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How the City of Ideas Created the Modern World

Richard Cockett



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Yale University
02 January 2024
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.

Imprint:   Yale University
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780300266535
ISBN 10:   0300266537
Pages:   448
Publication Date:  
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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.

Reviews for Vienna: How the City of Ideas Created the Modern World

“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  “[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   “In its widely variegated forms, inspired by the cultural milieu of their native city, [lies] the objective of all the remarkable people discussed in this fine book.” —Benedict King, The Oldie   “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

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