On the topicality of Georg Simmel
Lichtblau, K. (2019), Zur Aktualität von Georg Simmel – Einführung in sein Werk – 2. Auflage, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
In this book, Georg Simmel's sociological, philosophical, and aesthetic theories are treated in relation to the cultural and social contexts of his time, demonstrating his originality and modernity. Also, Simmel’s interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary influences are discussed. Georg Simmel was a German philosopher and sociologist who is considered one of the fathers of modern sociology and a significant figure in German cultural philosophy in the late 19th and early 20th century. Although his work was seen as a transitional phenomenon by many of his contemporaries, Simmel's emphasis on the tension between radical novelty and the principle of impermanence was seen as characteristic of modern times. Simmel's work focused on the cultural modernity of the time, which he saw as a dynamic force that needed to be expressed through philosophical, sociological, and aesthetic thinking. Simmel's intellectual ambivalence and open-mindedness allow for a more nuanced and complex understanding of modernity. Simmel's work was criticized by both left-wing and right-wing factions for its lack of a clear political or moral stance, but his insights into the nature of modernity have remained influential. His work also reflects the cultural and intellectual context of his time, as he witnessed the beginning of the First World War and the collapse of the German educated bourgeoisie.
Towards a pluralistic philosophical analysis of modern life
Simmel's cultural criticism grants money and the culture industry shaped by it a prominent place. Simmel's focus is on the interaction between the economic sphere and various other social areas. He does not claim a dominance of the economic sphere alone but considers its interplay with other social spheres. Simmel's work is a response to the irrational sphere that is difficult to grasp theoretically but is a negative aspect of modernity. His primary interest is in the conflicts and tensions that arise from different movements within modern lifestyles and the worldview they create. Simmel tries to understand the antinomies of modernity in everyday phenomena. He does not try to develop a universally applicable theory of the modern era. Rather, he sees himself as a collector who uses philosophical, sociological, and aesthetic considerations to illustrate the spirit of his time. Simmel's work is characterized by a pluralistic approach that reflects his skepticism of intellectual classification. Although he is considered a co-founder of sociology, he sees the discipline as having a limited explanatory power regarding the nature of modern life. Therefore, he refers to the need for a comprehensive philosophical analysis of the antinomies of the modern era.
Social phenomena as complex constructs
Simmel attempted to establish sociology as a modern discipline based on a new conceptual foundation. He sought to reconcile the opposing views of individualism and socialism that dominated the 19th century and develop a new understanding of modern society's evolution. He rejected the collectivist concepts of older social theories and emphasized the need for a new conceptual foundation for modern social sciences that took into account advances in the natural sciences, psychology, and history. Simmel's approach to conceptualizing social phenomena involved understanding them as complex constructs with no final boundaries of definition, similar to the atom's elusive definition. He argued that a formal sociology that accounted for the multiple gradations and variations of human experience was necessary.
Simmel's theory of social differentiation
Simmel believed that historical processes of individualization are closely related to the overarching processes of socialization. Simmel's view that individualization and socialization are correlative concepts, and the idea of the separation of community and society, are fundamental to modern sociology. Simmel also drew on Herbert Spencer's differentiation theory and Immanuel Kant's treatment of antinomies in his Critique of Pure Reason to develop his ideas. Spencer's theory suggests that a primitive state of undifferentiated unity is replaced by a stage of certain and coherent heterogeneity. Simmel applies this theory to analyze the development of archaic tribal societies towards increasingly complex social structures. Simmel uses group sociological observations to describe the nature of this process of social differentiation. Different forms of division of labor, power, generational and gender differentiation, and the exchange of economic goods in these societies can be observed. With the progression of society, the individual begins to emerge, which was not the case in archaic tribal societies.
The Philosophy of Money
Simmel attempted to compensate for the fragmentary nature of his sociological works by giving money a prominent role in analyzing the uniqueness of modern culture. Simmel believed that every discipline of knowledge had both limits and requirements for an overarching philosophical perspective. His Philosophy of Money, published in 1900, addresses these concerns by examining the various processes of socialization and cultural philosophy. Simmel argued that modern economics requires a complementary philosophical reflection in terms of knowledge and speculation. This complementary reflection requires an examination of the basic assumptions that give money its meaning and practical position in the world and an analysis of the effects of money on individuals, their fates, and the general culture. Simmel asserted that no line in his Philosophy of Money is solely intended for national economics. He intended to compete with the comprehensive historical materialism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Simmel believed that his Philosophy of Money supplements Marxist historical analysis by providing a deeper understanding of the metaphysical and psychological assumptions that underpin the modern economy and how the economic life influences the spiritual culture.
