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Study Guide: Georg Simmel (Ritzer Classical 6th) Ch-9
[1] Why have we seen an increase in Simmel’s impact on sociological theory lately? (263)
Because of his book The Philosophy of Money.
The emergence of Postmodern social theory.
[2] Was Simmel a sociologist or a philosopher?
[3] What is Simmel best know as? (264)
As a micro-sociologist- small group research in Symbolic Interaction. (also Exchange theory)
[4] What did Simmel suggest sociologists should study?
Forms & types of social interaction
[5] What is Simmel’s study of forms of interaction “embedded” in? (266)
A broader series of the relationship between individuals and society.
[6] What are Simmel’s four basic levels of “concern”?
1- micro-assumptions
2- social components of relationships
3- social and cultural “spirit of the times” emerge
4- metaphysical principles of life
[7] What were Simmel’s definition of three separable problem “areas” in sociology?
1- pure sociology = psychology + forms + types
2- general sociology = social and cultural products of human history
3- basic nature and inevitable fate of humankind
Dialectical Thinking
[8] What was the result of Simmel’s dealing with the three basic levels of sociology?
A dialectical approach (like Marx)
[9] How did Simmel manifest his commitment to the dialectic? (267)
1- Association - always concerned with relationship
2- “methodological relationist” = everything related
3- dualisms = conflicts and contradictions
4- subjective/ objective culture = more life & more than life
[10] What did Donald Levine state about Simmel’s perspective?
“It can be understood in terms of conflicts and contrast between opposing categories.” (yin yang)
[11] How did Simmel see fashion as being “contradictory”?
1- Fashion = group membership
2- provides norms to go against as an individual
[12] How did Simmel’s dialectic lead him to view unfashionable people?
The spread of any given fashion lease to its eventual failure = large number of people = becomes unattractive
Individual (Subjective) Culture and Objective Culture
[13] What is the difference between “subjective” culture and “objective” culture?
SC = control
OC = things that people produce
[14] What is the relationship between individual culture and objective culture? (268)
It creates a contradiction with the actor who created them.
[15] What did K. Peter Etzkorn say about Simmel’s dialectic?
"In Simmel's dialectic, man is always in danger o being slain by those objects of his own creation which have lost their organic human coefficient"
More-Life and More-Than-Life
[16] How is Simmel’s dialectical thinking affected by his philosophical roots?
It's similar to Marx.
[17] What is the difference between “more-life” and “more-than-life”?
ML = creative capabilities / capacities
MTL = objective existence
(life = unity and conflict between the two)
[18] What does it mean that “people possess a doubly transcendent capability”?
People are able to transcend themselves.
[19] What did Simmel focus on at the individual level? (269)
Forms of association.
[20] Was Simmel’s view more like Marx and Weber?
[21] How do “forms” of interaction play into this focus?
Actors must be consciously and symbolically oriented to one another.
[22] According to Simmel, what becomes “internalized” in individual consciousness”?
The norms and values of society.
[23] How does Simmel say people can “confront themselves”?
They can set themselves apart from their actions (reflect- self-conscious).
SOCIAL INTERACTION (“Association”) (270)
[24] What is Simmel best known for in contemporary sociology?
Patterns and forms of interaction.
[25] To Simmel, what constituted “society”?
Interaction: Forms and Types
[26] Which was more of a concern for Simmel, forms or content? (271)
[27] According to Simmel, what was “the real world”?
Innumerable events (actions and interactions).
[28] According to Simmel, what was the “task” for sociologists?
Is to do precisely what the layperson does impose a limited number of forms on social reality, I'm interaction in particular, so that it may be better analyzed.
[29] What did Levine “point out”?
“Forms are the patterns exhibited either associations” of people.
[30] What is a criticism of Simmel’s interest in forms of social interaction?
Imposing in order there is none.
[31] What are a number of “ways” to defend Simmel’s approach to formal sociology?
1- Real life examples = empirical
2- All forms are allowed to “free flow”
3- Avoid reification (theoretical)
4- Simmel used empirical data
Social Geometry
[32] What did Simmel mean by the “geometry of social relations”? (272)
Number + distance + position + valence + self-involvement + symmetry
[33] How do numbers affect social interaction? (273)
- Dyad versus Triad = with Triad comes radical and fundamental change (meaning beyond the individuals involved)
- Group Size increases = individual freedom increases (anonymity)
[34] How does DISTANCE affect social relations? (hint: the philosophy of money) (274)
"The properties of forms and the meanings of things are a function of the relative distances between individuals and other individuals or things". This
concern with distance is manifest in various places in Simmel's work. We will discuss it in two different contexts—in Simmel's massive The Philosophy
of Money and in one of his cleverest essays, "The Stranger." In The Philosophy of Money, Simmel enunciated some general principles about value-and
about what makes things valuable—that .served as the as is for his analysis f money. The essential point is that the value of 'something is determined by
its distance from the actor. It is not valuable if it is either too close and too easy to obtain or too distant and too difficult to obtain. Objects that
are attainable, but only with great effort, are the most valuable.
Social Types
[35] Know the gist of the discussions on the poor.
Simmel also had a relativistic view of poverty; that is, the poor are not simply those who stand at the bottom of society. From his point of view poverty is
found in all social strata.) This concept foreshadowed the later sociologic concept of relative deprivation.
Social Forms (275)
[36] – super-ordination
[37] - subordination
[38] - social forms and how they affect Simmel’s conception of the larger problematic (276)
[39] There is a growing gap between object difference objective culture.
