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SEHR, volume 5, Supplement: Cultural and Technological Incubations of Fascism
Updated December 17, 1996

lives and limbs

Matt Price


rehabilitation of wounded soldiers in the aftermath of the great war

The magnitude of the destruction unleashed in the First World War was both unprecedented and unanticipated. The world's first total war consumed the better part of Western Europe's productive capacities for four years, and with it the lives and hopes of millions of soldiers. As John Keegan (echoing multitudes of eyewitnesses) has chronicled,[1] the Great War gave rise to wounds not only more numerous, but more vicious, than those seen in prior combats. High-velocity bullets and shrapnel shattered bones, tore and burnt flesh; poison gas often resulted in permanent lung damage. But, as Keegan also notes, soldiers were more likely to survive their wounds in 1914 than they had been in 1865 or 1815, largely because of recent developments in medical science.

Among the survivors were thousands permanently maimed by the loss of limbs, of tissue, or of sensory perception. These were soldiers whose very bodies had been deeply and irrevocably penetrated by the Fronterlebnis (front experience), whose ravaged forms stood as testimony to the efficiency of modern industrial organization. The sheer numbers of these men[2] rendered urgent the problem of their reintegration into civil society - urgent, at least, in the eyes of the progressivist medical reformers who championed their restoration to productivity.[3] During and after the war, these reformers founded a new science, "rehabilitation," and institutionalized it by building laboratories, training centers, and even isolated camps for the purpose of retraining maimed soldiers, all over Europe and the United States.[4] The term "rehabilitation," which advocates used interchangeably with words such as rééducation and Wiederertüchtigung, lent a decidedly moral cast to a scientific discourse concerned with bodily reconstruction; and as I discuss below, reformers often argued that physical and moral reconstruction were inextricably bound together.

This reconstruction was not simply a restoration of the soldier to a pre-war state, but the production of new individuals fit for a new society. The institutions of rehabilitation functioned, with the help of various political and scientific discourses, as a technology of the self - as a mechanism for the production of individuals to exact specifications. These terms - 'technology,' 'mechanism' - are not meant as careless metaphors, but as precise descriptions of a phenomenon deeply entrenched in the machine age, of a science and a practice which understood itself in terms of a general effort to transform the social order into a machine order. Advocates of rationalization, who ranged from communists (Lenin) through capitalists (Rathenau) to the very furthest reaches of the far right (Jünger), hoped to reconstruct factories, power and communication systems, and government bureaucracies along rational lines, according to the principle of the machine.[5] Rehabilitation was linked to such efforts not simply by formal analogy, not solely via a shared organizing principle, but by the attempt to integrate 'rational' rehabilitation with other projects of rationalization, especially plans for rationalized factories and economies.

The aim of this essay is to understand, in very broad terms, the workings of the mechanism set up by the technocrats I call the rehabilitators: the range of technical and discursive resources that mechanism employed, the operations it performed on its recycled 'material,' the kind of human product it was designed to manufacture.[6] I explore the linkages this machine set in operation - the connections that it made between reconstruction of shell-torn bodies and restoration of soldierly souls, as well as those between rehabilitation of individual soldiers and the resurrection of the war-torn nation-state. The physical, moral, and political dimensions of rehabilitation were intimately bound up with one another, and the rest of this essay explores their modes of connection in four main parts. The first lays a theoretical groundwork for the analysis; the second surveys the literature of rehabilitation; the third looks somewhat more closely at the work of Jules Amar, a French reformer and 'work physiologist'; and the fourth discusses the practices and technologies of rehabilitation.

It is worth noting that this paper concerns itself not at all with actual fascists. Instead, it examines how two important characteristics of the most virulent forms of fascism were welded together in a bourgeois progressivist practice devoted, ironically enough, to mitigating war's destruction. These two characteristics, as will become clear, were a ravenous drive towards rationalization, and the valorization of an iron-willed 'man of steel.' The good intentions of this story's resolutely moderate protagonists are perhaps its most chilling component.

foucault / theweleit

Rehabilitation was hardly the only practice in which physical manipulation of the body was tied to moral transformation, and my analysis owes much to the work of Michel Foucault, especially to his theory of discipline. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault outlines how the modern penal system uses corporeal manipulation as a technique for moral transformation. Where earlier forms of punishment inflicted damage on the body as a "ceremonial of sovereignty," modern punishment (which takes the form of discipline) seeks rather to train the body and the soul "by the traces it leaves, in the form of habits, in behavior."[7] Through discipline, which is applied to the body in everyday activities, the penal system builds "the obedient subject, the individual subjected to habits, rules, orders, an authority that is exercised continually around him and upon him, and which he must allow to function automatically in him."[8] As will become clear later on, the proponents of rehabilitation for the maimed formulated their aims in terms entirely compatible with Foucault's analysis of the penal system: they hoped that the application of discipline would produce habits in the maimed soldiers which would effectively transform both body and soul.

Given the quite precise homology between penal practices and those of physical rehabilitation, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Foucault's theoretical apparatus might help us to understand rehabilitation. The two key terms which this paper takes from Foucault's work are his notion of the 'soul' and his theory of power. Though Foucault often makes reference to the soul in Discipline and Punish, he rarely explicates the term. From his remarks in the body of the book, where he calls the soul "the seat of habits" and a "principle of behavior,"[9] it seems clear that Foucault means to ascribe to the soul some of the properties classically associated with it: the soul is the location of those principles, moral or otherwise, which guide and constrain our activity. The single brief passage where he discusses the soul at length makes it clear, however, that Foucault's soul departs radically from, say, a Cartesian second substance. The soul, he says, "is not a substance; it is the element in which are articulated the effects of a certain type of power and the reference of a certain type of knowledge...." Moreover, "it is produced permanently around, on, within the body by the functioning of a power that is exercised on those punished."[10] For the prisoner, at least, but also for "those one supervises, trains and corrects...madmen, children at home and at school, the colonized...those who are stuck at a machine and supervised for the rest of their lives," the soul and hence morality are to be found in the imprint made by power on the body.

