Editorial[Record]

  • Vincenzo Mele
Editorial Cash Legacy In a famous aphorism contained in Simmel’s Posthumous Diary Simmel wrote: “I know that I shall die without intellectual heirs, and that is as it should be. My legacy will be, as it were, in cash, distributed to many heirs, each transforming his part into use conformed to his nature: a use which will reveal no longer its indebtedness to this heritage”1. This statement can be regarded as a more general consideration of the relations between the present and tradition, the cultural works handed from the past within the context of modernity. In this sense, it exhibits many affinities with Nietzsche’s criticisms of the ‘excess of history’ of his time, in which he stresses the importance of the oblivion enabling dynamic action aimed at the future. In this statement Simmel is even more radical than Nietzsche: it seems that – at least for his own cultural and intellectual heritage – Simmel excludes any possible continuity or appropriation. Things went differently. Even if the aphorism acutely foresaw the actual fragmented reception of his thought, we cannot deny the achieved status of Simmel as a classic. Thanks mainly to Otthein Rammstedt’s fundamental work of publication of Gesamtausgabe, Simmel assumed the role that probably – if this quite pessimistic aphorism corresponds to his deep conviction – he thought it was impossible to be achieved for his scientific and philosophical production. Last year the coming of the last volume (the 24th) was celebrated and decades of works have been completed successfully. Simmel’s works have now become officially ouvre and his presence monument (in Nietzsche’s sense). When I discussed with Rammstedt the future of Simmel Studies (SiStu) and the project of re-launching the journal “new series”, I could not keep this aphorism out of my mind. Generally speaking, all scholarly journals having “studies” in the title (Kant Studies, Max Weber Studies, etc.) conventionally have the goal of transmission of the author’s heritage, in order to ensure dissemination and continuity of thought. How to pursue an intellectual heritage of an author who said he would have none? How to avoid the opposite danger of the museum – Simmel as an innocuous member of the “Western canon” populated by “dead white men”? My opinion is that the problem of appropriation and continuation of a tradition can be posed for all authors in general but in the case of Simmel assumes a special relevance. Simmel academic anti-conformist attitude is well known in the secondary literature and it was not a secondary factor to his career’s difficulties. It is just worth remembering that he has been one of the first German professors to admit women to his classes during the Wilhelmine Period, acknowledging the importance of a distinguished “female culture”. Paradoxically Walter Benjamin said he saw in Simmel “a precursor of cultural bolshevism” – the term used in the Nazi jargon to stigmatize the cultural and artistic Avant guard movements. If Simmel was without doubt a canon breaker and a cultural innovator, it would be contradictory to conceive SiStu as a journal exclusively dedicated to the custody of the monumental tradition of his work. It is time now to take seriously Simmel’s words and start spending the enormous “cash legacy” he left to us, going with Simmel beyond Simmel. It can be more faithful to Simmel’s spirit the project of building a third space between the mere preservation of an heritage and the nihilistic dispersion of a cultural tradition. How to translate this project in the concrete practice of a scholarly journal? There are several innovations that we are introducing in order ...