Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity by Mimi Sheller

By Mimi Sheller

Aluminum formed the 20 th century. It enabled high-speed go back and forth and gravity-defying flight. It used to be the fabric of a streamlined aesthetic that got here to symbolize modernity. And it grew to become a necessary element in business and family items that ranged from airplanes and automobiles to clothier chairs and synthetic Christmas timber. It entered smooth houses as packaging, foil, pots and pans or even infiltrated bodies via foodstuff, drugs, and cosmetics. In Aluminum Dreams, Mimi Sheller describes how the materiality and that means of aluminum reworked sleek lifestyles and keeps to form the realm this present day.

Aluminum, Sheller tells us, replaced mobility and mobilized glossy existence. It enabled air strength, the distance age and moon landings. but, as Sheller makes transparent, aluminum was once very important not just in twentieth-century know-how, innovation, structure, and layout but additionally in underpinning worldwide army energy, asymmetric improvement, and the most important environmental and well-being matters. Sheller describes aluminum's glossy utopia but additionally its darkish aspect. The accidental outcomes of aluminum's frequent use comprise struggles for sovereignty and source keep an eye on in Africa, India, and the Caribbean; the unleashing of establishment firms; and the toxins of the earth via mining and smelting (and the conflict to save lots of it). utilizing a unmarried fabric as an access aspect to knowing an international historical past of modernization and its implications for the long run, Aluminum desires forces us to invite: How can we gather the fabric tradition of modernity and what are its environmental outcomes?

Aluminum Dreams incorporates a beneficiant collection of awesome pictures of iconic aluminum designs, many in colour, drawn from ads via Alcoa, Bohn, Kaiser, and different significant firms, pamphlets, movies, and exhibitions.

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39 Fuller calls this new form of world capitalism the “metals and mining capitalism. Whoever owned the mines had incredible power,” which when combined with control of the “line of supply,” or what we would today call logistics, led to “the first supranational, world-around-integrated, metals cartels. They were out of reach of the laws of any one country, in a metals cartels capitalism”40 Although he initially had in mind the steel cartels and the iron ore, copper, and gold mines of the world, we can extend his vision to the aluminum cartels of the early twentieth century and the ongoing importance of global “supranational” mining industries today.

The protestors charge that the gleam of aluminum (and the gleam in the eye of capitalist profiteers) comes with a darker underside. 48 Mostly, especially when these protests occur outside the developed world, they are ignored. The ease of high-speed travel, the convenient food packaging, the mobile communications systems, and the shining skyscrapers that serve today as the cathedrals of late modernity are grounded in the heavy (and dirty) industries of power generation, mining, refining, and smelting—and these are part of a worldwide production process controlled by a handful of huge multinational corporations with exotic acronyms: RUSAL, Alcoa, CHINALCO, Rio Tinto-Alcan, BHP Billiton, and Vedanta.

54 Here, though, I concentrate especially on the demand side, and think about their final two recommendations: reducing consumption and limiting growth. How much is our consumption of aluminum driven by the modern cultural quest for mobility, lightness, and speed, and the presumption that these qualities are always to be highly valued? By tracing aluminum’s fundamental role in the rise of the militaryindustrial complex, its tight embedding in complex transnational processes, and its deep cultural implications, we can better address the question of how aluminum consumption might be reduced through disruptive innovation.

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