Simmel, Georg

born March 1, 1858, Berlin, Ger.
died Sept. 26, 1918, Strassburg

German sociologist and philosopher.

From teaching posts at the universities of Berlin (1885–1914) and Strassburg (1914–18), Simmel did much to establish sociology as a basic social science in Germany. He sought to isolate the general forms or recurrent regularities of social interaction from the specific content of definite kinds of activity, such as political, economic, or aesthetic. He gave special attention to the problem of authority and obedience. His ideas became influential in the U.S. through the works of Robert E. Park, Albion Small, and Ernest Burgess. See also interactionism.

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▪ German sociologist
born March 1, 1858, Berlin, Germany
died Sept. 26, 1918, Strassburg

      German sociologist and Neo-Kantian philosopher whose fame rests chiefly on works concerning sociological methodology. He taught philosophy at the Universities of Berlin (1885–1914) and Strassburg (1914–18), and his insightful essays on personal and social interaction inspired the development of qualitative analysis in sociology.

      Simmel sought to isolate the general or recurring forms of social interaction from the more specific kinds of activity, such as political, economic, and aesthetic. He gave special attention to the problem of authority and obedience. In Philosophie des Geldes (1900; 6th ed., 1958; The Philosophy of Money, 1978), he applied his general principles to a particular subject, economics, stressing the role of a money economy in specializing social activity and depersonalizing individual and social relationships. In the last decade of his life, he devoted himself to metaphysics and aesthetics.

      Simmel's sociology first became influential in the United States through translations and commentaries by Albion W. Small (Small, Albion W) (1854–1926), one of the first important American sociologists. The Sociology of Georg Simmel (trans. and ed. by Kurt H. Wolff, 1950) comprises translations from Soziologie (1908) and other works.

Additional Reading
Studies of Simmel's ideas include Nicholas J. Spykman, The Social Theory of Georg Simmel (1925, reprinted 1992); Rudolph Herbert Weingartner, Experience and Culture: The Philosophy of Georg Simmel (1962); David Frisby, Georg Simmel (1984); Sociological Impressionism: A Reassessment of Georg Simmel's Social Theory, 2nd ed. (1992); David Frisby (ed.), Georg Simmel: Critical Assessments, 3 vol. (1994); and Gary D. Jaworski, Georg Simmel and the American Prospect (1997).

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Universalium. 2010.

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