|Born||1 March 1858|
|Died||26 September 1918 60) (aged|
|Alma mater||University of Berlin|
|School|| Neo-Kantianism |
|Institutions|| University of Berlin |
University of Strasbourg
|Notable students||György Lukács, Max Scheler|
|Formal sociology, social forms and contents, the tragedy of culture, web of group affiliation|
Georg Simmel ( // ; German: [ˈzɪməl] ; 1 March 1858 – 26 September 1918) was a German sociologist, philosopher, and critic.
Simmel was one of the first generation of German sociologists: his neo-Kantian approach laid the foundations for sociological antipositivism, asking what is society?—directly alluding to Kant's what is nature?—presenting pioneering analyses of social individuality and fragmentation. For Simmel, culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history." Simmel discussed social and cultural phenomena in terms of "forms" and "contents" with a transient relationship, wherein form becomes content, and vice versa dependent on context. In this sense, Simmel was a forerunner to structuralist styles of reasoning in the social sciences. With his work on the metropolis, Simmel would also be a precursor of urban sociology, symbolic interactionism, and social network analysis.
An acquaintance of Max Weber, Simmel wrote on the topic of personal character in a manner reminiscent of the sociological 'ideal type'. He broadly rejected academic standards, however, philosophically covering topics such as emotion and romantic love. Both Simmel and Weber's nonpositivist theory would inform the eclectic critical theory of the Frankfurt School.
Simmel's most famous works today are The Problems of the Philosophy of History (1892), The Philosophy of Money (1900), The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903), and Fundamental Questions of Sociology (1917), as well as Soziologie (1908), which compiles various essays of Simmel's, including "The Stranger", "The Social Boundary", "The Sociology of the Senses", "The Sociology of Space", and "On The Spatial Projections of Social Forms". He also wrote extensively on the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, as well on art, most notably through his Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art (1916).
Georg Simmel was born in Berlin, Germany, as the youngest of seven children to an assimilated Jewish family. His father, Eduard Simmel, a prosperous businessman and convert to Roman Catholicism, had founded a confectionery store called "Felix & Sarotti" that would later be taken over by a chocolate manufacturer. His mother came from a Jewish family who had converted to Lutheranism. Georg, himself, was baptized as a Protestant when he was a child.His father died in 1874, when Georg was 16, leaving a sizable inheritance. Georg was then adopted by Julius Friedländer, the founder of an international music publishing house known as Peters Verlag, who endowed him with the large fortune that enabled him to become a scholar.
Beginning in 1876, Simmel studied philosophy and history at the Humboldt University of Berlin, Das Wesen der Materie nach Kants Physischer Monadologie" ("The Nature of Matter According to Kant's Physical Monadology").going on to receive his doctorate in 1881 for his thesis on Kantian philosophy of matter, titled "
In 1890, Georg married Gertrud Kinel, a philosopher who published under the pseudonym Marie-Luise Enckendorf, and under her own name. They lived a sheltered and bourgeois life, their home becoming a venue for cultivated gatherings in the tradition of the salon.They had one son, Hans Eugen Simmel, who became a medical doctor. Georg and Gertrud's granddaughter was the psychologist Marianne Simmel. Simmel also had a secret affair with his assistant Gertrud Kantorowicz, who bore him a daughter in 1907, though this fact was hidden until after Simmel's death.
In 1917, Simmel stopped reading the newspapers and withdrew to the Black Forest to finish the book The View of Life (Lebensanschauung).Shortly before the end of the war in 1918, he died from liver cancer in Strasbourg.
In 1885, Simmel became a privatdozent at the University of Berlin, officially lecturing in philosophy but also in ethics, logic, pessimism, art, psychology and sociology.His lectures were not only popular inside the university, but attracted the intellectual elite of Berlin as well. Although his applications for vacant chairs at German universities were supported by Max Weber, Simmel remained an academic outsider. However, with the support of an inheritance from his guardian, he was able to pursue his scholarly interests for many years without needing a salaried position.
Simmel had a hard time gaining acceptance in the academic community despite the support of well known associates, such as Max Weber, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George and Edmund Husserl. This was partly because he was seen as a Jew during an era of anti-Semitism, but also simply because his articles were written for a general audience rather than academic sociologists. This led to dismissive judgements from other professionals. Simmel nevertheless continued his intellectual and academic work, as well as taking part in artistic circles.
In 1909, Simmel, together with Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber, and others, was a co-founder of the German Society for Sociology,serving as a member of its first executive body.
