Engineers, Energetic Productivism, and the End of Empires
The interwar years saw the rise of debates and comparisons around the growth and efficiency of national power economies. The article interprets this 'energetic productivism' in terms of indirect geopolitical competition. While this form of competition clearly did not rule out national conflicts over resources and territories, it created a new medium––the national power economy––via which supremacy could be asserted. The article outlines the roots of energetic productivism in the 19th century and shows how it related to imperial competition around the turn of the century. It presents two forms of energetic productivism that emerged out of two distinct nation states, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. On the basis of these examples, the article argues that 'power competition' was wedded to two wider political conflicts. The first was between Great Britain and 'rising' rival powers whose ascendence was beginning to end its industrial and political hegemony. The second power competition occurred between the Soviet Union and the capitalist countries whom this experimental new polity sought to supersede. The article concludes by contrasting these two iterations of energetic productivism with a more well-known formulation of energetic statehood proposed in the US in the 1930s.