Blog #3: Simmel and Society

Simmel has a very unique way of looking at society. When we think of society we generally think of a group of individuals who are associated together for religious, cultural, political, scientific, patriotic, or other purposes. While this is certainly true, Simmel describes society as being far more complex. He says that the term “society” is a reification, turning something abstract into something concrete which is why he prefers using “sociation” because it emphasizes relation and process. Until Simmel, I never thought to look at it in this way. Society is responsible for giving abstract ideas meaning. It is a way of turning something that is a process into a “thing”. It is important to understand that there is a difference between the two. An example would be an organization. Simmel says that we treat organization as if they are a “thing” – something tangible; however we fail to realize that it is a process, a set of relations among people. When we think about it like that it suddenly becomes more complex.

An interesting concept is that of sociability. That is- engaging in social conversations for the sake of pleasure. There is no ulterior motive. Simmel says that serious topics should be avoided. Once there is a “goal” you have diminished sociability. I think something like this is very hard to do. While many of us do engage in conversations with people like friends and family for pleasurable purposes; it is difficult not to engage in serious conversation. In order to preserve sociability, every individual participating in the conversation must constantly be aware and monitor/guide the discussion in such a way that it does not become “too serious”. However, having to constantly be aware of this takes away the pleasure of the conversation making it seem, in my opinion, impossible.

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2 responses to “Blog #3: Simmel and Society

  1. Yes It is hard to be aware and monitor the discussion so it does not become serious. Yet there are conversations that just for means to the end. Also, there are process to socialize with people and it is important to socialize with people. It is important to have some type of organization or a thing that you can do with other people. If socialization is not part of the individual life then they do not know the norms of society and they would become outcast. I am thinking of high school environment where the popular kids do not socialize with the nerd groups but the nerd groups get picked on because they are different from the popular group. (I might be wrong, but school or educational institution is is part of everyone’s life because that is where we learn how to behave, react, say, or be in society because the school is a mini society of the outside world.)

  2. I agree that it seems impossible to socialize in the way Simmel explains. In our society we always have an ulterior motive for everything. If we decide to start a conversation is usually because we need help with something or we think the person is cute or interesting. Every action we take is motivated by something, therefore Simmel’s idea does not seem to realistic to me.

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