Vienna: How the City of Ideas Created the Modern World (Hardcover)
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How can one European capital be responsible for most of the West’s intellectual and cultural achievements in the twentieth century?
Viennese ideas saturate the modern world. From California architecture to Hollywood Westerns, modern advertising to shopping malls, orgasms to gender confirmation surgery, nuclear fission to fitted kitchens—every aspect of our history, science, and culture is in some way shaped by Vienna.
The city of Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler, and Klimt was the melting pot at the heart of a vast metropolitan empire. But with the Second World War and the rise of fascism, the dazzling coteries of thinkers who squabbled, debated, and called Vienna home dispersed across the world, where their ideas continued to have profound impact.
Richard Cockett gives us the entirety of this extraordinary story. Tracing Vienna’s rich intellectual history from psychoanalysis to Reaganomics, Cockett encompasses everything from the communist rebels of Red Vienna to the neoliberal economists of the Austrian School. This is the panoramic account of how one city made the modern world—and how we all remain inescapably Viennese.
About the Author
Richard Cockett is a historian and journalist and a staff correspondent and senior editor at The Economist. He is the author of seven books and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
“What makes Cockett’s book compelling, however, are stories of the lesser-known, equally spirited Viennese that moulded the contours of the consumer-capitalist world order.”—Sam Jones, Financial Times
“A fascinating account of how some of the most dynamic Western ideas of the past century bubbled up from a single, urban cauldron of competing forces.”—Michael S. Roth, Wall Street Journal
“[An] erudite and masterful telling. . . . For anyone interested in how we got here and how ideas shape our minds and our world, for good and for ill, Vienna is essential reading.”—Ian Hughes, Irish Times
Named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2023 by Marginal Revolution (blog)
“There is enrichment on almost every page. And with it, a wealth of fundamental insights into the production and exploitation of useful knowledge.”—Charles Emmerson, Engelsberg Ideas
“An excellent survey and introduction to the miracles of Viennese science, philosophy, and culture, earlier in the 20th century.”—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution (blog)
“Cockett, the maestro of historical storytelling, takes you on an exhilarating journey through the cobbled streets and grand palaces of Vienna, unearthing the captivating tales of the visionaries who called this city home.”—Medium
“Cockett does a fine job of explaining why Vienna produced so many impressive men and women. . . . It’s impossible to come away from Cockett’s book without a fresh appreciation of the importance of Vienna and the outsized part that its people played in the formation of the modern world.”—American Spectator
“A kaleidoscopic journey through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In Richard Cockett’s hands, Vienna is the origin of the contemporary world.”—Janek Wasserman, author of The Marginal Revolutionaries
“A rich and fascinating book. Pre-war Vienna was a cauldron of ideas—ideas that were mostly extinguished in Austria, but exported to the Anglo-American world. Richard Cockett makes a compelling case for how they continue to shape our lives.”—David Edmonds, author of The Murder of Professor Schlick
“Richard Cockett allows us to savour the heady days of Viennese cafe culture, which, as he vividly demonstrates, brewed the richness and boldness of the modern era. From art and music to economics and science, he reveals the city’s extraordinary and pivotal contributions to contemporary life.”—Paul Halpern, author of Flashes of Creation