Crabtree, John Simon (2022) Instruments of Division: The Role of Audio Technology in the Transition From the Weimar Republic to the Nazi State. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

Audio technology in the popular imagination had an ambiguous role in the culture and politics of the Weimar period, being both a medium of progressive modernism in the jazz-age, and, under Nazi control, an instrument of repression and conformity. The aim of this study is to understand the role of audio technology – the radio, gramophone, electronic musical instruments, sound film and their associated and interconnected ecosystems – in the musical, cultural and political ideas of the Weimar republic (1918-33) and the subsequent impact of these ideas on the transition to the Nazi State (1933-45). Studies of the culture and politics of the Weimar and Nazi period are largely delineated by genre: arts, music, literature, politics and their respective artefacts which position technology as the end result of a historic processes. In contrast, this study focuses on audio technology as a socio-political actor in the development of a broad range of cultural and political concepts of the time. I will argue that a primary driver of social change was the symbiotic relationship between technology and the social, political and economic ideas of the period – a relationship that had an often unintentional and unpredictable impact on German society. In contrast to the received image of the Weimar period where audio technology is depicted as a medium of progressive modernity, this study finds that it had a much more ambiguous disruptive influence on the era. Methodologically, this research is supported by secondary literature and primary sources: contemporary journals, literature and archival research and audio recordings.

By analysing primary sources and secondary literature I demonstrate that in contrast to the received image of the Weimar period, audio technology had a much more ambiguous disruptive influence that contributed to the emergence and acceptance of totalitarianism.

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