Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: The Case of Industrial Architecture

By Matthew Jefferies | Go to book overview

6
Inside the 'Quality Workplace': The Werkbund and the Workers

As the First World War entered its final year, the Werkbund came under fire from within its own ranks. In a series of articles for the intellectual journal Die Tat, leading Werkbündler began to express fundamental doubts about the organisation's chosen course. Adolf Behne, a writer who had made his name as a champion of the new industrial architecture, did not attempt to hide his own personal disappointment. Despite a decade 'of artistic town planning, artistic factory buildings, artistic school rooms and artistic advertisements, of artistic fashion magazines, artistic vases and artistic village streets', he lamented, 'the world has not become one jot more beautiful'. The reform movement's zeal to provide biscuits and chocolate with 'artistic' wrappers was, moreover, nothing short of 'absurd', leading him to conclude that 'any fusion between art and civil, political or commercial life will inevitably be pulled down to the level of sentimentality'.1.

The respected Berlin publicist Bruno Rauecker was equally critical in his article, which attacked the DWB's failure to match its fine words with deeds, most notably in the field of social policy. He wrote:

The maxim that 'the improvement of the working man depends on an improvement in the quality of work' has been used ad nauseam by the leaders of the Bund, but has anything been done in practice? The free trade unions and the Social Democratic Party regard the Werkbund -- the 'employers' organisation' -- with suspicion . . . wages, methods of payment, working hours, the joy of work, homeliness, old age and pensions -- these are the focus of social and ethical aspirations, but does the Werkbund really understand the connections between them?2.

It was a valid question, because the DWB appeared to have made little headway in developing the social component of its 'quality work'

____________________
1.
A. Behne, "'Krilik des Werkbundes'", in Die Tat, vol. 9 ( 1917/18), p.430.
2.
B. Rauecker, 'Nochmals zur Kritik des Werkbundes', in Die Tat, vol. 9 ( 1917/18), p.887.

-221-

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