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Uneconomic Lifestyles of Workers, as Reported by Bourgeois Critics (1884 and 1889)

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II. Uneconomic Lifestyles of Workers? A Statement from Saxon Industry (1889)

It appears to us that the lifestyle of the population, especially the workers, continues to deviate from the dictates of reason in various ways. A mutual vying to acquire more magnificent clothing and to indulge in culinary delights makes itself unfavorably felt, and this contrasts oddly with complaints about inadequate shares in labor revenues. The oft-repeated spoutings about the rising cost of bread and food through tariffs, etc., are not aimed at those luxury items which, for many, give rise to expenses far greater than bread and other necessities. When one sees the overcrowded dance halls; observes how in winter and summertime one festivity follows quickly after another, one diversion chases the next; and witnesses how people pay exorbitant prices in some pubs, e.g. for beer, and then consume it in quantities for whose price their families could have been fed not one but many days, then the entire situation appears miserable indeed. Therein lies the true wretchedness.

Source: Jahres-Bericht der Handels- und Gewerbekammer zu Chemnitz 1889 [Yearly Report of the Chemnitz Chamber of Trade and Industry 1889]. Chemnitz: 1890, p. 124.

Original German text reprinted in Klaus Saul, Jens Flemming, Dirk Stegmann, and Peter-Christian Witt, eds., Arbeiterfamilien im Kaiserreich. Materialien zur Sozialgeschichte in Deutschland 1871-1914 [Workers' Families in the Kaiserreich. Materials on Social History in Germany 1871-1914]. Düsseldorf: Droste, 1982, p. 112.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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