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Pod Stalinem: field notes from another modernity

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2013
JournalJournal of Classical Sociology
Number of pages17
Early online date21/12/12
Original languageEnglish


David Frisby’s work was a career-long engagement with modernity, informed by a tradition of classical social theory whose neglect in Anglo-American sociology David did much to remedy through his translations as well as his writings: the ‘sociological impressionism’ that seeks to grasp totalities through ‘snapshots’ and ‘fragments’ whose representatives included Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer, and Walter Benjamin. Conceived as a homage to David’s legacy (and his personal
influence on my own intellectual development) rather than a commentary on his work, this essay is a Benjaminian dérive through twentieth-century Prague, which complements and counterpoints David’s beloved Vienna and Berlin. Prague’s modern history, I argue, gives Baudelaire’s celebrated definition of modernity as ‘le transitoire, le fugitif, le contingent’ surreally new dimensions. Indeed, the
city might well be regarded as a ‘capital of the twentieth century’ in whose ‘ruins’ we can begin to excavate the ‘prehistory of postmodernity.’

Bibliographic note

Written for a special issue in memory of the late David P. Frisby, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics.