Siegfried Kracauer’s The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany is one of the most fascinating books, which present German society as it is, describe the relationships between employers and workers, and underline their spiritual state and its impact on the things around. In this work, the author explains the essence of ethnography and, with the help of various methods, speculates upon its major function that is to diminish the exoticism of our everyday routine.
Salaried workers, who are deprived of the opportunity to follow their customs and traditions, are regarded to be the major issues for consideration in Kracauer’s work. These people face numerous problems and cannot find the way to be completely satisfied with this life. People’s living conditions and their ideology are in intensive relations to each other: what people really want to do is not always what they actually do.
Their ideas about ideology are tied by society they live in, by their employers they work on, and even by themselves. People should be ready to accept this life as it is and be ready to take into account their personal desires and interests, only in this way, the theory of ideology does not lose its true meaning and helps people analyze this life from different perspectives.
“The mass of salaried employees differ from the worker proletariat in that they are spiritually homeless.” (Kracauer and Hoare 88) Workers try to find out some kind of distraction with the help of entertainment: they listen to the music, go shopping, and visit theatres. They think that such way of life will help to forget about their personal desires and fears. It is crucially important to grasp the main idea of ideology in order to help people to live a normal life and be responsible for each taken step.
What is ideology itself? It is a kind of a system of people’s standpoints as for the reality and the relationships with each other. The role of ideology is considered to be rather a difficult question to answer because each person has his/her own points of view and interpret the same situations in different ways.
This is why a proper analysis of the events is what may actually improve the situation. Kracauer makes a wonderful attempt and uses different real-life examples; this way, he demonstrates his understanding of the matter and insight criticism to the events happen in one of the German cities.
This is why Kracauer underlines that pedagogy is much more important than a simple schooling as it helps to understand our life not only in the frames of one institution. The analysis of life events, which happen during different periods of time is what pedagogy about.
People do not concentrate on one particular event, as it is inherent to schooling. Pedagogy allows them broaden their possibilities in order to get a clear understanding of this life. There are several factors, which may influence the theory of ideology and the theory of relations between desire and interest in particular.
Without any doubts, any kind of relations are rather complex. One of the real parts of any relations is the things, which are objectively true: experience and personal awareness. One of the factors that influence the theory of ideology is a place. Michel de Certeau pays a certain attention to places and their significance.
“Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body.” (Certeau 108)
When you know your place, it is easier to specify personal desires and interests and determine their relations to the reality. When you know your place, you know what you can expect from it and even predict possible results of your actions. This is why environment plays such an important role in our every day life.
Another important factor is awareness of personal values and the values of people around. Simmel presents a wonderful idea that “the carrier of man’s values is no longer the ‘general human being’ in every individual, but rather man’s qualitative uniqueness and irreplaceability.” (Simmel 423)
Because of the fact, presented by Kracauer, that many salaried workers are spiritually homeless, people cannot find the necessary ways to understand their own comrades and themselves. They do not think about the goals they really have to achieve, and they just live the life, offered by their employers.
If we compare the contemporary American style of life and the style of life, described by Kracauer, we will see that Americans pay certain attention to their personal desires and interests. They are eager to know the place, they live in, better in order to use all their possibilities to their full extent.
They prefer to analyze the actions of other people in order to be sure about their future reactions. Each nation has its own peculiarities in behavior, attitude to customs and traditions, and relation to each other and to their personal interests.
In general, people’s awareness of surrounding environment, the ability to analyze the actions of other people, and the attention to personal interests play an important role in the theory of ideology and the relations between desire and interest. If a person wants to live a full life, he/she should be ready to learn, analyze, and make the necessary conclusions taking into consideration both personal desires and the interests of other people.
Certeau, Michel and Rendall, Steven. “Walking in the City.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkley: University of California Press, 1984.
Kracauer, Siegfried and Hoare Quintin. The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany. Verso, 1998.
Simmel, George and Wolff, Kurt, H. “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” The Sociology of George Simmel. New York: The Free Press, 1964.
The Theory of Ideology
Important Factors for Ideology
American Style of Life vs. Kracauer’s Work