By Helmut Lethen
Cool behavior is a sublime interpretation of attitudes and mentalities that expert the Weimar Republic by way of a pupil popular for his profound wisdom of this era. Helmut Lethen writes of "cool behavior" as a cultivated antidote to the heated surroundings of post-World struggle I Germany, as a manner of burying disgrace and animosity that would in a different way make social touch most unlikely.
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Additional resources for Cool Conduct: The Culture of Distance in Weimar Germany (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)
50 18 Fending Off Shame Amid the unmanageable complexity of postwar society, in situations of economic insecurity and uncertain social status, the rules inscribed in codes of conduct operate to draw elementary distinctions: between what is one’s own and what is other; between inner and outer, male and female. They mark separate spheres; they regulate forms of expression and realize the self’s equilibrium. They recommend and describe techniques of mimicry in the face of a violent world, subordinating everything to the protection of an individual’s defenseless objectivity.
On the contrary, the loss of a center is animating; it allows the senses to focus on circulation itself. To be mentioned above all in this connection is the penetration from all sides of rhythmic processes, and then the ensuing changes, how they give rise to high speeds. 12 Kracauer observes an astounding array of communicational forms in the signs of trafﬁc in 1926. The simple gesture with which a greeting is exchanged between taxi drivers and trafﬁc police, for example, transcends the familiar categories we usually use to describe relations between state agents and private persons: It is scarcely possible to measure how ﬂeetingly the greeting is accomplished.
Fearing con- 20 Fending Off Shame tact with others, individuals ﬂee into the masses, where they ﬁnd protection against shame. They are relieved of the discipline of distancing themselves; there is no need to practice personal techniques of separation to mark off areas of trust from areas of otherness, because that task is taken over by the mass formation itself, which simultaneously holds out the promise of an enormous expansion of the boundaries of individual personality. Canetti describes forms of mass behavior, but his observations apply much more readily to the mechanisms of “artiﬁcial groups” (Freud), such as the army or a party apparatus.