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Cities, Sin, and Social Reform in Imperial Germany breaks new ground in the history of social thought and action in Imperial Germany, focusing on socially liberal efforts to counteract perceived problems in the area of moral behavior.

Thematically and methodologically wide-ranging and innovative, this volume considers a broad spectrum of responses not only to the supposed breakdown of social cohesion but also to specific forms of deviant behavior. It draws on large numbers of writings from the period by clergymen, jurists, medical doctors, educators, social workers, and others. This literature illuminates the histories not only of urbanization and cities but also of sexuality and Christianity, crime and criminology, leisure and education, youth and women, charity and social work, and the welfare state as well as local government.

Focusing on positive instead of escapist responses to the challenges that inhered in urban society, this work can be read as part of an ongoing reassessment of the German Empire that points away from the idea that Germans were traveling an antimodernist Sonderweg, or special path, that led inevitably to National Socialism and the Third Reich. Although intended primarily for scholars and students of modern Germany, this book should speak to a variety of readers, among them anyone who cares about the history of cities, deviant behavior, or social reform.

Andrew Lees is Professor of History, Rutgers University.

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Cities, Sin, and Social Reform in Imperial Germany

By Andrew Lees

University of Michigan Press

Copyright © 2002 Andrew Lees
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0472112589

CHAPTER 1 - Antiurbanism and Urban Reformism

Antiurbanism in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Germany has figured prominently in writings by historians of German social thought and by German sociologists, but the subject of critical attitudes toward cities in Germany has seldom received the attention it deserves. For the most part, even the fullest treatments of this theme have discussed only a limited range of individuals and consequently have provided little basis for establishing the dominant concerns among various groups of antiurban writers. Moreover, these works' emphasis on antiurbanism as virtually the sole critical response to cities has directed attention too exclusively toward men whose ideas can be subsumed under such headings as "antimodernity," "Volkisch thought," and "Kulturkritik." Although this perspective may help to explain the emotional roots of Nazism, among whose supporters antiurban attitudes were to become quite pronounced, it obscures the full range of attitudes toward urban problems articulated during the heyday of German urban growth.

This essay treats not only the arguments formulated by antimodern city haters but also the views of men who criticized cities with a view to improving them.Disaffection with the Grossstadt (big city) was certainly widespread, but not all such discontent betrayed hostility to urban values.

To be sure, many demographers, social theorists, publicists, and clergymen can be classified as intellectual antiurbanists. But large numbers of city planners, economists, and socialists made a more finely nuanced response to the challenges posed by the urban realm, seeking not merely to blacken its already tarnished reputation but also to adapt it to the needs of its inhabitants. This chapter thus presents two sets arguments, which, although they overlapped each other in many respects, pointed ultimately in quite different directions. In each set, moral criticisms occupied a central position, resonating not only in remarks that pertained explicitly to ethical matters but also elsewhere, but there were clear differences with regard both to the essential value of urban civilization and to proper courses of action. Fears that urban life was undermining religion, familial cohesion, standards of sexual conduct, and respect for the law were voiced by conservative critics in ways that coincided with a general revulsion from the urban realm. But these views were counterbalanced by the belief, expressed by numerous men of more moderate persuasions, that moral (and other) defects in the world of the big city had to be combated in ways that would not result in abandonment of what was necessary and valuable in urban life.

Hostile Criticism of the Grossstadt

Although occasional criticisms of cities appeared in the works of early-nineteenth-century German authors, antiurbanism first emerged as a coherent intellectual position during the 1850s in the writings of Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl. Riehl was a Bavarian journalist and university professor whose social and political conservatism re›ected the fears he and manyother intellectuals felt after the revolutions of 1848-49. In a multivolume sociological and ethnographic treatise on contemporary Germany, he depicted cities as both symbols and sources of the worst aspects of the modern world. When he wrote, "Europe is becoming sick as a result of the monstrosity of its big cities," he had in mind a wide range of maladies. Urban development entailed the loss of national character, the growth of social, psychological, and political instability, and numerous cultural ills. Like the eighteenth-century capital cities constructed by German princes, which had been modeled on Versailles, nineteenth-century German cities increasingly resembled foreign prototypes, such as Paris and London, rather than the distinctively German cities of earlier centuries. "The originality of German urban life" was disappearing as big cities rid themselves of "every distinguishing feature of nationality" and became the "abode of a leveling cosmopolitanism."

