Die Poesie der Klasse
Romantischer Antikapitalismus und die Erfindung des Proletariats
[The Poetry of Class: Romantic Anti-capitalism and the Invention of the Proletariat]
The triumph of industrial capitalism in the early 19th century witnessed the appearance of a new social collective composed of impoverished artisans, urban rabble, vagrant peasants, bankrupt nobles, as well as intellectuals precariously traversing a new labor market. The language of the time would soon come to designate this heterogeneous group as the proletariat. At first, however, it did not exist as a fully formed class with representative political parties claiming to lead the way to a better future. The variegated appearance of this deracinated group, its dreams and desires found new narrative forms in romantic novels, reports, statistical analyses, and monthly bulletins. Soon, however, this variety of forms – disorderly, violent, nostalgic, misleading and utopian as they were – was found to be unacceptable to the precursors of the labor movement. They disparaged them either as reactionary or anarchic because they did not fit neatly into a vision of linear progress.
Patrick Eiden-Offe’s groundbreaking study recuperates Romantic anti-capitalism and liberates the social and literary study of the 19th century from its one-dimensional proclivities. Reading Eiden-Offe’s account, it becomes clear that the historical, poetic framing of this disorderly class bears striking parallels to contemporary widespread precarity, which has followed the demise of the traditional labor movement.
The book was number one on the Philosophie-Magazin-Best-of-List in Fall 2017!