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Jewish Identity, Mass Consumption, And Modern Design

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Chapter Summary

A reciprocal relationship existed between avant-garde design movements in Paris, Vienna, and Berlin and the emergence of modern Jewish identity at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century. This is shown through the examination of the work of three Jewish entrepreneurs - Siegfried Bing, Fritz Waerndorfer, and Emil Rathenau - who initiated, sponsored, and established a model for new design movements in the cities where their business enterprises were headquartered. The contribution of the three to modern design should be reevaluated in light of the crisis of Jewish assimilation and in relation to popular antisemitic beliefs concerning the impossibility of improving the "Jewish character". The modernist "style" represented their constructed identities, meaning their understanding of the proper way of Jewish acculturation, and expressed their integration claims in the French, Austrian, and German societies.

Keywords: avant-garde design movements; Emil Rathenau; Fritz Waerndorfer; Jewish capitalism; modern Jewish identity; Siegfried Bing



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