The loss of a stable social order, firmly based on the maintenance of the traditional Stande (nobility, peasantry, Burgertum) and on the family, caused even greater concern. After pointing out that cities depended for their growth (if not for their survival) on a migratory surplus from the countryside, Riehl painted a grim picture of urban society. Urban populations consisted increasingly of a rootless proletariat whose members came to the big city in the hope of making easy fortunes and were quick to move on when opportunity appeared to beckon. The new proletarians had broken loose not only from "estate" society but also from familial ties. Urbanites lived in solitude, and the "fragmentation" from which they suffered increased in direct proportion to the size of the cities in which they lived. Even when city dwellers did live with their families, Riehl asserted, family life lacked much of the meaning it had in the countryside. The urban home, unlike its rural counterpart, no longer served as a place of regular religious worship for family members. Indeed, city households were "devoid of all religiosity."

The multitude of stimuli offered by great metropolises, which were "gigantic encyclopedias of the customs, the art, and the industry of all of European civilization," threatened the psychic well-being of the individual and the political stability of the nation. Having gone to the city in search of broader horizons, young people were less likely to acquire maturity than to become "intoxicated, confused, and discontented" as a result of their new experiences." What worried Riehl most about the confused discontent of the young urban proletarians was the likelihood that in conjunction with the social disintegration prevalent among the rest of the fourth estate, such discontent would lead to renewed political turmoil. Unlike the highly conservative peasant, the typical lower-class urbanite was all too likely to be animated by a "revolutionary spirit" that led him in search of "theoretically fantasized novelty." Having been won over to the socialist and communist slogans propagated by uprooted intellectuals, members of the proletariat sought to dominate not only the city but also, using the city as their base, the whole country. The growing power of the urban masses thus threatened the foundations of civilized society.

Riehl also objected sharply to other aspects of the modern urban scene, especially the physical ugliness of cities and the kind of cultural life they promoted. Recently built urban housing amounted to little more than "proletarian barracks." It had been designed by speculators to meet the immediate needs of solitary individuals at the lowest possible cost and totally lacked the ornamental features that might appeal to a family in the long run. Modern city streets were similarly devoid of aesthetic appeal. In contrast to the more picturesque streets of the past, with their curves and turns and variations in the size of buildings, a broad, straight "parade street," such as the new Ludwigsstrasse in Munich, looked like a "lifeless academic model." Flanked by unbroken lines of oversized buildings, none of which re›ected the scale or the tastes of an individual family, the Ludwigsstrasse symbolized the "leveling tendencies of the modern money economy." Finally, Riehl maintained that big cities hindered the "spiritual concentration" that was required for the emergence of great artists and thinkers, fostered "blase and frivolous taste" among the consumers of culture, and led to the displacement of the craftsman's art by industrial technology. For all these reasons, Riehl predicted without regret or apprehension that modern cities would ultimately collapse.

For several decades following the mid-1850s, few new critics of cities made themselves heard in Germany, and those who did tended to focus on a limited range of urban ills rather than on the modern city as a whole. The most noteworthy critique of cities in the 1860s was a book by a Hamburg architect who aimed his barbs at planners' failure to deal sensibly with the physical chaos inherited from the Middle Ages. Only if there were a "total transformation of the small, self-contained, uncomfortable, and unhealthy medieval city into its opposite, the rationally designed, healthy, and open modern big city," would cities be tolerable places in which to live. The mid-1870s witnessed the appearance of two additional books that treated problems faced by city dwellers. One, by a reform-minded countess, emphasized the need to provide urban workers with adequate housing; only in this way would the workers experience the moral improvement that was essential for more general betterment of their living conditions. Another work, by a journalist, focused on the causes of urban crime and on possible remedies available to the "forces of salvation" in the struggle against the "titanic forces of destruction and annihilation" represented by the "dangerous classes." He called both for the elimination of slums and for increased urban missionary efforts of the sort undertaken in London by Dr. Thomas Barnardo, but he did not believe that such measures would suffice. It was also necessary for people to ›ee from the "raging Babel" and settle in unspoiled areas on the cities' outskirts. Such writings had the virtue of specificity, but they did not address the putative threats posed by the metropolis with anything like the intensity or breadth displayed earlier by Riehl. In view of the fact that other commentary on cities published in these decades was even more narrowly focused--usually dealing with the affairs of one particular city--Riehl's work, which was frequently republished, remained the preeminent expression of the antiurban point of view.

