The development of Simmel’s “life philosophy” characterizing the late phase of his work is ordinarily presented as the product of the reception of his contemporaries, above all Henri Bergson, whom he contributed to translate and introduce in Germany. The present essay shows, however, that Simmel’s life-forms paradigm has a completely different origin. It emerges from the essential core of Simmel’s theory of modern society, i.e. from his theory of social conflict. By showing that conflict is not simply a dividing factor but a process of sociation that integrates societies, Simmel realized that the epistemological dichotomy between process and substance had to be overcome in and open-ended conception of their dialectics going beyond Hegel’s teleological conception of historical development. Simmel found the semantics to express his conception in the examination of the life philosophy of his time, but he radically transformed it to point out the problem he wanted to address. To understand the particular nature of his question, it is important to trace its origins within his sociology.
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Gregor Fitzi is co-director of the Centre for Citizenship, Social Pluralism and Religious Diversity at University of Potsdam, Germany. After his PhD in Sociology at the University of Bielefeld (1999), he was assistant professor at the Institute of Sociology, University of Heidelberg, Germany (2000-2004). He also worked as researcher at the University of Florence, Italy (2005-2009), senior researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Oldenburg (2010-2014) and interim full professor for General Sociology and Sociological Theory at the University of Bielefeld, in Germany (2015-2016). Between 2013 and 2014 he received the habilitation in Sociology, at the University of Potsdam and the Italian habilitation in General sociology, legal and political sociology. He has been visiting professor at the University of Montréal, at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris and at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His main publications are: Grenzen des Konsenses. Rekonstruktion einer Theorie transnormativer Vergesellschaftung (2015); Max Weber zur Einführung (2008); Max Webers politisches Denken (2004); Soziale Erfahrung und Lebensphilosophie. Georg Simmels Beziehung zu Henri Bergson (2002). He is editor of the journal «Simmel Studies».