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Lecture 10

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SOC203: Lecture 10, Week 11 George Simmel: ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ (1903) 1. ‘The Web of Group Affiliations’ (1908)  Notice this  The argument that Simmel puts forward in the Web of Group Affiliations is a structuralist argument (talked about last week)  Durkheim  structural argument about suicide o Maps social occasions by social solidarity o City vs. Country, certain religions o Durkheim is simply stating that one’s social occasion has a strong influence on social behaviour o The hallmark: it explains social behaviour in terms of location of social structure  Simmel provides a structural argument through Web of Group Affiliations  traditional society (tight vs. dense social networks)  Emphasis on this: because this comes in 1908, the reading for tonight comes from 1903  when we look at thinker’s ideas over time, we think it’ll be complex over time. But the reverse is true in this case. The Metropolis is more complex and less obviously structuralist than the web of group affiliations.  Two kinds of social networks in traditional society (dense by tight social networks, loose by not close social networks)  contrast this with modern society where our social circles don’t overlap very well 2. Freedom of movement + Romanticism= unique, noble substance of person valued  In the paper for tonight (Metropolis) he talks about freedom of movement and romanticism (associated with 1700’s) o This was a time when people expected to crave movement (geographical and social) o Social mobility o Each person have noble soul that separates them from others (to cultivate)  In this part of the paper he is trying to argue that we have new expectations about the kind of people we should be (and that these new expectations are fed by 18 century ideas + 19 Century Romantic ideas) 3. Humans are differentiating creatures  He makes a universalistic claim (claim that he feels applies to human beings; applies to all human beings)  humans are differentiating creatures, they pick up on differences and notices contrasts. They pick up on small changes, changes in routine, and little differences that stand out. What attracts us is deviation from the norm from the habitual from what we expect  (P 169-170)  ‘…Man is a differentiating creature. His mind is stimulated by… lasting impressions which differ only slightly from one another…’  Sounds like metropolis is what makes us into differentiating creatures. But Simmel is saying that it’s not. We’re always differentiating creatures. If we take these differentiating creatures and put them in the modern city and they’re bombarded by noises, sights, other stimuli, excess people, this constant change (increase in tempo and rhythm of change) is going to have certain consequences for personality o What varies is what stimuli they’re exposed to o The city determines personality and mental life compared to rural  Metropolis  different consciousness than rural life o Rural life  mental imagery are more slowly, more habitually  If we take humans so constituted and plunged them into modern city, there are going to be certain consequences 4. The city: loose networks+ culture of objectivity  People have the desires to cultivate themselves  People are differentiating creatures and plunged into metropolis (they want to stand out) but they’re met by hostility and negativity.  Culture of objectivity With the culture attentive to qualitative differences between things. o Ex. Reading homicide stats in Canada (how many people were killed last year)  in reading those stats, you’re not alert to qualitative info (different murderers, victims, etc.) All of that is hidden by numbers, which objectifies the circumstances. We can think of this as you want to go out for dinner with somebody and you agree that you want to eat for $20. But there are a lot of restaurants, and you’re objectifying because you’re looking at different quality of food, etc. What differentiates each restaurant from something else.  Simmel says that we’re interchangeable objects (think of a bank  you’re not a person who you think you are in specialness, but you’re just another customer that can be interchanged)  Simmel is saying that he’s painting more in detail what it’s like to live in a city. With looser social networks (refer last week)  Simmel talks a lot about money and it’s important to the city o Simmel says that a money economy leads to culture of objectivity o Think historically about how trades occurs before the arrival of money  Think of peasants  distribution of goods (exchange of goods), barter economy, no common exchange o Simmel is saying that there has to be greater attention to qualitative detail between things o The money economy is feature of city and discussed by Simmel because it illustrates the move towards objectivity  We’re used to thinking about the word ‘aesthetic’ when talking about art. We’re less likely to think about this when we think of academic work, scientific work. But there’s a certain aesthetic. One of the features that scientists will admire is elegance, simplicity. In science, generally, if you can explain a lot in a few simple concepts, seen as a sign of simplicity (good)  Simmel hankered after simplicity as well (moving forward by offering a simpler argument after Metropolis, when writing web of group affiliations) 5. Consequence for personality: (Prof’s words)  Intellectual o Opposite to emotionality o Evident in economic exchange o Certain hardness of personality (i.e. think of a store you go to, have you bargained?) o Calculation (calculating costs and benefits without thinking of person from whom you’re going to be buying. Their feelings are indifferent to your calculations) o Indifference to others o Certain matter of fact-ness o Money depersonalizes (i.e. you want to buy a CD, a computer, it’s true salesman will try to win you over with their personality but the tendency to be is to compare cost and benefits not on how warmly the salesperson feels but what’s in it for me. o Certain bureaucracy (treats customers same way, no matter who they are)  Blasé o We’re differentiating creatures. When a country person comes to the city, they’re bombarded by stimuli (movement of things). At a certain point we are so over stimulated that our systems shut down. We reach a limit where we can’t react anymore o It’s a symptom of our attitude that we can’t respond because we’re so over stimulated o Leads to incapacity to react to new sensations (leads to further differentiation)  Reserve o Shyness toward people o Form of self protection o Ex. of Subway (ttc)  rush hour, pressed up close against strangers. Typically, you don’t look at person next to y
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