Journal of Design History Vol. 19 No.

2

doi:10.1093/jdh/epl001

The Form of Socialism without Ornament
Consumption, Ideology, and the Fall and Rise of Modernist Design in the German Democratic Republic
Eli Rubin
Downloaded from http://jdh.oxfordjournals.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16, 2012

Industrial designers who inherited the Bauhaus legacy experienced a dramatic reversal of fortunes in the socialist German Democratic Republic. The height of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Bloc, 1950–1953, meant a near complete shutdown of modernist and functionalist design and architecture. However, modernist designers found a niche later as the East German economy needed to mass-produce goods without sacrificing quality and with a particular modern appeal, in order to keep up with the shifting and competitive context of the Cold War and to satisfy the postwar generation of East German consumers. Eventually, heirs of Bauhäusler Mart Stam, such as Martin Kelm, found their way into positions of considerable power in the economic planning bureaucracy. The strange confluence of modernist designers and post-Stalinist socialism leads to one of the central questions of the article: is modern design – at least partially—inherently well-suited for the socialist command economy?
Keywords: consumer products—East Germany—functionalism—kitsch—ornament—Planned Economy

In 1950, less than a year after the founding of the German Democratic Republic, the industrial designer Mart Stam, who had studied at the Dessau Bauhaus in the 1920s and 1930s, returned to East Berlin to found the Institute for Industrial Design at the College of Applied Art in Berlin-Weissensee1. Like many others who held left-wing views before the war, Stam saw in the newly founded socialist republic a chance to build the kind of utopia that had informed his design philosophy as a member of the Bauhaus. Along with many others in the socialist intelligentsia, including the playwright Bertold Brecht, he was soon to be deeply disillusioned by the Stalinist reality of the GDR. His aesthetic vision of egalitarian, functional modernism was shared by many of his students, and although he left the GDR, many of them stayed, in limbo. Twenty years later, these same students, who

had stayed true to Stam’s original vision, found themselves in positions of considerable economic and political power as industrial designers, with profound influence over the production of consumer goods and architecture and thus the aesthetic meaning of everyday life in East Germany. The intervening twenty years, from 1952 to 1972, are the focus of this article, and it is my contention that the initial downfall and the subsequent rise of a Bauhaus-informed design philosophy in the planned economy of East Germany speaks as much to an understanding of East Germany as it does to the nature of the Bauhaus legacy.2 When Stam returned, the fledgling East Germany was still largely a product of Soviet military occupation. In the previous five years since the end of the war, Soviet occupation authorities had been eager to suppress anything that referred aesthetically to 155

© The Author [2006]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved.

Nonetheless. and worked on designs with Gropius. or Soviet state-owned factories).13 These students were schooled in the aesthetic of modern functionalism. or People’s Own Factory. arrived first in Dresden at the College of Visual Arts in 1949 and then two years later moved to Stam’s Institute of Industrial Design as a designer and lecturer. Marianne Brandt. especially art and architecture that was informed by ‘völksich’ sensibilities.11 However. reproducible design for metal products since the 1930s. found his way back to Dresden to help plan the reconstruction of the city. and taught how to blend modern style with an overriding concern for mass production and modern technology. In this context. the SED.9 and Dresden where a number of designers including Brandt were based. the Bauhäusler. as it came to be called. there was Karl Müller. who were more concerned with solving technical problems of production rather than any particular aesthetic or cultural agenda. they conglomerated around these four poles: Mart Stam’s Institute of Industrial Design in Berlin-Weissensee. the East German communist party. At the same time that Stam arrived in the GDR. almost all design was being practised at educational institutions such as these. as will be discussed below. who had not formally studied or worked at the Bauhaus but who had worked with Bruno Paul from 1929 to 1933. however. but who had advocated serial. The ‘Burg’. As these designers and architects scattered throughout the GDR. such as the one that Stam organized in 1952 at his newly founded Institute dedicated to displaying what he considered to be kitsch. or ‘cool rationalism’ as Stam termed it. functional style.5 Horst Michel. Stam’s students had to endure several years of official hostility towards their design ideas. from Buchenwald to a disciplinary battalion at the end of the war.Eli Rubin German nationalism. Horst Michel’s Institute for Interior Design in Weimar. was not exhibitions. objects of poor taste churned out by modern industrial means for cheap gain. who studied architecture and woodwork with Ludwig Hilbersheimer and Mies van der Rohe at the Dessau and Berlin Bauhaus from 1929 to 1933.12 Stam’s real legacy in East Germany. The heirs of the Bauhaus.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. Günter Reissmann and Albert Krause. originally from Yugoslavia. Ehrlich had been arrested in 1934 for high treason and had spent the entire 12 years of the Third Reich in various incarcerations. who studied and worked at the Bauhaus in Dessau with the artist El Lissitzky. Müller had been a professor of metal design at the College for Art and Design at the Burg-Giebichenstein in Halle.4 Selman Selmanagic. Gropius. that would provide a crucial bridge between the past and the future of design in the GDR. By 1953. and almost all in these four places.oxfordjournals. Virtually none of the SAGs (Sowjietisch Aktiengesellschaft. other former Bauhäusler or designers who had worked or studied at the Bauhaus or the related Deutscher Werkbund before the war were filtering back to East Germany. were limited largely to putting on exhibitions. The rapidly deepening crisis of the cold war in the early 1950s put an end to Stam and his new class of students’ ideas about developing a modern. an interior architect and freelance designer since the 1920s.7 It was his continued presence. 2012 156 . and who worked for the anti-fascist resistance during the war as an employee of the state film studio UFA. many former Bauhäusler were welcomed back to East Germany. moved to Hellerau to become one of the main designers there.10 In the early years of the GDR. factories run by the East German state) employed product designers. these designers. although through out the Third Reich and the early years of the GDR it remained a small school mostly devoted to traditional arts and crafts. at which Müller had been somewhat of an outsider. had launched a propaganda campaign against West Germany. This meant that decisions on product design were made mostly by workers and engineers. such as Martin Kelm.3 Franz Ehrlich. in 1951 founded and led the Institute for Interior Design at the College of Architecture and Construction in Weimar. or Mies van der Rohe. would be the focal point of design in the GDR. which the SED claimed was Downloaded from http://jdh. who had not formally worked with any of the main Bauhaus or CIAM figures such as Paul. but rather the cadre of students he trained. architects and artists were largely without any real power when it came to control of the economic means of production. Poelzig and Mies van der Rohe.8 the Burg school in Halle. who was briefly leader of the metal workshop at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau and who worked with Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius from 1928 to 1929. and the early products of East German industry attested to its total lack of concern for the consumer. later called VEBs (Volkseigene Betrriebe.6 And finally.