Simmel argued that economic exchange involves exchanging one value for another and creating the appearance that the objects themselves determine each other's value. He warned against confusing this with the Marxist labor theory of value, which suggests that value exists independently of exchange relations. Simmel believed that exchange creates economic value, which is not identical to our own desires but rather identical with the desire of another. This mimetic character underlines the intersubjective structure of economic value. According to Simmel, exchange is as productive as actual production since both involve investing a subjective value to gain another value. Simmel considered exchange as the purest form of socialization, which includes many social interactions beyond the economic realm, such as love, play, and even eye contact. In these social relationships, one value is exchanged for another, and a new realm of independent significance arises, which is the actual world of the social. Simmel saw exchange as a sui generis social construct that crystallizes into an independent entity only within this endless play of individual interactions. Moreover, exchange is a central form of social relationships that makes a sum of individuals a social group. Thus, exchange is not only an economic concept but also a social concept that allows Simmel to give his philosophy of money the status of a metatheory of the social or a social philosophy that sheds light on the fundamental significance of exchange-based forms of socialization.
The style of modern life and Simmel's cultural analysis
Simmel was interested in the dualistic structure of worldviews in transitional periods, where the historical contrast between the old and the new fascinated him. He saw this characteristic of the transitory as a fundamental feature of his own epoch and considered the present historical time to have come to a standstill. Simmel's cultural analyses, mostly published in an essayistic form, focused on the logical structure and objective content of the cultural manifestations of the modern era rather than their historical origins. His cultural analysis also came with an aesthetic enhancement, which many admirers and critics believed had replaced the difficult business of social analysis with cultural essayistic analysis. Nietzsche shared Simmel's view that such surface culture was not only a feature of the age he described but also that the essayistic form of cultural analysis could say more about its subject than a dialectical approach. Simmel's preference for the essay form reflected the fragmentary character of modern experience, as it tried to give an account of the many possible meanings of various cultural objectivations by continually circling them to identify their formal structure and the social processes they express. Simmel did not limit himself to any particular artistic movement of his time but tried to make all contemporary aesthetic trends, such as impressionism, Jugendstil, symbolism, and expressionism, fruitful for his work. His recognition of this aesthetic pluralism and the associated multiplicity of styles reflects the contrasting and changing form of modern life.
Specialization in industrial production and diversity of consumer experiences
Simmel argued that specialization results in a new style characterized by the transience of material and a particular focus on the aesthetics of everyday life. Simmel's use of the term style in his analysis signals his move towards a cultural application of aesthetic categories, which has become a key feature of contemporary cultural theory. Simmel argued that this is necessary because aesthetic categories are the only ones that can fully account for modern experiences, including those of everyday life. Simmel also distinguished between the aesthetics of fine art and those of everyday life, with the latter characterized by the fusion of aesthetics with utility. The modern desire for the stylization of everyday life reflects an increased subjectivism, which is a response to the loss of tradition and the rise of individualism.
The modern individual creates barriers with the environment
Simmel argued that the modern individual only establishes a relationship with their environment through a sense of contact anxiety, where they are more able to express what they dislike and distance themselves from what they do not like than what they like. The money economy is the true paradigm of modernity because it allows the individual to build an internal barrier and distance themselves from the objects of their desires, providing an effective shield against a more intense form of interpersonal communication. The modern individual compensates for the loss of intimacy by seeking it out indirectly in a tolerable form through the attraction of the remote, exotic, and past. This leads to a variety of escapes from the surrounding reality, such as a romantic attitude towards nature, appropriation of foreign cultural content, and decorative representation of cultural heritage. The growing importance of museums, art collections, archaeology, and philology are an affirmation of this diagnosis. Simmel saw this search for new stimuli and exotic experiences as a symptom of a decentered subject, which has lost its center and is searching for a possible synthesis between the objective demands of the world and its subjective needs and desires. This creates a restlessness and inner turmoil: the characteristic of modernity.
