I've been reading George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Penguin, 1989), which was originally published in 1937. Not because it has anything to do with my thesis, but just to broaden my horizons, and because, well, it's Orwell, ya know? I certainly didn't expect to read about the possible effects of bombing in a book about socialism and unemployment. But then what do I read on pp. 203-4, in the context of a discussion of whether a return to a pre-industrial society is possible?
For some time past it has been fashionable to say that war is presently going to 'wreck civilisation' altogether; but, though the next full-sized war will certainly be horrible enough to make all previous ones seem a joke, it is immensely unlikely that it will put a stop to mechanical progress. It is true that a very vulnerable country like England, and perhaps the whole of western Europe, could be reduced to chaos by a few thousand well-placed bombs, but no war is at present thinkable which could wipe out industrialism in all countries simultaneously. We may take it that the return to a simpler, freer, less mechanised way of life, however desirable it may be, is not going to happen.
So at this point in time, Orwell accepted some version of the knock-out blow theory. In fact, he went pretty far, only stopping short of the idea that civilisation itself could be entirely bombed back to the Stone Age. But 'very vulnerable' Britain and perhaps western Europe could be 'reduced to chaos' by bombing, which is pretty much the standard knock-out blow scenario.
I guess this is an example of what Martin Ceadel meant when he wrote that 'literature-and-society' types should 'look for the many indicators of concern about air power, for example, to be found in the literature of the twenties and thirties which is not directly about fear of war'.
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