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NEW WORLD ORDERS 1930-1944 - MAJESTIC 350 349 cc, 1930, France

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NEW WORLD ORDERS 1930-1944


MAJESTIC 350
349 cc, 1930, France
Collection of Alian Petitjean

 

The free-spirited character of innovation and experimentation that flourished during the 1920s underwent a sea change in the next decade. Whereas the machine aesthetic of the '20s was realized through a prevailing tendency toward abstraction, based on a reductive, geometric vocabulary and a utopian political agenda, the ethos of machine culture in the 1930s assumed an altogether different scale and demeanor.


BMW World Land-Speed Record
493 cc, 1937, Germany
Courtesy of BMW AG, Munich



Ushered in by a wave of conservative, even totalitarian, political ideology that overswept Europe, the cultural landscape shifted toward social realism, a state-controlled ideology of popular, classically inspired art and architecture that celebrated national identity through grandiose themes in works on a commensurate scale.

Ironically, social realism incarnated many of the principles and ideals of the prior decade: a belief in technology's potential to transform society and a desire to communicate through a universal form of visual expression. In Germany, the Weimar Republic's short-lived experiment in parliamentary democracy was buried under the weight of high inflation and unemployment. Demoralized by the loss of World War I, Germany had been further humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles, which exacted a high price from the country in the form of reparations, demobilization of its armed forces, and concessions on territorial claims. Thus, by the time Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933, Germany was ripe for transformation.

The irony of this era is that communism, the archenemy of fascism, embraced many of its ideals. Steeped in the same cults of personality and celebrations of national identity, Stalin launched Soviet Russia into a new era of bold industrialization that was to be achieved through a series of harshly ambitious Five Year Plans. As in Italy and Germany, the ideology of modernization was propagated through large-scale planning and classical ideals of physical strength, continuity, order, and stability. Monuments were an inevitable outgrowth of these ideologies, and were constructed with fervor.


Triumph Speed Twin
498 cc, 1938, United Kingdom
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Birmingham, AL


Indian Sport Scout 'Bob-Job'
57 ci, 1940, United States
Collection of David Edwards

The legacy of these ideological dictatorships is now a matter of history. Having placed their own houses in order, or in some cases due to an inability to do so, they set out to change the rest of the world, each seeking to establish a new paradigm based on its own political philosophy. Technologies developed for social transformation became weapons of destruction. Indian, Zuendapp and Harley-Davidson were amongst the many motorcycle manufacturers that saw service during the war; and many more, particularly British manufacturers, fell victim to the postwar financial crisis in Europe, with its reverberations reaching into the 1950s.

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