The Challenge of Modernity Simmel’s Sociological Theory
The complete collected works of Georg Simmel are now available. Yet, the standing of Simmel’s sociological theory is still a subject of controversy. Is Simmel only a brilliant impressionist, a flâneur in the territories of modernity?
Providing an illuminating and coherent presentation of Simmel’s sociological theory, The Challenge of Modernity seeks to demonstrate how Simmel contributed a structured sociological theory that fits the criteria of a ‘sociological grand theory’. Indeed, starting by the theory of modernity and its dimensions of social differentiation, monetarisation, culture reification and urbanisation; it reconstructs the architecture of Simmel’s sociological epistemology. Particular attention is dedicated to the theory of ‘qualitative societal differentiation’ that Simmel develops within his cultural sociology, with the late work being presented as a double contribution to the foundation of sociological anthropology and to the social ethics of complex societies.
Presenting the entirety of Simmel’s manifold oeuvre from the viewpoint of its relevance for sociology, this comprehensive volume will appeal to scholars and advanced students who wish to understand Simmel’s relevance for socio-political thought and become acquainted with his contribution to sociological theory. It will also be of interest to the wider public who seek a critical assessment of our age in theoretical terms.
Introduction: Georg Simmel and sociological grand theory
1. Theory of Modernity
1.1 Social differentiation
1.2 Monetary economy
1.3 Culture reification
1.5 Neurasthenia and beyond
1.6 Women’s emancipation
1.8 Simmel and Marx
2. Sociological Epistemology
2.1 The dismantling of social ontology
2.2 The object of sociology
2.3 Enquiry into social mechanisms
2.4 Coordinating social structure and social action or ‘social validity’
2.5 Space and social closure
2.7 Simmel and Durkheim
3. Sociology of Culture
3.1 Qualitative societal differentiation
3.2 Economy and the social realm
3.7 Simmel and Weber
4. Sociological Anthropology
4.1 The anthropology of social action
4.2 The anthropology of social structure
4.3 The anthropology of social validity
4.4 Individual life and societal form
4.5 Simmel and Plessner
5. Social Ethics
5.1 Conduct of life in modern times
5.2 The conflict of normative cultures
5.3 Individual law and community
5.4 Emotional nationalism and transnational rationalism
5.5 Between Kant and Goethe
6. Outlook: oblivion and rediscovery
"Gregor Fitzi’s book persuasively shows the unity and continuity in Simmel’s thought, whereas often his work has been interpreted as a succession of different phases of development (positivism, neokantianism, philosophy of life) or artificially divided in disciplinary boundaries (sociology, philosophy). The new generation of Simmel scholars is now ready to give up these artificial distinctions which deprives sociological imagination from the stimulus coming from art and metaphysics. A closer scrutiny of Simmel’s sociological theory-building demonstrates that his work takes the form of an ongoing widening of the enquiry into social reality – starting from the analysis of the societal issues in a narrower sense, moving to their socio-cultural implications and premises, and finally turning to the anthropological roots of societal phenomena."
Vincenzo Mele, editor of the Simmel Studies
"As a motto for a presentation of Simmel’s sociology, I had always imagined the quote: ‘For the social researcher or politician, human is not a problem at all, only humans’. Gregor Fitzi’s book gives a decisive insight into the way Simmel deals with the problem."
Otthein Rammstedt, editor of the Collected Works of Georg Simmel
"Gregor Fitzi is undoubtedly one of the best connoisseurs of G. Simmel's thought and work. His book, which can rely on the edition of the complete works - to which he contributed - is timely. The presentation of the themes is pedagogical, clear and fluid without abandoning anything of the subtlety of the Simmelian theses; whether they relate to modernity, the philosophy of life, culture or sociology. The Challenge of Modernity will be an invaluable text to the reader interested in the field of sociological theory; whether student, teacher, researcher or public citizen."
Patrick Watier, University of Strasbourg