Adelheid von Saldern is one of the most productive, thoughtful, and innovative researchers in the field of twentieth-century German history. Her already long career has been distinguished by a willingness to take intellectual risks by participating in new historiographical movements, borrowing from cultural anthropology, focusing on the social and cultural history of everyday life, and demonstrating the importance of gender history. In this volume, she expressly focuses on the various challenges modernity posed to German society between 1900 and 1960. Throughout, von Saldern is particularly concerned with public perceptions, debates, and attitudes.
The essays contained in The Challenge of Modernity cover three distinct subject areas: the history of the Social Democratic labor movement, housing, and popular and mass culture. More specifically, von Saldern addresses the self-modernizing Social Democratic Party; Social Democrats' and Communists' opposing views of modernization; social rationalization in the private sphere (particularly with regard to women and hygiene); sport; the arrival of "trashy" literature, movies, and radio in Germany; and cultural conservatives' attempts to enhance a national and Volks-culture in opposition to mass-culture, Americanization, and the avant-garde. The variety of responses to the modernization process, as well as von Saldern's focus on social agents, makes this book unique.
Required reading for scholars of social, cultural, and gender history, The Challenge of Modernity will also find an audience among urban anthropologists, political scientists, and sociologists. Von Saldern's ability to combine a strong theoretical framework with concrete historical examples will also make this outstanding reading for undergraduate and graduate students seeking to familiarize themselves with the history of German society and culture.