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Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  866 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
A landmark book from one of the original scholars of our time: a magnificent revelation of turn-of-the-century Vienna where out of a crisis of political & social disintegration so much of modern art & thought was born.
"Not only is it a splendid exploration of several aspects of early modernism in their political context; it is an indicator of how the discipline of
Paperback, 378 pages
Published February 1st 1981 by Vintage (first published 1979)
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The Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilThe Age of Insight by Eric R. KandelGustav Klimt by Gilles NéretOskar Kokoschka by Olda KokoschkaA Nervous Splendor by Frederic Morton
6th out of 193 books — 114 voters
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilAgainst Nature by Joris-Karl HuysmansGustav Klimt by Gilles NéretLes Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire
Decadence & the Fin-de-Siècle
9th out of 223 books — 151 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,998)
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I found this book quite off-putting, and though the author is enormously learned, I feel the book is somewhat overrated. I ended up skimming vast tracts of it (hence the category: i-get-the-picture instead of 'read')... and this, after several failed attempts even at starting it.

Part of the problem is me - I know very little about this period -as fascinating as it obviously is - and have had difficulty reading the few literary works I've tried -- though that clearly is something I plan to contin
Mar 18, 2011 Miriam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historians of culture and the arts
Shelves: non-fiction, ideas
This reads more like a collection of topical essays than a book -- because, in fact, it was precisely that. The chapters were written as individual studies, not all at the same time, and later compiled into this book. As a result it is not always intellectually smooth, but many of the chapters are brilliant and Schorske has unusually vivid prose for an academic.

In the twentieth century Europe tried to assert independence from its past, self-defining "Modern" as the antithesis of "ancient"; in t
May 29, 2008 Erik rated it really liked it
I keep on coming back to this book as source of my fascination with the birth of Modernism. Schorske's book is a series of interconnected essays that can be read as stand alone essays, though best if read in order. The prose is a dense, though Schorske seems to cover every applicable topic - politics, art, social movements, high culture, low culture, etc. Everytime I read an essay in this book I have to get my graduate school mind back. Not for the beach.
Jan 19, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it
Since this book consists of seven more-or-less independent essays, I'll review them as I read them.

I. Politics and the Psyche: Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal

Schorske introduces the basic crisis that constitutes the decadence discussed in the other essays, namely the conflict between rational, capitalist Classical Liberalism, the ruling ideology of Viennese politics from the 1860s to the end of the century, and a more irrational, instinctual "psychological man" who would come to constitute the mass
Jun 24, 2010 Rock rated it really liked it
During a test for a sociology 101 class I took at Truman Community College in Chicago, I encountered a question that asked whether and how the contemporary United States was comparable to the Roman Empire as it collapsed. After reading this book, I see more similarities to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: both composed of a multitude of ethnic groups, many of which have a history of violent conflict and with a wide economic disparity; both suffered humiliating losses in wars; both ha ...more
mdme ✖︎
Before I turned my focus towards Gauguin, I began with a survey of Gustav Klimt's artwork. Carl Schorske is most likely the ultimate scholar on fin-de-siecle Vienna and provides excellent background, intimate details regarding daily life, city buildings, and analyzes Klimts work, as well as Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoshka in excellent intricacy.
Jan 07, 2008 Jevana rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
gustav klimt haunts my dreams. in the moistest of ways.
Jul 30, 2007 Justin rated it it was ok
I have this thing for late 19th century Vienna, I mean who doesn't? In any case I couldn't resist this one. Parts of it are actually very interesting especially the essays on the transformation of Austrian politics from a liberal democracy to populist demagoguery at the end of the century. It sort of ruins the concept of a progression towards tolerance and enlightenment in human society that was sometimes envisioned. There's also a great essay on Gustav Klimnt and his development from a straight ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Schorske unites here seven previously published or written essays, linked thematically by political and cultural developments in late 19th century Vienna: the failures of liberalism, the burgeoning of anti-Semitism, the creation of psychoanalysis, the oedipal rebellions of later artists (such as Oskar Kokoschka and Arnold Schoenberg) against the previous rebellers (Gustav Klimt, architect Otto Wagner, Hugo von Hofmannsthal) whose art had arrived at a comfortable compromise with bourgeois aesthet ...more
I read this as part of the Literary Cityscapes course "Fin-De-Siecle Vienna" in The Basic Program at the U of C. Schorske provides a thorough overview of the culture of the Fin-de-Siecle with entries on literature, art, politics, the importance of the Ringstrasse, and the impact of Freud. The importance of culture for literature and the rest of art is brilliantly propounded in this influential book. My favorite discussion is that of the "coffeehouse culture" which was a veritable hothouse for ne ...more
Arjen Taselaar
Sep 06, 2014 Arjen Taselaar rated it it was amazing
Recently revisiting Vienna, I reread this famous work by Carl E. Schorske, a sometimes difficult but rewarding read. A collection of essays, it focuses on some of the artists, politicians and scientists who defined fin-de-siècle Vienna, such as Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schoenberg. The link between the essays is Schorske's view of politics and culture: generational tension and oedipal revolt, liberalism and antisemitism, beauty and destruction. The essays were written in t ...more
Fin-de-Siècle Vienna is a well written and creative analysis of politics and culture. Schorske mostly analyzes politics through culture, or even more explicitly cultural characters. His analysis is creatively approached, smoothly written, enthusiastic, and at times poetic.