which was in reality any art. the ‘degeneration’ (Entartung)21 of formalism. or Bauhäusler. renaissance. Liebknecht and his allies pointed to the fact that the Bauhaus legacy in West Germany was linked to the United States and its cultural foreign policy after the war. which was led largely by Soviet architects and intended to show West Berliners the ability of communism to quickly marshal resources in the service of magnificent and dominating architectural projects. This was in large part a point of view inherited from the nineteenth-century Socialist movement. Kurt Liebknecht. To discredit the Bauhaus and West Germany. baroque. though much of the West German design discourse at Ulm or among the members of the West German Design Council made it clear that they viewed American mass production as particularly corrosive. or DBA. they represented precisely the kind of internationalist liberalism from the Weimar era that the United States wanted to retrieve from the German past. led a vicious assault on what he and other Party elites called ‘formalism’.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. they officially declared. a furniture design and production factory. led by Liebknecht. flinging open the doors of the palaces and art museums and aristocratic salons to those who had been oppressed and exploited by the owners of this heritage for so long. Architecture was a particular target for the antiformalists because of its high visibility to visitors from the West as well as because it posed the chance to reflect the industrial and material superiority of socialism. such as van der Rohe’s Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.The Form of Socialism without Ornament an Americanized puppet of international monopoly capitalism.17 Rather than conceiving of East Germany as a chance to build a new society.15 Formalism. 23 At the Moscow Downloaded from http://jdh. Their slogan was ‘socialist in content. architecture and design in East Germany should draw upon past German styles. soon came to be the defining statement of this early anti-formalist vision. proving that it was the FRG that was the ‘inauthentic’ state. and Mart Stam was compelled to change the name of his school from the ‘Institute of Industrial Design’ to the ‘Institute of Applied Art’. architecture or design resembling the Bauhaus or the CIAM. anti-formalists declared that art. especially in art. and the ‘inhumanity’ and ‘complete break with national heritage’ that this style entailed. most famously van der Rohe. Chippendale (although for reasons never made clear. Instead. The verdict from the DBA also criticized the Bauhaus-influenced Deutscher Werkstätten in Hellerau. rejected ‘pure functionalism’ in apartment design. the successor to the Dessau Institute stranded on the eastern side of the border. efficient. the connections between former Bauhäusler or modernists and the great imperialist class enemy.20 The Stalinallee project. This attempt ruled out any cultural embrace of international. Such an architectural development broke with the national tradition. was ‘form without ornament’. cosmopolitan or modernist trends.16 Cultural work in East Germany ought to imitate Rococo.oxfordjournals. cubist (kastenartige) furniture …’. had emigrated to the United States where their ability to transfer a modernist vision of architecture satisfied the demand for cost-effective mass architecture with a dose of sophistication. as Ulbricht himself thundered. the Party at this point conceived of the goal of their ideology as returning the cultural heritage of Germany back to the workers and the farmers. as before. in a way that served the workers and the farmers. The anti-formalists. They are building. the ‘international style’ of rectangular. was easy enough to draw for the East German Party leaders. A central part of this propaganda campaign was an attempt to prove to East and West Germans that the GDR was the ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ Germany.19 Nonetheless. when the Party proclaimed that formalism was ‘foreign to the people’ (volksfremde) and even ‘hostile to the people’ (volksfeindlich). begun in 1951. The CIAM and Bauhaus styles fitted the needs of American capitalism. cold. the United States. not Biedermeier). Even the term ‘industrial design’ itself was taboo.18 In addition.22 Furthermore. as evidenced by the American High Command’s joint underwriting of the Ulm Institute. national in form’. The Bauhaus and the CIAM had been elements of the German past favoured by the US occupation authority. simple. architecture and design. that the Bauhaus style was international and cosmopolitan and a weapon of imperialism. many of the former Bauhaus members.14 This attack had begun at the 3rd Party Congress of the SED in 1950. because ‘function cannot be the single determining element in furniture design. head of the East German architectural association. 2012 157 . prefab housing blocks going up in West Germany in the 1950s provided a clear example of what the antiformalists in the Party and the DBA did not want in the GDR.

crossed paths in the area of furniture and house wares. rococo or Grunderzeit. The uprising consisted mainly of workers upset with high work quotas and a low standard of living. two simultaneous crises developed in the GDR which would lead to the declining influence of Liebknecht and his allies by showing how out of touch their cultural vision was with the realities facing the Party. was thoroughly impractical for these new apartments. famously proclaimed that the socialist housing industry needed to find ways to build ‘better. 1958–1965). modern housing blocks worked wonders for the GDR’s housing programme. East German citizens were going to need to buy things with which to furnish them. this fact made clear ‘West Germany’s role as an American protectorate. The Stalinallee model was far too expensive. each room calculated for precisely how Downloaded from http://jdh. begun in the town of Hoyerswerda.Eli Rubin All Unions Building Conference in 1954. From that point on East Germany left Stalinism and began a transformation to what historian Konrad Jarausch calls the ‘welfare dictatorship’. The first of these crises was a deep and systemic housing crisis in East Germany. modern mass housing in the 1920s and 1930s. at the same Moscow conference where he had denounced ‘cubist’ architecture. The switch to serially-produced.30 By the Fifth Party Congress in 1958.27 That same year. and even the labour was lacking.000 apartments to be built by 1965. 2012 158 . but also to fit the spirit of the new apartments. The traditional aesthetic of furniture. Nikita Khruschev. the ban on ‘formalism’ was officially lifted. such as marble and hardwood. especially in terms of providing a higher standard of living.oxfordjournals. Among these was Gerhard Kosel.31 The two trends. By 1955. it was clear that this was an impossible goal.000 apartments by 1959. These had been scientifically designed.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. Until that point. faster and cheaper’. and the irony of workers revolting against a state run by a workers’ Party shocked and embarrassed the SED leadership to its core. including consumer goods. Initial attempts at the programme. mass-produced block housing and increased consumer goods production.24 This cultural deep freeze forced Stam back to the Netherlands at the end of 1952. Ulbricht promised to build 100. whether imitative of baroque. Kosel would soon take over the leadership of the DBA from Liebknecht. were so successful that by 1959 the People’s Chamber (Volkskammer28) passed a resolution calling for the construction of a minimum of 100. leading the SED to see the state as existing for the people. A second event dramatically shook the foundations of the GDR—the uprising of 17 June. This resolution then became the basis of the housing programme of the third FiveYear-Plan (which subsequently became the SevenYear-Plan. both for the practical needs of mass production. at the same time that this reaction was reaching its apex. covering the entire housing needs of all citizens in the GDR. predicted that East Germany would surpass West Germany in per-capita consumption by 1961. the housing crisis could not be solved using the present architectural and design aesthetic. resulting from the physical and economic devastation of the war. the SED had conceived of the people as existing for the state—the uprising caused a complete change.26 By 1956. to help them build functionalist. now in power in the USSR.25 and many of his students migrated to ideological ghettos such as the Burg-Giebichenstein school of art and design in Halle or the Institute of Interior Design in Weimar where they existed far from the centre of economic. Frankfurt am Main. a former student of Bauhaus architects Bruno Taut. political and cultural decision-making in Berlin. Ernst May and Hans Poelzig who had pioneered functionalist. in Stuttgart and Hamburg’ were based on the American model. no frills housing blocks. Yet. mostly in rural farmland surrounding the decaying city centres.000 apartments annually. The design of the new furniture had to be modern. There was no way to turn out hundreds of thousands of furniture units to keep up with the production of apartments by relying on a craftbased production model. General Secretary Ulbricht was staking the success of German communism on creating a consumer economy to rival the so-called economic miracle in West Germany. which called for a total of 750. In 1954.29 Most of the apartments would be built as ‘settlements’ (Siedlungen) in prefabricated ‘satellite’ cities. 1953. He boldly. and the Ministry for Construction in the GDR started turning to the very ‘formalists’ that the Party had denounced a few years prior. however. because along with new and modern apartments. Ulbricht claimed that ‘the box-homes that are being built in West Berlin. there were not enough of the building materials used. and wrongly it turned out. even in the area of housing construction’.

