Messages from Georg Simmel


As founder of the humanist version of sociology, Simmel sent powerful messages that are identified and explained in this book: interpretation - things are often not what they appear to be; change- culture and society evolve over time; interaction - reality is socially constructed; alienation - people define the value of money without taking responsibility for this construction. Simmel sees humans defining objects in interaction as valuable or worthless, but then they refuse to acknowledge having anything to do with the process of value attribution. He is critical in politics as well; Simmel is concerned that socialism is treated as a political movement and not viewed as a potential form of social interaction.

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Horst J. Helle studied business administration, sociology and psychology at the University of Hamburg, leading to a Dr.phil. in 1959 and a Habilitation for Sociology in 1967. He held professor positions in Aachen and Wien; and since 1973 he is profesor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.

1. The Message of Interpretation
Humanities versus Natural Sciences
The Operation Called Verstehen
The Controversy about Pragmatism
Simmel versus conventional Philosophy
The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy
Simmel’s Critique of Subjectivist Pragmatism

Tension between Culture and the Individual

2. The Message of Change: Society Evolves Over Time
Evolution and Darwin’s “Theory of Descendency”
Change as Differentiation and Individualization
Competition promotes Evolution
Alternative Theories of Evolution

3. The Message of Interaction: How Reality is Constructed
Sociology as the Study of Interaction
Society Emerges in Interaction
Religion as Interaction
Strangeness as Form of Interaction
Encounters between Alien Populations
The Stranger as Innovator

4. The Message of Alienation: Money and Politics
Money as a Paradigm of Cultural Processes
Evaluation and Alienation
Construction of Value in Interaction
Money as a Means of Exchange
Socialism as Result of a Forming Process
Socialism on Happiness
Machine - Factory – Government

5. The Main Thrust of the Messages contra Marx and Weber
Simmel’s Main Thrust against Marx
Simmel’s main Thrust against Weber

6. Background of the Messages: Intellectual Influences
The Platonic Socrates
Plato’s Eternal Ideas
Summary: Statements about Simmel’s Method

Appendix 1: Biography of Georg Simmel
Appendix 2: Simmel’s Autobiographical Fragment

All those who work in the social sciences and other humanities and who are academic teachers, graduate students, government advisors on issues of social development, and journalists interested in critical thinking.