Blog Post #4: Simmel: City Dwellers, Socialbility, and Fashion

Georg Simmel studied the differences in the mental life between city dwellers and people in rural areas. He noted that in cities people had more freedom to express individuality but at the same time more challenged to find out their true selves among the metropolitan life. Simmel observed that in rural areas people formed impressions of people gradually, whereas in the city impressions were made with a single glance. Simmel contributed the harsh and sometimes rude demeanor of city dwellers as a blasé attitude. This attitude is more of a defense mechanism rather than an intentional rude attitude. He explained that the metropolitan life is constantly throwing stimuli at its inhabitants and can be too overwhelming to take in. Therefore people learn to block out things, which may come across as rude or unfriendly to outsiders. Simmel also developed theories on fashion and sociability in relation to cities. Simmel’s work is especially interesting to me because I grew up in the south and attended my first year of college in a small rural town. I know firsthand the observations and differences that Simmel proposes in his work and can confirm them to be very true. Growing up in Kentucky, I felt the pressure to conform to certain fashion trends and fit in with whatever was “mainstream” at the time. One of the biggest appeals to me about living in NYC is that here you are encouraged to find your own identity whereas in the south you are forced to conform to one group or style. Fashion develops in cities for that very reason. The city intensifies a multiplicity of social relations and at such a fast pace. The vast diversity in a city breeds the innovation and recycling of the past as Simmel would say. Another area Georg Simmel studied was sociability which he defines as the play-form of association driven by amicability, breeding cordiality and attractiveness of all kinds. In other words, sociability is interaction with others simply for the pleasure of interacting itself. There are no ulterior or underlying motives in the connection. From my own observation, pure sociability happens a lot less in cities than in rural areas. It seems that people in cities are used to everyone having some sort of hidden selfish motive so they are much more guarded and defensive in their sociability. This guarded attitude could contribute to the blasé attitude. The lack of pure sociability may also be because the fast pace of the city doesn’t allot much time for it, whereas the slower pace of rural life does. Simmel’s ideas about the mental life of city and rural people are very relatable and interesting to me.

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One response to “Blog Post #4: Simmel: City Dwellers, Socialbility, and Fashion

  1. For Simmel “… fashion represents nothing more than one of the many forms of life by the aid of which we seek to combine in uniform spheres of activity the tendency towards social equalization with the desire for individual differentiation and change.”

    In society, we are either pushing ourselves to bind to others through imitation or to unbind or alienate ourselves from others.

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