The power that Foucault describes at work here is not the massive power of the state to suppress a populace or inflict damage on it, but rather a more subtle variety, what Foucault variously call capillary, disciplinary, micro- or bio-power. Power, declares Foucault in what is effectively a manifesto, is "immanent" in all social relationships; it comes not from above, but from below, from individual relationships within families, institutions, factories.[11] Juridical power, the power to negate, forbid, destroy, arises out of the alignment on a large scale of these micro-power relationships. Paradoxically, this destructive power rises out of a form of power which is itself creative or more accurately, productive. The traces which relations of micro-power leave on the body give shape to it; in their totality, they constitute the individuality of that body:

The individual is no doubt the fictitious atom of an 'ideological' representation of society; but he is also a reality fabricated by this specific technology of power that I have called 'discipline.' We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms.... In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production.[12]

Another name for this totality of traces left by discipline is 'soul.' Foucault's formulation solves the problematic relation of body and soul by making the soul into a formal property of the body; as Judith Butler puts it in a recent essay, the foucaultian soul is "the form and principle of the body's matter."[13] Butler likens the foucaultian soul to the Aristotelian one, in which the soul is to the body as the shape of a stamp is to a piece of wax. The soul arises out of the restrictions disciplinary power lays on the body, but the constraint which is the soul is not some hemming-in of an innate humanity; rather, it is necessary for the production of the subject. As Butler puts it, the soul is "a certain kind of restriction in production, a restriction without which the production of the subject cannot take place, a restriction through which that production takes place."[14] The rehabilitators of the maimed almost universally held to a similar, if less well-thought-out, understanding of the relationship between body and soul. Through relations of productive power, they sought to transform the soul and the subject through the traces their exercises left in the body.

Foucault's work is often criticized for its apparent failure to grant any degree of freedom or resistance to the prisoner (or by extension, the subject in general). Though the topic of resistance does arise in The History of Sexuality, Foucault's discussion there is entirely abstract and lacks the persuasive force of his depiction in Discipline and Punish of total subjection through discipline.[15] Moreover, Foucault is less than explicit in describing the mechanisms which allow discipline to work its effects on the 'soul.' One writer who points towards a solution to these problems is Klaus Theweleit, whose Male Fantasies attempts an account of the production of the fascist male subject through an examination of the memoirs and histories of German proto-fascist soldiers.[16]

In a sense, Theweleit's work begins where Foucault's leaves off, with an investigation of how the exercise of power can be creative, or more precisely, how the disciplined subject can take part in his own disciplining. One of the most remarkable phenomena of militarism is the manner in which men, subjected to extreme, torturous discipline in the military academy or the armed forces, are not only made submissive, but become advocates of discipline. Theweleit uses the term 'drill' to describe the complex of techniques which produce the military subject - a subject who takes pleasure in his own subjection and disciplining. The drill was a technique for the production and maintenance, not only of disciplined bodies, but of new desires; it was a power not only productive but pleasurable, "a giant machine of transformation and rebirth."[17]

Theweleit focuses his analysis primarily on members of the Freikorps, the mercenary bands which formed after the German army was dissolved in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, and who wreaked terror and destruction on left-wing rebels after the war. Members of the Freikorps not only formed the backbone of the Nazi SA, but were involved in numerous acts of political terror, including the assassination of Walther Rathenau. Ernst von Salomon, one of these assassins, describes his reaction to months of brutal mistreatment, torture, and rigid discipline at military school:

I began to notice my body stiffening, my posture gaining in confidence. When I thought back to childhood games at home, I was filled with bitter shame. It had become quite impossible to move with anything other than dignity. On the rare occasions when a senseless desire for freedom surfaced, it invariably shattered against a new determination and will. My new-found capacity to follow orders to the letter was double compensation for losing the joys of roving unrestrained.[18]

Salomon here demonstrates the tremendous power of the drill, not only to create a "docile body," in Foucault's terms, but also to create a masculine subject who takes pleasure in his body's rigidity and power, in his capacity to follow orders, and finally, if Theweleit is correct, in his capacity to kill.[19] The drill is successful when it has inscribed a new form of subjectivity in the soldier's body - when, to go back to Foucault's term, the soul has been recast in the image of what Theweleit calls 'the soldier-male.' The soldier-males take pleasure in their disciplined bodies, in their capacity to carry out the drill, and in disciplined activity such as work; but they react violently to the prospect of any bodily corruption, going so far as to kill in defense of the boundaries of their carefully-crafted bodies.[20] The well-known Nazi obsessions with cleanliness, purity, and defense against 'corruption' of the physical and social body are traced by Theweleit to the pleasures and fears produced by the drill. And while the drill demands the active participation of the subject, it also requires an authoritarian social structure (like that of the army or simply the military academy) to ensure its success. Thus the linkage between the maintenance of the self and the maintenance of the social order, so evident in rehabilitation of the maimed, is a strong theme in the memoirs of the Freikorps soldiers as well. In this sense, the drill is a machine for the transformation of society, as well as the individual, a machine which reaches a peak in productivity under fascism.[21]

One question which Theweleit does not address in detail is the breakdown of the soldier-machine.[22] Is the drill resistant to the rending of bodies, the destruction of sight, the mutilation of faces and the bloody separation of limbs? Is it resistant to the removal of the very capacity to drill? It might seem that the drill - soldierly discipline - would be unable to contain the disruption of the very body whose boundaries it is designed to create and maintain. It would not be unreasonable, upon acceptance of the framework presented above, to suppose that the disruption of the soldier's body might act as a disruption of the soldier's subjectivity, and that this disruption could result in a corresponding disruption of the 'soul' of the soldier-male. These intuitions would suggest that a critique of the regimes of discipline and pain which produced the soldier-male might often accompany a soldier's maiming.

