Mid-Century Birdcage Étagère


Mid-Century Birdcage Étagère


Stunning mid-century metal Étagère in the form of a birdcage. Can hang from the ceiling or sit on the floor. 

In 1930, Max Weber, the sociologist, coined the term ‘iron cage’ to refer to the increased rationalisation inherent in the development of Western capitalism societies:

‘Puritanism has played a part in creating the ‘iron cage’ in which modern man has to exist – an increasingly bureaucratic order from which the ‘spontaneous enjoyment of life’ is ruthlessly expunged. ‘The Puritan’, Weber concludes, ‘wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so’

George Ritzer believes that modern society has taken this a step further, discussing Weber’s ‘iron cage’ he believes:

A society characterized by rationality is one which emphasizes efficiency, predictability, calculability, substitution of nonhuman for human technology, and control over uncertainty…. The model of rationalization, at least in contemporary America, is no longer the bureaucracy, but might be better thought of as the fast-food restaurant. As a result, our concern here is with what might be termed the “McDonaldization of Society.”

Whilst there are benefits to the ‘predictability’ and ‘specialisation’ of what is available to a society, this uniformity also rubs against discourses of freedom and self-expression. Rationality leads to efficiency as a goal, and that in itself becomes an increasingly pressured goal that we have to live up to. In the process of rationalisation we feel dehumanised – which is what cages do psychologically.

Across many belief-systems and religions, the bird is symbolic of the soul. So a caged bird speaks to a contained, stifled inner life or soul. This was a thought that was expressed by Carl Jung, in evoking a sense of the caged spirit:

‘”What use now is his lofty perch and his wide horizon, when his own dear soul is languishing in prison?”’

Although, Frederick Jones believes that even a caged bird is connotative of ‘freedom’:

‘The bird, even when caged, remains a symbol of freedom and a stimulus for thinking about the relationship between freedom and human society’.

“…of all wild animals, the bird has always been closest to humankind because so much of its life can be readily observed and appreciated. Flight and song make birds exceptionally noticeable in every sort of environment…the very attributes that make them familiar to us, flight and song; still retain an air of mystery that sets birds apart from other animals. [This] familiarity and transcendence [has] given birds a wider range of meaning and symbol in literature than any other animal.”

Perhaps it is this identification with them that has led to more architectural forms of cages – suggesting they are like people. Although, this also reflects a projection of our own urban living – that our houses are cages. Yet, to include a cage within the home, is to reference that projection and serves to set one free and to associate the home with freedom, comfort and opportunity

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