This article explores the analytical relation between senses, space, and the stranger in Simmel’s relational thought. We can say that Simmel provides an analytical framework for thinking of how we create forms of socialization that take place from the senses. The senses mark areas of familiarity and strangeness among people and, the senses are a resource of meaning in the construction and exclusion of the stranger. Specifically, the article recovers Simmel's reflections regarding the relationship of estrangement that develops from the gaze, smell, and hearing, supplemented by recent empirical research in these fields and some examples related to Latin American cities.
The first aim of the paper is an interpretation of Georg Simmel’s sociology in “relational terms” – i.e., under the categories of the “relational sociology”; it focuses, thus, to show how Simmel’s social theory and philosophy of culture fit for the construction of a Lebensoziologie. Considering Simmel as a “relational sociologist” means to demonstrate how his contribution is decisive to the history of sociology, since he defines the “Wechselwirkung” (reciprocity, relational exchange) and its forms as the very matter of the social sciences. Simmel represents the “relational turn” in the wide sociological milieu. Since Simmel’s contribution, sociology attempted to consider and investigate social facts in terms of “relation” and reciprocity. The current sociological debate insists on considering Simmel as a “relational” sociologist in various declinations (coherent to Bourdieu’s social theory or to the social network analysis framework). In his late essays and books Simmel gives a “vitalist” accent to the analysis of social facts: the social is above all “social life”, according to the consolidated forms/contents dialectical model. Grundfragen der Soziologie. Individuum und Gesellschaft represents his last attempt to corroborate a sort of “sociology of life” (Lebenssoziologie). Even if this term does not explicitly appear in Simmel’s words, it summarizes his social and cultural theory - since the volume Soziologie - and offers some key-concepts for the successive sociological debate.
In this paper I discuss the significance of Simmel’s conception of death as presented in his capstone work Lebensanschauung (1918). I argue for Simmel death is the form of all cultural forms and that it has a transcendental, form-giving function for life in its concrete unfolding. I conclude with a brief examination of the thought of immortality and some suggestions about how Simmel’s conception of death has a bearing on current issues such as the increment of life-expectancy in developed countries.
Georg Simmel’s writings on religion have too often been overlooked, notwithstanding his undisputed status as one of the founders of sociology. Simmel’s metaphysical inclination may give the impression that his thoughts on religion are closer to theology than sociology. This article proposes an interpretation of Simmel’s notion of religiosity (Die Religiosität) in conjunction with the notion of self-transcendence, part of the philosophy of life (Lebensphilosophie) he espoused towards the end of his life. The article does not pursue a filologically accurate position, but a development drawing on Simmel’s notions. Accordingly, it is proposed to interpret religiosity as a sensitivity to self-transcendence, the awareness of social conditioning, or “facticity”, and the striving towards going beyond it. The tension between facticity and self-transcendence reflects – what Simmel called – the ‘conflict of culture’, the ‘malaise’ of the fragmentation of the self resulting from the social differentiation of modern society. Religiosity, as a sensitivity to self-transcendence, is expressed in the pursuit of authenticity thus countering the conflict of culture. This interpretation allows us to see religion as a path, albeit not the only one, to authenticity, understood as challenging facticity, which echoes in later existentialist philosophy and contemporary empirical studies.