Culture as individual self-realization within an overarching order
Simmel's concept of culture is connected to individual self-realization in a world shaped by anonymous societal processes. Simmel considered the development of a unique social identity as possible in modern society. He related the concept of personality to the idea of an individual's specific needs and interests. Simmel believed that the concept of culture is connected to the inner development possibilities of humans and their position within an overarching order that they themselves have created. Simmel connected his personalistic theory of culture to an ideal of cultivation that has existed in European thought since the Roman era, where humans are seen as possessing subjective abilities that need to be developed for the greater good. He explained that culture is related to the teleological process of human history that seeks to break free from the realm of necessity and provides the starting point for higher development. Simmel believed that a culture process differs from a culture work in that it is harmoniously related to the inherent abilities and qualities of the being. However, some forms of development, such as fulfillment in love, cannot be seen as part of the culture process.
Simmel argued that the predominance of the rational, calculating function in modernity, exemplified in the domains of money, law, and science, contradicts the requirements for a humane way of life as expressed in classical ideas of culture and education. The differentiation of means into self-sufficient ends, characterized as a self-sufficient association, is an objectification of the human mind in which the personal unity that Simmel regarded as a characteristic of the human soul is absent. He distinguished between the soul and the mind, emphasizing that the latter is not bound to the unity that the former requires. Simmel argues that the modern world is characterized by an irreconcilable conflict between the objective culture and the culture of individuals because of this fundamental difference. The alienation between the producers and the products of their labor in industrial mass production leads to a lack of personal unity in the products and a disconnection from their production process. Simmel concludes that this dissociation results in the emergence of a decayed form of cultural development.
The tragedy of culture
Simmel's theory of cultural differentiation is used to describe the correlation between subjective and objective differentiation. Simmel's view on the development of modern money economy states that economic value needs to differentiate itself from the object of economic desire to become an independent value concept in people's minds. The evolutionary relationship between the subject and the object ultimately leads to the emergence of money. Simmel considered this process the real tragedy of culture, and it ultimately leads to the emergence of personal individuality.
The interplay between money, the human soul, and modern society
According to Simmel, the creative principle of the human soul cannot be recognized solely through the accumulation of wealth. The human soul also needs to be purified to attain its distinct form and differentiate itself from the objectification of the mind. This process of development leads to the emergence of the human soul in its unique and undefinable form.
The development of money as an objective spirit and the emergence of modern forms of subjectivity are interconnected with this process of differentiation. These developments are part of the societal evolution that must occur to allow the non-objectifiable part of the soul to become more personal and incontestable.
In essence, Simmel believed that the human soul and money are intertwined in modern society. The development of both is a reflection of the societal evolution that must take place for the personal and incontestable part of the soul to emerge.
In his analysis of the relationship between genders, Simmel sees an inherent and unceasing conflict and opposition. Simmel believes that this conflict is not just about the relationship between genders but also symbolizes and represents the modern age. Although his views on the gender issue are sometimes politically driven, they provide a significant contribution to his diagnosis of modernity, where the relationship between genders is one of its symbols and metaphors. Simmel is not interested in the proletarian women's liberation movement's emancipation views in Germany but in the direction within the bourgeois women's movement that raises the question of a possible feminine contribution to the future formation of societal relations. His interest lies in the general culture, science, and education sectors. Simmel offers a critical cultural view of this question, which is inseparable from his cultural theory's basic assumptions, and is suitable for demonstrating its productivity in terms of resolving the ideological problems of a particular modern liberation movement.
Women are faced with challenges in showcasing their abilities in a culture dominated by men. According to Simmel, the traditional understanding of human culture has been shaped by the male gender's specific characteristics, which include the ability to specialize, individualize, and objectify. On the other hand, women have been confined to their traditional roles and have not had the opportunity to contribute to the objective culture. Women have a holistic approach to life and tend to favor a more flowing experience rather than the crystallized and objective cultural forms that men have created. This does not mean that women cannot integrate into the workforce and traditional societal structures. Still, Simmel questioned whether women can make their unique contribution to objective culture without losing their inherent female characteristics. He concluded that the home is the only cultural manifestation that is primarily determined by the characteristics of the female gender. While most of the activities women engage in have a reproductive nature, their cultural contribution lies in a different area. Simmel suggested that women's rhythmical approach to life can be harnessed for the higher development of humanity, although this has not yet taken the form of objective culture. Simmel thus juxtaposed the idea of a possible enriched objective culture with the nuance of female productivity against the gender equality policy of his time.