By the late 1880s, the rapid growth of German cities since the founding of the empire was readily apparent. As a result, a much broader discussion of the themes Riehl had addressed began to take shape. Many of the critical commentators who began to make themselves heard around 1890 not only shared Riehl's concerns but also echoed his specific arguments, sometimes explicitly referring to what they regarded as his prophetic insight. In large measure, the antiurbanism that began to surface near the fin de siecle amounted to a restatement of fears concerning the probable course of future developments that the Bavarian sociologist had expressed at midcentury--developments that seemed to many observers either to have taken place in the meantime or to lie on an all-too-near horizon. But at the same time, those earlier fears acquired much more specific content, as the men who voiced them sought to amplify the case against the modern city in the light of current circumstances.

The great wave of antiurbanism began to swell in 1889 with the publication of the first of a series of works that criticized cities on the basis of complex demographic arguments concerning the impact of urban growth on the size and health of the German population as a whole. Georg Hansen's book, Die drei Bevolkerungsstufen, developed what was to become one of the most pervasive and compelling lines of attack among dedicated city haters: the contention that urban populations were biologically incapable of reproducing themselves and in time (according to Hansen, two generations), if left to themselves, would die out. Hansen admitted that the urban working classes more than reproduced themselves, but in his view the surplus they generated was more than offset by the low birthrates among middle-class families. He argued that only the in›ux of fresh blood from the countryside permitted cities to survive, let alone to grow. Without the rejuvenating support provided by migratory peasants, cities would be doomed. Even with such an in›ux, the danger remained that urbanization would diminish the relative strength of the middle classes, thus depriving the nation of their superior qualities. Hansen made his indictment on the basis of quite limited statistics, which certainly did not suffice to prove what he thought they did, but this defect did not diminish the impact of his book, which became a standard text for later critics.

Hansen's arguments were amplified in a number of writings by Otto Ammon, a publicist and private scholar who was deeply in›uenced by Pan-Germanism and social Darwinism. Writing a kind of popular anthropology, Ammon sought to make Hansen's antiurbanism more accessible to the general public and to sharpen its impact. Ammon fully shared Hansen's belief that urban families tended to die out, disagreeing only in asserting that the process might take three or four instead of just two generations. Ammon added to the case against the city by arguing that those who migrated there were racially superior to the peasants who remained behind on the land. Men and women with long, thin heads, which signified typically Germanic "qualities of the soul," were proportionally more numerous among migrants than among those who stayed in the countryside, where the high percentage of round heads indicated the numerical strength of originally Asiatic elements. The racially superior migrants rose to positions of social superiority within the cities, only to suffer the inevitable penalties attached to membership in the urban elite: the nervousness induced by mental labor and a whole host of vices that, together with the physical diseases endemic in cities, led to "degeneration" and a loss of reproductive power. Ammon admitted that death rates were higher among the urban lower classes, but he contended that the birthrates among the upper classes were so low that their share of the population always tended to decline. Quite clearly, cities posed an even more far-reaching threat than Hansen had supposed: their continued growth would ultimately deplete the racial stock that was the fundamental source of Germany's strength as a nation.