cheaper. functional furniture was not only a matter of aesthetic or functional preference. and another economy. The apartment models even bore technological sounding names. There was not enough alumin- Downloaded from http://jdh. begun in 1958. reducing their number of models from 80 to 5. The Hellerau furniture sets. Also.35 159 . from polyester clothes. which sought to synthesize what it could not find naturally. producing far more for far less than traditional furniture makers. drawing from Grete Lihotzky’s original ‘Frankfurt Kitchen’.oxfordjournals. Photo spread of ‘intecta’ furniture set (Kultur im Heim 1968–5. rubber. named ‘intecta’. especially. Hellerau was able to streamline production as well. because its design was so basic. which most people wore. they belonged to another time. By 1960. People wrote in to magazines. The streamlined. Plastics represented a major way for industrial designers to participate in creating a new aesthetic. especially the dual function sleeper sofas and shelf-wall units called ‘Schrankwände’. This inefficiency was of course exacerbated by the lack of materials.33 The rush to produce consumer goods did not fulfil the bombastic promise that Ulbricht had made.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. Hellerau designed furniture was hailed in the press. including the most popular. The former Bauhäusler Selman Selamangic and Franz Ehrlich provided the modern socialist apartment with their model of functional. multipurpose. 2012 Fig 1. space-saving furniture that they had designed at the VEB Deutsche Werkstätten in Hellerau. the regime tried to solve this with a massive investment in synthetics. as Le Corbusier had originally envisioned. Plastics. p. called the ‘Chemistry Programme’. became an omnipresent feature of life in the GDR. such as ‘Q5’ or the most common. ‘P2’—these were machines for living. which happened to fit nicely with the needs of the socialist economy. the wood used was all ‘pressed wood’ laminated with polyester resin. as design Horst Redeker’s pamphlet ‘Chemistry Brings Beauty’ from 1959 argued. 5) ium. and one reason the GDR’s economy. cotton.The Form of Socialism without Ornament much space an average family would need. owing to the embargo against the communist bloc. Antique or historicized furniture and domestic objects simply would not fit. with headlines such as ‘every 21 minutes a living room’32 fulfilling Khrushchev’s dictate to produce better. Initially denounced as ‘cubism’ and ‘degenerate’ by Party leaders. government bureaus and television stations asking how they could get Hellerau furniture. the kitchens designed for supreme efficiency. however. to plastic laminate used for most of the floors and surfaces in the new modern apartments. steel and especially natural wood. and the model was copied throughout the Eastern bloc. termed ‘Volkswirtschaft’ (‘people’s economy’)34 ran into problems was that it suffered from an inefficient use of resources. faster. To some degree. became so widespread as to be synonymous with everyday life in the GDR. once introduced in the early 1960s. These were the three basic colours and styles available to GDR citizens [1]. The illustration shows the variability of what were essentially the same pieces. the Hellerau furniture exploded in popularity.

oxfordjournals. The title reads ‘Glimpse into the Future’ (Kultur im Heim. more a bare bones studio than anything else. Kelm and Reissmann founded their own auxiliary institute. presented at the V Art Exhibition in 1962.Eli Rubin Enter the Bauhaus-informed industrial designers who had been languishing in forgotten corners of the country such as Halle and Weimar: for example. 2012 160 . from silverware to kitchen appliances to vases and many others. namely in painting or sculpture. such as a set of cylindrical porcelain vases designed by Burg School designer Hubert Petras. the Party had to register a tide of angry letters sent in by ordinary East Germans defending functionalist modernism as ‘exactly what they wanted and needed’.38 It was Kelm. as were the responses to other functionalist pieces at later Exhibitions. When these pieces were denounced as ‘formalistic’ by the official Party organs. four years after starting the Institute for Design and Development. The Art Exposition provided crucial feedback from consumers and visitors concerning what kind of aesthetic and material world they wanted for a government that had no market mechanism to gauge what consumers desired. 40) It was Reissmann who made the first public breakthrough of functionalism in consumer objects for everyday use. in a small abandoned courtyard in a crumbling building in Halle. and sought to advance the cause of aesthetic functionalism as a solution to the Volkswirtschaft and the larger project of socialism. who took full advantage of this happy confluence of aesthetic modernism and economic rationalization and modernization. form + zweck (‘form and purpose’) became the font of design philosophy in the GDR. but of the care with which they took to incorporate into their designs their idea of where the modern socialist economy and society were heading [2]. the Institute for Design and Development.39 The connection between modernist design and the project of state socialism in East Germany was fundamental. Reissmann and others such as Manfred Heinzte and Albert Krause had taken up positions as faculty members at the school of art and design in Burg Giebichenstein in Halle. as Kelm argued in form + zweck. presenting a set of silverware stripped of all reference to baroque or rococo. mass-produced household items. Sprelacart (a polyester-laminate-surfaced wardrobe).org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. The Central Institute’s flagship journal. a new world was going to be built. Reissmann’s silverware was a bold statement not only on how East Germans were going to be eating but on a major shift in the very raison d’etre of East Germany and the communist world: rather than redistributing the spoils of the past. The goal of producing a modern consumer society under socialism was neither crass production according Downloaded from http://jdh. While other areas of the exposition. In 1962. 1965–3. p. In their years of ideological exile. an advisory body within the Ministry of Culture. Kelm. 36 There Reissmann and Kelm developed a number of designs for industrial. The responses to Reissmann’s pieces were overwhelmingly positive. he returned to Berlin to found the Central Institute for Design. former Stam students Martin Kelm and Günter Reissmann. The Ministry of Culture had no ability to control economic production in East Germany. and the Central Institute was the first official government body dedicated to industrial design. at the 4th German Art Expo in Dresden in 1958. on display in the P2 in East Berlin. but it did confer official government status on Kelm. and the foundation of that new world was to be economic rationalism.37 Fig 2. however. still reflected the cheap imitation of past styles. Their designs were notable not only for their aesthetic message of form that followed function.