This does not, however, occur in the wake of the Great War, at least not widely. Why not? Why does Ernst Jünger, wounded, hobble quickly towards the Front?[23] Why does the Reichsverband Deutscher Kriegsbeschädigter (Reich Association of German War Injured) unequivocally support the Nazi Party by 1931? Why is there no sustained critique of militarism, or of discipline, forthcoming from the war wounded?[24] How is it that the drill can, incredibly, be made resistant to these phenomena?

The answer may reside partly in the postwar rehabilitation effort. I interpret the regime of the convalescent camps as an extension of the drill, serving to reconstruct the maimed soldiers' subjectivity, but along new lines: as workers rather than soldiers. These categories are, however, not altogether distinct for the actors involved, as will become apparent. The soldier-male was the broken foundation on which the rehabilitators sought to build: how, they asked, might a wrecked battle machine become a functional worker?

"the necessity of employing wounded soldiers"[25]

The writings of the rehabilitators present a curious mixture of humanitarian zeal and instrumental rationality, of compassion and annihilating discipline, of dreadful hopes and dreadful fears. The discourse always returns to its central concern: the moral, economic, and political necessity of re-employing the maimed. As a first step in the effort to understand this discourse, I present here a general sense of its outlines and motivations.

Like many post-war figures, the rehabilitators saw themselves on the brink of a utopia whose attainment was in reach, but still contingent upon the proper management of society. The Frenchman Jules Amar, for instance, believed his system of work management would open up utopian vistas, if given a chance; but without a more general application of his principles, his work with war wounded could be only a kind of rear guard action against the degeneration of the human race.[26] Other writers, like the Belgian De Paeuw, articulated the rehabilitation effort with other reformist political projects; in particular, he advocated the coordination and control of the rehabilitation effort - that is, the rational management of the problem:

We advise large and powerful organizations, because they command the respect of public and private authorities, and especially because they prevent the scattering of energy.

I believe it, therefore, desirable that all the small institutions in the same city or district should co-ordinate their activities. Instead of competing against each other by developing along the same lines, they should mutually complete each other....[27]

These and other reformers framed their efforts in terms of other reformist efforts - an ordinary rhetorical or ideological move, one which helped to marshal resources to their cause, and bundle their interests with others. It would be a mistake, though, to attribute these statements and others like them to mere politicking. The reformists were unable to decouple the economic, moral, political and physiological from each other; the crisis of which they often spoke was a crisis in all these dimensions.

First, of course, was the urgency of each individual's situation: the soldiers had to be taught how to walk, eat, write, speak, and work, simply to survive; the magnitude of the problem of their re-education was startling. But the common fear that the soldiers might not attain self-sufficiency was tightly coupled to worries about their moral degeneracy. One commentator noted that the War's end brought with it the highest rates of brigandry and highway robbery seen since the Middle Ages, presumably perpetrated by degenerate soldiers.[28] In the case of the maimed, another prominent reformer advocated mandatory rehabilitation, on the grounds that "it prevents the men, on leaving the hospitals, from drifting into bad company, or risking by contact with everyday life the loss of those beautiful moral qualities which sustained their souls in combat."[29] The conservation of beauty was part of the task of rehabilitation. The depth and richness of the discourse are astonishing; in all senses of the word, it was a humanizing project which sought to recreate beautiful bodies and beautiful souls.[30]

In addition to the above, rehabilitators often commented on the economic dimension of the problem. As de Paeuw says,

After the war which will have made so many gaps in the ranks of the workers, every energy will be required to rebuild our ruins and to recover our former prosperity. Therefore let us strive to restore to our maimed soldiers their former economic value.

The crisis in rehabilitation is here explicitly conceptualized as economic, as well as moral and physiological. By rebuilding soldiers' bodies, the rehabilitators would also rebuild the ruined - or at least transformed - economies left behind by the war. On a similar note, the American doctor W.S. Bainbridge states,

In former days men, who had lost limbs in the service of their country, were given such surgical treatment and meager equipment in the way of artificial limbs as the times afforded, and then turned back upon the community with a pension or placed in a soldiers' or sailors' home.... In our day no enlightened nation would be satisfied with so limited a course. Economically, the waste of man power would be unthinkable; ethically, the failure to recognize a wider responsibility would be inexcusable....[31]

Bainbridge links the rehabilitation project to the moral standing of the nation itself. "No enlightened nation" would set aside the opportunity to reconstruct the whole man, body and soul. The rehabilitation of the soldier is a redemptive act for the nation - it demonstrates a nation's moral fiber and authorizes that nation's economic success, as well as partially constituting that success.[32] Hence the title of one important book, The Redemption of the Disabled.

Like De Peauw, Bainbridge supposes a chiasma between moral and economic responsibility; one task of re-education was to make that link real. Physiological reconstruction could be made to answer to an economic (hence political) responsibility only if some force or substance mediated between the two vastly different realms. Intimate coupling of the social and physiological was accomplished through a theory and practice which invoked 'the means of correct training' as a mechanism for the transformation of the soul of the individual.[33] This coupling was expressed most explicitly, eloquently and convincingly by Jules Amar.

reintegration: jules amar and the science of vocational re-education

The rehabilitators saw the destruction unleashed by the war as an opportunity for construction, the disintegration of the soldiers' bodies as an opportunity for the re-integration, the redemption, of body, soul, and society. More, the three literally could not be separated - each aspect of the project was grounded in the others. This intertwining did not take place merely in the literature intended for a popular audience, but also in the most technical literature devoted to the topic.

