Summary of Georg Simmel

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Simmel, G. ([1908] 2012) The Stranger in Calhoun et al. Classical Sociological Theory, Wiley/Blackwell, pp. 361-365

‘Objectivity does not simply involve passivity and detachment; it is a particular structure composed of distance and nearness, indifference and involvement.’

Simmel is referring to the implied objectivity of the stranger, due to their independence from the group. He uses the example of communities bringing in judges or mediators from outside to settle disputes. Simmel proposes a paradox of the stranger being unknown and foreign, but also, inclined to receive private confidences from group members that would not be given to other members of the group.

Is true objectivity possible or are relations between the stranger and the group tainted by prejudices the stranger carries from their previous group?

Simmel holds that a stranger entering a group is in the group but not of it. Which means they are of a different experience, a different group. Simmel says ‘the objective individual is bound by no commitments which could prejudice his perception, understanding and evaluation of the given’ (p.363). However, the stranger is inherently biased by his own experiences and past and so the perspective he offers to a setting in which he is strange is a product of those experiences. Therefore, I feel the stranger offers a different perspective rather than objectivity. Perhaps the mystique of the new, the unknown, encourages intimacy with group members who have a clean slate with the stranger.

Simmel, G. ([1908] 2012) The Dyad and the Triad in Calhoun et al. Classical Sociological Theory, Wiley/Blackwell, pp. 383-386 [nb begin 4.The Dyad. ..continue to the end of short section on intimacy]

Simmel is referring to the Dyad- ‘It contains the scheme, germ, and material of innumerable more complex forms.’

While isolation and freedom are undoubtedly social constructions, sociological interaction really takes its first significant form as interaction...
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