[40] Multiple realities
[41] Subjective or psychological genesis
Simmel said relatively little directly about the large-scale structures of society.
[42] Because Simmel was uncomfortable with nominalism, what did he “adopt”?
An intermediate position… Society = a set of interactions.
[43] How did Simmel resolve his “paradox”?
The resolution of this paradox lies in the difference between Simmel's formal sociology, in which he tended to adhere to an interactionist view of society,
and historical historical and philosophical sociologies, in which he was much more inclined to see society as an independent, coercive social structure. In
the latter sociologies, he saw society as part of the broader process of the development of objective culture…
[44] What is the focus of Simmel’s historical and philosophical sociology?
Objective culture.
[45] How does “reification” work? What are the “results” of reification?
The cultural world and the social world come to have lives of their own, lives that come increasingly to dominate the actors who created, and daily recreate, them."
[46] In what ways does objective culture grow and expand?
1- It increased to modernization
2- The number of components increased (realms)
3- Various elements become intertwined
[47] To Simmel, what is “tragedy of culture”? (278)
The growth of objective culture over subjective culture.
[48] What happens to individual culture with the growth of objective culture?
It shrinks and diminishes.
[49] What is “the frightful leveler”?
The city = were virtually everyone is reduced to emphasizing unfeeling calculability.
[50] How did Simmel view social “exchange”?
All exchange involves profit or loss.
[51] How did money change forms of social exchange?
Money allows an endless series of exchanges.
The Philosophy of Money (279)
[52] What was Simmel’s focus in his work on the philosophy of money?
The broader idea/ conceptualization of the issue of value.
[53] What does it mean to understand the “totality of life”?
The totality of the spirit of the age from his analysis of money.
[54] What did Simmel think would happen under a socialist society?
It would heighten any problems in society.
Money and Value (280)
[55] Understand the gist of this section. (Hint: distance and value)
In general, he argued that people create value by making objects, separating themselves from those objects, and then seeking to overcome the "distance,
obstacles, difficulties". The greater the difficulty of obtaining an object, the greater its value. However, difficulty of attainment has a "lower and an upper
limit" (Simmel, 1907/1978:72). The general principle is that the value of things comes from the ability of people to distance themselves properly from
objects. Things that are too close, too easily obtained, are not very valuable. Some exertion is needed for something to be considered valuable. Conversely,
things that are too far, too difficult, or nearly impossible to obtain are also not very valuable. Things that defy most, if not all, of our efforts to obtain them
cease to be valuable' to us. Those things that are most valuable are neither too distant nor too close. Analyzing the factors involved in the distance of an
object from an actor are the time it takes to obtain it, its scarcity, the difficulties involved in acquiring it, and the need to give up other things in order to
acquire it. People try to place themselves at a proper distance from objects, which must be attainable, but not too easily.
Money, Reification and Rationalization
[56] According to Simmel, what does money “provide”?
The basis for the development of the economy and the capitalist market.
[57] What does money contribute to?
Increasing rationalization of the social
[58] What does a money economy “foster”? (281)
An emphasis on quantitative factors.
[59] What is the “tragedy of culture”?
His general argument on the decline of individual subjective culture in the face of the expansion of objective culture
[60] How does non-rationality affect social life? (282)
Love is not rational yet permeate society and affects decisions.
[61] What has money “come to be”?
A means to do the most extreme example of amines that has become an end in itself.
Negative Effects
[62] What happens to society when money becomes an end in itself? (283)
1- increased cynicism
2- an increase in a blasé attitude
[63] What does money do to individual freedom?
1- Increases individual enslavement
2- Money relations become increasingly impersonal
3- Everything has its price
[64] According to Simmel, what is “calculating culture”?
A tendency to emphasize the quantitative over the qualitative.
[65] What is the “key” to Simmel’s discussion of money?
Money's impact on the style of life. An increase in objective culture at the expense of individual (subjective) culture.
Tragedy of Culture
[66] What is the gist of the idea of the “tragedy of culture”?
1- Increased language
2- Increased technology
3- Decreased intellectuals
[67] How does objective culture affect the rhythm of life? (284)
It hasn't a affect of “leveling.”
[68] How does objective culture affect communication?
It allows communication 24/7.
[69] How does objective culture affect intellectual stimulation?
It allows stimulation 24/7. (Porn and ratcheting)
[70] What does money “allow us to do”?
It “relativices” is everything.
[71] What are some positive aspects of money on social life? (285)
1. Increased market
2. Limits obligations
3. Able to find new gratifications
4. More individuality
5. Sub center
6. Lessens the influence of the social group
7. Separate individuals from the means of production
[72] Be familiar with this section on the social dynamics of secrecy.
- secrecy (intent to hide some information)
- relationship between hiding information and revealing information (286)
* all relationships involve secrets
* secrecy depends upon group size
- secret society (limited membership)
Secrecy and Social Relationships (287)
[73] Know the following terms and how they affect social life.
- confidence that people are playing there are roles correctly
- acquaintanceship = know but not intimate knowledge
- discretion = in our acquaintances
- friendship = lack of full intimacy
- marriage = tempted - complete secrecy
Other Thoughts on Secrecy
[74] Know the gist of this section.
The secret world offers the possibility of a second world alongside the manifest world.
[75] How does Simmel associate secrecy and the modern money economy? (289)
Money allows people unprecedented secrecy.
[76] These three criticisms of secrecy:
1- Compressibility = instant wealth (lottery / inheritance)
2- Can hide transactions from view
3- Possible to invest money in very distant things (not visible to immediate environment)
[77] Fragmentary nature of his work
[78] Scattering of topics (290)