Simmel's (in)Difference: Live Entering into the Act

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Greg NIELSEN, Concordia, Canada
This paper argues the most enduring legacy of Simmel’s philosophical sociology is seen in how he theorized modernity as objective culture in general and as the opposite of a live entering into an act of a unique life history (subjective culture) that it uses but that it can never fully objectify or exhaust. The more specific question I raise is how to theorize the blasé attitude toward an ethics and politics people take-on in the example of the street (objective culture) but also understood as a place where thresholds of (subjective) sociability are derived from difference. To this end, the paper is a work in progress that presents a reading of Simmel’s sociology and philosophy via his observation of the blasé attitude adopted in modernity as a response to the over stimulations of city life. I position the blasé attitude (The Metropolis essay) in his formal sociology and Philosophy of Money, first in in the Berlin context he writes in, and then link it to his later neo-Kantian ethics (1913 Das Individuelle Gezetz; The Individual Law), and a more contemporary discussion for our time. My main point is that for Simmel, the blasé attitude that citizens adopt to cope with the over stimulation of conflicts and nervous energies in the city provides the possibility for a creative disposition that expands thresholds for multi-sided association and differentiation. I draw the counter-intuitive conclusion that Simmel's legacy teaches us that "live entering' into an act of a unique life history (difference), requires a measure of productive indifference for contemporary (subjective) sociability, ethics and politics to be possible.