Urban Perspectives: Siegfried Kracauer and »Das Ornament der Masse«

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Siegfried Kracauer’s seminal essay “Das Ornament der Masse” of 1927 is widely known for its analysis of the so-called Tiller Girls as an expression of Taylorism in modern culture. But “Das Ornament der Masse” is first of all a program for the critical intellectual in the age of mass culture. Kracauer’s essay may even provide a conceptual basis for critical studies of modern urbanity. Yet one has to establish a clear distinction between culture industry (e.g. the Tiller Girls) and urban culture. In everyday life as well as in Kracauer’s writings about it, the sphere of city culture may transcend capitalist Ratio and enter the domain of utopian fantasy. Far from automatically reproducing the logic of capital, the ornaments of the city provide occasions for cultural and social change. This is what Kracauer is hinting at when he makes improvisation the prime criterion of urban quality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIride: Filosofia e discussione pubblica
Issue number3, 2016
Pages (from-to)591-604
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ID: 117198959