In 1914, Simmel received an ordinary professorship with chair, at the then German University of Strassburg, – without success – for a chair at the University of Heidelberg. He remained at the University of Strasbourg until his death in 1918.but did not feel at home there. Because World War I broke out, all academic activities and lectures were halted and lecture halls were converted to military hospitals. In 1915 he applied
Prior to World War I, Simmel had not been very interested in contemporary history, but rather in looking at the interactions, art and philosophy of his time. However, after its start, he was interested in its unfolding. Yet, he seems to give conflicting opinions of events, being a supporter in "Germany's inner transformation," more objective in "the idea of Europe" and a critic in "The crisis of culture." [ dubious ] Eventually, Simmel grew tired of the war, especially in the year of his death.
There are four basic levels of concern in Simmel’s work:
A dialectical approach is a multicausal and multidirectional method: it focuses on social relations; integrates facts and value, rejecting the idea that there are hard and fast dividing lines between social phenomena; looks not only at the present, but also at the past and future; and is deeply concerned with both conflicts and contradictions. Simmel’s sociology was concerned with relationships—especially interaction—and was thus known as a methodological relationalist . This approach is based on the idea that interactions exist between everything.Overall, Simmel would be mostly interested in dualisms, conflicts, and contradictions in whatever realm of the social world he happened to be working on.
The furthest Simmel has brought his work to a micro-level of analysis was in dealing with forms and interactions that takes place with different types of people. Such forms would include subordination, superordination, exchange, conflict and sociability. 158–88:
Simmel focused on these forms of association while paying little attention to individual consciousness. Simmel believed in the creative consciousness that can be found in diverse forms of interaction, which he observed both the ability of actors to create social structures, as well as the disastrous effects such structures had on the creativity of individuals. Simmel also believed that social and cultural structures come to have a life of their own.
Simmel refers to "all the forms of association by which a mere sum of separate individuals are made into a 'society'," whereby society is defined as a "higher unity," composed of individuals. 157:
Simmel would especially be fascinated by man's "impulse to sociability," whereby "the solitariness of the individuals is resolved into togetherness," referring to this unity as "the free-playing, interacting interdependence of individuals." 157–8 Accordingly, he defines sociability as "the play-form of association" driven by "amicability, breeding, cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds." :158 In order for this free association to occur, Simmel explains, "the personalities must not emphasize themselves too individually…with too much abandon and aggressiveness." :158 Rather, "this world of sociability…a democracy of equals" is to be without friction so long as people blend together in the spirit of pleasure and bringing "about among themselves a pure interaction free of any disturbing material accent." :159:
Simmel describes idealized interactions in expressing that "the vitality of real individuals, in their sensitivities and attractions, in the fullness of their impulses and convictions…is but a symbol of life, as it shows itself in the flow of a lightly amusing play," adding that "a symbolic play, in whose aesthetic charm all the finest and most highly sublimated dynamics of social existence and its riches are gathered." 162–3:
In a dyad (i.e. a two-person group), a person is able to retain their individuality as there is no fear that another may shift the balance of the group. In contrast, triads (i.e. three-person groups) risk the potential of one member becoming subordinate to the other two, thus threatening their individuality. Furthermore, were a triad to lose a member, it would become a dyad.
The basic nature of this dyad-triad principle forms the essence of structures that form society. As a group (structure) increases in size, it becomes more isolated and segmented, whereby the individual also becomes further separated from each member. In respect to the notion of "group size", Simmel's view was somewhat ambiguous. On one hand, he believed that the individual benefits most when a group gets bigger, as such makes it harder to exert control on the individual. On the other hand, with a large group there is a possibility of the individual becoming distant and impersonal. Therefore, in an effort for the individual to cope with the larger group they must become a part of a smaller group such as the family.
The value of something is determined by the distance from its actor. In "The Stranger", Simmel discusses how if a person is too close to the actor they are not considered a stranger. If they are too far, however, they would no longer be a part of a group. The particular distance from a group allows a person to have objective relationships with different group members.
