Restlosigkeit. Weltprojekte um 1900

Krajewski, Markus

Ausgangspunkt dieser Studie ist die >Welt<, und zwar als Präfix. In beinahe inflationärer Verwendung zeigt sie sich 'um 1900' so unterschiedlichen Projekten vorangestellt wie der Durchsetzung einer Welt-Hilfssprache, der Verbreitung und Zirkulation von Welt-Geld oder der Standardisierung unserer Zeit zur Welt-Zeit. Bei der technischen Entwicklung von frühen (Mobil)Funksystemen (das world system des Medienmagiers Nikola Tesla) findet sich diese anspruchsvolle Vorsilbe ebenso wie beim Aufbau eines globalen Netzwerks von Floristen, das verspricht, Blumengrüße unverzüglich in alle Welt zu liefern. In drei Teilen wird diese Konjunktur von Welt-Bildungen umkreist, beschrieben und analysiert. Der erste Teil >Welt um 1900< widmet sich zum einen der begrifflichen Präparation von >Welt<, "Projekt" sowie einer Analyse des "Weltprojektmachers 1900" und dessen Herkunft und Tradition aus der Projektemacherei in der Frühen Neuzeit. Zum anderen wird anhand des sich allmählich etablierenden Weltverkehrs diskutiert, welchen besonderen Bedingungen und Situationen, welchen Kontexten und Entwicklungen die Initatoren folgen oder unterworfen sind, was sie also zu ihren mitunter waghalsigen Projekten ermutigt. Der zweite Teil besteht aus drei charakteristischen Fallstudien, drei Projekten, die nach einer jeweils eigenen Logik "Welt" erschließen (Wilhelm Ostwald und seine Initiativen) bzw. abbilden (Franz Maria Feldhaus und seine Weltgeschichte der Technik) bzw. organisieren (Walther Rathenau in der Kriegsrohstoffabteilung 1914). Im dritten Teil schließlich wird danach gefragt, was diese drei Fallbeispiele eint. Welchen gemeinsamen Strukturen und Prädispositionen folgen die Weltprojektmacher? Es läßt sich dabei eine spezifische Formation von Vorstellungen und Determinanten ausmachen, ein gemeinsames Dispositiv, das unter der Bezeichnung >Restlosigkeit< erörtert wird, um schließlich zu einer kleinen Theorie des Übrigen zu führen.

The initial point of this Ph.D. is the world, but as a prefix. Around 1900 one can determine an almost inflationary use of this prefix, especially in the parlance of the imperial powers such as England, Germany, and France. The wor(l)d usually shows up in conjunction with peculiar undertakings, reform initiatives and attempts of standardizing. All these undertakings present characteristics which can be deduced from the historical tradition of >projects< and >projecting< in the Early Modern Period. According to Daniel Defoe and his 1697 Essay Upon Projects, a project is defined as >a vast Undertaking, too big to be manag’d, and therefore likely enough to come to nothing<. Usually such an attempt is promoted by a single person, the so called >projector< (or >Projektmacher<, or >donneur d’avis<) who merely designs the plan. The subsequent execution as well as the funding is delegated to someone else. The projector is a mere commissioner. But in contrast to the Early Modern Period, projectors around 1900 aim their undertakings at the totality of the world. The scope of the projects is extended to its maximum. Therefore, their projects mirror this pretension with labels like World Money for the distribution and circulation of an exclusive valuta for all purposes, World Auxiliary Language (1883) for an entirely new language as a second code of communication besides the mother tongue; or for centralizing and standardizing all knowledge at one single location called World Brain (1911). The development of an early wireless communication system by the media magician Nikola Tesla (world system, 1901) held this claim of maximum range, as well as the construction of a global network of florists offering to deliver their >flowers by wire to all the world< (slogan of the Florists’ Telegraph Delivery Association, 1910). The thesis encircles, describes and analyzes this wor(l)d boom in three separate parts. Part 1, the World around 1900, is devoted to the terms world, project and world project(or), including their etymology and a short history of projecting in the tradition of Daniel Defoe and others. Furthermore, it describes the so called world traffic, i.e. the gradual progress and dissemination of a compound transport system of goods, persons, and information. The development of deep sea telegraphy is depicted in close connection to ocean steamship lines, railway routes and a global postal system. These new services establish a global network based on standards, arrangements, and conventions between the global players of their time. I will discuss world traffic as the major impulse or motivating power of this projecting boom. Due to this basic shift or extension of transportational paradigms, a new situation of global transport and communication evolves which on its part produces new contexts and effects, e.g., the projectors’ incentive to aim at the entire world. In part 2, I will look at three case studies in order to exemplify and differentiate between three modes of projecting world. The first mode is to project into the world, i.e. to disseminate ideas concerning standardized concepts for the world’s entirety. The protagonist of this mode is the chemist and 1909 nobel prize winner Wilhelm Ostwald (1853-1932) who produced a whole series of world projects, e.g. a unitarian world auxiliary language (Ido, a derivative of Esperanto), world money as well as world brain. The second mode is the attempt to project the world via a 1:1-relation into a sample. The protagonist of this mode is the engineer and autodidact Franz Maria Feldhaus (1874-1957) who established a huge card index containing even the slightest item concerning the world history of technology. Feldhaus not only collects the world (of technology), he also designs this world within his indexes. The third mode is characterized by reduction. This mode is represented by Walther Rathenau (1867-1922), writer, president of the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft and secretary of foreign affairs in the first phase of the Weimar Republic. During the first months of World War I he is involved in the Prussian ministery of war with a special task, namely the attempt to transform the former world wide operating economy of the German Reich to a national scale in order to deal with the sudden limit of resources. Whereas Ostwald aims at the world, it now serves as starting quantity. Rathenau’s methods show that world projects also work the other way round. The global situation of trusts and cartels prove that organisation persists: although WWI marks the end of the boom of world projects, the results and insights are developed into new structures which pave the way to the process of today’s globalization. Finally, part 3 focuses on the moments and characteristics these projects share. Do they have structures and prerequisites in common? Are there similar results? In the end, in almost every case the projects fail. What’s more, despite they miss the world, these world projects follow specific notions and determining factors: they are all based on a phantasma of completeness and accessibility of the world as a whole. This notion will be described as their common dispositive (Foucault) and will be discussed under the term >Restlosigkeit<. Unlimited access to all the world via new technical media (e.g. ocean telegraphy or steam ships) encourage the projectors around 1900 to extend the scope of their plans to an all encompassing totality. Finally, in terms of these projects’ >left-overs<, this study intends to outline a small theory of incompletion. Apart from the description and analysis of this so far unseen boom of world projecting, the aim of the study is both simple and highly topical: it tries to show how globalization and peculiar notions of totality converge as early as the dawning 20th century. At the horizon of this vista, a specific dispositive of administration and organisation emerges with the assertion of completeness.


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Krajewski, Markus: Restlosigkeit. Weltprojekte um 1900. 2005.

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