Individuality beyond roles and models
Simmel's main concern was to question how, under the conditions of modern mass society and urban life, a form of personality could still exist that is neither identical to the role offerings provided by different social circles nor to the models provided by modern culture industry for an authentic form of self-realization. While Simmel's sociological writings show that it is possible for individuals to develop a unique social identity through the adoption of social roles and the resulting combination of belonging to different social groups, he believed that our idea of human beings should not be limited to seeing them only as particular intersections of individual social circles and societal circumstances. Simmel examined the history of philosophy to identify those thinkers who have made individuality the subject of their work in a qualitative form that meets the requirements of uniqueness and distinctiveness, as well as the area of art as evidence for the practical feasibility of such a radical individuality concept in the form of an appropriate artistic work. He also attempted to provide a moral-philosophical foundation for this individuality characteristic, referring to the individual law of a given phenomenon, which should also provide the individual with a way of orientation for practical life.
Simmel distinguished between two forms of individualism to highlight the distinctive shift from the 18th to the 19th centuries in intellectual history. The first, which he called quantitative individualism, is characterized by the tendency to regard individuals as interchangeable units that are part of a larger social whole. The second form, which he called qualitative individualism, emphasizes individual uniqueness and distinctiveness.
Aristocratic radicalism in art and the concept of noble value
Simmel was interested in the modern forms of aristocratic radicalism in art, and he considered Stefan George's work as the artistic form of redemption for this qualitative form of individualism. Simmel saw a completely new concept of value in the works of Nietzsche and Stefan George. This new value system was based on a noble ideal that relied on an aristocratic distancing of individuals from the masses and categorically rejected any comparison with the common people. Simmel saw a unique combination of feelings of difference based on comparison and proud refusal of any comparison in the concept of nobility. The aristocratic distance and uniqueness of individuals were seen as the basis for a specific nobility value, which could not be generalized. Simmel further highlighted the difference between the common form of interpersonal comparison and aristocratic distancing of individuals from the masses, emphasizing that the aristocratic individual did not need a mask to hide their identity. This new value system based on aristocratic distance and individualism not only influenced Simmel's philosophical ideas but also his art history research. Simmel believed that the importance of a particular era in art history should be measured by the value attributed to the individual artistic achievements of that era rather than the sum of artworks produced.
Rembrandt: The Philosophy of Art
In his monograph "Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art", Simmel explored how Rembrandt portrayed individual life as a unique expression of the soul in his portraits. Simmel argued that Rembrandt's portraits reflect the Protestant Reformation's religious elevation of individual life and its everyday experiences. Simmel emphasized that Rembrandt's portraits capture the individuality and singularity of human life, unlike Renaissance portraits that emphasized typicality and universality. Rembrandt's style of portraiture avoids typification and focuses on portraying the totalities of individual lives. This portrayal emphasizes individual character, which Simmel argued is different from the traditional ideals of beauty and perfection. Furthermore, Rembrandt's portraiture does not distinguish individuals based on social differences or class structures, but on the continuity and wholeness of their individual lives. Rembrandt's portraits thus capture the unique and unrepeatable essence of each individual's life.
In his work, Simmel did not often use the status of a sociology of religion, except in his 1898 essay, which partially appeared in his 1906 monograph, "Die Religion (Religion)" and its final form in 1912. Simmel's distinction between form and content in his religious philosophy is not identical to the forms of socialization addressed in his broader sociology. Simmel recognized that some aspects of religious life contain social elements that can be analyzed sociologically, but he believed that religion has its independent potential that cannot be reduced to purely social phenomena. Simmel's concept of religious form is singular and not plural, and he believed that the religious world possesses a distinctive logic or law of its own. Simmel's understanding of religion is different from that of his contemporary Emile Durkheim, who believed that the archaic religious life was the nucleus that enabled a comparison of world religions, as they all stem from this common root. In contrast, Simmel believed that it is the highest level of religion that makes sense of its diffuse beginnings, and he believed that normative orders of human coexistence can also be established through other forms, such as law and customs. Simmel's understanding of religion is not solely based on evolutionary theory since he believed that historical circumstances have had an impact on the development of moral, religious, and juridical sanctions.
In his understanding of religiosity, Simmel was influenced by the art of mood of his time, which was influenced by the Austrian art historian Alois Riegl, who published a programmatic essay on "Mood as Content of Modern Art" in 1899. Simmel's differentiation between religion and religiosity is of lasting sociological significance, as it suggests that the religious function or religious need may still exist even if there is no institutionalized form of religion that corresponds to it. Simmel argued that the future of religion should not be sought in its institutional forms but rather in a vagabond form of subjective piety that can ignite at any aspect of life. Therefore, Simmel concluded that life itself is characterized by a religious structure, which is why he also speaks of a religion of life.
