The crowd was the veil from behind which the
familiar city as phantasmagoria beckoned to the flâneur.
In it, the city was now landscape, now a room. And both of
these went into the construction of the department store,
which made use of flânerie itself in order to sell goods.
The department store was the flâneur's final coup. As flâneurs, the intelligensia came into the market place. As they thought, to observe it - but in reality it was already to find a buyer. In this intermediary stage...they took the form of the bohème.
To the uncertainty of their economic position corresponded the uncertainty of their political function.
People had to adapt themselves to a new and rather strange situation, one that is peculiar to big cities. Simmel has
felicitously formulated what was involved here. 'Someone who sees without hearing is much more uneasy than
someone who hears without seeing. In this there is something characteristic of the sociology of the big city.
Interpersonal relationships in big cities are distinguished by a marked preponderance of the activity of the eye over
the activity of the ear.
The main reason for this is the public means of transportation. Before the development of buses, railroads and trams in the nineteenth century, people had never been in a position of having to look at one another for long minutes or even hours without speaking to one another.
Walter Benjamin, "Paris - the Capital of the Nineteenth Century," in Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, NLB 1977 - Paris: Capitale du XIXe Siècle. L'editions Cerf, 1993.