Keywords: Ornament; Mass Culture; Modern Urbanity; City Culture; Everyday Life.
Siegfried Kracauer's "Das Ornament der Masse" (1927) is widely known for its analysis of the so-called Tiller Girls as an expression of Taylorism in modern culture. But it is first of all a program for the critical intellectual in the age of mass culture and may even provide a conceptual basis for critical studies of modern urbanity. Yet one has to establish a clear distinction between culture industry and urban culture. In Kracauer's writings, the sphere of city culture may transcend capitalist Ratio and enter the domain of utopian fantasy. Far from reproducing the logic of capital, the ornaments of the city provide occasions for cultural and social change. This is what Kracauer is hinting at when he makes improvisation the prime criterion of urban quality.