Jules Amar was by 1914 in the process of developing a European alternative to the Taylorist school of scientific management. In the same year he presented his conclusions in his most important work, Le Moteur Humain. Anson Rabinbach has described how Amar's system presented a humanistic alternative to the works of F.W. Taylor, the American engineer who spearheaded the rationalization of factory work around the turn of the century. Taylorism sought to maximize workers' productive efficiency through, first, the radical subdivision of labor tasks, and second, and analysis of each sub-task which tried to identify the single most efficient set of motions it required. Where Taylor entirely ignored the physical effects of such labor on the worker, the 'science of work' which Amar and others developed emphasized the full development of human capacities and, especially, the minimization of fatigue.[34] Though Amar's ideas would quickly fade from sight, Rabinbach contends (rightly) that Amar's work briefly presented the hope of a kinder version of the utopian Taylorist scientific management. It is crucial to stress this humane aspect of Amar's work. Amar always sought to bring into the field of his vision the whole individual, body and soul; and it was precisely this humane aspiration which gave his methods such total power over the formation of the individual. Amar's science of work was not a softening of Taylorism, but a humanitarian intensification of it.

In The Physiology of Industrial Organization and the Re-Employment of the Disabled, Amar reworks his scientific-technocratic framework for the organization of industry, using the rehabilitation of maimed soldiers as his main example. Like many other reformers, his aims were utopian, with an undercurrent of fear; for Amar, a great deal depends upon the correct application of the science of work:

If, through a false conception of the laws of work, one disregards [the] warnings of fatigue, the normal limits are quickly passed; the intoxication becomes aggravated, giving rise to...painful symptoms. The resistance of the nerve-centres becomes greatly diminished, and, in short, the resistance of the organism collapses; and it is this lessening of resistance which awakens latent imperfections and maladies, which have very often been unsuspected.... Typhoid fever or tuberculosis declares itself....

The object of the physiological organisation of human activity is to render impossible the circumstances which give rise to overwork, and end by ruining the health. Its aim is the conservation of the human race by means of social hygiene.[35]

Fatigue was seen as the ultimate cause of any organism's collapse; indeed, 'fatigue' is a kind of jargon for disintegration or degeneration. Like others, Amar intimately linked the social and physiological senses of this disintegration, at the same time gesturing to a wide range of scientific discourses (psychophysics, neurology, physiology), all of this in an effort to call attention to the urgency of the problem of fatigue.[36] The convalescence camps were in some ways workshops for Amar, in which he could practice and perfect, in microcosm, the hygienic principles which could, if widely applied, ensure the development of a non-degenerate human race.[37]

Amar argued that the same science should apply to the treatment of wounded soldiers and ordinary workers, because both endeavors sought "the geometrical and harmonious forms of the contractions of the muscles."[38] He sought to bind together the soldier and the worker on the basis of their common physiology.[39] In both cases, he argued, the greatest stress should be given to the

order and the selection of movements. If, in order to execute any physical action whatever...we eliminate the useless movements, and regulate the succession of the useful, we shall effect a great saving both of time and fatigue.... Selection and order are, in truth, the characteristics of the new method, which will presently work an economic revolution to which no other can be compared. It is not purely mechanical; it does not turn a man into a soulless body, a blind and tireless force; it embraces all the data of physiology and psychology, of which it alone is able to display the parallelism and the unfailing harmony. It would seem to have taken for its guide this saying of Montaigne's: "It is not a body, it is not a soul that we are forming: it is a man; we must not make two of him.[40]

This passage is fascinating for the sheer breadth of its claims. The efficient organization of labor, he argues, will revolutionize the economy, and in so doing, will create "new men": men of superior physical and mental health. For both the worker and the soldier, physical education was impossible without a simultaneous moral or spiritual education:

[In] the task of re-educating infirm and crippled soldiers, our principal pre-occupation must consist in guarding them against their own moral dejection, and in restoring their self-confidence.... To enable them to realise the progress of their re-education, its progress, and the merit of work; herein lies the whole of the veritable art or re-education, in which human science and our duty to the nation are combined.... Accordingly, before entrusting [a] wounded soldier to the workshop or the office...it is indispensable that we shall have obtained the maximum improvements in his functional condition and his resistance to fatigue.[41]

Moral and physical de- or re-generation were always coupled together; fatigue always served as a monitor and measure of psychophysiological progress.

What is more, Amar proposed a specific, material and scientific mechanism by which to transform the maimed (in the convalescent camp as well as in the ordinary workplace). Amar employed photographic, calorimetric, and chemical techniques for determining a given activity's proper movements and their order. The technological means by which this was accomplished were to be the same in the ordinary worker and in the wounded soldier. After selection and ordering, methods were required for the application of his rules to the individual. This was accomplished through the apprenticeship.[42]

A rational apprenticeship, the period in which the apprentice acquires the habits necessary for maximally efficient work, was to be the key factor in the formation of the new man:

Apprenticeship is the decisive factor of national wealth. It consists in the technical and psycho-physiological shaping of the man. Every profession necessitates an apprenticeship through which it becomes a habitude of the mind and the body, a habitude which to a varying extent leaves its traces on the organism and creates inclinations or aptitudes.... The repetition of the same actions, or the same trains of thought, endows the nervous system with a peculiar sensibility, which facilitates the performance of these actions, directing and guiding the thoughts in a given path....[43]

