Vestige of a bygone era. A mosaic from a socialist past in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash

Regaining a Sense of Balance

Capitalists and Socialists Succeed by Working Together

Stephen Bau
Oct 14, 2018 · 6 min read

I came across an article that noted a common desire to escape capitalism. The comments are filled with several criticisms vehemently defending capitalism among other opinions defending socialism and many other points of view. I wrote this article in response.

In response to those who are attempting to defend capitalism as the only system worth defending, they deny the interconnected nature of the world as opposing forces in conflict with each other, but also in relationship with each other. If people restrict their knowledge of history to studies of economics and the successes of military-industrial nation states, they ignore the worlds of art, design and science, without which the capitalist world could not have created its metropolises populated with towering edifices of concrete, steel and glass.

Consider 100 years of the influence of the Bauhaus on modern life.

A community of artists and architects conceived the modern system of architecture as a scientific synthesis of the industrial mass-production manufacturing process with the art of manipulating the most appropriate building materials. Concrete, steel and glass were the modernist trinity. These materials represented a break from the past focus on the aesthetics of the façade, instead placing the greatest priorities on engineering strength and production efficiency to create neo-plastic forms that exposed the inner life of the architectural structure, the human activities that the spaces afforded.

The Bauhaus was conceived by artists and architects as a means of building a socialist utopia out of the ruins of the Great War. In reaction to the failure of the political structures of the time to achieve peace and economic prosperity, people gathered to design a modern system to replace the hierarchical and aristocratic political systems that had led them to annihilate each other.

The modern world is a collaboration between socialist ideals and capitalist methodologies. The vast majority of capitalists work in modernist architecture conceived by socialists.

China succeeds by recognizing the best of both worlds.

America fails by creating prisons for children, a capitalist gulag for political prisoners.

Many people writing posts lauding capitalism are doing so on devices conceived by designers and engineers who find their inspiration from the Bauhaus.

The most successful corporation in the world is Apple. Its success is based on the desire of free-thinking individuals who preferred sharing their code to build open source software (UNIX) that was not owned by any single individual or corporation.

Steve Wozniak is at heart a socialist.

Steve Jobs was the capitalist.

Jobs conceived of an organization that controlled the production process and the software ecosystem to ensure the quality of both the hardware and the software. Apple needed both the socialist and the capitalist to succeed.

Propaganda

America believes the propaganda that we have only five senses. We have at least six senses. People forget that the ear also contains a vestibular system. Without balance, we would be falling down, incapable of functioning.

Balance

America, you are out of balance. Figure out how to work together. It is the lack of balance that is leading to the fall, that is, the loss of faith and confidence in your capitalist empire.

Fun Facts

For people like me who remember the Penguin Pool at Stanley Park in Vancouver, did you know that it was inspired by the Bauhaus?

Penguin Pool, London Zoo

The Bauhaus school began in Germany in 1919, its goals outlined in a manifesto penned by architect Walter Gropius: rebelling against the superficiality of neoclassical architecture, he declared that “the ultimate aim of all visual arts is the complete building.” Steel exoskeletons, cast concrete, walls of plate-glass windows laid bare the building process. Bauhaus courses were interdisciplinary, and many were taught by artists — Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Josef Albers. Most often associated with streamlined furniture and technological utopianism, the Bauhaus movement also had a less-known love affair with trees, plants, and, at one point, penguins.

When Bauhaus architects fled from Germany to the United Kingdom in the 1930s, they found an ally in biologist Julian Huxley, who, while secretary of the London Zoological Society, populated the city’s menagerie with ambitious modernist designs. In 1934, the London Zoo unveiled a Bauhaus-influenced penguin pool, designed by Berthold Lubetkin: two ramps, ribbons of concrete, intertwine like strands of DNA, where groups of birds preened for an eager audience. Attacked by some zoo critics (a real job, in the 1930s!) for its circus-like staging, its designers saw the pool instead as a model society in miniature, with the penguins standing in for city-dwellers in a rapidly modernizing Europe. “[They didn’t] want to replicate their natural environment, [they wanted] to make a radically new environment for them and show the world that penguins can survive in this type of environment, just like workers can become acclimated to a new environment,” Anker told GARAGE. “There was something revolutionary about it, that we can live in a totally different type of world.”

Postcard: The Penguins, Stanley Park Zoo, 1953

“The Penguins, Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada.”
SceneOchroM. Made in Canada by the Gowen, Sutton Co. Ltd., Vancouver, B.C.

Penguin Pool modern structure was dated to 1953. Design influenced by the modern, steel-reinforced concrete Penguin Pool at the London Zoo, Regent’s Park by Berthold Lubetkin (1934).

The Stanley Park Zoo closed in 1997.

Stephen Bau

Written by

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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