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Presentation by Dr Craig Hammond (University Centre Blackburn College) on Georg Simmel


  • 1. From Modernity to Postmodernity:Contemporary Social TheoryWeek 3: Georg Simmel15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 1

2. Georg Simmel 1858-1918 Born in Berlin, Germany His family wasbusiness-oriented,prosperous, andJewish His father converted toChristianity--died inSimmels youth15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 2 3. Georg SimmelSimmels approach to sociology rejects the organicisttheories of Comte and SpencerAs well as the historical description of unique events (suchas the Marxist Historical Materialism)Instead he suggests that society consists of a web ofpatterned interactions, and that it is the task ofsociology to study the forms of these interactions asthey occur and reoccur in diverse historical periods andcultural settings.(Coser 1971:177)15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)3 4. Georg SimmelAs with Durkheim and Weber, Simmel resistedreducing social behavior to individual personality.Nor, for Simmel, could social relationships be fullyexplained by larger collective patterns such as theeconomy.Rather, the results of everyday interaction creates alevel of reality in its own right--an interactionorder that is never totally fixed and is thereforealways problematic and capable of change.15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)4 5. Georg Simmel How is society possible?Simmel proposed that sociologists focus onpeople in relationships.Society, for Simmel, was the patternedinteractions among members of agroup, the sum of responses to ordinary life events.15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)5 6. Georg SimmelSimmel began with the elements of everyday life: playing games, keeping secrets, being a stranger, forming friendships Opening a door Picking up a jug And arrived at insights into the quality of relationships.15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)6 7. Georg SimmelSociety is merely the name for a number of individuals connected by interactions.The DyadThe TriadAnd the Complexity of the City (Metropolis)15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 7 8. Georg Simmel:The Significance of Numbers for Social Life Dyad versus TriadA dyadic relationship differs from all other typesof groups: the two participants are confrontedby only one other and not by a collectivity.Because this type of group depends only on twoparticipants, the withdrawal of one woulddestroy the whole: A dyad depends on each ofits two elements alone for its life it needsboth, but for its death, only one.15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)8 9. Georg Simmel:The Significance of Numbers for Social LifeWhen a dyad is transformed into a triad, theapparently insignificant fact that one memberhas been added actually brings about a majorqualitative change.In the triad, all associations involve more thantwo persons, the individual participant isconfronted with the possibility of being outvotedby a majority.15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 9 10. Georg Simmel:The Significance of Numbers for Social LifeWhen a third member enters a dyadic group, various processes become possible where previously they could not take place. A third member may:MediateRejoiceDivide and Rule15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)10 11. Georg Simmel:The Dialectical MethodTo Simmel, sociation always involves harmony and conflict, attraction and repulsion, love and hatred. He saw human relations as characterized by ambivalence; precisely those who are connected in intimate relations are likely to harbor for one another not only positive but also negative sentiments.15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)11 12. Georg Simmel:Formal Sociology (Social Forms) Social ProcessesConflict and CooperationSubordination and SuperordinationCentralization and Decentralization Bridge & Door The Handle The Fragmentary Character of Everyday Life Fashion (and the Maverick)15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)12 13. Georg Simmel: The Stranger as aSocial Type (Form)The StrangerThe stranger in Simmels terminology, is not just a wanderer whocomes today and goes tomorrow, having no specific structuralposition. On the contrary, he is a person who comes today andstays tomorrowHe is fixed within a particular spatial groupbuthis positionis determinedby the fact that he does not belong toit from the beginning, and that he may leave again.The stranger is an element of the group itself while not being fullypart of it. He therefore is assigned a role that no other members ofthe group can play. By virtue of his partial involvement in groupaffairs he can attain an objectivity that other members cannotreach being distant and near at the same time, (Coser 1971:182)15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)13 14. A Simmelean Stranger?15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 14 15. Georg Simmel:Social TypesThe StrangerWhat are the limitations of Simmels approach tosocial theoryExplanations of societyWould you say that he is a modernity or a postmodernist (andwhy?)15/10/2012Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC)15