Kelm used his belief that functionalism aided the Volkswirtschaft to work the levers of power inside the Party. Kelm’s elevation was the spearhead of a drawing together of industrial designers and the economic planning apparatus. More importantly. to an actual legal branch of the economic planning apparatus. but rather a process by which the socialist personality is created’40 (author’s emphasis).43 The influence of the Central Institute. Kelm enlisted the help of Günther Mittag. and Kelm.44 The result of this drawing together of power in the hands of former Burg and Berlin-Weissensee designers was that a single aesthetic vision of modern industrial design in the service of the socialist planned economy was enforced throughout the Volkswirtschaft. guided by the basic ideas of the Bauhaus. Mittag argued to the other members of the Central Committee and the Politburo that Kelm’s dissertation was in fact more genuinely in keeping with Lenin’s ideas about how to create the socialist personality than any previous consideration of consumption and product design in the GDR [3]. and thus the Ministers’ Council. Kelm now had power over other ministers of the economy. when it was moved from the Ministry for Culture to the German Office for Measurement and Product Testing. Mittag vouched for Kelm’s Party credentials. ostensibly because of poor quality.42 With the power of a heavyweight such as Günther Mittag backing him and his ideas. industrial designers. The final coup was in June 1973 when a law was passed by the Ministers’ Council which required all factories not only to hire designers.) That same year the Central Institute’s name was changed to the Office of Industrial Design. As a member of the DAMW. Kelm and his allies from the ‘ ideological ghetto ’ in Halle now had the power to reject certain products.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. but to ‘outsource’ their industrial designing work only to the Office for Industrial Design. In his dissertation ‘The Meaning of the Design of Industrial Products in the Developed Social System of Socialism’ Kelm stated that by ‘simply producing for material needs …Consumption in socialism is not simply a matter of needing something and getting it. this was control. making him almost untouchable by any aesthetic criticism. and was elevated to the position of State Secretary. claiming that the work of the Central Institute for Design was in keeping with the dictates of the 7th Party Congress. The DAMW was a direct part of the powerful Ministers’ Council. restaurants. the military and even home use. earning its producer. at least where the bureaucracy functioned as it was Downloaded from http://jdh. Mittag argued to his Party comrades that Kelm was advancing no less than a recreation of the aesthetic meaning of everyday life that would contribute to the creation of the new socialist personality. This drawing together intensified yet further once Ulbricht was replaced in 1972 with Erich Honecker.The Form of Socialism without Ornament to the uneducated whims of the market. needed to be part of the economic planning apparatus in order to create a new socialist personality through the aesthetic meaning of the consumer world of everyday life. Rather.900 in exported units between 1960 and 1963. who was much closer to Kelm personally (partially because Kelm was married to Honecker’s personal secretary. grew greater in 1965. as was the case (he believed) under capitalism. the trays proved competitive for export. Serving as Kelm’s dissertation committee Chair. Kelm was able to show Mittag that the plastic trays. 2012 161 . nor the raw ‘provisioning’ or quota-fulfilment of the economic planning bureaucracy in the GDR. completing its transition from an institute. for example.800 to 62. A series of plastic. but also because they did not conform to the design aesthetics of the Central Institute. or DAMW. had risen in sales from 773.oxfordjournals. and provided some of the evidence Kelm needed to persuade Mittag to take up the cause of industrial design with the all-powerful Ministers’ Council. Kelm and his Central Institute could exert considerable influence over other branches of the government. having multiple laws passed requiring all VEBs to employ designers. special favour with the regime. and it had legal control over what goods could be made and what could not. only partially empowered. rising from 33. This was more than influence. designed for schools. VEB Auma. offices.000 Marks in 1959 to 2. stackable trays designed by Burg School and Central Institute designer Hans Merz in 1959 had proved to be very popular indeed.3 million Marks in 1963.41 Kelm used the Central Institute to provide Mittag with numerous studies showing the beneficial effect on the economy that occurred when designers were present in VEBs and had some control over the economic decision-making process. the Secretary of Economics in the SED’s Central Committee and one of the highest-ranking members of the Politburo. This shift was far more significant than it may initially appear.

Eli Rubin Downloaded from http://jdh.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. (Kultur im Heim 1968–1. 4) supposed to and did not succumb to intransigence and inertia. In many industries the traditional sentiment for handicrafts or kitschy knick-knacks resisted the Office of Industrial Design’s vision. The planned economy of socialist satellites such as East Germany was not airtight by any means.oxfordjournals. finally. The kitchen as a machine for living in East Germany: the ‘Ratiokücke’ modern kitchen. 2012 Fig 3. which had maintained more of a focus on traditional handicrafts and usually distanced itself from industrial mass production. mostly former students of Mart Stam and other Bauhäusler. the Union of Visual Artists. the VdBK. The rival design and artists’ group to the Central Institute/Office for Industrial Design. as did the need 162 . p. one of the more impressive achievements of modern industrial design and economic planning in the GDR. now held a similar degree of power [4]. found itself completely out of power. once on the receiving end of the anti-formalists’ totalitarian control over the economy and much of the cultural sphere. the ‘formalists’. what this kind of power meant. By the mid 1970s. Individual artists and members of the VdBK were forced to supplicate at the offices of the Office of Industrial Design for a licence even to seek contracts through the Office. It is worth considering. often to no avail.

