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Topographies of Class: Modern Architecture and Mass Society in Weimar Berlin

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The Weimar-Republic, and the modernist architecture and planning that was born there, is still a contested place, from whence liberals, reactionaries and Marxists can all trace their lineage. Sabine Hake's Topographies of Class attempts to clarify this contestation, through an interdisciplinary study of the modernist geography of the interwar-capital, Berlin. The book offers many new insights into the Weimar-era city, countering a tendency on the Left to reject the twentieth-century city in favour of the romanticised 'capitals of the nineteenth century', with their insurgent proletariat and their lushly ornamented boulevards. Topographies of Class is a reminder that, irrespective of the era's rejection of ornament and romanticism, it was a site of class-struggle as intense as that of the Paris of the 1870s. However, Hake's study is dominated by a conception of class as an 'identity', akin to the identity-politics of race or gender, leading to an argument centred on the suppression or expression of 'class-difference' rather than class-struggle. In the process, her reading of the city's modernism becomes overly one-sided, as a period of tension between labour and capital is read, under the influence of Manfredo Tafuri and Italian post-Marxist architectural theory, as being governed almost solely by the logic of Fordist capital.

Affiliations: 1: Birkbeck College, London


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