Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

THE AMBIVALENCE OF MODERNISM FROM THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC TO NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND RED VIENNA

  • SIEGFRIED MATTL (a1)
Abstract

Focusing on the spectacular propaganda exhibitions “Degenerate Art” and “Degenerate Music,” critical studies of Nazism's art policy long considered the regime's public attack on modernism and the turn to pseudo-classicism as decisive proof of Nazism's reactionary character. Studies such as Die Kunst im Dritten Reich (1974), which inspired broader research on the topic in the early 1970s, subscribed to a modern conception of aesthetics in which art expresses complex systems of ideas in progress. Artistic style, from this perspective, corresponded to political tendencies and reflected the traditional divide between conservatism and progressivism. But those boundaries have become blurred in the wake of more recent research, which has demonstrated the involvement of modernist artists in Nazi art (e.g. members of the Bauhaus involved in National Socialist architecture or avant-garde filmmakers such as Walter Ruttmann in National Socialist propaganda films) and, conversely, the continual performance of popular jazz music in the Third Reich (e.g. in radio programmes). Seen against such instances of modernist collaboration and its own occasional mimicry of modernism, National Socialism acquires a more ambivalent profile, characterized by the ongoing conflict between reactionary factions and those who favoured modernization for various reasons.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      THE AMBIVALENCE OF MODERNISM FROM THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC TO NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND RED VIENNA
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      THE AMBIVALENCE OF MODERNISM FROM THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC TO NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND RED VIENNA
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      THE AMBIVALENCE OF MODERNISM FROM THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC TO NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND RED VIENNA
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All

1 Huener Jonathan and Nicosia Francis R., eds., The Arts in Nazi Germany: Continuity, Conformity, Change (New York and Oxford, 2006).

2 Kraus withheld printing of Third Walpurgis Nacht. The book was published for the first time only in 1952.

3 See e.g. Klaus R. Scherpe, “Nonstop nach Nowhere City? Wandlungen der Symbolisierung, Wahrnehmung und Semiotik der Stadt in der Literatur der Moderne,” in idem, Die Unwirklichkeit der Städte. Großstadtdarstellungen zwischen Moderne und Postmoderne (Hamburg, 1988), 136–7.

4 Kaufmann Stefan, Kommunikationstechnik und Kriegsführung 1815–1945. Stufen medialer Rüstung (Munich, 1996), 281).

5 As Jürgen Manthey mentions, Döblin's female characters are shaped by Dostoevsky's protagonist Sonja and her self-sacrifice in Crime and Punishment; see Manthey Jürgen, “Geschäfte der Innenstadt. Alfred Döblin: Modern. Ein Bild aus der Gegenwart,” in Marbach Deutsches Literaturarchiv (ed.), Denkbilder und Schaustücke. Das Literaturmuseum der Moderne (Marbach, 2006), S.90; “Neue Sachlichkeit” and the artists' regress to traditional techniques would serve as one fine example, as well as (revolutionary) architect Bruno Taut's stress of the romantic symbol of the crystal.

6 Peter Sloterdijk, Kritik der zynischen Vernunft, Bd 2 (Frankfurt am Main), 705.

7 See Antliff Mark, Inventing Bergson: Cultural Politics and the Parisian Avant-Garde (Princeton, 1993).

8 Hein Peter Ulrich, Die Brücke ins Geisterreich. Künstlerische Avantgarde zwischen Kulturkritik und Faschismus (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1992), 249.

9 Potter Pamela, “The Arts in Nazi Germany: A Silent Debate,” Contemporary European History 15/4 (2006), 590.

10 The term “aesthetic regime of art” serves Jacques Rancière in replacing cultural theory notions like “modern” and “modernism,” which have become debatable due to their teleological implications (as a marker of the constant progress of humanity). Rancière's concept stresses modern art's function of offering new ways of living (lebensformen) to be redistributed by the political system, but rejects a genuine and autonomous critical quality of formal innovation in the arts. Referring, e.g., to Flaubert's realistic novels, he demonstrates how the (politically) conservative writer's work was misconceived by his contemporaries as significant “democratic” enunciation.

11 In July 1927, police attacked some fifty thousand people protesting against a judicial decision exculpating far-right-wing manslayers of murder. More than eighty protesters were shot dead. This episode is considered the “turning point” in the history of the first republic. On a poster published all over the city, Kraus, with a single sentence, requested chief of police (and twice chancellor) Johann Schober to resign. The poster has become an icon of Austrian contemporary history.

12 Le Rider Jacques, Das Ende der Illusion. Die Wiener Moderne und die Krisen der Identität (Vienna, 1990), 352.

13 Johann Nestroy (1801–62), performer of his own plays onstage, was the most important Austrian satirist. He used improvised stanzas to circumvent censorship and to mock state authority as well as petty bourgeois attitudes.

14 Kamp Walter Gross, Die unbewältigte Moderne. Kunst und Öffentlichkeit (Munich, 1994), 5. 135.

15 Agamben Giorgio, Ausnahmezustand (Frankfurt am Main, 2004), 41.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 63 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 457 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.