such as rococo Meissen porcelain. eventually their entire existence would be defined by this aesthetic. the bureaucracy itself was terribly dysfunctional. what power these designers had was considerable. for example with excessive ornamentation. and the ever deepening economic crises of the socialist bloc after the mid 1970s meant that options for design and production were ever more limited in the GDR. which. mass produced at the VEB Glas-bijouterie in Zittau to export to Western countries for hard currency. one cleansed of kitsch. After all. 1970s and 1980s. A more effective route to eliminating kitsch than persuasion was economic control—as many designers noted.46 Kitsch was defined not merely as bad or coarse taste. On countless magazine pages. where the demand was for unique or traditional goods from Saxony or Thuringia. such as eating wares. the ‘Ratioküche’ designed as part of the ‘factory for living’.47 That is. Mart Stam had defined his goal as the creation of a new German style. Gaining control of the DAMW and a seat at the Ministers’ Council meant that Kelm and his allies could effectively prevent bad. their overriding goal was a battle against kitsch. and as such. 2012 163 . even though the Office of Industrial Design was able to exert so much control over the production bureaucracy in the GDR. Still. replete with scratch resistant plastic surfacing [3]. and thus prevent people from buying them.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. Breaking citizens of their attachment to sentimental and wasteful things was crucial to their critique of capitalism. thrived on the psychological irrationality and false consciousness of consumers. Making East Germans go ‘cold turkey’ from their Grunderzeit and baroque furniture and forcing them to adopt—even as an ‘acquired taste’— the Bauhaus-inspired functionalism was for these Downloaded from http://jdh. porcelain figurines depicting angels or gnomes or other sentimental forms were kitsch. Any porcelain plates. exhibitions and television shows. as are the modern kitchens. at the founding of the Institute of Industrial Design in Weissensee. were also kitsch. not because angels or gnomes are inherently wrong. the meaning of consumption in a socialist society. would it not be better for everyone if you could control all the furniture or all the desk lamps produced? There was. A polystyrene watering can. From the very beginning of modern design in East Germany. if your design vision is worth buying. more than simply the validation of seeing their preferred aesthetic radiate into an aesthetic regime of everyday life at stake in this battle for political and economic power.45 In addition. a ubiquitous piece of everyday design in the GDR in the 1960s. often unable to translate designs into products. pre-dating the GDR. however. by Dresden and Berlin-Weissensee student Klaus Kunis. but as anything that wasted the resources of the Volkswirtschaft. tasteful. Many of their designs became omnipresent fixtures in the everyday life of the GDR during the 1960s. and the old vestiges of unwanted tradition would fade as their physical traces disappeared from everyday life. it is inherently superior to other designs. And what then? One might ask if there is not some similar hidden desire among designers in the free market to have that kind of control: after all. including Meissen plates. not only Kelm. many believed. more functionally necessary ends. Many former East Germans still have these products in their P2 apartments to this day. kitschy designs from being produced. if the only things people in the Volkswirtschaft could buy were functionalist. that were designed in a wasteful way. no kitsch can be bought’. but because porcelain was needed for more important. useful modern designs. The Hellerau furniture sets are a prime example of this. For many designers. ‘if no kitsch is produced. designers engaged in the battle against ‘kitsch’ by attempting to ‘educate’ East Germans into understanding modern design and why they should not buy kitsch. What lay behind this drive for aesthetic control? Was Martin Kelm simply a megalomaniac.The Form of Socialism without Ornament Fig 4.oxfordjournals. and their critique of capitalism. or was there more to the rise of modern design in the GDR? Part of the answer lies in the connections that East German industrial designers drew between ‘kitsch’. for many of the Burg and Office of Industrial Design members.

What makes this particular discussion so fascinating is its linkage of psychoanalysis with a critique of aesthetics in a capitalist society to produce a rationale for the legitimate use of the apparatus of a totalitarian planned economy by industrial designers. democratic and capitalist societies after the Second World War. putting them on display. but rather that consciousness had to be altered through direct means of education and re-education to overcome the ‘retarding moments’ and ‘ingrained habits’. The larger point to draw from the story of modernist design and architecture in the GDR is that the Bauhaus legacy did not only live on in liberal. but comparatively little has Downloaded from http://jdh. This connection. responding to Sütterlin’s discussion of kitsch. This is how I explain to myself the existence of kitsch. it will always manifest itself. mistakenly called ‘needs’ in many areas but definitely in the area of one’s surroundings. they used socialism as much as socialism used them: the powersthat-were were not committed to the Bauhaus legacy in an aesthetic sense. their limited resources to be wasted on the whims of fashions and fads. Martin Kelm and others began their careers as designers with little power to influence the world around them other than through making prototypes. by both the Bauhaus and the Frankfurt School. Note here that Jordan was not in any way a member of the Party’s old guard. They ended up as petty tyrants able to change drastically the design of hundreds of thousands of goods with the stroke of a pen from a government office. and in fact found itself particularly well suited to the aims of communist dictatorships that sought to shape society through control of economic production and to some extent consumption. He noted that ‘the kitsch drive (Kitschtrieb) is an emotionally based need. yet both of them found little obstacle in sliding from their design philosophy into a critique of the capitalist society of the West that contained little trace of the coerced and formulaic language of the usual Party propaganda. psychology and capitalism. the Bauhaus vision was what they had to turn to. but they found that in order to establish the kind of modern consumer economy they needed for their regime’s own legitimacy. 2012 164 . it is the duty of the socialist cultural revolution to use this acquired wealth and time for the perfection of human life. even though taste was determined by use. Among those interviewed by the magazine’s editor. Jordan. Against this there are ‘retarding’ moments in the form of ingrained habits. and use was determined by economic transaction and process. between the production of kitsch and capitalism’s supposedly sinister hypnosis of the oppressed masses. who participated in a number of the modern housing projects and Burg school member Albert Krause. They for the most part belonged to the Party. The designers of the Central Institute dovetailed perfectly with this same vision. and could not afford. of worthless kitschy trinkets and luxury items. explained the connection between the pathology of taste and the importance of correcting it in a socialist society: I believe [the existence of kitsch] has much more to do with the capitalist world. and I think that one has to dismantle this in order to free the human being from it.49 So Jordan argued that while economic conditions were responsible for this pathology.oxfordjournals. Whereas the technological development rashly raised the material wealth of the society and created leisure possibilities for the people to enjoy [this wealth]. measured by the fast development of productive powers in technology and also culture. were the architect Jakob Jordan.Eli Rubin designers a sine qua non of moulding the collective socialist personality and severing all sympathy for the false illusion of capitalism. For Krause as well. that disturbed concepts that had previously remained stable. Much has been written about the notion of fascist aesthetics. the deformation of consciousness is not sublimated (aufgehoben). simply producing correct products would not by itself alter people’s consciousness.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. going back to at least Walter Benjamin. the mind of the consumer needed guidance.48 The significance of controlling people’s tastes through controlling the availability of certain products is perhaps best highlighted in an interview with several designers and architects on the issue of kitsch and socialism published in Kultur im Heim in 1964. But were they more committed to socialism or to modernism in design? Absolutely. and Krause was not even a member of the Party. having their designs taught in classes and covered in the press. Werner Sütterlin. They needed a consumer economy but did not want. The kitsch-need (Kitschbedürfnis) is a symptom of the deformation of the aesthetic consciousness. And we will need the help of psychologists along with aesthetic experts and cultural scientists’. As long as the cause. It lived on in the communist world as well though in somewhat different form. with exceptions such as Krause. had been made before after all.