One of the most enigmatic formulations that Simmel used in his book Religion concerns his assumption that a gradual disenchantment of value can be observed in historical development. Simmel introduced this phrase seemingly abruptly, but he previously talked about magic practices in ancient India, which could be closely related to this concept. Interestingly, Max Weber also spoke of an inevitable disenchantment of the world in the context of his universal-historical considerations of the development of religion. Recently, Simmel's religious-philosophical diagnosis of a disenchantment of value has been considered as one of the possible sources of inspiration for Weber's diagnosis of the disenchantment of the world. Simmel's philosophy of money, which made a fundamental distinction between reality and value, is central to understanding his concept of the disenchantment of value. Simmel argues that the value is an archetype that does not exist in a world dominated by modern natural sciences.
According to Simmel, the function of religion is to express this religious feeling in an institutional form. Simmel spoke of an identity of the spiritual basic behavior and a corresponding formal similarity since religious elements can be found in various social relationships. He cited the example of the paradoxical coexistence of being sociable and unsociable at the same time. To resolve this paradox, Simmel suggested that each person must find a place or profession that corresponds to their own abilities. Simmel drew on the Calvinist conception of vocation and the associated election as the most radical and therefore most consistent form of overcoming this paradox.
The physiognomy of the modern era
Simmel's portrayal of the physiognomy of the modern era is based on the experience of economic prosperity and relative peace in Europe between 1870 and 1914. During this time, there was rapid social, technological, and cultural change, but tensions and conflicts did not lead to a purifying storm. Simmel pointed out that some voices warned of the risks of the current path of modernization and the potential for an explosion. Simmel suggested that the problems and decision-making requirements were not addressed consciously enough. In addition, the desire for a new wholeness of life was present, reflected in the search for ever more exotic forms of modern culture. Ultimately, the transience of these identification offers led to a restless, unsatisfied time that necessitated societal and cultural reform. Simmel's perspective on the physiognomy of the modern era provides insights into the complexities of societal and cultural change during this time period.
Cultural movements and the challenges of identity in pre-World War I Germany
There were various cultural movements in Germany before World War I, including the search for a female culture within the women's movement, the youth's erotic rebellion, mysticism, Futurism, and Expressionism. These movements challenged not only specific forms of bourgeois culture but also the underlying form of society. They represented a struggle between individualization and socialization, which could not be reconciled within the existing bourgeois culture. The outbreak of World War I was seen by many as a fundamental challenge to the entire pre-war culture and was celebrated as an opportunity for cultural renewal. The war threatened the unity of the German state and the national culture, highlighting the unresolved issue of cultural identity. Simmel saw the fragmentary nature of modern life and the commodification of human relationships and experience as signs of the end of an era. He celebrated the outbreak of the war as the beginning of a new era and initially supported Germany's cultural struggle against its enemies. However, his support for the war and his belief in a metaphysical absolute in the trenches led to the breakdown of his relationships with Ernst Bloch and Georg Lukács.
Germany and Europe after World War I
Simmel believed that the German defeat in the war led to a cultural tragedy that marked the end of the German spirit. He also believed that Europe was heading towards a suicide that would benefit the United States' global dominance. He still held hope that the German youth would reject the mechanization of life and lead a spiritual revolution against capitalist values. Simmel's last philosophical work, titled Life-View, attempts to provide a metaphysical interpretation of his previous ideas and emphasizes the need for a pluralistic worldview. Despite his hopes, Simmel did not live to see the emergence of a new Germany that he envisioned. His philosophical legacy remains influential to this day.
Time and reality
The present is indeterminate and cannot be temporally fixed, unlike the past and the future, which are imaginary concepts. The reality of events only occurs in the present moment, and events in the past and future can only be based on memory or imagination. This paradox leads to the conclusion that the idea of a temporal reality is an imaginary concept that cannot be thought without contradiction. Considering the nature of timelessness and simultaneity, the understanding of the present can change our understanding of the past. Memory makes the past available in the present moment, and this process creates a new form of interaction between the past and the present that goes beyond a simple causal relationship.
