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New Left Review I/226, November-December 1997

Inka Mülder-Bach

Cinematic Ethnology: Siegfried Kracauer’s The White Collar Masses

In the Introduction to his last, posthumously published book History: The Last Things Before the Last (1969), Siegfried Kracauer formulates a summa of his intellectual existence. [1] This essay is an edited extract from the introduction to Siegfried Kracauer, The White Collar Masses: Disorientation and Distraction in Weimar Germany,trans. Quintin Hoare, Verso, London 1997, £30 hb, £10 p. The discovery of the hidden connection between his interest in history and his interest in the photographic media reveals to him the central intention that guided his thought for half a century: ‘at long last all my main efforts, so incoherent on the surface, fall into line—they all have served, and continue to serve, a single purpose: the rehabilitation of objectives and modes of being which still lack a name and hence are overlooked or misjudged.’ [2] Siegfried Kracauer, History: The Last Things Before the Last, Oxford 1969, p. 4 Kracauer particularly mentions in this connection two books from his Weimar period: the novel Ginster of 1928, and the study Die Angestellten (The White Collar Masses) of 1930. Like Theory of Film (1960) and the History book, they survey regions of reality ‘which despite all that has been written about them are still largely terra incognita’. [3] Ibid., p. 4.

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Inka Mulder-Bach, ‘Cinematic Ethnology: Siegfried Kracauer’s 'The White Collar Masses'’, NLR I/226: £3

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