The American Sociologist

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 40–58 | Cite as

Sociologists of the unexpected: Edward A. Ross and Georg Sinimel on the unintended consequences of modernity

  • Matthias Gross


The modern increase in opportunities for social activities also brings with it unintended side effects posed by the liberating potential and the acceleration of modern life. In this paper it is argued that the views reflected in Georg Simmel’s formal approach and in American sociologist Edward A. Ross’ reformative sociology are (1) complementary and (2) offer fresh insights for our current sociological understanding of unexpected consequences in contemporary “high modernity” or knowledge societies. A long forgotten nexus between the ideas of Simmel’s and the work of Ross will be reviewed in order to point out affinities between the two authors’ takes on the unintended and sometimes tragic moments in modern culture and their relevance for sociology today. Based on these discussions a fundamental mode for framing the unexpected in modern society as a recursively-linked component to the intended is illustrated.


Modern Society Unintended Consequence Subjective Culture Knowledge Society Modern Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bielefeld UniversityUSA

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