The development of sculpture throughout history
According to Simmel, ancient Greek sculpture was beyond time and movement, while Gothic art made the human body the bearer of movement but remained stylized. It was only in the Renaissance that Michelangelo managed to incorporate being into becoming and dissolve forms infinitely, resolving the artistic conflict between the ideal of durability and the movement of the body. Michelangelo's figures never suggest that they could move or be presented differently, remaining confined within a closed contour line. In contrast, Rodin achieved a complete sensory embodiment of becoming, which Simmel believed is a new form of monumentality, conveying an impression of instantaneousness and timeless movement. This ambiguity of perpetual motion in Rodin's figures becomes a symbol of the restlessness of the modern soul, which Simmel attributed to the dissolution of solid contents in the liquid element of the soul, whose forms are just forms of movement. Simmel saw the modern era as characterized by the subjectivity of experience and the dissolution of fixed contents. Therefore, his understanding of modernity is inseparable from specific aesthetic assumptions, which he describes mainly in his aesthetic and cultural theoretical essays.
Simmel’s historical significance
Recognizing the importance of Simmel's work not only repays a debt but also rectifies an injustice that occurred during the 20th century, the age of extremes, characterized by two world wars, the Nazi regime in Germany, and the worldwide failure of various forms of real socialism. Despite Günther Busch's efforts to revive Simmel's work and prevent its irrevocable neglect, Simmel's work faced considerable difficulties after World War II. Simmel was initially labeled an impressionist and a philosophical transitional phenomenon between the world wars. After the international student and youth movement of 1968 and the discrediting of the great philosophical narratives, Simmel's fragments were rediscovered as a thinking of astonishing modernity. The ideology-critical approach to Simmel's work emerged after World War I, in which Simmel was accused of being unprepared for the intellectual civil war. Georg Lukács, one of Simmel's former students, actively participated in this funeral enterprise and established a moral standard for devaluing Simmel's work, creating a lasting blockage of judgment for many intellectuals. We need to recognize the importance of Simmel's work and the challenges it faced in the 20th century.
Theodor Adorno's critique of Simmel's philosophy
Adorno accused Simmel of engaging in a "Wald- und Wiesenmetaphysik", a kind of philosophy that can philosophize about anything and everything. Adorno believed that Simmel's thinking is unable to decipher the "Incommensurable" in a single object because it only understands it as an example of a preconceived thought, rather than a source of inspiration and the discovery of something fundamentally new and unique. Adorno also accused Simmel of having promised him something in his youth that he did not deliver on, resulting in Adorno fulfilling this promise himself in his work.
Adorno believed that Simmel's concept of culture is peculiarly faded and related to a traditional form of education and taste, making it impossible to consider such a kind of false philosophy as a significant contribution to contemporary philosophical orientation problems in a culture industry reduced to pure exchange value. However, Adorno also praised Simmel's return of philosophy to concrete objects, which was aimed at breaking the taboos of a traditional form of academic philosophy that had become dogmatic and formalist. Habermas later broke this taboo and gave Simmel a fair assessment by acknowledging his sensitivity to contemporary aesthetic trends, intellectual trends, and orientation.
Simmel’s Post 1908’s writings: a shift towards art and philosophy
After the publication of his major sociology in 1908, Simmel was said to have considered his own sociological work essentially finished and turned his attention to primarily art philosophy, history of philosophy, cultural, and life philosophy. His only additions to his sociological writings after 1908 were a lecture on Sociability, given at the First German Sociologist's Conference in Frankfurt in 1910 and a small sociology work called Fundamental Questions of Sociology, which was published in 1917. This was not due to an anti-sociological attitude on Simmel's part, but rather because he was more interested in other topics and areas of work. Although his book Philosophy of Money could be considered his main work, it is not a sociological work, but rather a philosophical work, as Simmel himself stated. The book was originally meant to be a Psychology of Money but was later changed to its current title. There have been attempts to claim that Philosophy of Money has significance in individual sciences such as sociology, economics, aesthetics, and psychology, but all these fields need to be considered in equal measure before making such a claim. Simmel has also been accused of aestheticism throughout his career, but his work cannot be reduced to a single aesthetic movement or influence, as he engaged with various aesthetic movements throughout his life.
Jewish thinkers of modernity
Zygmunt Bauman reconstructs the experience of modernity against a background of a notorious feeling of anxiety and indecision that arises from dealing with specific modern ambivalences. This fragmentation of the world is the flip side of a practical indecisiveness between the different, which has led to a postmodern culture whose intellectual roots Bauman traces back to Jewish thinkers like Simmel, Kafka, Freud, and Derrida. Simmel is the analyst of modernity whose foreign Jewish thinking introduced a break into traditional European conceptualizations, leading to a shattered, fragmentary, episodic truth that does not allow for the grand theories of the past. Simmel's work also provides an intellectual framework for discussing the tension between equality and difference, which is still a relevant topic in contemporary feminist discourse.