SOCIOL 2S06 Lecture Notes - Georg Simmel

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Published on 22 Apr 2013
School
McMaster University
Department
Sociology
Course
SOCIOL 2S06
Professor
Page:
of 3
The Theoretical Ideas of Simmel
February-14-13
6:51 PM
B. View of Sociology and Society
1) Problems with Sociological Theory
2) Social Interaction and Society
3) Analysis of Everyday Life
4) Forms of Interaction and Types of Interactants
C. Analysis of Domination
1) Mutual Influence in Relations of Domination
2) Domination Exerted by an Individual, a Group, or a Principle
1. the group can be under the domination of an individual -- the
subjects in a kingdom obey their monarch (group under domination of
individual --> this situation fosters unity among the subjects in the
kingdom because they form strong bonds with each other)
2. an individual can be under the domination of a group --> a worker
(individual) who follows the rules that are set down by those who run a
company (group) ; impersonal and unemotional situation --> domination is
stemming from what is essentially a faceless committee
3. an individual or a group can be under the domination of a principle
--> laws that have been set down in a particular society and citizens who
have to follow them; this sort of situation exists due to the existence of
bureaucracy that's objective was rules and procedures that have to be
followed in a very impersonal way
D. Analysis of Conflict
1. Simmel made the point that conflict can have positive consequences --
it (can) lead to the resolution of tensions in groups
2. Conflict over impersonal interests can be especially intense --> this is
the case when people are struggling over some principle or idea, such as
nationalism, this can generate wars & revolutions
3. Conflict between groups can generate solidarity within groups --> as
the conflict escalates, the group will eliminate differences within their
group; at the same time, they will heighten differences between their
group and the opponent --> gonna look for things that bring the group
together/unify them and eliminate personality and other differences and
generate solidarity
4. Simmel argued that conflict between those who have common qualities
and a strong sense of solidarity can result in bitterness and hostility
5. Conflict between those who have common qualities can be especially
evident in intimate relationships; in some cases, relationships can begin
out of hate and turn into love ( a passionate love emerges); however,
there may not be conflict at first but conflict can emerge -- fall in love and
then fall out of love
E. Analysis of Interaction in Groups
*One of Simmel's points, when it came to groups, is that the size of groups
can shape social interaction within groups
1) Dyads: made up of two people; ex/ friendships, marriages & business
partnerships
* a dyad will not exist if one of those people decides to leave -- means that
each of the people in the dyad has to be fully committed to continue the
relationship, if the dyad is going to survive
- in order for this dyad to exist, there is going to have to be trust and
closeness --> this involves the need to share personal thoughts, feelings
or at least goals (with business partners); dyad is only going to survive as
long as both people involved are being satisfied (no satisfaction = easy
disintegration of the dyad)
- sometimes there are formal rights and rules that are in existence; these
try to give dyads more stability and durability or at least to set out the
rights of people if they decide to end the association [ex/ marriages and
business partnerships are certainly dyads but are dyads that are actually
recognized by the gov't and courts]
2) Triads: made up of three people; interesting fact about triads: if one
person decides to leave, the group can still survive (in one of two ways: on
the one hand, the group could reform itself as a dyad OR it can continue to
exist by recruiting another third member) --> has an independent
structure
- in some cases, there are rules or goals that all members of the triad have
to subscribe to --> there can even be ways of trying to encourage or force
certain members of the triad to follow the rules or go along with the goals:
ex/ the formation of coalitions: 2 members of a business partnership may
believe that certain goals or rules are important to follow and could join
forces against a third member to get him/her in line
- the entrance of a third person can change things: a dyad at first and a
third person being adding to make it a triad can change the nature of the
relationship; ex/ we may have 2 best friends who become close to a third
person; in one way or another, it's going to alter the original relationship
OR the relationship between a husband and wife is going to be modified
by the addition of a child (priorities shift from each other to that child);
new size of the group is going to affect the relationships
3) Small Groups (4+ members): the size of the group does have
implications of the social interaction; in these groups, unity comes from
face-to-face interaction and intimacy; as a result, within these small
groups, Simmel pointed out that there are often informal rules that are
used to deal with this unity and to control the behaviour ofdeviant
members; ex/ street gangs are bound by close ties and loyality but there
can be conflicts -- they try to control conflict among their members
4) Large Groups: due to their size, their interaction again changes;
corporations, political parties and other bureaucracies; unity comes from
formal rules and specialized duties
- Simmel made the point that large groups can provide a sense of freedom
among members that does not always exist in small groups (ex/
comparison between workers in a corporation and the members of small
religious cult: the members of the large corporation are going to have to
follow rules of the large bureaucracy but will have more freedom inside
the organization and outside in their own personal lives than the members
of a small religious cult )+
F. Analysis of Modern Culture
*Simmel's Pessimistic Analysis of Modern Culture is one of the main
reasons why sociologists have revisited his work since the 1980s
1) A Problem with Modern Society
- People in modern society feel threatened and alienated by the forces of
cultural change
- As Simmel saw it, modern society accumulates too much knowledge and
too many products for people to absorb -- because of this, modern society
encourages superficial understanding of art and culture
2) Types of Culture
a) Objective Culture: refers to cultural products that are external to the
individual (language, art, tools, technology, norms and values)
- this objective culture expands in Simmel's view by increasing freedom,
knowledge and specialization in modern society
b) Subjective Culture: how individuals absorb, understand and make use
of external cultural products for personal growth
- subjective culture involves interaction with aspects of objective culture
[ex/ reading a book, writing a paper, studying art = all of these activities
involve interacting with aspects of objective culture]
3) Tragedy of Modern Culture
- this comes from a contradiction between the objective and subjective
aspects of culture
contradiction: people in modern society have greater freedom and
opportunity to develop aspects of objective culture
- in relation to subjective culture, people in modern society have less
ability to appreciate what they have created --> we've become so focused
on how to acquire money and focus on material rather than focusing on
how to think about and how to enjoy art and culture [this is what Simmel
meant]

Document Summary

3. an individual or a group can be under the domination of a principle. *one of simmel"s points, when it came to groups, is that the size of groups can shape social interaction within groups. Analysis of conflict: dyads: made up of two people; ex/ friendships, marriages & business partnerships. *simmel"s pessimistic analysis of modern culture is one of the main reasons why sociologists have revisited his work since the 1980s: a problem with modern society. People in modern society feel threatened and alienated by the forces of cultural change. This objective culture expands in simmel"s view by increasing freedom, knowledge and specialization in modern society: subjective culture: how individuals absorb, understand and make use of external cultural products for personal growth. Subjective culture involves interaction with aspects of objective culture. [ex/ reading a book, writing a paper, studying art = all of these activities involve interacting with aspects of objective culture: tragedy of modern culture.