The apprenticeship consisted precisely in endowing the individual with this "peculiar sensibility." Amar called for a scientific organization of the psyche and body of the worker (/soldier). This goal, he emphasized, could only be attained through the coordination of state and industry, and the development of scientifically managed apprenticeship schools nationwide.[44] It required the disciplining of the worker so that the selected and ordered motions may be transcribed onto his body; it required, in Foucault's terms, the reconstruction of the soul.[45]

Amar suggested multiple means for this transcription. One was the enforced recognition of proper and improper motions through films of well and properly executed tasks. Another was simple supervision, by a scientifically trained manager. More interesting, though, was the use of self-registering instruments. These instruments alleviated the need for any human supervision of the drilling apprentice: they constituted a kind of reified panoptic space, in which the gaze of the worker was matched by, unified with, that of the instrument (and hence, that of Authority):

We have, for purposes of demonstration, trained an apprentice, a boy of 15, with the help of the graphic method. He himself was able to read, in the irregularity of the tracings obtained, the effects of his inexperience, and to correct himself accordingly; he assured himself, by the weight of filings removed hour by hour, of the truth of the scientific principles of craftsmanship; and apart from personal instruction, he received a veritable object-lesson to the effect that the intelligently trained workman performs more useful work and squanders less of his strength. This was proved by the dynomographic curves and the figures relating to the consumption of oxygen.[46]

The self-registering apparatus allowed workers to read their own mistakes, their disintegration, and encouraged the correction of those mistakes. In this way self-registering machines became an external conscience, one which never grew tired or forgiving; the gaze of the apprentice met that of the machine which, in turn, became his own. The machine served as a temporary prosthetic 'soul,' which guided the worker's body until its principles could be imprinted onto that body, brought inside the worker in the from of a "peculiar sensibility." Thinking back to Foucault and Theweleit, we might say that the pleasure and fear produced by this mechanical version of the drill gradually resulted in the reconstruction of the soul. These apparatuses highlight the odd character of this apprenticeship, in which the worker(/soldier) was apprenticed, not to a master, but to himself (and in some rare non-military cases, herself). Again, this recalls Theweleit's insistence that the disciplined self takes active part in his own disciplining.

A similar feedback-structure appeared in some of Amar's devices for the disabled, e.g., the "adjustable Physiological Crutch." Amar noted that ordinary crutches led to "19 cases of paresis among every 100 users," and, using the methods of physiological analysis, attributed the problem to the fact that many persons bear their weight on the shoulder-piece of the crutch. To prevent this from happening, he developed a special crutch:

The shoulder-piece is supported laterally on springs, of suitable strength, which act as shock-absorbers, and bear the weight of the body, imparting to it a sort of oscillation, which accelerates the movement of propulsion and lessens the axiallary pressure.... The wounded soldier must be led, by successive stages, to rely less and less on the double support of the armpits, and to employ the muscles of the limbs, without fatiguing them. That he does not do this I am able to assure myself by measuring the respiratory energy.[47]

This device ensured that the wounded soldier discipline his movements, as there was no way for him to move forwards while resting his weight on his armpits; his body received a discipline simply through its interaction with the crutch. As with the self-registering apparatus, the crutch was a kind of self-therapy; its tremendous power lay in its capacity to make the maimed soldier an active participant in his own rehabilitation. Both kinds of equipment made a single unit of the worker and the machine, a kind of early cyborg whose biological component was conditioned by the mechanical part.

All of these were various parts of a new drill, one to which only maimed soldiers were subjected. As in military training, their bodies were made strong and responsive to commands; but this time it was the command of the machine, and the pleasures they sought were directed, not at the rending of other bodies, but at the matching of their own actions with the actions demanded of them by the machine. The new man was rendered fit for the utopia of the future by the exercise of his own will - a will which was (Amar hoped) identical with that of the self-registering machine.[48]

reintegration: the disciplinary regime of the rehabilitation institutions

The combatant nations had various approaches to the problem of the soldiers' rehabilitation. As noted above, some nations instituted a mandatory rehabilitation period while others made the period voluntary, even costly; similarly, some rehabilitation centers were under military control, and some under private or public civilian administration. Nevertheless, these institutions, both American and European, followed certain common procedures. In particular, these institutions always made clear the close connection between basic physical rehabilitation and vocational re-education; and, just as important, the heavy emphasis on discipline was rarely lifted.

Maimed soldiers were always subjected to a strict corporeal discipline. Drills of one kind or another formed the basis of almost all rehabilitation. In Germany, for example,

The plan is that a man shall begin very simple but systematic physical exercises even before he is out of bed. These are gradually increased until finally he has two or three hours a day under a regular gymnasium instructor.... Games and outdoor sports are found to have an immense therapeutic value, both psychological and physical, as compared with medico-mechanical treatment.[49]

From the beginning, the maimed soldier was encouraged, even ordered, to subject his body to rigorous discipline. The same was true in the English-speaking world. William Seaman Bainbridge, an American military doctor, writes,

Experience in England and elsewhere has already shown that it is unwise to leave [the soldier's] re-education to the time after the wounds have entirely healed and the patient is ready to leave the hospital. Habits conducive to permanent helplessness and reliance on others, difficult of eradication, have then been formed, and the self-assertion and energy of a man who has once resigned himself in despair to what he deems his lot as a war cripple, are not easily aroused for the overcoming of his infirmities.[50]