This was the state-run architectural association in the GDR. in pre-war capitalism. more powerful design bureau created when the original was moved from the Ministry of Culture to the DAMW in 1965. Weimar founded by former Bruno Paul student Horst Michel in 1951. College of Applied Art (Institut industrielle Gestaltung/ Institut angewandte Kunst. Office of Industrial Design (Amt für industrielle Formgestaltung): the new name of the Central Institute for Design as of 1972. Reissmann.oxfordjournals. Department of History Western Michigan University Downloaded from http://jdh. Appendix of design-related institutions in the GDR Burg-Giebichenstein College for Art and Design. which formed much of the Bauhaus mission. This was the alternative organization to the Central Institute-Office of Industrial Design. but focused on folk art and more ‘traditional’ aesthetics. This is not to conflate modernism or functionalism in any way with state socialism. modernist work that later became the blueprint for economic planning throughout the GDR. The strength of conviction concerning the link between taste and morality that lived on in the industrial design community of East Germany was easily translated into the acceptance of totalitarian power over the choices of citizen consumers in the power structure of the command economy. Halle: applied arts college that produced the core of modernist designers in the GDR.und Warenprüfung (German Office for Measurements and Goods Testing). Central Institute for Design (Zentralinstitut für Gestaltung): the new. The Institute produced much of the innovative. It is the suggestion of this article that at least part of the Bauhaus legacy contained a moment of economic totalitarianism. created as part of the Ministry of Culture in 1963. found new life in the same kind of anti-capitalism during the years of the second German Dictatorship. at least as it appeared after the early 1960s. especially with regard to the proliferation of kitsch. making it a branch of the Ministers’ Council. the Central Institute-Office for Industrial Design was able to stop production of kitsch by proclaiming it low quality. However. and provided much of the architectural design for state building projects in East Germany. Institute for Design and Development (Institut für Entwürf und Entwicklung): a small design studio set up in a vacant back courtyard or ‘Hinterhof’ apartment near the Burg School in Halle by Martin Kelm and Günter Reissmann in 1958. Through the DAMW.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. The Office’s new status thus gave its director. Krause and several others. which remained affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and therefore had little power in economic decision making. Hochschule angewandte Kunst). College of Architecture and Construction (Institut für Innengestaltung an der hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen). Berlin-Weissensee: Design institute founded in 1950 at the College of Applied Art in the north-east section of Berlin by Mart Stam. Petras. Martin Kelm. VdBK: Verband der Bildenden Künstler (Union of Visual Artists). This was an extremely powerful office under the Ministers’ Council—meaning it answered to no other interests than the most powerful in the state and therefore held sway over individual industries—responsible for inspecting the quality of industrial production in the GDR. Designers who remained in the VdBK generally did not work in modernist and Bauhaus-inspired themes. the antipathy to uncontrolled mass-production. DAMW: Deutsches Amt für Messwesen. including Kelm. Central Institute for Design (Zentralinstitut für Formgebung): the first official state design bureau. Eli Rubin Assistant Professor. name changed in 1953 when the concept of ‘industrial design’ was considered politically suspect. DBA: Deutsches Bauakademie (German Architectural Academy). The change corresponded to a Ministers’ Council law passed in 1973 requiring all factories to hire industrial designers approved by the Office of Industrial Design. with Martin Kelm as director.The Form of Socialism without Ornament considered whether modernism and functionalism had a role in constituting a kind of communist aesthetic. Institute for Interior Design. which provides the key to understanding how Mart Stam’s disciples rose from enforced obscurity to positions of powerful control in the German Democratic Republic. and making its director Martin Kelm a State Secretary. almost dictatorial powers over design aesthetic in the GDR. Institute of Industrial Design/Institute of Applied Art. 2012 165 .

Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst. made his most lasting impact on GDR design nationally. Hirdina was a designer in the GDR at the time. Anything that was utopian. 383. p. and although he studied with modernist architect Hans Poelzig before the Nazi takeover. 46. p. regardless of how useful they proved to be to capitalism. Zur Wiedereröffnung der Akademie der bildenden Künste Dresden. however. 22 Gruner. the term ‘degenerate’—in the sense of not simply having lost touch with tradition but actually having lost touch with a biological or organic lineage—came to apply to forms of modern architecture that rejected tradition. Burg-Giebichenstein. Vom Baukünstler zum Komplexprojektanten. because of snowfall) was judged to be ‘cosmopolitan. whose work at the Bauhaus receives less attention that it should. etc. Trotzdem. Dokumente zur Geschichte der Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee 1946–1957. 1992. p.’ p. 2000). 38. (Dresden: Verlag der Kunst. governmental as well as academic. or even flat roofs (a fundamental of Bauhaus architecture and criticized by Hitler himself because Nordic roofs had to be slanted. Ökonomie und Industriedesign in Ostdeutschland’. The Bauhaus was a direct target of the Nazis and the various völkisch right wing groups who found the so-called ‘formalist’ or ‘functionalist’ or even ‘international’ style to be an abomination. For an excellent overview of the architecture of the Third Reich see Kathleen JamesChakraborty German Architecture for a Mass Audience (London: Routledge. and so the book is more of a primary than a secondary source. In the context of the Nazi cultural programme. ‘Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Sektion Produkt. the fashion. Gestalten. 11 Renate Luckner-Bien. p. 1997). Such representations of modernity. p. 88. 470–471. ed. he apparently radically changed his ideas while spending the years 1937–1945 in the USSR with many other future SED leaders such as Ulbricht.’ ‘Jewish’ or ‘communist’. who was a radical proponent of standardized mass housing. For more on Brandt. (Published in conjunction with the ‘Ausstellung im Bauhaus-Archiv’... or excessively modern. Thomas Topfstedt et al. not from a political.oxfordjournals. p. Once the tide turned against his ideology he was replaced as head of the DBA in 1961 by Gerhard Kosel. see Ebert. Horst Michel. 15 Hirdina. using the same terminology. University of California Press. Tempolinsen und P2. ed. Beiträge zur Geschichte. p. February 9–April 20.. 2004). 20 The most authoritative account of architecture in East Germany is Joachim Palutzki’s Architektur in der DDR (Berlin: Riemer. 373. 4 Hirdina. 8 For more on Stam and his return to Weissensee. who saw the architecture. 3. 1990). Berlin. Nordic or Hellenic-Roman civilization. Industrieformgestaltung: Beispiele aus der Arbeit des Instituts für Innengestaltung an der hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar. the lifestyle. p. the food. 1993).) Trotzdem.. mainly because the leader of the Weimar Institute. 117. mentioned in this article. 9 The Weimar Institute is not covered in as much depth here as the Berlin-Weissensee and especially the Burg-Giebichenstein Institutes. No. 2000). p. because ‘Entartung’ can be translated as ‘degeneration’ or ‘alienation’. 16 Michael Suckow. p. 14. (Dresden. eds. For more on the Weimar school see Institut für Innengestaltung an der Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar. ‘Politik. 10 For more on the Dresden circle. form und zweck 1992. of the Volk as one and the same as the actual eugenic heritage carried by the blood of the Volk. Thus. That the Party-backed architects in the DBA attacked the same target. whereas the most important work done by people associated with the Berlin-Weissensee and Burg schools was done in conjunction with the artistic and design communities there. Architekten in der DDR. Gestalten. The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design (Berkeley. 1136. 6 Ibid. such as jazz or swing. 1992.und Umweltgestaltung im Bereich Produktion’ in 75 Jahre Burg Giebichenstein 1915–1990. 2 The most authoritative account of East German industrial design is Heinz Hirdina’s Gestalten für die Serie: Design in der DDR 1949–1985. offended the mystical and holy sense of the ‘Volk’ held by Nazis and other radical right wing groups in Germany. in Luwig. 2012 166 . 7 Johannes Langenhagen. Neuanfange 1947. and to some extent within Germany as well. Berlin. 1988. Die Metallwerkstatt am Bauhaus. it was used specifically to refer to art or architecture that had lost touch with traditional Aryan.) Drei Kapitel Weissensee. 25 See Holger Barth.. Gestalten. whether musical. urban. Gestalten. ‘… spezifisch refomistisch bauhausartig …’ mart stam in der ddr 1948–1952. (Erkner: Dokumentenreihe des Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung. 13 Ibid. see Klaus Weber’s exhibition catalogue. 21 Petra Gruner. p. Wohnungsbau als soziokulturelles Programm’. Die hallesche Kunstschule von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (Halle: Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg Halle. This translation deserves special mention. 43. lends more evidence for an argument that historians need to rethink the relationship between the Third Reich and the GDR. ‘P2 Macht das Rennen. or metal and glass architecture. 371. popular entertainment such as Disney cartoons. and despite being a remarkable account has not been translated into English and remains fairly unknown outside Germany. Renate Lückner-Bien (Halle: Hochschule für Kunst und Design. 17 Hirdina. 388. 12 Hirdina. p. Die Burg Giebichenstein nach 1958’ in Burg Giebechenstein. 23 See Jörg Roesler. 5 Ibid. ‘P2 macht das Rennen. 14 Liebknecht was the nephew of the KPD leader Karl Liebknecht. Hildtrud (ed. Downloaded from http://jdh. p.. Architektur in der DDR.. Berlin: Kupfergraben. 235. Deutschland Archiv 28 (1995).org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. 10. pp. 39. ed. Neuanfang 1947 : zur Wiedereröffnung der Akademie der Bildenden Künste Dresden. ‘Geschichte und Gegenwart. p. 19 Ibid. and their response to the formalism ‘debate. 3 Hirdina. 2000).) A good source on the history of the Dresden academy in the GDR is Rainer Beck and Natalia Kardinar. 1997). 1996.’ see Rainer Beck and Kardinar Natalia (ed. as well as Simone Hain. 24 Palutzki. 67. Museum für Gestaltung. I think. 18 Paul Betts. For reference please see appendix to this article. 88.. but a cultural angle.Eli Rubin Notes 1 There are a proliferation of East German design-related institutions. ‘Industriedesign’ in Luckner-Bien 75 Jahre.

