Georg Simmel

  • Patrick Watier


Georg Simmel has always occupied a special place in the pantheon of the founders of sociology. Lewis Coser’s characterisation of him as a stranger, an outsider within the academy, seems appropriate only if one looks just to his formal position within academia. It does not, however, take into account the position of Simmel in the wider intellectual domain, nor his role in the institutional consolidation of sociological research: he occupied an ambiguous position, at one and the same time marginal from the point of view of academic standing and central within the intellectual milieu. Many factors, including no doubt the apparent eclecticism of his work — ranging from historiography through psychology and sociology to aesthetics — contributed to this and to the reception of his work. Simmel’s Soziologie (1992) ran to over 700 pages but he never for a second believed, as did Comte, that sociology should be the queen of the sciences, the pinnacle of the intellectual enterprise. Paradoxically, those things that assured Simmel a central place in the history of ideas in the early years of the twentieth century, his imaginative, bold and exploratory journeys back and forth across the borders of sociology, philosophy and aesthetics, together with his reflections on culture, are what contributed, at least in part, to his lack of recognition in the academic world.


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Further Reading

  1. D. Frisby, Simmel and Since: Essays on Georg Simmel’s Social Theory (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1991 ).Google Scholar
  2. H. Helle, Simmel on Religion (Yale University Press [in press])Google Scholar
  3. D. Levine, Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms ( Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1971 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. G. Oakes, Essays on Interpretation in the Social Sciences (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1980 ).Google Scholar
  5. G. Simmel, Conflict and the Web of Group Affiliations ( Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1955 ).Google Scholar
  6. K. Wolff, The Sociology of Georg Simmel ( Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1950 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick Watier 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Watier

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