Chapter

Berlin Electropolis

Andreas Killen

in Berlin Electropolis

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780520243620
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931633 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520243620.003.0002
Berlin Electropolis

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This chapter begins by looking at Berlin's late nineteenth-century transformation into “world city,” site and object of a discourse about the “hidden costs” of over civilization. It ties the capital's development to the emergence of a new consciousness of accelerated change that crystallized in the discourse about neurasthenia. In this disease construct, doctors fused central tenets of nineteenth-century German science (including electrophysiology and thermodynamics) into a medical construct anchored in the body and susceptible to scientific treatment. A new generation of practitioners examined, treated, and experimented on the body with technologies that became integral parts of the material culture of this age. They also tied neurasthenia to contemporary consciousness of social rupture. In their writings and interactions with patients, doctors tirelessly affirmed the view that the age of electricity and the age of nervousness were one and the same. The possibility of speaking of the body as electrical dynamo in the first place was inseparable from the paradigm shift linked with the advent of the electrotechnical age—a shift experienced more dramatically in Berlin than anywhere else.

Keywords: world city; over civilization; neurasthenia; material culture; social rupture; electricity; nervousness; electrotechnical age

Chapter.  13399 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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