After Hansen and Ammon had worked out the main lines of the demographic case against the city, their position received support from two different groups of writers. On the one hand, there were men who had a professional interest in vital statistics and sufficient qualifications to discuss the controversies surrounding this subject with some degree of sophistication and authority. After abandoning his early pursuit of a clerical career, Carl Ballod turned to economics and wrote a study for the seminar of the conservative Max Sering. Ballod compared urban and rural vitality and sought to confirm the gap with regard to reproductive capacity between the city and the countryside. He later asserted that despite some improvements in urban sanitation, there had been no significant rise in urban males' life expectancy. Moreover, he pointed out that the apparent self-sufficiency of many cities was an illusion: to be sure, crude birthrates might surpass crude death rates, but if these rates were corrected to take account of the overrepresentation in cities of men and women in the childbearing age groups and the underrepresentation of older age groups (both of which were temporary results of migration), the cities' prospects looked much less bright. Richard Thurnwald, an anthropologist, also argued that cities consumed more human beings than they produced and that they would probably continue to do so regardless of hygienic improvements. Again, in his view the members of the upper classes faced especially dismal demographic prospects, whereas the "neglected lower classes" steadily increased, leading to the spread of "physical and psychic evils." Ludwig Bauer, a physician with ten years of experience working among Stuttgart's lower classes, presented statistics to prove that with the exception of people over the age of sixty, death rates for all age groups in the big cities exceeded those in the countryside. Moreover, he strongly doubted that new public health measures or social legislation would do much to change this situation.

Some writers indicated their support for all or part of the basic Hansen-Ammon position without making much effort to deal with statistical complexities. For these nonprofessionals, the demographic dangers posed by big cities were obvious, their seriousness having already been proved by others. Such men's relatively unsophisticated comments, often appearing in brief magazine articles, reveal the extent to which biologically based antiurbanism had become an article of faith. Reinhold Wulle, a conservative publicist, wrote, "The population of the big cities is not even capable of maintaining itself at a constant level. Urban families die out inexorably, and the urban population survives only because of constant transfusions from the countryside. In the industrial centers, new mass graves for our people are arising every year, and no slick phrases can conceal them." Writing for a Catholic journal that focused on social issues, Matthias Salm agreed with the saying that the "breeding of cattle and the rearing of children take place in the country." The land provided the cities with "missing human material." His article ended with an effective summary of the demographic case against the city:

The rural population is the real fountain of youth for the entire nation, whereas the cities, which, like Kronos, devour their children, are the graves of the human race. To be sure, the more the urban population grows at the expense of the countryside, the more the blossoms of culture ›ower, but they are like the red cheeks of a dying consumptive. As soon as the rural population has been consumed, the spiritual and intellectual level of the urban middle class will decline quickly, and general decay will begin."

While the demographic critique was partly moral--failure to procreate seemed in part to re›ect shortsighted selfishness--another set of criticisms centered more explicitly on ethical issues. The writers who expressed these criticisms focused on a number of interrelated social, psychological, and behavioral problems that in their view adversely affected urban morals. Cities, they asserted, undermined communal controls over the individual, fostered egoism, and bred crime and other forms of antisocial conduct. Some of these charges appeared in writings by the men discussed earlier, who were more than willing to supplement their basic case from a nonbiological perspective. Moral criticism also emanated from the writings of other social scientists, most notably the sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies, whose classic distinctions between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society) could easily be read as contrasts between the moral worlds of the countryside and of the big city. Displaying a considerable debt to romantic traditionalism, Tonnies wrote forcefully and in›uentially about how "Gemeinschaft should be viewed as a living organism," whereas "Gesellschaft [was] a mechanical aggregate and artifact" in which alienation from others and selfishness came to the fore. But clergymen and a variety of conservative publicists played the leading part in articulating this strand of critical opinion, most frequently and most harshly denouncing the moral quality of life in urban society.

