Georg Simmel Mod2Pmod week 3


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

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Georg Simmel Mod2Pmod week 3

  1. 1. From Modernity to Postmodernity:Contemporary Social TheoryWeek 3: Georg Simmel15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 1
  2. 2. Georg Simmel 1858-1918 Born in Berlin, Germany His family was business-oriented, prosperous, and Jewish His father converted to Christianity--died in Simmel’s youth15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 2
  3. 3. Georg SimmelSimmel’s approach to sociology rejects the organicist theories of Comte and SpencerAs well as the historical description of unique events (such as the Marxist Historical Materialism)Instead he suggests that society consists of a web of patterned interactions, and that it is the task of sociology to study the forms of these interactions as they occur and reoccur in diverse historical periods and cultural settings. (Coser 1971:177)15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 3
  4. 4. Georg SimmelAs with Durkheim and Weber, Simmel resisted reducing social behavior to individual personality.Nor, for Simmel, could social relationships be fully explained by larger collective patterns such as “the economy.”Rather, the results of everyday interaction creates a level of reality in its own right--an “interaction order” that is never totally fixed and is therefore always problematic and capable of change.15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 4
  5. 5. Georg Simmel How is society possible?Simmel proposed that sociologists focus on people in relationships.Society, for Simmel, was the patterned interactions among members of a group, the sum of responses to ordinary life events.15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 5
  6. 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.15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 6
  7. 7. Georg Simmel Society 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. 8. Georg Simmel:The Significance of Numbers for Social Life Dyad versus TriadA dyadic relationship differs from all other types of groups: the two participants are confronted by only one other and not by a collectivity.Because this type of group depends only on two participants, the withdrawal of one would destroy the whole: “A dyad depends on each of its two elements alone … for its life it needs both, but for its death, only one.”15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 8
  9. 9. Georg Simmel:The Significance of Numbers for Social LifeWhen a dyad is transformed into a triad, the apparently insignificant fact that one member has been added actually brings about a major qualitative change.In the triad, all associations involve more than two persons, the individual participant is confronted with the possibility of being outvoted by a majority.15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 9
  10. 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:MediateRejoiceDivide and Rule15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 10
  11. 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.15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 11
  12. 12. Georg Simmel:Formal Sociology (Social Forms) Social ProcessesConflict and CooperationSubordination and SuperordinationCentralization and Decentralization Bridge & Door The Handle The Fragmentary Character of Everyday Life Fashion (and the Maverick)15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 12
  13. 13. Georg Simmel: The Stranger as aSocial Type (Form) The StrangerThe stranger” in Simmel’s terminology, is not just a wanderer “who comes today and goes tomorrow,” having no specific structural position. On the contrary, he is a “person who comes today and stays tomorrow…He is fixed within a particular spatial group…but his position…is determined…by the fact that he does not belong to it from the beginning,” and that he may leave again.The stranger is “an element of the group itself” while not being fully part of it. He therefore is assigned a role that no other members of the group can play. By virtue of his partial involvement in group affairs he can attain an objectivity that other members cannot reach… being distant and near at the same time, (Coser 1971:182)15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 13
  14. 14. A Simmelean Stranger?15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 14
  15. 15. Georg Simmel:Social Types The StrangerWhat are the limitations of Simmel’s approach tosocial theoryExplanations of societyWould you say that he is a modernity or a postmodernist (and why?)15/10/2012 Dr Craig Hammond (UCBC) 15