Wings of the Rockies Air and Space Museum in eastern Denver is a hangar full of military airplanes and their 24-cylinder engines. Run by volonteers, who fight for every dollar they can make off of entrance fees and merchandise and for every second of your time, the museum nevertheless is full of pride and passion. An elite sphere of life, air-and-space industry is responsible for a number of consumer innovations. The museum prides on first making it possible to accomplish a round-the-world flight in only 37 hours and then bringing to people’s homes GPS, computer chips and space blankets. A pair of Ray-Ban aviators from 1937 constitutes one of the iconic items of pop culture that can be seen on U.S. generals as well as on pow-wow dancers. I was suprised not to find WD-40 among the
examples. (Since 1953, this magic lubricant developed for the NASA achieved almost 100% awareness among the consumers, while yielding niche markers such as sailing and the military to more specilaized products such as McLube, PB Blaster, etc.) In Supercapitalism, Robert Reich documents the process by which
technological innovations originally developed for the needs of the military and NASA poured into the consumer market in the 1970s. Internet was one of them. (I remember Gene Parta of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe recalling that there was an e-mail system installed between the divisions of this Cold War propaganda radio station in the 1980s, long before e-mail became a consumer product.) The importance of the collapse of silos between the military and commercial departments for the marketplace is hard to overestimate, for it resulted in the unprecedented empowerment of the consumer against the employee and the disintegration of the traditional corporation and the trade-union. Swiss Army knife, aviator jacket, camo style backpacks, pants and jackets, Commander’s watch (komandirskie chasy) in Russia among others, are some of the more supreficial retail examples of military chic.