The basic point of the antiurbanists' social criticism was that urban life militated against the institutions of social control that had traditionally subjected the individual to the collectivity. Ludwig Heitmann, a Protestant theologian, spoke for many writers when he lamented the "slowly developing decomposition [Zersetzung]" occurring in cities. Big cities gave an impression of chaos rather than of organic growth. They were "shapeless giants . . . comparable to powerful vacuum cleaners, which swallow[ed] up men, organic cultural forms, and raw materials with irresistible mechanical force, in order to spit them out again, ground down, pressed into a new mold, and stamped with a factory trademark." Heitmann saw in the "modern mass" only a "wildly ›uctuating chaos of human beings" whose social situation resulted from the "atomization of life, this tearing apart of older social ties." Among the "traditional ties" that suffered most severely in the city were those of religion, which depended for their continuity on the maintenance of a sense of communal solidarity. Like other clergymen, Heitmann regarded the big city as a place in which the forces of organized Christianity were inexorably placed on the defensive. In addition to weakening traditional religious ties, the city undermined the integrity of the "innermost sanctuary of mankind, the familial community." The inadequate living space afforded in urban apartment houses and the growing tendency for women as well as men to work outside the home meant that "familial solidarity and familial tradition" disappeared quickly in the big city. This same combination of concerns appeared in an essay by Friedrich Naumann, a pastor turned publicist and politician, who wrote, "Family morality suffers. . . . Religion loses its power." Walther Classen, a former theology student who had turned to social work among the young people of Hamburg, similarly bemoaned the weakening of family ties and the declining importance of religion in the cities, denouncing both developments in the same breath. Beyond these fears, there was the related belief that urbanization dissolved the informal bonds that linked the members of a rural community. Christian Rogge, a clergyman, wrote that men and women who lived in the big city were no longer subject to constant observation by their neighbors and were therefore free to lead double lives. In a similar vein, Wilhelm Boree argued that everyone knew everyone else in the countryside and that, accordingly, violations of accepted moral codes were publicized immediately. In contrast, city dwellers knew very few of their neighbors. Everyone in the city was "unknown, unsupervised, and uncontrolled." Individuals came to the cities largely to "escape hometown [heimatlichen] controls," and the anonymity of urban life gave them every opportunity to do so.

Men who analyzed urban society in these terms believed that the process of social "decomposition," in conjunction with the competitiveness of city life, fostered the development of a distinctive sort of personality. Big cities, they argued, produced men and women who differed psychologically from their counterparts elsewhere. In the critics' view, most if not all of the character traits that distinguished urbanites were decidedly unattractive. City dwellers displayed cold disregard for others, selfish egoism, and a materialistic desire for personal pleasure and gain. These concerns, which recur repeatedly in the literature of antiurbanism, appeared quite clearly in the writings of Protestant clergymen such as Jakob Ernst and Rogge. Ernst charged that the big city was the "school for pushiness [Strebertum]." Individuals who wished to pursue their own advantage at the expense of others had every opportunity to do so in an urban setting. Accordingly, cold indifference toward others superseded the Christian virtue of love for one's fellow man, and "all the demonic forces" came to the fore. Rogge believed that the "intensified struggle for existence" in the cities led city dwellers to fight for their own survival with less and less regard to the fairness of their tactics. Life among the urban masses diminished the "finer and more tender perceptions and feelings" and led to an unrelenting pursuit of material gain and sensual stimulation. Ludwig Bauer and Richard Thurnwald fully shared such views. For Bauer, cities were "counterselective" with regard not only to the physical but also to the moral and spiritual characteristics most desirable from the standpoint of national welfare. "Cunning, hypocrisy, and brutal lack of consideration for others," he complained, "usually win out over modesty and altruism. It is not one's own labor that really matters; often parasitism, the ability to make use of the labor of others, is what counts." Thurnwald wrote, "In place of the effort to master nature, competition among men has produced the desire to get ahead parasitically, through intrigue and guile. In the city . . . he counts as 'fittest' who knows how to manage his fellow men most cleverly." The intensely competitive way in which city dwellers earned their livings gave rise to "that urban morality, which glorifies the most egoistic, inconsiderate, and racially destructive moneymaking, sanctions parasitism, and capitulates before Byzantinism."

