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The Werkbund: Design Theory & Mass Culture before the First World War

The Werkbund: Design Theory & Mass Culture before the First World War

by Frederic J. Schwartz

"In this rich study, the impact of the Werkbund reverberates well beyond the confines of design and architectural history. Frederic Schwartz convincingly maps out the crucial historical relationship between the practical and ideological project of the Werkbund and subsequent critical culture. The book significantly revises our understanding of the origins of the most influential theories of consumer society."—Jonathan Crary, Columbia University

"This is an extremely interesting book. . . . Schwartz skillfully unfolds the first 'discussion of mass culture' and shows that cultural despair is not new."—Charlotte Skene-Catling, Burlington Magazine

"Beyond simply mastering a reading list, the author has composed a book that I consider easily the most thought-provoking book I have read in a year."—Duncan Berry, New Criterion

During the period before World War I, the German Werkbund was at the center of attempts to forge new theories of architecture and design in light of the momentous technological and economic developments of modernity. In this fascinating book, Frederic J. Schwartz explores the ideological and aesthetic positions at the core of debates that embroiled the prominent architects, critics, sociologists, economists, and politicians who had united in the Werkbund during this pivotal era.

Taking the Werkbund out of the shadow of 1920s developments in architecture and design that have received more attention, Schwartz casts new light on this earlier historical movement. He shows that the concerns of the group went far beyond aesthetics, as design became a major testing ground for a new self-consciousness about the effects of consumerism and commodification in modern culture. Schwartz explores how a theoretical dialogue developed between the Werkbund and sociologists such as Georg Simmel and Werner Sombart, how economists' ideas about the cultural nature of the consumer market led to an ill-fated call for the development of "types," and how a group of "individualists" within the organization developed an opposing position by taking into account changes in copyright and trademark laws that had begun to govern the economic use of visual form in quite concrete ways. It is to the debates in and around the Werkbund, Schwartz asserts, that we must look to find important roots of the mass culture theory associated with Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and other thinkers of the Frankfurt School.

Please note that Rare/Out-of-Print titles are very limited in stock.

272 pages
10.3 x 7.9 x 1 inches
Yale University Press
ISBN 9780300068986
Architecture, Sociology 

$125.00 $125.00