One of Simmel's most notable essays is "The Metropolis and Mental Life" ("Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben") from 1903, which was originally given as one of a series of lectures on all aspects of city life by experts in various fields, ranging from science and religion to art. The series was conducted alongside the Dresden cities exhibition of 1903. Simmel was originally asked to lecture on the role of intellectual (or scholarly) life in the big city, but he effectively reversed the topic in order to analyze the effects of the big city on the mind of the individual. As a result, when the lectures were published as essays in a book, to fill the gap, the series editor himself had to supply an essay on the original topic.[ citation needed ]
The Metropolis and Mental Life was not particularly well received during Simmel's lifetime. The organizers of the exhibition over-emphasized its negative comments about city life, because Simmel also pointed out positive transformations. During the 1920s the essay was influential on the thinking of Robert E. Park and other American sociologists at the University of Chicago who collectively became known as the "Chicago School". It gained wider circulation in the 1950s when it was translated into English and published as part of Kurt Wolff's edited collection, The Sociology of Georg Simmel. It now appears regularly on the reading lists of courses in urban studies and architecture history. However, it is important to note that the notion of the blasé is actually not the central or final point of the essay, but is part of a description of a sequence of states in an irreversible transformation of the mind. In other words, Simmel does not quite say that the big city has an overall negative effect on the mind or the self, even as he suggests that it undergoes permanent changes. It is perhaps this ambiguity that gave the essay a lasting place in the discourse on the metropolis.
The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life. The antagonism represents the most modern form of the conflict which primitive man must carry on with nature for his own bodily existence. The eighteenth century may have called for liberation from all the ties which grew up historically in politics, in religion, in morality and in economics in order to permit the original natural virtue of man, which is equal in everyone, to develop without inhibition; the nineteenth century may have sought to promote, in addition to man's freedom, his individuality (which is connected with the division of labor) and his achievements which make him unique and indispensable but which at the same time make him so much the more dependent on the complementary activity of others; Nietzsche may have seen the relentless struggle of the individual as the prerequisite for his full development, while socialism found the same thing in the suppression of all competition – but in each of these the same fundamental motive was at work, namely the resistance of the individual to being levelled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism.— Georg Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903)
In The Philosophy of Money, Simmel views money as a component of life which helped us understand the totality of life. Simmel believed people created value by making objects, then separating themselves from that object and then trying to overcome that distance. He found that things which were too close were not considered valuable and things which were too far for people to get were also not considered valuable. Considered in determining value was the scarcity, time, sacrifice, and difficulties involved in getting the object.
For Simmel, city life led to a division of labor and increased financialization. As financial transactions increase, some emphasis shifts to what the individual can do, instead of who the individual is. Financial matters in addition to emotions are in play.
Simmel’s concept of distance comes into play where he identifies a stranger as a person that is far away and close at the same time.
The Stranger is close to us, insofar as we feel between him and ourselves common features of a national, social, occupational, or generally human, nature. He is far from us, insofar as these common features extend beyond him or us, and connect us only because they connect a great many people.— Georg Simmel, "The Stranger" (1908)
A stranger is far enough away that he is unknown but close enough that it is possible to get to know him. In a society there must be a stranger. If everyone is known then there is no person that is able to bring something new to everybody.
The stranger bears a certain objectivity that makes him a valuable member to the individual and society. People let down their inhibitions around him and confess openly without any fear. This is because there is a belief that the Stranger is not connected to anyone significant and therefore does not pose a threat to the confessor's life.[ citation needed ]
More generally, Simmel observes that because of their peculiar position in the group, strangers often carry out special tasks that the other members of the group are either incapable or unwilling to carry out. For example, especially in pre-modern societies, most strangers made a living from trade, which was often viewed as an unpleasant activity by "native" members of those societies. In some societies, they were also employed as arbitrators and judges, because they were expected to treat rival factions in society with an impartial attitude.
Objectivity may also be defined as freedom: the objective individual is bound by no commitments which could prejudice his perception, understanding, and evaluation of the given.— Georg Simmel, "The Stranger" (1908)
On one hand the stranger's opinion does not really matter because of his lack of connection to society, but on the other the stranger’s opinion does matter, because of his lack of connection to society. He holds a certain objectivity that allows him to be unbiased and decide freely without fear. He is simply able to see, think, and decide without being influenced by the opinion of others.[ citation needed ]
According to Simmel, in small groups, secrets are less needed because everyone seems to be more similar. In larger groups secrets are needed as a result of their heterogeneity. In secret societies, groups are held together by the need to maintain the secret, a condition that also causes tension because the society relies on its sense of secrecy and exclusion. [ citation needed ]In revealing all, marriage becomes dull and boring and loses all excitement. Simmel saw a general thread in the importance of secrets and the strategic use of ignorance: To be social beings who are able to cope successfully with their social environment, people need clearly defined realms of unknowns for themselves. Furthermore, sharing a common secret produces a strong "we feeling." The modern world depends on honesty and therefore a lie can be considered more devastating than it ever has been before.[ citation needed ] Money allows a level of secrecy that has never been attainable before, because money allows for "invisible" transactions, due to the fact that money is now an integral part of human values and beliefs. It is possible to buy silence.For Simmel, secrecy exists even in relationships as intimate as marriage.
