This article traces Siegfried Kracauer's ethnologically inflected observations of ordinary practices and argues that his lifelong attention to the quotidian, from his newspaper articles of the 1920s to his last book, History: The Last Things before the Last, throws into relief a theory of the ordinary. In contrast to the epistemologically informed criticism of Kracauer's work in the wake of Theodor W. Adorno's influential essay “The Curious Realist,” the article shows how Kracauer's thought clearly breaks with a naive realist epistemology. Kracauer anticipates crucial aspects of what we have come to call cultural studies and strikes a familiar chord with Pierre Bourdieu's sociological investigations of the habitual. The absence of grand narratives and apocalyptic traits in Kracauer's theory of the ordinary politically differentiates him as well from the Frankfurt School and makes his work more adaptable for scholarship today.
Christian Sieg; Beyond Realism: Siegfried Kracauer and the Ornaments of the Ordinary. New German Critique 1 February 2010; 37 (1 (109)): 99–118. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2009-019
Download citation file: