Monday, October 13, 2008

The Metropolis and Mental Life

I came across this essay by Georg Simmel, the German sociologist who is considered (along with Marx, Weber and Durkheim) to be one of the founders of the discipline. What he says in the essay is quite similar to the idea of rationalization of society and resulting problems of alienation and loss of individual identity as developed by Weber and the philosophy of commodity in Marx.

"The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technology of life. The fight with nature which primitive man had to wage for his bodily existence attains in this modern form its latest transformation. "

"Modern mind has become more and more calculating. The calculative exactness of practical life which the money economy has brought about corresponds to the ideal of natural science: to transform the world into an arithmetic problem, to fix every part of the world by mathematical formulas. Only money economy has filled the days of so many people with weighing, calculating, with numerical determinations, with a reduction of qualitative values to quantitative ones. Through the calculative nature of money a new precision, a certainty in the definition of identities and differences, an unambiguousness in agreements and arrangements has been brought about in the relations of life-elements - just as externally this precision has been effected by the universal diffusion of pocket watches. "

3 comments:

foldedletters said...

"the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces"

I agree.

Alok said...

yeah, it very succintly summarises the struggle for individuality and identity.

Anonymous said...

Transformation and the fight for nature is a perfect perspective. All of this writing is