When doctors mistakenly waited for bones to knit and flesh to heal, they unwittingly subjected the patient to moral and physical dangers; the patient's will deteriorated, and with it the muscular tonus of the affected regions. The only remedy for this "insidious deterioration" was "functional reeducation through the medium of work."[51]

The curative properties of work were well-nigh miraculous. If begun early enough, a supervised regime of labor both "[kept] the man's will power at a high level" and "[hastened] consolidation in severe fractures...with the result that the patients [could] be equipped proportionately sooner...."[52] This combination of effects was sufficient to avert "a permanent loss in working capacity." This emphasis was present transnationally, with French, German, and English institutions following similar programs.[53] Manual labor in special workshops was an almost universal feature of even the very earliest stages of functional re-education:

In manual labor, the wounded man moves continually and almost unconsciously his injured limbs, thus assuring good circulation, preventing atrophy, and contributing to as complete a recovery as is possible for him.[54]

In the eyes of the reformers, physical recovery was next-to-impossible without labor - only work could preserve body and soul from the decay which injury threatened.[55] But work could be transformative as well as preservative. In later stages of rehabilitation, work would literally transform the soldier into a civilian.

Once the initial phase of functional re-education was complete, the maimed soldier was sent to an institution for 'vocational re-education,' often in a new location. The purpose of the vocational schools was to train the maimed to be self-sufficient in the new economies rising on the ashes of the war. A profession would be assigned on the basis of the degree and type of injury, and the period of apprenticeship would begin. Here the drill continued: as in re-education, and indeed in his former life as a soldier, the maimed would be subject to constant supervision and discipline. Without this supervision, vocational re-education could not be completed, for "sometimes the realization of the difficulties to be overcome brings tears to the eyes of the poor soldiers, and if they were let alone, they would in their despair cease their efforts."[56] But, like the soldier-males they were, these maimed individuals came to take pleasure in control over their new bodies, and the prosthetic apparatuses which attach to them. The training was often so complete that after apprenticeship the maimed could earn "a normal wage."

This endeavor was seen to be crucial to the success of the new nations: "The wealth of the Nation no less than the welfare of the individual demands [vocational rehabilitation.]"[57] The Belgian school at Port Villez, France, had as its motto, "a place for everything, and everything in its place." This sentiment was extended to include the soldiers (now, truly, workers) themselves. Their training was coordinated with government projections concerning skills which would be required in the post-war years; in rebuilding the worker, the rehabilitators were making (or trying to make?) a new, scientifically organized society.

rehabilitation and fascism

What I hope to have established is the plausibility of certain assertions. I claim that the rehabilitation effort was a purposefully designed attempt to shape the subjectivity of a class of individuals. In this attempt, political and economic aims were translated into medical-technological regimens, protocols, and devices. Moreover, the political aims themselves came to be framed in terms of the local practices in which the reformers were engaged - so that Amar, for example, framed his political fears about social disintegration in terms of his scientific ideas and practices. Physiological theories and self-registering machines, themselves imbued with a politics by virtue of their rhetorical mobilization in the political realm, became constitutive of that very politics. The narrow historical and topical focus taken here renders visible the mutual dependence of capillary and (to extend the metaphor) arterial structures of power.[58]

The activity of rehabilitation was in keeping with a general activity of reconstruction and consolidation. As the Great War drew to a close, progressivists of all descriptions formulated plans for the rational rebuilding of society, plans involving centralization, industrialization, and the realignment of interest between workers and capitalists. In other circles, artists and intellectuals looked to the machine as a redemptive tool for the creation of 'new men' - strong, daring men who understood that the membrane between spirit and mechanism was a permeable one. These members of the intelligentsia - Futurists in Italy, Dadaists in the French-speaking world, and unallied intellectuals like Ernst Jünger in Germany - often looked to the soldier of the Great War as a precursor to their 'new man.' Courageous, swift death machines, these soldiers led the way towards a stronger (more masculine) future.

Rehabilitation stood at the juncture of these two reconstructive projects, and joined them. The new society would be a martial society - one formed around the same principles of training as the army. The new man would be a worker, integrated into the rationalized economies that were to come. Everywhere, the distinctions between mechanical, physical, social would be blurred. The body was machine, but disciplined by will; the will was corporeal, but influenced by training; discipline was in the interest of the maimed, but also that of the social order; and so on. An apparently seamless web bound together the spiritual, physical, and social worlds, and fused them.

It took less than a decade for this visionary union to turn terrifying.

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Notes

[1] John Keegan, The Face of Battle, (New York: Viking Press, 1976) 268-70.

[2] The soldier is tautologically male. Estimates in 1916 gave numbers between 2.5 and 3.4 million for soldiers "disabled by wounds." Cf. I.M. Rubinow, "A Statistical Consideration of the Number of Men Crippled in War and Disabled in Industry," Publications of the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men Ser. 1, No. 4, 1918. More recent sources generally come up with slightly more conservative numbers; cf. "Die großen europäischen Kriege in Daten und Zahlen," in Johanna Bleker and Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach, ed., Medizin und Krieg: Vom Dilemma der Heilberufe 1865 bis 1985, 259-265.

[3] The term rehabilitation is used in this paper to refer to a variety of techniques of discipline and treatment applied to the physically maimed. French, English, and German all held multiple terms for these techniques, but no precise distinction was made, for instance, between Wiederertüchtigung and Rehabilitation in German, or rééducation and rehabilitation in French.

The treatment of psychological disorders is excluded from my analysis, though I suspect some of my claims would hold there as well.

[4] Most notably in Paris, Lyons, and Port Villez in France; in Munich, Leipzig, and Nuremberg in Germany; in Arlington and Chicago in the United States.