I believe my dissatisfaction with the work relates back to all of these otherwise ingenious characteristics. As a work of history, it fails. It provides an insufficient analysis of the times, politically, and culturally, by foc
Andy Oram
Apr 06, 2015 Andy Oram rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I found this an excellent selection of topics that covered an important era--one that produced both Hitler and Theodor Herzl, both austere functionalism and wild expressionism--in a reasonable amount of space. It was written by an academic for history students or other people with some background, so even though Schorske uses an engaging style, be prepared for some complex phrasing and references to canonical culture of the West. Although introductions are supplied for the various artists, music ...more
Mark Feltskog
Aug 31, 2009 Mark Feltskog rated it it was amazing
Simply first rate--an exhaustive and lively history of a fascinating period in Central European cultural history.
May 02, 2014 Kristin rated it really liked it
Schorske describes the reactions of the intelligentsia of the Habsburg Empire to the destruction of a long-standing political system. Better yet, it provides an in-depth look at how certain individuals of this class began to search for new meaning in the world during the failure of classical liberalism. In a time of crisis, intellectuals abandoned politics and threw away objective thinking in order to discover new meanings and values. These new meanings took shape via aesthetic romanticism, the ...more
Jun 16, 2013 Jack rated it really liked it
Schorske offers something for everybody: writers, musicians, architects, scientists (especially of the social variety). The book examines the hot bed of social change that was Viennese culture at the turn of the twentieth century by examining the lives of some of its more notable citizens. Schorske refrains from expounding on the lives of aristocrats and politicians, though. Instead, each chapter focuses on between one and three middle class socialites, using them as a lens to demonstrate the to ...more
Bill Wallace
May 09, 2015 Bill Wallace rated it really liked it
Seven essays about the birth of Modernism in Vienna. I found the essays here a bit uneven. The two on art, specifically focusing on Klimt and Kokoschka, were excellent, as was the chapter about the rise of extreme politics -- nationalistic anti-Semitism and the birth of Zionism -- but the piece on Freud was sketchy, perhaps because I was less familiar with the work (dreams actually) being analyzed. The chapters on literature dealt with authors unfamiliar to me except as names and did not particu ...more
Susanna Rose
May 12, 2009 Susanna Rose rated it liked it
Recommended to Susanna by: Ginny Cassidy-Brinn
Well written, if at times bombastic, particularly in the literary analysis chapter. The introduction looks at the current state of historical studies, and argues for the value of asking why something happened, and why it happened here and not there and what that means in relation to everything else that happened - which I guess is what is meant by the phrase "intellectual history" that's printed on the back cover.

Schorske has courage and creativity, which makes the book fun to read. I wish thou
Justin Clark
Feb 20, 2015 Justin Clark rated it really liked it
An great read on Austrian's golden age of art and architecture.
George King
Dec 18, 2014 George King rated it did not like it
I only read this book because it was a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am not familiar with this period of European history an feel as though I jumped into a advanced degree course when I should be taking an under grad course, I enjoyed the section about Freud but felt out of my depth with much of the other essays, especially the last one. Maybe if I read some more background material I will come back to this again but doubt that will happen.
Rana Gediz Iren
May 13, 2014 Rana Gediz Iren rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and learnt a lot from it. Highly recommended...
Mar 20, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
An insightful though strictly academic read, on the historical artists movement in Vienna around the turn of the century featuring artists like: Klimpt, Kokoschka, Schoenberg, etc. A group of young rebellious artists challenging and redefining the traditional conventions in which they have emerged. Gotta love those rebels...
Dec 12, 2015 SEEREAD rated it really liked it
Gesamtkunstwerk! A portrait of a city changing radically from multiple angles including architecture, politics, music, philosophy, art, and a dabbling of economics. The discussion ranges across Freud, Richard & Otto Wagner, Herzl, Klimt, Hofmannsthal, Kokoscha, Schoenberg,
Sara Rabner
Sep 22, 2012 Sara Rabner rated it really liked it
Una visión comprensiva de la Viena de fin del XIX y principios del XX, el libro se lee muy fluido y de mucho interés histórico sobre todo para comprender q paso con su gente y su política antes de la primera guerra mundial.
Joannmuench Muench
Jun 12, 2015 Joannmuench Muench rated it it was amazing
I'll be honest. I was given this book when it first came out and you would think I would have loved it, but I found it very hard to plow through. I don't know why I didn't enjoy this book.
Apr 12, 2012 Lysergius rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A wonderful conducted tour through the Viennese turn of the century cultural scene. Left me a little breathless at the end, and desirous of more of this high quality entertainment.
Sep 22, 2012 Alyson rated it it was ok
Hugely pretentious. At times extremely interesting, but he always ruins his flow by saying something unbelievably pretentious and, ultimately, distracting from his original point.
Jan 25, 2008 Jami rated it liked it
I am working on this one for a class right now, but it is a fascinating time in Vienna's history, and this book has a lot of interesting information on the subject.
Rick K.
May 26, 2011 Rick K. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
I'm surprised it took me so long to find this book - cultural and political history at the turn of the 20th century Vienna...That is just right up my ally.
Apr 10, 2008 jesseDavid rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
cultural history of fin-de-siecle vienna; looks at archetecture, painting, lit, music, politics of resentment and anti-semetism; uberengrossing
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Carl Emil Schorske was an American cultural historian and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. In 1981 he won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (1980), which remains highly significant to modern European intellectual history. He was a recipient of the first year of MacArthur Fellows Program awards in 1981 and made an honorary ...more
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“wir konnen warten. wissen macht frei [we can wait. knowledge liberates]. in these confident words the stalwart Ritter von Schmerling expressed the rationalistic expectations of the political process at the beginning of the liberal era in 1861.

at the end of that era, the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, scion of a cultivated middle-class family, offered a different formula for political success: politics is magic. he who knows how to summon the forces from the deep, him will they follow.”
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