On the Concept of “Erleben” in Georg Simme’s Sociology

  • Birgitta Nedelmann
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 119)


Georg Simmel starts his famous essay on “The Metropolis and Mental Life” by formulating what according to him are the “deepest problems of modern life”; they “flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life” (Simmel 1971, p. 324). The problem Simmel is concerned with in this essay is: How does modern man resist “being levelled (and), swallowed up in the social- technological mechanism” (ibid.)? Simmel uses another metaphor in order to express what kind of problem he is concerned about. In modern society, he says, individuals have been degraded into a “quantité négligeable”, into a “speck of dust” (Staubkorn)1 “against the vast overwhelming organization of things and forces” (Simmel 1971, p. 337). How can modern man thus degraded into a mere “speck of dust ” develop his personality and maintain his autonomy?


Individual Freedom Modern Life Mental Life Spiritual Life Sovereign Power 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

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  • Birgitta Nedelmann

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