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  • Otto Neurath:The Language of the Global Polis

Otto Neurath:The Language of the Global Polis

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Text by Nader Vossoughian.

The Austrian sociologist Otto Neurath was a seminal figure of twentieth-century modernist thought. Member of the Vienna Circle, founder of the Museum of Society and Economy, inventor of the famous Isotype pictorial system and champion of the Unity of Science movement, Neurath espoused a vision of a "global polis" that put him in contact with the leading intellectuals, architects and artists of his time, from Adolf Loos to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, from Sigfried Giedion to Le Corbusier, from graphic designer Gerd Arntz to architect and urban designer Cornelis van Eesteren. From 1931onwards he collaborated with the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) and its chief exponents-Cornelis van Eesteren,Sigfried Giedion, Le Corbusier and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy-to construct an international language of urban planning and design. His close relationship with bibliographer Paul Otlet and the "cité mondiale" project led to an engagement with issues of international communication. Now in paperback, The Language of the Global Polis explores Neurath's ideas on the modern metropolis, his fascination with visual media and the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics and the ways in which Neurath attempted to internationalize the aims of his Museum of Society and Economy through collaborations with CIAM and Otlet and by establishing satellite museums across the world. Both scholarly and accessible, Vossoughian's text offers a new perspective to one of the most formidable intellectuals of the interwar period.

Otto Neurath (1882-1945) was a philosopher, economist and information designer. His work in all of these fields was unified by a wholesale rejection of metaphysics (as expressed in the philosophy of Logical Positivism) and his desire to construct universal knowledge systems to streamline information flow, the most famous of which are his Universal Silhouettes (for example the male and female silhouette son bathroom doors, and road signs such as the car swerving). He fled his native Austria after the Nazi Anschluss and eventually settled in Oxford, England, where he founded the Isotype Institute.

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