastes may be dangerous to man for over 50,000 years. It complements the conventional categories of political economy - production, distribution and consumption - with the additional category of disposal.

Jungk remarks that the celebratory explosion of the sixties has not died down but has been harnessed into disciplined work. He is impressed in particular by the manner in which the protestor has become his own scientist rather than yield this right, by benign neglect, to some expert:

It is impressive how these people from varied backgrounds will take the trouble to study the implications of nuclear power and master complicated and technical data. They weigh them critically and apply them to their own situations. They are more powerfully motivated to learn than the average citizen and quickly assimilate the new material. Often they come better prepared than do local politicians and representatives of industry. And they can no longer be brushed aside with slogans and weasel words....

At such confrontations it is interesting to listen not only to what is said, but how it is said and to watch the faces of the participants. Invariably supporters of nuclear power plants present an image of casual restraint, boredom, aloofness, convoluted 'objectivity' and smug superiority with scarcely a trace of warmth or empathy. The faces of their opposition are lively and attentive, full of enthusiasm and spontaneity.108

The cultural construction of the recovered body has place for compassion and fraternity: 'The movement takes seriously the huge gap in the standards of living between the developed and the less developed nations.'109 Rather than export its life-style or use food as a weapon in times of famine, by deciding who shall live or die through a scaling of suffering, the protector in the affluent west is learning to restrict desire, practice a more modest life-style.

This model of survival challenges the triage 'ethics' of modern science, which understands inequalities of suffering rather than fraternities of compassion. Triage encounters rationality, not meaning. The decision to bomb Hiroshima was based on a scaling of suffering and death, the assumption that fewer American lives would be lost this way. The ethics of survival seeks to offer a wider ecological understanding, not just of the physical fact of survival, but the meaning of the act. What does one survive for? How should one survive? Such an ethics as the rationale for an alternative notion of science and technology is essential to save it from the socio-biologism which has entered the analysis of the concentration camp,110 and the bounded management rationality of triage ethics. One does not deny that choices cause pain, but to reduce the calculus of suffering to techniques merely adds to the power of positivist science.

Jungk also emphasizes that these acts of celebratory renunciation must be supplemented with creative research into other forms of energy derived from the sun, the wind, the tides and photosynthesis. A search for alternative energy sources constitutes realistic bases for alternative life-styles and eventually life chances. Yet Jungk is cautious: 'Despite these hopeful signs, it is still possible that the new tyranny will temporarily push the nonviolent new international movement into the catacombs.'111 But if it prevails, the work of Jungk and others like him will be remembered as harbingers of this new imagination in histories and festschrifts. During these festivals of remembrance, I should like to take these five books, more mellowed in time, and rewrite them as fables of the gentle angry Aesop of a bygone nuclear age.