The weakening of communal controls and the emergence of self-centered personalities were seen as culminating in sharply increased rates of crime and vice. Liberated from the watchful eyes of relatives, clergymen, and neighbors, isolated individuals seemed to exploit to the fullest their newfound opportunities for socially destructive behavior. Rogge summarized these concerns when he wrote that the big city "becomes the dwelling place for masses of criminals. Not only mass misery but also mass degeneration pervades it. An army of prostitutes and pimps eats away at its foundations." Thurnwald pointed to higher suicide rates in cities than in the rural areas and also to higher rates of alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases. Fears of sexual promiscuity were especially pronounced. Ernst denounced the loose sexual practices that supposedly prevailed both among the students in the upper levels of big-city secondary schools and among older people who frequented houses of prostitution. Even what was basically good in the big city could unfortunately be used for immoral purposes: for example, visits to art exhibits and similar cultural attractions might easily serve as pretexts for morally questionable rendezvous. Johannes Wapler, another clergyman, asserted that even illegitimate sex in the countryside was usually natural and healthy compared with such "unnatural" urban practices as abortion and contraception. The big city thus appeared to all these writers to be a den of iniquity--a place in which innocent migrants from the countryside and their descendants were initiated into a way of life that exacted a heavy price morally as well as physically.

A third critical stance toward the city focused on cultural matters. In this perspective, big cities were to be dreaded because they threatened to diminish city dwellers' intellectual creativity and aesthetic sensibilities. The metropolis, so it seemed, militated against the emergence of men of genius and warped the artistic tastes of its more ordinary inhabitants. Strong expressions of such discontent with the quality of urban life appeared in writings by a number of freelance literary intellectuals who considered the contemporary cultural scene in their capacity as interpretive and critical essayists. The best known of these critics was Julius Langbehn. In his enormously in›uential Rembrandt als Erzieher, which went through forty-nine printings between 1890 and 1909, Langbehn fastened on Berlin as a symbol of much of what he found most abhorrent in the modern world. Berlin, Langbehn charged, had always been an "abode of rationalism . . . an enemy of creative education." The city's inhabitants suffered from "spiritual emptiness" as a consequence of their restless preoccupation with business and pleasure, both of which led residents away from aesthetic concerns. To be sure, Berlin had its museums, but these resulted, Langbehn suggested, from "cultural pillage." Berlin might serve as a depot for works of art, but it did not stimulate creativity. Artists went there to continue their work and gain a reputation only after developing their capacities in the countryside. Albeit in a less strident and more finely nuanced essay, Kurt Walter Goldschmidt made some of the same points about cities in general. Goldschmidt contended that children born in the city lacked many of the perceptual stimuli that surrounded young people in the countryside and that, as a result, their powers of observation suffered greatly. Country dwellers enjoyed an inestimable advantage over urbanites as poets and artists: "energetic and unbroken freshness and fullness of vision."

Other critics, already mentioned, also denounced the city's supposed cultural defects. Again, a number of clergymen stand out. While admitting that the average level of intellectual development was probably higher in the big city than elsewhere, Rogge emphasized that truly creative activity did not thrive there. Life in the big city was too "distracting [and] restless." Heitmann maintained that the forces of technology and capitalism in the cities were diminishing men's appreciation for anything having to do with art or fantasy. Ernst, conversely, did not deny that artistic production took place in the city, but he did complain about the kind of art that was produced. He saw the big city as the main driving force behind realistic naturalism--a movement that repelled him--and many others--both aesthetically and morally.

A fourth sort of criticism was political, consisting of arguments that focused on national security and stability. In many ways these arguments harked back to the previously discussed biological, moral, and cultural criticisms, in which political overtones were frequently apparent. At the same time, such contentions appealed particularly strongly to much, though not all, of the German nation.

