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Buffalo State SOC 349 - Georg Simmel

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Modernity, Fragmentation and Social Distance 1Geog SimmelTheoretical Method- Unlike Marx, Weber, or Durkheim, Simmel does not formulate a general theory of societyo Simmel offers a series of analyses of social relations and social types that do not add up to a general theory of society – calls it “Sociological Impressionism”Fragmentation and Love- Society, for Simmel, can only be known in brushstrokes, one stroke at a time, drawing a picture of social lifeo Each stroke represents a fragment of society, of social lifeo Unique in its form and texture- The idea of fragmentation takes a double meaning:o Simmel’s sociology is “fragmented” and has no unifying viewo Because society itself is fragmented, a condition that for him represents the essence of modernity Different sectors (fragments) of our everyday life relating vastly to different and often severely discrepant (disagreeing) worlds of meaning and experience- Links to increase in social distance due to intellectual constructs we hold towards others - Modernity is more than just capitalismo Not totally bad, but the development produces new conditions for life which disrupts society Social Distance and Love- Love – the quality of the relation between a person and both others and the world out thereo Love is a direct experience of others or the world out there Love is a reality and not just as idea – our experiences of love Norms of society (values and concepts that we hold towards others) are not at work within the individual regarding the person they love – intellectual contructs Concepts stop operating in the one unique relationship- Disappears in the experience of love- Love becomes unconditionalo These operations (or, lack of) highlights the uniqueness of the quality of the relationship Oneness of love – nothing between me and the person I love- Forming one unit – becoming in a state of oneness with someone else; being both individuals and also coming together as one Experience one another, in a unique way between both parties Connecting with one another at the level of the soul- Love is modified by the extent to which it is mediated (intervened) by intellectual constructs- Intellectual constructs – mediators between a person and others (the world)o Establish a distance between the person and otherso Constantly judging, rating peopleo e.g. beauty, fashion Concepts of beauty are arbitrary, and we judge people like that- THUS, love or the absence of love are an effect of social distance between person and otherso Continuum of pure love on one end, and apathy on the other Love and hate – the same intensity of emotions at opposite ends of the spectrum Opposite of love - apathy, bureaucracyo Intellectual constructs get in the way of the relationship The person becomes a part of a category – we categorise and label them Relationship losing the sense of uniquenessModernity, Fragmentation and Social Distance 2- The non-rational and intellectual experience (rational) presents two poles of a continuum of social distance between subject and objecto Non-rational – inner lives as emotions, faith, or our ability to appreciate beautyo Presents as functions of social relationships1. Nearness – a function of the specificity of a relationship Love being a reality of nearness, due to development of intimacy in the relationship; forging a unique world between people within the relationship2. Remoteness – a function of the commonality of a relationship, of the introduction of general concepts in the relationshipo These two variables are present in all relationshipso Their presence varying from relationship to relationship and within the same relationship (between the 2 people)Social Distance – The “Stranger” in Society- Significant implications of social distance – we can never know another in his or her entiretyo The act of knowing the other person is always mediated (intervened) by our intellectual constructs When we are introduced a concept, we start judging the person Use of stereotypes/assumptions are sometimes useful, and necessary in life- Using cultural concepts that are existing out there When we remove the concepts, we see less and less of the person- We are distorting the idea in our mind about the persono Therefore– We can never do justice to another’s being and We perceive others by projecting our intellectual constructs on them- Projecting idea/value of society on the person – possibly has nothing to do with them and more to do with us- Such projection increases the difficulty of developing empathy towards others, as we are only able to perceive them the way we perceive society, and not in the way they perceive society- In modern society, the number of intellectual constructs that we use on others is growingo Further increases the “stranger” relations with others As with intellectual constructs, it reduces/prevents the development of qualitative relationships in our livesEffects of Social Distance on Society in History- Social distance caused the growth of intellectual attitude (rational thinking)o In essence, it paths the development of material culture1. The growth of cities The inevitable need to relate to others as “types” and the fleeting nature of interactions in our daily lives – an indicator of a society of strangers The intellectualisation of emotional experience- Living in stressful realities caused us to withdraw within ourselveso To protect us from this intensity, we build “wall” between us and the world- Distance ourselves from others – develop apathyo Leave intensity outside of our interaction – left with politeness2. The spread of a money economy Money reduces what is uniquely valuable to a number – a price It devalues commodities – nothing that can be bought is unique – while simultaneously accelerating the search for whatever is truly unique and incomparably valuableModernity, Fragmentation and Social Distance 3 e.g. reducing time to a measurable quantity (hourly wage)- Money creates yearning for quality time – night out, holiday, duration in which seconds feel like hours, in which time rushes by or in which one simply forgets time.Simmel’s Gaze – How to understand society?- Simmel’s approach suggests that the key to understanding the condition of the person lies in the structures of relationality that develop between peopleo AKA interactionso Everything that we


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