Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Scott Ferguson, Ph.D.
Andrew Berish, Ph.D.
Brendan Cook, Ph.D.
Fascism, German Studies, MMT, Film, Modernism, Midcentury, Marxism
This thesis re-examines the life's work of German-American critical theorist, Siegfried Kracauer, to recover abstraction from tacit historical associations with modern fascism. Evoked in critical theory more generally, the abstraction-to-fascism-teleology imagines 20th century fascism as the dialectical fulfillment of modern alienation. Rooting such alienation in the flawed Liberal and Marxist conceptions of monetary relations, critical theorists conduct their aesthetic analyses via ambivalent condemnations of abstraction’s assumed primordial alienation. In the thesis, I critique the abstraction-to-fascism-teleology through an affirmation of neochartalist political economy’s conception of money’s essential publicness and abundance. Drawing from this abstract legal mediation, I trace Kracauer’s various condemnations of abstraction along the terms of his embodied contradiction among the WWII and Cold War fiscal mobilizations to illuminate repressed pleas for abstract mediation within his work and midcentury aesthetic realism broadly. Further, I move from the midcentury moment to the Weimar moment in order to locate potential in Kracauer’s early affirmation of abstraction as a communal medium. I find such affirmations neglected in the Liberal and Marxist responses to the unemployment crises of the Great Depression in Germany. By looking to Kracauer’s Weimar essays on architecture and photography, as well as a reading of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), I pinpoint historical and contemporary promise in their commitment to the inclusive potential of abstraction’s (no)thing- ness, a commitment that was mirrored in the proposed monetary issuance of the WTB public works plan of 1932, which was ultimately rejected by the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the lead up to their defeat in the parliamentary elections of 1933 and the Nazis’ rise to power.
Scholar Commons Citation
Seijo, Maxximilian, "Anti-Fascist Aesthetics from Weimar to MoMA: Siegfried Kracauer & the Promise of Abstraction for Critical Theory" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.