Georg simmel essay stranger

As the modernist thinker of flux, and philosopher of sociological phenomena, Goodstein suggests that returning to Simmel could renew philosophy, but more importantly save sociology from its disciplinary straightjacket defined by quantitative methods and crude empiricism in order to make it more appropriate to the study of a world characterised by interconnectivity and a complete lack of foundations. Akin to Socrates who lived on the margins of Athenian society, Goodstein points out that Simmel never really found a home in the German university because its rigid disciplinary structures clashed with his own approach defined by the attempt to fuse philosophy and sociology which he developed on the basis of his lived experiences.

Here, she argues that without the secure foundations of the theological universe to secure meaning, and organise subjectivity, the classical idea of bildung started to fail, leaving the natural sciences to modernise and materialise knowledge, but also understandings of what it means to be an individual. As a result Goodstein draws a line between the rise of the modern discipline, which represents a response to the death of God and the failure of transcendence, the emergence of the naturalised individual, who is no longer cultivated but simply represents a kind of objective fact, and the money economy, that objectifies and quantifies otherwise deeply embedded, qualitative social relations, in order to construct a vision of modernity that takes in the individual suspended in the objective money economy and that reaches an understanding of the world through discreet, disciplinary forms of knowledge.

However, while these processes appeared to liberate the individual, value, and knowledge from their traditional, embedded situation, thus producing the excess of freedom the existentialists would later confront, Goodstein makes the point that Simmel recognised the dialectical negation implicit in these changes which meant that 1 the individual was cancelled by the very excess of individualism within the estranged collective, 2 value was undermined by the translation of quality into quantity that screens out anything incomparable, and 3 knowledge narrowed towards an object produced by a particular way of approaching the world.

For Goodstein, this failure to recognise the relativity of life is the problem of the contemporary financialised world, where everything is governed by the most abstract form of money fictitious capital , and the techno-scientific university, where thought and knowledge are understood in terms of metrics which somehow pass judgement on the relationship of thinking to a narrow conception of ultimate truth, rather than the mobile relative vision of the truth that stands in a post-Nietzschean universe without transcendental foundations.

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This is, of course, exactly what money also achieves through the way it symbolises and quantifies every object and every quality, which is the reason why it is possible to connect the emergence of the money economy to the rise of the disciplinary imagination in the post-Nietzschean world without foundations.

This is also the reason why Simmel becomes such as important commentator on the philosophical conditions that led to both the quantification of value in the form of money and the objectification of knowledge in the shape of the discipline that transformed him into a sociological founding father and philosophical stranger. The value of this work is that it has the potential of revealing the deep sociological, and potentially ecological, participation of everything in everything else in such a way that transgresses the limits of both the globalised money economy and the disciplinary university.

Explaining that this approach constitutes a pure form of sociology based on the study of association, she shows that this methodology never lapses into abstract formalism, simply because Simmel never suggests that there is anything called society beyond the constantly shifting relations between individuals who are made in these connections. Although Goodstein never makes this point, it would actually be more accurate to say that Durkheim relies on abstraction through the idea of the objective social fact , rather than Simmel who never looks to escape the reality of infinite reciprocity.

Georg Simmel, the stranger and the sociology of knowledge - DRO

However, Goodstein uses this debate to show how the Durkheimian social scientific approach started to form the discipline of sociology in the early 20 th century, leaving Simmel marginalised working on philosophical studies of the social. Here, money leads to the hypertrophy of objective culture and the atrophy of subjective culture and produces a kind of nihilism of meaningless things.

However, since money is a substantial representation of the relativity of life, it is possible to interpret economic culture in order to reach an understanding of the reality of infinite reciprocity or the life process. Advancing this discussion, Goodstein outlines the meaning of culture for Simmel, which revolves around the way in which social interactions produce worlds. While objective relations produce quantitative worlds, where there is little meaning beyond number, subjective relations produce thicker worlds based in deeper connections, which then provide spaces for the subjectivation of individuals who are more than calculators.

Given that Simmel thought that money was the symbol of the quantitative, objective form of life, Goodstein writes of his phenomenological method of cultural analysis focused on the interpretation on the empirical in the name of revealing the deeper ontological truth of reciprocity in terms of a homeopathic approach, where money culture geldkultur , or the interpretation of money culture, is the ultimate cure for money culture.

Moving beyond The Philosophy of Money to focus on his book Soziologie , and in particular his revised version of The Problem of Sociology , Goodstein shows how Simmel clarified his methodological approach to studying historically specific, grounded cases in order to read out to more general, deeper ontological conditions. While the former level of analysis, which we might associate with discipline, produces a partial view of phenomena, Goodstein shows that for Simmel, only philosophy is able to extend empirical or, we might say following Heidegger, ontic insights into ontological understandings.

In a globalised society characterised by hyper-connectivity, we are all simultaneously intimate and distant to each other, and in respect strangers. Goodstein notes that society is defined by the experience of the limit or boundary grenzwesen , and in this way there can be no social system without marginal figures — the enemy, the criminal, the pauper — who in a globalised society are everywhere, simply because boundaries of all kinds have moved inside and become intra-social.

The only absolute outsider in a globalised society would come from outer space. As Simmel notes, from the very start the social individual there is no other kind is always split between being-with-others and being-for-themselves. The condition of being-social is always defined by the condition of not-being-social.

Strangeness has, therefore, always been constitutive of the social condition, but this is surely even more apparent now, in a world which feels smaller and more intimate by virtue of globalising technologies. He sees the stranger as a wanderer who comes today and may stay tomorrow. The attributes of that stranger are his differences of time and place of his origin, his socially not belonging to the host society and also his independence in moving, staying and in his way of behaviour compared to the rest of society which he enters. If we communicate with strangers we have - at the same time -- the impression of being close to someone from a distance and of being far away from someone who is in our immediate environment.

While wandering the stranger moves from outside the society towards the inside. This opposition of inside and outside is, however, the basis of our conscience. The identity of a human develops along the line of differentiation between the self and everything which is not the self, which is outside. The process of recognition of what is 'I' and what is 'Not-I' is influenced by the individual socialisation.

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The definition of identity of every 'I' does only occur in the individual mind. Everyone defines oneself individually while setting the self into opposition with every other individual. As it happens individually, it is not possible to express one's own identity in relation to others completely. The problem of language arises at this point because it can only approximate what the individual wants to express and means by it.

As the socialisation of every person is an individual one and as experiences are gained differently by everyone and have different impact on people, their way of thinking and their definition of meaning is unique. The only way to learn somebody's thought is through his objectivations i. In that respect we are faced with a fundamental problem: everything we hear and see from other people -- even in our own society -- is relatively strange and relatively unknown.

Symbolic Interactionism George Simmel Jacqueline Low

All members of society have, however, agreed on a basic meaning of things. This is important for the continuity of life and social behaviour because the basic meaning ensures a way of dealing with each other on a common and accepted basis. If there is anything as a collective mind we do not know. There is, however, something we call a collective, cultural or social identity.

On a wider scale it refers to the relation of inside and outside as well. Again, during socialisation a whole group or society is formed in certain ways of thinking and behaving.

The Stranger

Not only language but also the political system, cultural values, moral standards and ethics or the relation between the sexes belong to a set of pieces which complete a cultural identity. Comparing the own set of values with other societies or minority groups within a society, the similarities among many produce a feeling of togetherness, they form a 'we-feeling'. The normal behaviour of the inside group of a society is the standard.

Every other behaviour is deviant and can be connoted by the majority as negative.