Degeneration and Revolution

Buy hardcover (Brill)
Published Nov 2016
ISBN: 9789004276260

Radical Cultural Politics and the Body in Weimar Germany

Robert Heynen, York University

In Degeneration and Revolution: Radical Cultural Politics and the Body in Weimar Germany Robert Heynen explores the impact of conceptions of degeneration, exemplified by eugenics and social hygiene, on the social, cultural, and political history of the left in Germany, 1914–33. Hygienic practices of bodily regulation were integral to the extension of modern capitalist social relations, and profoundly shaped Weimar culture.

Heynen’s innovative interdisciplinary approach draws on Marxist and other critical traditions to examine the politics of degeneration and socialist, communist, and anarchist responses. Drawing on key Weimar theorists and addressing artistic and cultural movements ranging from Dada to worker-produced media, this book challenges us to rethink conventional understandings of left culture and politics, and of Weimar culture more generally.

Biographical note

Robert Heynen teaches in Communication Studies at York University. He has published numerous articles on Weimar culture, socialist history, and surveillance, including in New Formations and Canadian Journal of Communication.


All interested in: Weimar German history; early twentieth century radical media, art, and culture; history of socialist and communist movements; critical studies of degeneration and the body (race, gender, disability).

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1: Introduction: Weimar Germany and the Cultures of Capitalist Modernity
1.1 Rethinking Weimar History
1.2 Weimar Germany: The Crises of Capitalist Modernity
1.3 Degeneration, Embodiment, and the Politics of Culture: A Marxist Perspective
1.4 The Structure of the Book

Chapter 2: Degeneration: Gender, War and the Politics of the Volkskörper
2.1 Introduction
2.2 August 1914
2.3 Women’s Protests and Left Politics
2.4 Masculinity, War, and the Cultural Politics of the Weimar Radical Right

Chapter 3: Revolution: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Question of Totality
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Nostalgia and Shock
3.3 Art, Politics, and Revolution
3.4 Expressionism and After
3.5 Totality

Chapter 4: Bodies and Minds: Art and the Politics of Degeneration
4.1 Introduction
4.2 (De)militarised Bodies: Art and Gender after War
4.3 The Prostitute
4.4 The Prosthetic Man: The Wounded or Disabled Veteran
4.5 Outsider Art: Asylums and the Cultural Politics of Madness
4.6 Primitivism, the Body, and Colonial Nostalgia

Chapter 5: Transforming Vision: Film, Photography, and the Politics of Social Hygiene
5.1 Introduction: The Birth of Homo Cinematicus
5.2 The Photo-Eye: New Modes of Vision
5.3 The Primitive Spectator: Race, Gender, Class, and the Weimar Audience
5.4 Optical Hygiene: Sanitising Vision
5.5 Racial Aesthetics: Photography, Film, and the Weimar Body

Chapter 6: Revolution and the Degeneration of the Weimar Republic: Worker Culture and the Rise of Fascism
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Towards a Worker Culture
6.3 ‘We Are the Eyes of Our Class!’: Workers’ Photography and Film
6.4 Proletarian Theatre and the Fight for the Streets
6.5 Radical Cultures of the Body: The Left and the Struggle over Abortion
6.6 In the Shadow of Fascism: Brecht, the Left, and the End of the Weimar Republic