ed. 10–22. 30 Konrad Jarausch ‘Beyond Uniformity: The Challenge of Historicizing the GDR’ in Jarausch. much the same way that the ‘health’ of the racial community. which have led to a very fragmented sense of what Downloaded from http://jdh. 33 Marc Schweska and Markus Witte ‘Revolution aus Tradition? Das Montagemöbelprogramm Deutsche Werkstätten (MDW)’ in Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst. 68. 2000) pp. Design in der DDR. ed. 40 Barch Dahlwitz-Hoppegarten (BarchDH) DY 30/IV A2/2. p. 44 BarchDH DF 7 82 Press release from Martin Kelm to Pressamt regarding the Ministers’ Council decision. Consumer. the Volkswirtschaft. 1959). p. Both terms present a kind of collective to which the wills of individual citizens were subordinated. 11. April. 38 The criticism of Petras’ cylinders was made by Manfred Hagen in the Party organ Neues Deutschland. however. 1999). the logic of the collective pervaded most aspects of life. Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin.’ p. 1999). 82. The guest books to the conference were overwhelmed with support for Petras. affected questions of architecture. ‘Quer: form + zweck’ in Simone Barck. Volksgemeinschaft (‘People’s Community’) is important to keep in mind. with comments such as ‘I saw the exhibit of industrial design and liked it. Hagen is … too subjectively colored. ed. 37 Günter Reissmann in interview with the author. ‘Massnahmen zur Verbesserung der Arbeit der Ministerium. In the case of the GDR. 1999).1969. 29 Palutzki. VVB.1999). This thesis is developed more fully in Eli Rubin. Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR (New York: Berghahn Books. This is not to say that political economy did not also play an important role in the Third Reich (or that there was no racism or antiSemitism in East Germany. Architektur in der DDR. ed. ‘The Bauhaus in the German Democratic Republic—between Formalism and Pragmatism’ in Jeannine Fiedler and Peter Feierabend. ‘P2 Macht das Rennen. ‘Gutachten zur Dissertationsschrift von Martin Kelm ‘Die Bedeutung der Gestaltung industrieller Erzeugnisse im entwickelten gesellschaftlichen System des Sozialismus’ 3. consumer society.. streamlined. Links. although its delegates were ‘elected’ in supposedly democratic elections. 53–73.4. Kombinate und Betriebe sowie des Handels für die Erhöhung des Niveaus der Gestaltung industrieller Erzeugnisse. Design and Cultural History’ (Ph. p. Chemie bringt Schönheit. art and design under Hitler. 2004) and Rubin.. ‘Plastics and the New Society: The German Democratic Republic in the 1950s and 1960s’ in David Crowley and Susan Reid. Fortschritt. p. 38. 32 ‘Alle 21 Minuten ein Wohnzimmer’ Möbel und Wohnraum 1960–1. Style and Socialism. Also see Betts. the collective was an economic project. as numerous attempts have been made to define it. eds. ‘Industriedesign’. Probleme musealer Darstellung’ (Diplomarbeit. 27 Palutzki. Also see Silvia Rückert. Deutsche Kunstausstellung: Vorbereitung. Berlin.D Dissertation. 45 See Manuel Schramm’s excellent book on consumption in Saxony. The Chemistry Programme and the resulting ‘wave of plastics that rolled over the land’ (as form + zweck editor Jorg Petruschat described the influx of plastic consumer goods in the wake of the Chemistry Programme in the 1960s and 1970s) helped create a momentary consensus among the population that the autarkic economic project of the GDR could deliver a modern. Neues Deutschland 10. Bauhaus (Könemann Verlag. ‘Bemerkungen zu den Gastbüchern’. p. and Silvia Rückert’s ‘Spürbare Moderne—gehemmter Fortschritt: Plaste in der Waren—und Lebenswelt der DDR’ in Andreas Ludwig. Links. and so a common theme of totalitarianism is normally drawn between the Third Reich and the GDR. 36 Suckow. 35 Redeker. 89. In both cases. 116. have an impact on questions of aesthetics. 1959. 21. 3. p. from Kelm’s point of view. 34 The similarity of the term Volkswirtschaft to the term used by the Nazis.1962.11. 2.The Form of Socialism without Ornament 26 Gruner. pp. 474. design and architecture. Wealth and Beauty’. p. 41 Ibid. See also Ray Stokes. 43 An example was the law from 1965 passed by the Minister’s Council entitled ‘The Law About the Rights and Duties of the People’s Own Factories’ that required all VEBs to employ industrial designers. the needs of the economic collective. Berlin: Institut für Angewandte Kunst. 46 Hirdina. and defend it. 2012 167 . Architektur in der DDR. and the laws it enacted were usually handed down from the Central Committee or the Politburo.’ For more on the actual specifics of the newly minted Office for Industrial Design (AiF) and its achievements after 1972 with its new powers. or Volksgemeinschaft. The article from Mr. 2003). Consuming Germany in the Cold War. For the purposes of this article. 81.021/376 Büro Günther Mittag. eds. 31 Ulbricht in Protokoll der Verhandlungen des V.. Wunderwirtschaft. ‘Plastics and Dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic: Towards an Economic. 65–80. Martina Langermann and Siegfried Lokatis. ed. University of Wisconsin-Madison. and in multiple contexts. The term was borrowed from the slogan of the Chemistry Programme. ‘Chemistry Brings Bread.021/366 Büro G. 42 Barch-BL. See Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfeld (Barch-BL) DR 1 (Ministerium für Kultur) ‘V. Eigensinn (Ch.. ‘The Order of Substitutes: Plastic Consumer Goods in the Volkswirtschaft and Everyday Domestic Life in the GDR’ in David Crew. The literature and discourse on kitsch is long. as is our attempt to understand its usage. pp. Zwischen ‘Mosaik’ und ‘Einheit’ (Ch. p. see Kelm. 2002. (1986?) pp. was essentially a rubber-stamp congress. Norm. Also ‘Wohnraumkultur trotz Standardisierung?’ Möbel und Wohnraum 1960–1. ‘Designförderung in der DDR’ in Amt für industrielle Formgestaltung. VEB Auma. 47 The use of the term ‘kitsch’ by East German designers is fraught with problems. ‘Alltag und Kultur in der DDR. 139.oxfordjournals. Konsum und regionale Identität in Sachsen 1880–2000: Die Regionalisierung von Konsumgütern im Spannungfeld von Nationalisierung und Globalisierung (Stuttgart. Mittag ‘Bericht zum ökonomischen Nutzen der Industrieformgestaltung’ VVB Plastverarbeitung. He does not take into consideration enough the requirements of industrial form under socialist conditions’. see Hagen ‘Hinter dem Leben zurück’. 39 See Jorg Petruschat. 269–276. Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen (SAPMO) DY 30/IV A 2/2.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. rather than a racial community. Parteitages der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Berlin: Dietz Verlag.12. 40. 28 The Volkskammer. Durchführung’ p. which there was) and for some the difference between a racially versus an economically based collective is significant. p. Franz Steiner Verlag.

