Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Wrote on variety of subjects
–including psychology,
esthetics, and sociology
Similar to Weber in methodology
and in concern about loss of human
spirit in “objective culture”
(parallel to Weber’s concept
of rationalization)
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Best known in English
for microsociology
–social psychology
or interactionism
–study of individual in social
context (for example, the city)
–face-to-face interaction, groups,
dyads, and triads
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
The metropolis
–frantic pace
–manifestation of objective culture
–people feel overwhelmed, create:
• psychological distance (inner
barriers between themselves)
• attitude of indifference
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Subjective culture
–people’s intentions,
purposes, and desires
Objective culture
–products of people’s activity:
books, art, tools, machinery
–vast quantity overwhelms
individual mind
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Web of group-affiliations
–Individual is defined
by the groups of which
he is a member
• family
• workplace
• church
• school
• friendship groups
• organizations
The web of group affiliations
is an important means
that people have of defining
their individual identities.
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Dyad (2 people)
– straightforward interaction
–simple loyalty
–potentially less stable than a triad
Triad (3 people)
–more complex interaction
–possibility of divisive alliance of 2
–more stable than a dyad
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
– focused on interactions
and processes
– aware of conflict and
contradictions (similar to Marx)
Approach to study of society
– open
– fluid
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Sociology is:
“more life”
– Processes of interaction
in society
(creative forces)
and “more than life”
– social structures that people create
and that restrict them
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Key concept:
forms of sociation
–all of the ways in which
people come together
to interact
• conflict
• cooperation
• compromise
• solidarity
division of labor
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Hegelian view of conflict:
Conflict is social
because it resolves
divergent dualisms
(achieves a solution by bringing
opposites together)
−people have to come together
in order to have a conflict
−bringing a problem out into the open
makes possible a solution
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Different from Durkheim:
• focused more on
process than structure
• focused on both large
and small scale
• did not believe that objectivity
was possible
(Claims to objectivity are a cover
for the worst solipsism.)
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Need for Sociology:
“Man in all aspects
of his life and action
is determined by the fact
that he is a social being.”
Georg Simmel (1858-1918)
Need for Sociology:
“To act on the knowledge
that historical phenomena
are social products
is to view them in a new light,
is to adopt a new method
for studying them.
. . .This method is ‘sociology.’”