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Thinking Sociologically SO3066

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Presentation on theme: "Thinking Sociologically SO3066"— Presentation transcript:

1 Thinking Sociologically SO3066
Georg Simmel The Fourth Founding Father?

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Simmel’s Biography Simmel’s Career & ‘Intellectual Community’ The ‘Outsider’

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Simmel’s Sociology: Intellectual Roots: Hegel: Dialectics (also Simmel’s conception of ‘alienation’) Kant and Categories of Thought

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Hegel’s Influence: Individual and Society as a Dialectical Process Antithesis (Conformity) Thesis (Distinction) Synthesis (The Social Individual) ‘[Social Man] is not partially social and partially individual; rather, his existence is shaped by a fundamental unity, which cannot be accounted for in any other way than through the synthesis or coincidence of two logically contradictory determinations: man is both social link and being for himself, both product of society and life from an autonomous centre’ (Simmel, 1908). ‘The individual is determined at the same time as he is determining; he is acted upon at the same time as he is self-actuating’ (Coser, 1977).

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Kant – Making Sense of Experience Noumena: Things as they are in themselves. Phenomena: Things as they appear to us. When we look at the world we experience it through our senses, as phenomena. We impose ‘form’ on our phenomenal experience - through categories that are assimilated from our culture. Noumena Phenomena

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Natur & Geist (Nature & Spirit) –Simmel seeks a middle ground between two of the major traditions of his time. Organic ‘evolution’ of social whole v. History as a collection of unique events

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‘Society is merely the name for a number of individuals connected by interaction’

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Conversely? ‘Sociology asks what happens to men and by what rules they behave, not insofar as they unfold their individual existences in their totalities, but insofar as they form groups and are determined by their group existence because of interaction’

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Formal Sociology: The Focus of Sociology is neither ‘social facts’ nor ‘social action’ but social Interaction or ‘sociation’.

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Forms: Patterns of interaction that are apparent across a broad range of varying social and historical situations. Social relationships either neither determined by external constraints nor are they utterly haphazard and unique to specific situations. Recurrent forms emerge from the process of interaction itself.

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Forms Superordination and Subordination Conflict and Cooperation

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Forms Centralisation and Decentralisation Intimacy and Distance

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Social ‘Types’ – ‘The type becomes what he is through his relations with others who assign him a particular position and expect him to behave in specific ways. His characteristics are seen as attributes of the social structure’ (Coser, 1977). The Adventurer: One who ‘breaks the continuity of everyday life’ The Renegade: One who disrupts the social group The (Man) in the Middle: The person who stands half way between leader and subordinate within the social group.

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Social ‘Types’ The Mediator: The person who may act impartially to resolve disputes or, alternatively, who may manipulate disputes between other group members for advantage. The Poor: The person at the bottom of society, defined by his or her dependence on other’s welfare and benevolence. The Stranger: The person who is present, but always distant from the group (Simmel?). The Stranger is a permanent member (geographically close), but always retains a critical (psychological, emotional and cultural) distance from the other members.

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Social Differentiation The Significance of ‘Numbers’ Dyads: Two person group with no independent structure – individuality not challenged by the group. Tryads: With a three person group a stratification system becomes possible. There is an expansion of potential social roles and relationships.

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‘The Web of Group Affiliations’ ‘Concentric’ (see Traditional Society)

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‘Multiple and across diverse groups’ (see Modern Urban Society) More Social Differentiation = Less ‘concentric’ and more ‘multiple’ Group 1 The Individual Group 3 Group 2

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Individual & Society Subjective Culture: Internalised Culture Objective Culture: Reified Cultural Production

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Simmel Modernity, The Works & The Legacy

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Simmel & the Modern City Traditional Life: Individuals are bound closely to the group, but by very few ties. Urban Way of Life: Individuals have more loose affiliations and personal freedoms, but are more dependent on, and more constrained by, the formal relationships and organisation of society as a whole.

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The Metropolis and Mental Life (1902) ‘The deeper problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces…’ (Simmel, 1902).

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Fashion (1904) : Provides a suitable vehicle for observing the dialectical relationship between conformity and distinctiveness in urban society. Allows the demonstration of a degree of distinction amongst the urban mass and, simultaneously, indicates our affiliation and conformity to the group.

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For Simmel "... fashion represents nothing more than one of the many forms of life by the aid of which we seek to combine in uniform spheres of activity the tendency towards social equalization with the desire for individual differentiation and change." (F, p. 133) In each social relation there are two forces at work: one pushing us to bind ourselves to others through imitation, and another pushing us to unbind ourselves from others, to undo the social network, through distinction. But social life changes in so far as the balance between the socialising force and the de-socialising force is always unstable and provisional. Fashion is an example of the way in which actual social life always includes in some way its own opposite, an asocial life (Benvenuto, 2000).

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The Philosophy of Money (1900) Distance : Money allows human beings to interact in a more impersonal manner- provides a medium of exchange whilst removing the need for interpersonal bargaining and reciprocity. This removes restrictions on exchange. Money & Value : The value of numerous objects and activities is made objective through being measured in monetary terms rather than subjective desire.

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The Philosophy of Money (1900) Calculation: Money renders many relationships and exchanges open to calculation. Rationalization: Interactions and relationships become more rational (due to the calculability afforded by money). Reification: Money becomes both an end in itself and a major feature of the ‘objective culture’ that limits human freedom.

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‘The Tragedy of Culture’ : The differentiation and diffusion that holds the potential for individual freedom is countered by the weight of the reified culture of urban society.

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The Sociology of Secrecy and of Secret Societies (1906) ‘Non-Knowledge’ & Lying Secret Societies: Reciprocity & Protection Distinction & De-individuation Threat (to society?)

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Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Simmel & The Relationship between Individual & Society

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Simmel’ Legacy: Interactionism & Phenomenology: The Chicago School, SI & ‘The Interaction Order’ Schutz – Berger & Luckmann ‘The Social Construction of Reality’

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Simmel’s Legacy: ‘Forms’ and the Individual/Society Dialectic Elias & ‘Figurations’ Giddens & ‘Structuration’

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