but harmless. if the kitsch involves the use of endangered wildlife. and Robert Solomon’s defence of what Harries originally designated ‘sweet kitsch’ (mawkish. The Dialectic of Enlightenment. however. for example a fashion outfit replete with the skins and furs of endangered species with extremely expensive jewellery to boot. Northwestern University Press. Bad taste in an aesthetic sense and bad taste in a moral sense often overlap. 1991). the question here comes down to whether other people’s aesthetic judgement or lack thereof is in any way a threat to you yourself. see Ludwig Giesz. 2012 168 . Taste and the Household: The Domestic Aesthetic and Moral Reasoning (Albany. Penn State University Press. any disapproval of kitsch becomes elitist. and we often consider this ‘kitsch’ or ‘gaudy’. as Solomon argues. and the state as well. and one could argue similarly if it contributes to making important religious.oxfordjournals. cultural or historical concepts empty. at which point. it is bad ‘taste’ in a moral or ethical sense. Hermann Broch. take place assuming a Western. economics. But in a planned economy. where the purchases of all consumers affect all other citizens. ‘Notes on the Problem of Kitsch’ in Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste. That is. Robert Solomon. For more on the connections between kitsch and aesthetic judgement and ethics and morality. Drawing off classic works of aesthetic philosophy by Kant and Nietzsche. (New York: Universe Books. 1968). Downloaded from http://jdh. Postmodernism (Durham.org/ at University of Michigan on June 16. Karsten Harries’ chapter on Kitsch in his The Meaning of Modern Art (Evanston. often including the person intentionally violating the category. Duke University Press. and it is this connection that I believe is most helpful here in assessing the role of ‘kitsch’ in the planned socialist economy of the GDR. Obviously. 2001). 1987). it is not an ethical question. trans. Most discussions of kitsch. Avant-Garde. So. Kathleen Higgins. Kitsch. Gillo Dorfles. the personal tastes of each citizen happen to be very much the business of every other citizen. and the praxis of everyday life combine to form a category of aesthetic judgement that is clear to all but the most unaware. Wilhelm Fink Verlag 1971). capitalist context. State University of New York Press. Thomas Kulka Kitsch and Art (University Park. it remains an ethical question. merely aesthetic. because the collective is essentially an economic collective. a Volkswirtschaft. condescending and thus it becomes itself the ethical problem. 1–14. Here morality. eds. 49 ‘Was ist eignetlich mit dem ‘Elfenriegen’? Eine Runddiskussion der Redaktion Kultur im Heim’ Kultur im Heim 6–1968. Karsten Harries has argued that in fact kitsch is more than bad art. Solomon’s defence of kitsch does not apply here. Phänomenologie des Kitsches (Munich. such as a plastic Jesus or a plastic Elvis. ‘On Kitsch and Sentimentality’ in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49–1 (1991) pp. John Cumming. and the connection of ethics and morality to kitsch is key to understanding why it was of such concern to the state and the industrial designers who worked for the state. Janet McCracken. If not.) Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism. 1968). 1996). art that one might never choose for one’s own home but cannot feel threatened by in others’) as divorced from ethical considerations is a plausible defence only in a free market society. (New York: Continuum. 48 An excellent example of this critique of kitsch and capitalism can be found in Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s essay ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ in Adorno and Horkheimer. authors such as Hermann Broch and Ludwig Giesz have attempted to define kitsch in terms of philosophical notions of aesthetic judgement.Eli Rubin kitsch actually is. ‘Sweet Kitsch’ in Matei Calinescu (ed. Decadence. and aesthetic judgements are driving consumption and thus production and thus the allotment of resources that are to be used ideally for the good of the whole. ed.