Demographers' misgivings about the vitality of the urban population led directly to deep forebodings concerning Germany's standing in the international struggle for survival. Pointing to high Russian birthrates, Wulle wrote, "The German people, because of its geographical position, finds itself in a struggle for its national soil. It will win this struggle only if it remains healthy. But the current growth of big cities causes an enormous weakening of our nation." Population was an indispensable element of national power, and any development that caused Germany to fall behind another country located on its borders posed an intolerable threat to its existence. Many writers feared that Germany's armed forces would decline in size and effectiveness relative to those in the east. The army would suffer both from the overall population deficit and from the fact that as a group young men who lived in big cities were, it seemed, less physically fit for military service than those who lived in the countryside. There was also growing anxiety over the long-term consequences of a situation in which the cities, having exhausted the reserves of the German countryside, would be forced to maintain themselves by attracting more and more foreigners. As one writer put it, "When there is no more German migration, then there are Poles, Czechs, Gypsies, and Mongols. . . . In this way, men restlessly build a Tower of Babel, so that one day linguistic chaos will reign." Classen warned that the growing urban presence of Italians and especially of Poles confronted Germany with the danger of racial degeneration. Noting the large numbers of foreigners in cities, Boree regarded "this international, this cosmopolitan element" as a growing threat to the nation's health. For Boree, as for other writers, urban growth undermined German strength internally by introducing alien peoples into the midst of the national community. Demographic trends led to threats to national security from within as well as from without.

In addition to polluting the nation's ethnic purity, the big city appeared to threaten national unity in other ways. Boree asserted that in Germany the city had always resisted the claims of the state: "The con›ict between city and state is as old as Germany itself." In his time, urban populations, with their liberal ideas, remained just as hostile as ever to the conservative values that were inseparable from political patriotism. Other writers feared that urban growth would enhance the size and power of the industrial working classes, thereby strengthening the forces of radicalism. Echoing Riehl, one author predicted, "The predominance of the big city will ultimately lead to the rule of the proletariat." Wapler warned that socialist agitation took root in the big city and spread from there to the countryside. And Rogge wrote, "In politically turbulent times, big cities are hotbeds of revolution." For all of these men, obviously alarmed by the rise of Social Democracy, the loosening of traditional social controls that took place in urban society fostered not only individual selfishness and immorality but also collective threats to the nation's political stability and well-being.

Insofar as these men sought solutions for the problems that concerned them, most of them looked away from the urban present. There were exceptions--for example, Classen (see chapter 7). On the whole, however, these men located their imagined countermodels outside the contemporary big city, in ways that implied a nostalgic desire to maintain threatened traditions. Many who reproached the city dweller simultaneously idealized the peasant's rural world. In this view, one of the best strategies for dealing with urban ills was to limit urban growth by creating conditions that would induce rural people to remain on the land. The most obvious way to do so was to raise the tariffs on imported grain, a measure advocated with considerable success by conservative economists such as Adolf Wagner, Karl Oldenberg, and Max Sering. In addition, a few writers pleaded for a more equitable division of rural landholdings, and there was approval for Heinrich Sohnrey's efforts to improve noneconomic aspects of rural life through his Committee for Rural Welfare.

The other alternative to the big city that conjured up images of the past was the small city. Kleinstadte of the sort that still dotted the German landscape--with their ancient walls, picturesque buildings, and narrow streets--symbolized traditional values, appeared to shelter inherited lifestyles, and offered ready access to unspoiled nature. The best means of maintaining the viability of such existing cities and of creating new small or medium-sized cities for those who insisted on leaving the land was thought to be the dispersion of industry.


Excerpted from Cities, Sin, and Social Reform in Imperial Germany by Andrew Lees Copyright © 2002 by Andrew Lees. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 The Big City Perceived
1 Antiurbanism and Urban Reformism 23
2 Civic Pride and the Urban Ethos 49
Pt. 2 Deviancy Perceived
3 Attacks against "Immorality" 75
4 From Moralizing to the Milieu in Thinking about Crime 133
Pt. 3 Urban Reformers and Their Visions of Virtue
5 Viktor Bohmert, a "Workers' Friend" 191
6 Johannes Tews, Schooling, and Adult Education 223
7 Walther Classen, Settlements, and Youth Work 255
8 Alice Salomon, Women, and Social Work 287
Pt. 4 Collective Pressures and Programs
9 Centers for Workers' Welfare and the People's Welfare 321
10 The Record of Governmental Intervention 355
Conclusions 391
Bibliography 409
Index 421
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