In his multi-layered essay, "Women, Sexuality & Love", published in 1923, Simmel discusses flirtation as a generalized type of social interaction. According to Simmel, "to define flirtation as simply a 'passion for pleasing' is to confuse the means to an end with the desire for this end." The distinctiveness of the flirt lies in the fact that she awakens delight and desire by means of a unique antithesis and synthesis: through the alternation of accommodation and denial. In the behavior of the flirt, the man feels the proximity and interpenetration of the ability and inability to acquire something. This is in essence the "price." A sidelong glance with the head half-turned is characteristic of flirtation in its most banal guise.
In the eyes of Simmel, fashion is a form of social relationship that allows those who wish to conform to the demands of a group to do so. It also allows some to be individualistic by deviating from the norm. There are many social roles in fashion and both objective culture and individual culture can have an influence on people. 163In the initial stage everyone adopts what is fashionable and those that deviate from the fashion inevitably adopt a whole new view of what they consider fashion. Ritzer wrote: :
Simmel argued that not only does following what is in fashion involve dualities so does the effort on the part of some people to be of fashion. Unfashionable people view those who follow a fashion as being imitators and themselves as mavericks, but Simmel argued that the latter are simply engaging in an inverse form of imitation.— George Ritzer, "Georg Simmel", Modern Sociological Theory (2008)
This means that those who are trying to be different or "unique," are not, because in trying to be different they become a part of a new group that has labeled themselves different or "unique".
Simmel´s major monographic works include, in chronological order:
Ferdinand Tönnies was a German sociologist, economist and philosopher. He was a major contributor to sociological theory and field studies, best known for his distinction between two types of social groups, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. He co-founded the German Society for Sociology alongside Max Weber and Georg Simmel and many other founders. He was president of the society from 1909 to 1934, after which he was ousted for having criticized the Nazis. Tönnies was considered the first German sociologist proper, published over 900 works and contributed to many areas of sociology and philosophy.
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, generally translated as "community and society", are categories which were used by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies in order to categorize social ties into two dichotomous sociological types which define each other. Max Weber, a founding figure in sociology, also wrote extensively about the relationship between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Weber wrote in direct response to Tönnies.
Robert Michels was a German-born Italian sociologist who contributed to elite theory by describing the political behavior of intellectual elites. He belonged to the Italian school of elitism. He is best known for his book Political Parties, published in 1911, which contains a description of the "iron law of oligarchy." He was a friend and disciple of Max Weber, Werner Sombart and Achille Loria. Politically, he moved from the Social Democratic Party of Germany to the Italian Socialist Party, adhering to the Italian revolutionary syndicalist wing and later to Italian Fascism, which he saw as a more democratic form of socialism. His ideas provided the basis of moderation theory which delineates the processes through which radical political groups are incorporated into the existing political system.
Werner Sombart was a German economist and sociologist, the head of the "Youngest Historical School" and one of the leading Continental European social scientists during the first quarter of the 20th century. The term late capitalism is accredited to him. His magnum opus was Der moderne Kapitalismus. It was published in 3 volumes from 1902 through 1927. In Kapitalismus he described four stages in the development of capitalism from its earliest iteration as it evolved out of feudalism, which he called proto-capitalism to early, high and, finally, late capitalism —Spätkapitalismus— in the post World War I period.
Verstehen, in the context of German philosophy and social sciences in general, has been used since the late 19th century – in English as in German – with the particular sense of the "interpretive or participatory" examination of social phenomena. The term is closely associated with the work of the German sociologist, Max Weber, whose antipositivism established an alternative to prior sociological positivism and economic determinism, rooted in the analysis of social action. In anthropology, verstehen has come to mean a systematic interpretive process in which an outside observer of a culture attempts to relate to it and understand others.
Sociology as a scholarly discipline emerged, primarily out of Enlightenment thought, as a positivist science of society shortly after the French Revolution. Its genesis owed to various key movements in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of knowledge, arising in reaction to such issues as modernity, capitalism, urbanization, rationalization, secularization, colonization and imperialism.
In social science, antipositivism is a theoretical stance that proposes that the social realm cannot be studied with the scientific method of investigation utilized within the natural sciences, and that investigation of the social realm requires a different epistemology. Fundamental to that antipositivist epistemology is the belief that the concepts and language that researchers use in their research shape their perceptions of the social world they are investigating, studying, and defining.
