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Lifestyle and Expenditures of a Public Servant's Family in Berlin (1889)

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There are quite a few incomes in a similar bracket (between 5,000-6,000 marks) that are not absolutely secure and also subject to fluctuation. That applies to the so-called free professions and to many of those in commerce and industry. On account of income fluctuations, it is much more difficult to fix budget amounts. Many of these families, however, are in a more favorable position because their social rank allows them a much more modest social manner. The amount for apartments is lower and education also requires fewer funds. An artisan or small merchant, middleman, etc., earning 6,000 marks has a much better chance of amassing capital than a member of the upper classes ever does – even those who practice the utmost thriftiness. He is then able to expand the field of his enterprises and increase profits, provided he takes skillful stock of the circumstances.

All of that falls by the wayside with respect to most intellectual occupations. Public servants, teachers, preachers, writers, and artists who are not extraordinarily fortunate may very well reach higher incomes gradually, but they almost always consume that income. The result is that in these circles, as a rule, an accumulation of considerable wealth is out of the question; such inheritance as they do leave their loved ones can usually only consist of a good education.

Source: Otto von Leixner, 1888 bis 1891. Soziale Briefe aus Berlin. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der sozialdemokratischen Strömungen [1888 to 1891: Letters on Society Sent from Berlin. With Particular Consideration Being Given to Social Democratic Currents]. Berlin, 1891, pp. 172-80.

Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter and Jürgen Kocka, eds., Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1870-1914. Dokumente und Skizzen [German Social History 1870-1914. Documents and Sketches], 3rd ed. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1982, pp. 344-48.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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