[5] The canonical machine theory of the time was that of Franz Reuleaux, who understood machines as chains of elementary parts connected in such a way that "each change in the position of a part relative to the neighboring parts produces a fixed, corresponding change in the position of every other part...." The alignment of social and economic structures along mechanical lines required each part of the structure to be connected to every other, but in such a way that the modality of this connection be strictly controlled. The notorious Gleichschaltung of the Nazi period was perhaps the most ambitious and successful of all these projects. See the discussion of Reuleaux in Wolfgang Schäffner, Die Ordnung des Wahns: Zur Poetologie psychiatrischen Wissens bei Alfred Döblin (Munich: Fink, 1995) 225-227.

[6] One unfortunate effect of this approach is that it treats these varied sites and discourses as parts of an undifferentiated whole, obscuring the fact that there were not only national, but local variations, some of which I will indicate later on. However, my main purpose here is to demonstrate the broader constraints which conditioned the rehabilitation discourse as a whole, not to undertake a more detailed analysis of its parts (the latter is the task of my dissertation). Despite a persisting uneasiness, I take some consolation from the claims of the rehabilitators themselves that their effort was international in scope.

[7] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, tr. Alan Sheridan, (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) 130-31.

[8] Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 128, cf. also 122-23.

[9] Ibid. 130.

[10] Ibid. 29.

[11] Foucault, "Method," in The History of Sexuality, vol. 1: An Introduction (New York: Vintage, 1978) 92-98.

[12] Foucault, Discipline and Punish 194.

[13] Judith Butler, "Subjection, Resistance, Resignification," John Rajchman, ed., The Identity in Question (New York: Routledge, 1995) 235.

[14] Butler 230.

[15] Cf. History of Sexuality, vol. 1, p. 95 ff. Foucault calls resistances "the odd term in relations of power," a phrase which seems to have at least two implications. First, Foucault seems almost to make an analogy to mechanical inertia; that is, Foucault implies that the application of power encounters a natural or inevitable resistance, which in fact it requires: "these [points of resistance] play the role of adversary, target, support or handle in power relations." In what seems to me a more promising move, Foucault also characterizes resistance as arising out of the complex web of power relations which often make contradicotry demands on the subject; these contradictory demands necessarily give rise to resistance to at least one of them. On subjection (assujetissement) and Foucault see Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter, (New York: Routledge, 1993) 34.

[16] Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies, v. 1: Women, Floods, Bodies, History and v. 2: Male Bodies: Psychoanalyzing the White Terror, tr. Stephen Conway with Erica Carter and Chris Turner (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987-1989).

[17] Theweleit, Male Fantasies, v.2, 174. In the later volumes of History of Sexuality, Foucault was also concerned with the production of desire and pleasure through techniques of the self, but his analysis of Greek and Roman views on sex falls far short of Theweleit's examination of the pleasure one can take in discipline itself. Where Foucault describes pleasure as an effect of discipline, Theweleit discusses it as an integral part of discipline.

[18] Theweleit, Male Fantasies, v.1, 151.

[19] Foucault, Discipline and Punish 135-168.

[20] "...the survival of the fascist male is made dependent on the delimiting defense of his boundaries; he survives by differentiating himself as killer, in opposition to whatever he perceives as threatening." Theweleit, Male Fantasies, v. 2, 380.

[21] There is more to be said on the topic of writing memoirs, an occupation extremely popular among the Freikorps soldiers. Fascist literary production seems to be, in Theweleit's eyes, an extension of the discipline of the drill: a will-to-discipline passes through a will-to-work on its way to becoming a will-to-write. The pleasure of writing is transformed, through the media-system of literary production, into a pleasure of reading. The media-system (or in Friedrich Kittler's phrase, Aufschreibesystem) would then be an important path for the strategic transformation of micro-power (discipline) into macro-power (politics).

[22] Theweleit's extensive analysis of "blackout" should not be confused with the present topic. For Theweleit, blackout is a necessary release of psychic energy for the soldier-male; it is thus a normal part of the soldier's cycle of desiring-production. The kinds of events I discuss here - limb removal, massive, permanent tissue damage, and permanent loss of sensation - are extraordinary disruptions of this cycle, though it may be that the machine can be modified to accommodate them.

[23] Ernst Jünger, Storm of Steel, tr. Basil Creighton, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Co., Inc., 1929).

[24] Such a critique is made in their name by the Internationaler Gewerkschaftsbund, a socialist-pacifist organization of the 1920s, in "Nie Wieder Krieg." (Amsterdam: Verlag Internationaler Gewerkschaftsbund, 1929) Though this is important, it does not affect the following argument.

[25] From Jules Amar, The Physiology of Industrial Organisation and the Re-Employment of the Disabled, tr. Bernard Miall, (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1920) 228.

[26] cf. Physiology 97.

[27] Leon De Paeuw, The Vocational Re-Education of Maimed Soldiers, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1918), 47. De Peauw extends this notion of centralized control from the more-or-less political level described above all the way down into the "capillary" level of individual interactions within institutions. He calls for "men of benevolence and firm will" to head institutions, and to take a strong interest in the reshaping of the soldiers' will; thus when De Paeuw draws upon established reformist rhetoric, he crafts a continuity between politics and the shaping of the individual.

[28] Jean Norton Cru, War Books: A Study in Historical Criticism, ed. and trans. Stanley Pincetl, Jr., and Ernest Marchand (San Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1976) 8.

[29] De Paeuw, Vocational Re-education 21.

[30] One might easily argue that the moral qualities referred to are the discipline and capacity to follow orders which characterize the soldier.

[31] REFERENCE Report 163.