Sociology of architecture is the sociological study of the built environment and the role and occupation of architects in modern societies.
The following events related to sociology occurred in the 1900s (decade).
Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order and social change. Sociology can also be defined as the general science of society. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter can range from micro-level analyses of society to macro-level analyses.
Triad refers to a group of three people in sociology. It is one of the simplest human groups that can be studied and is mostly looked at by microsociology. The study of triads and dyads was pioneered by German sociologist Georg Simmel at the end of the nineteenth century.
In social sciences, a cross-cutting cleavage exists when groups on one cleavage overlap among groups on another cleavage. "Cleavages" may include racial, political, religious divisions in society. Formally, members of a group j on a given cleavage x belong to groups on a second cleavage y with members of other groups k, l, m, etc. from the first cleavage x. For example, if a society contained two ethnic groups that had equal proportions of rich and poor it would be cross-cutting. The term's antonym is reinforcing cleavages", which would be the case of one of the ethnic groups being all rich and the other all poor. The term originates from Simmel (1908) in his work Soziologie.
The Metropolis and Mental Life is a 1903 book by the German sociologist, Georg Simmel.
The Stranger is an essay in sociology by Georg Simmel, originally written as an excursus to a chapter dealing with sociology of space, in his book Soziologie. In this essay, Simmel introduced the notion of "the stranger" as a unique sociological category. He differentiates the stranger both from the “outsider” who has no specific relation to a group and from the “wanderer” who comes today and leaves tomorrow. The stranger, he says, comes today and stays tomorrow. The stranger is a member of the group in which he lives and participates and yet remains distant from other – “native” – members of the group. In comparison to other forms of social distance and difference the distance of the stranger has to do with his “origins.” The stranger is perceived as extraneous to the group and even though he is in constant relation to other group members; his “distance” is more emphasized than his “nearness.” As one subsequent interpreter of the concept put it, the stranger is perceived as being in the group but not of the group.
Kurt Heinrich Wolff was a German-born American sociologist. A major contributor to the sociology of knowledge and to qualitative and phenomenological approaches in sociology, he also translated from German and from French into English many important works by Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim and Karl Mannheim. While carrying out anthropological field research in the 1940s in a small community in the southwestern United States, Wolff initially discovered, and began to articulate and to advocate, a new qualitative methodological approach for the study of human society. The approach later proved applicable in any field of inquiry or area of human endeavor. He called it "Surrender and Catch". For more than 60 years, Wolff taught and wrote about this new approach.
Donald Nathan Levine was an American sociologist, educator, social theorist and writer. He was a central figure in Ethiopian Studies. Within sociology, he is perhaps best known for his work in sociological theory and his translations and interpretations of Georg Simmel's classical texts into English, which led to a resurgence of interest in Simmel's work in the discipline.
Arthur Salz was a German professor of sociology and economics who wrote on mercantilism, imperialism, and power. He taught at the University of Heidelberg before being forced to flee Germany because of his Jewish faith. He was familiar with the Stefan George circle and married Sophie Kantorowiz, the sister of historian Ernst Kantorowicz.
Horst Jürgen Helle is a German sociologist, who is currently Professor Emeritus at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Munich, Germany.
Helmut Staubmann is an Austrian sociologist. He is professor for social theory and cultural sociology at the University of Innsbruck and Dean of the School of Political Science and Sociology of the University of Innsbruck. From 2013 to 2015, he served as President of the Austrian Sociological Association.
Biographical research is a qualitative research approach aligned to the social interpretive paradigm of research. The biographical research is concerned with the reconstruction of life histories and the constitution of meaning based on biographical narratives and documents. The material for analysis consists of interview protocols (memorandums), video recordings, photographs, and a diversity of sources. These documents are evaluated and interpreted according to specific rules and criteria. The starting point for this approach is the understanding of an individual biography in terms of its social constitution. The biographical approach was influenced by the symbolic interactionism, the phenomenological sociology of knowledge, and ethnomethodology. Therefore, biography is understood in terms of a social construct and the reconstruction of biographies can give insight on social processes and figurations, thus helping to bridge the gap between micro-, meso-, and macro- levels of analysis. The biographical approach is particularly important in German sociology. This approach is used in the Social Sciences as well as in Pedagogy and other disciplines. The Research Committee 38 "Biography and Society" of the International Sociological Association (ISA) was created in 1984 and is dedicated "to help develop a better understanding of the relations between individual lives, the social structures and historical processes within which they take shape and which they contribute to shape, and the individual accounts of biographical experience ".
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