20th Century Philosophy

Georg Simmel (1858 - 1918)

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The Sociology of Georg Simmel

Money and the Modern Mind : George Simmel's Philosophy of MoneyMoney and the Modern Mind : George Simmel's Philosophy of Money by Gianfranco Poggi

A major representative of the German sociological tradition, Georg Simmel (1858-1918) has influenced social thinkers ranging from the Chicago School to Walter Benjamin. His magnum opus, The Philosophy of Money, published in 1900, is nevertheless a difficult book that has daunted many would-be readers. Gianfranco Poggi makes this important work accessible to a broader range of scholars and students, offering a compact and systematically organized presentation of its main arguments. Simmel's insights about money are as valid today as they were a hundred years ago. Poggi provides a sort of reader's manual to Simmel's work, deepening the reader's understanding of money while at the same time offering a new appreciation of the originality of Simmel's social theory.

About the Author
Gianfranco Poggi is W. R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia.

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Georg Simmel and Avant-Garde SociologyGeorg Simmel and Avant-Garde Sociology by Ralph M. Leck

"My legacy will be like cash, which is distributed to many heirs, each transforming his portion into a profit that conforms to his nature: this profit will no longer reveal its derivation from my legacy." -- Georg Simmel (1918)

These prophetic words, written shortly before Georg Simmel's death in 1918, have held true to the present day. His immense cultural capital was distributed to many heirs, but after his death little trace of his legacy remained. Although he was a member of the Department of Philosophy at Berlin University for most of his life, Simmel is most widely recognized not as a philosopher but as the founding father of the discipline of sociology. This important work recovers Simmel's reputation among his contemporaries as "the philosopher of the avant garde" by revealing the cultural origins of his sociological thought.

Georg Simmel and Avant-Garde Sociology  pioneers a new interpretation of Simmel as a thinker whose critical ideas were shaped by the aesthetic, philosophical, and cultural movements of his era: Naturalism, Nietzscheanism, and feminism, respectively. Here, Simmel emerges as a public intellectual who had an enormous impact on German modernism. He is revealed as the intellectual godfather of major cultural and political crusades, including literary Expressionism and the antiwar movement known as Activism. Author Ralph M. Leck also examines Simmel's seminal influence on the feminist and homosexual rights movements, as well as his meaningful contribution to Western Marxism. Leck's groundbreaking research shows Simmel for the first time as a key figure in the intellectual history of European counterculture, vividly demonstrating why Simmel is to sociology what Newton is to physics.

This is the first study to investigate systematically the breadth of Simmel's body of work and his cultural legacy. Simmel's wide-ranging social theories--dealing with such themes as alienation, money culture, social hierarchy, and social trends--are still relevant to current debates and theories about gender, sociology, culture, and politics. Georg Simmel and Avant-Garde Sociology  will appeal to both students and scholars who are concerned with the origins and aesthetics of modernity.

About the Author
Ralph M. Leck teaches in the University Honors Program and the Women's Studies Program at Indiana State University.

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Georg Simmel Biography

Georg Simmel was born on March 1, 1858, in the very heart of Berlin, the corner of Leipzigerstrasse and Friedrichstrasse. This was a curious birthplace--it would correspond to Times Square in New York--but it seems symbolically fitting for a man who throughout his life lived in the intersection of many movements, intensely affected by the cross-currents of intellectual traffic and by a multiplicity of moral directions. Simmel was a modern urban man, without roots in traditional folk culture. Upon reading Simmel's first book, F. Toennies wrote to a friend: "The book is shrewd but it has the flavor of the metropolis." Like "the stranger" he described in his brilliant essay of the same name, he was near and far at the same time, a "potential wanderer; although he [had] not moved on, he [had] not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going"

One of the major theorists to emerge in German philosophy and social science around the turn of the century, he remains atypical, a perturbing and fascinating figure to his more organically rooted contemporaries...


Georg Simmel 

This site hosts texts on Simmel, English translations of Simmel texts, and much more.


Online Essays in English


Georg Simmel on Philosophy and Culture

Postscript to a Collection of Essays by Jürgen Habermas, Translated by Mathieu Deflem


Georg Simmel first published Philosophische Kultur (Philosophical Culture) in 1911; the third and last edition appeared in 1923. The fact that this collection of essays has not been available for over 60 years and only reappears today could be an indication for the fact that, in a strange way, Simmel as a critic of culture is both near to, and far away from, us...


Georg Simmel, Strangeness, and the Stranger

Jörg Heinke, University of Kiel, Germany


In David Malouf's novels An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon and The Conversations at Curlow Creek the phenomenon of strangeness appears in different shapes. One way to understand the concepts of starnger and strangeness is to employ the sociological approach advanced by Georg Simmel's brief "Essay about the Stranger" ("Exkurs über den Fremden," 1908). 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...


Georg Simmel On Individuality and Social Forms 

Edited by Donald Levine


I. Philosophy of the Social Sciences;  Chapter 3:  The Problem of Sociology (1908)

Society: exists where a number of individuals enter into interaction (interaction is the key to everything with Simmel), which arises on the basis of certain drives or for the sake of certain purposes. Unity (or sociation) in the empirical sense constitutes the interaction of elements (ie. individuals in the case of society).

Individuals are the loci of all historical reality, but the materials of life are not social unless they promote interaction. This follows since only this sociation can transform the a mere aggregation of isolated individuals into specific forms of being with and for one another...


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