The origin and expansion of kulturpessimismus: The relationship between public and private spheres in early twentieth century germany

Sociological Theory 5 (2):150-164 (1987)
Abstract
A radical critique of modernity crystallized in the German Bildungsburgertum at the end of the last century. A broad cross-section of this stratum equated "mass democracy" with anarchy, foresaw a future populated only by "atomized modern men," and disdained the "vulgarity" of industrial capitalism. The origin and expansion of the intense and persistent configuration of cultural values that constituted German Kulturpessimismus deserves exploratory theoretical examination. The sociology of knowledge analysis suggested here is based on a Weberian framework that examines the cultural values indigenous to several sectors of the public sphere in pre-industrial and nineteenth century Germany and the particular dynamic of interaction between these values and those indigenous to the private sphere in early twentieth century Germany. Comparisons to the American public sphere and its relationship to the American private sphere are noted in order to isolate clearly the German situation. This case study offers an illustration of the manner in which heterogenous cultural values may persist over extended periods of time despite fundamental structural transformation
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