[32] It is perhaps relevant to note that some reformers saw the rehabilitation of maimed soldiers as a pilot program for a more sustained effort aimed at the re-education and hence, economic utilization, of the vast numbers of maimed workers injured on the job. One way in which the concept soldier/worker is made to cohere is through the conceptualization, at high levels of industrial business, of both kinds of man as 'fodder' of one sort or another.

[33] Like Foucault, the reformers themselves often used the word 'soul' to describe this subjectivity which mediates between the ideal and the physical worlds; an apt choice, I think.

[34] Anson Rabinbach, The Human Motor (New York: Basic Books, 1989).

[35] Amar, Physiology 97.

[36] To put it more strongly: Amar's intentions were 'humane' in a technical, not a prosaic, sense; that is, he was an active participant in the contemporary discourses of 'the human.'

[37] This phenomenon exemplifies one characteristic I emphasized in the introduction: that these institutions were both reflective and generative of the discourses of this period. The concept of the "new man" was refined and transformed by its use in the rehabilitation movement. In this respect, the rehabilitation centers formally resemble Bruno Latour's laboratories: they are privileged cites of the production of knowledge, nodes in a network. The main difference here is that they produce non-scientific knowledge. Of course, as this next section shows, the rehabilitation camps were often literal, natural-scientific laboratories as well.

[38] Amar 166.

[39] It is interesting to note that Theweleit also understands work to be a crucial aspect of the effort at boundary-conservation. "The activity of work screens [the soldier male's] ego against fragmentation and collapse and thus also protects it from the onset of devouring symbioses. 'Arbeit macht frei'...was meant more or less literally." Male Fantasies, v.2, 233.

[40] Amar, Physiology 166-7.

[41] Amar, Physiology 256.

[42] It's interesting to note that Amar often spoke of the "apprenticeship crisis"; for him, it was an economic crisis which he sought to alleviate with physiological education. Like other reformers, then, Amar moved easily between the physical and political realms.

[43] Amar, Physiology 183.

[44] "...it has become a matter of the greatest urgency that the Ministry of Commerce should assist in the work by organizing apprenticeship on a scientific basis, and organizing it in the schools. The task of the workshop will be complementary. Everything points to the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers as the center which should co-ordinate and direct the indispensable undertaking which is imposing itself upon the nation. It combines the scientific authority and the industrial power whose isolated action would be a national disaster." Physiology, 201. The new man and the new nation (with its harmonious combination of industry and politics) have be built together; each depends upon the other.

[45] Like the soldier, the worker is almost universally male. Amar's views on gender inequality are, however, quite interesting; cf. Physiology 184.

[46] Amar, Physiology, 130. On the panopticon see Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 195-230.

[47] Amar, Physiology, 234-5.

[48] Compare this notion of mechanical will with some early notions in cybernetics, especially A. Rosenblueth, N. Wiener and J. Bigelow, "Behavior, Purpose and Teleology," Philosophy of Science 10: 18-24, 1943.

[49] Underhill, Ruth, "Provisions for War Cripples in Germany," Publications of the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, Ser. 1, No. 13, 1918.

[50] Bainbridge, Report, 163.

[51] Bainbridge 164.

[52] Bainbridge 165.

[53] cf., e.g.., Whiteside, G. G., "Provision for Vocational Re-education of Disabled Soldiers in France."

[54] De Paeuw, Vocational Re-education, 63.

[55] Which is not to say that work was the only aspect of functional reeducation. De Peauw, for instance, presents a long list of physical disciplines to which patients were subjected: Mechanotherapy, Electrotherapy, Massage, gymnastics, fencing (!), sports. Gymnastics is an interesting case: "...pedagogic gymnastics must be practiced in classes in order to give perfect poise to all parts of the body in a correct attitude, and assure the proper functioning of the organs of respiration and circulation." (59) Like work, gymnastics healed the body by endowing the soldier with self-discipline. But regardless of the healing effects attributed to these sorts of activities, work remained the central activity of rehabilitation.

[56] De Paeuw, Vocational Re-education, 101.

[57] Bainbridge, Report, 166.

[58] This version of the study is clearly unfinished. If some of the many gaps in the analysis were filled in - the relation of disability to interwar notions of masculinity, for instance, or the relation of physical to psychological impairment, or the relations of "industrial physiology" to physiology simpliciter and other academic disciplines - then a study following this method could be a fairly sophisticated investigation of the belabored construction of culture, where culture is construed as the contingent and negotiated articulation of specific practices with specific discourses. It might even be possible to describe precisely the linkages among various practices, and even to describe them in terms of these relations - to place them in cultural space, as it were.

There is an interesting parallel here with the topological models generated by a Wittgensteinian theory of meaning - a theory of meaning as use. Proponents of this theory hold that words have meanings precisely in virtue of their use. Meaning, then, is reducible to practice; it is produced through practice and only through practice. It inheres in words insofar as they are actions. Thus the "definition" of a word, insofar as definition is a relevant notion, is merely a description of its connectedness to other speech acts - other moves in the "language game," in Wittgenstein's terms. So words become nodes in a web constructed in the space of language.

This focus on practice leaves open the possibility that other sorts of actions can have meanings as well. Just as words have more or less fixed roles in linguistic practice, so too do certain actions and even objects have fixed roles in cultural practice. It would be possible, then, to talk about the "cultural meaning" of these actions and (theoretical, material) objects; and not because they "represent" something else, but because they are tied through practice to other practices, which ties constitute their "meaning." Peter Galison ("The Cultural Meaning of Aufbau," forthcoming in Critical Inquiry) has discussed a similar notion of "cultural meaning." Something like such an account might enable one to speak in an informed way about "the meaning of self-correction" or even, eventually, about "the meaning of fascism."