Term Paper: Georg Simmel

Pages: 3 (934 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Topic: Sociology  ·  Buy This Paper

Georg Simmel, one of the first professional sociologists, was born in Berlin in 1858. By the time he became a teenager, his home city had burst into the manufacturing and production arena, and the city was coming alive with the Industrial Revolution. Hundreds of thousand of people were already living in this German metropolis, and the population still continued to grow.

In his essay, "The Metropolis and Mental Life," Simmel wrote that some of the worst problems of present-day modern life came from individuals who were struggling to maintain their individuality against overwhelming social odds, historical heritage and external culture. "The psychological basis of the metropolitan type of individuality consists in the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli," noted Simmel. "Man is a differentiating creature. His mind is stimulated by the difference between a momentary impression and the one which preceded it." Although increased technology promised greater freedom, the nineteenth century rise in industrialism also demanded greater specialization of work; this specialization decreased differentiation and made one person similar to another. It also made each individual all the more directly dependent on the supplementary activities of others.

Although Berlin was nothing compared to what it is today. Simmel had already seen some of the trends that were coming with the changing society. His essays, "Fashion," the Stranger," and even "The problem with sociology," reflected the changing times. In "Fashion," Simmel wrote how the clothing worn derives from a basic tension specific to the person's social condition. On one hand, everyone has a tendency to copy or imitate others. On the other, all people also have the tendency to distinguish themselves from others. Naturally, this is a continuum, with some people doing everything possible to imitate and emulate their favorite role models and thus to conform to what they feel is most accepted by their society. While others go to the opposite extreme and do everything they can to be different -- yet not so different that they are considered "overly strange" or get into trouble for not confirming to laws (such as nudity, etc.) Simmel argued that humans are driven by the two instincts of one side pushing them to imitate their neighbors and the other pushing them to distinguish themselves. From one side, individuals will try to copy others they admire, and from the other, attempt to distinguish themselves from people who they do not like or respect.

Fashion has always been a way for people to differentiate themselves from others, as well as indicate their status in a class society. In the early 1900s, for instance, women outwardly delineated their role in life by what they wore. Working women, who were proud of their autonomy although disliked by many people of both genders, enjoyed… [END OF PREVIEW]

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