What did Georg Simmel seek to demonstrate through his “formal” sociology?

1595 words 7 pages
What did Georg Simmel seek to demonstrate through his “formal” sociology?

Georg Simmel (1858 - 1918) was living in Berlin at a time when Sociology was beginning to form as a science, most notably with the work of Comte setting up the positivist methodology of studying society. In the intellectual world he was an outsider and struggled, becoming a full professor without a chair only in 1901.

Through formal sociology Simmel was proposing an alternative way of thinking to his contemporaries. I found Simmel’s writing very paradoxical. He purposes a more qualitative method of investigation rather then the quantitative method of positivists. Simmel together with Max Weber formed the anti-positivist a movement that opposed positivism.
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It is evident that Simmel was greatly influenced by Kant, with his use of dialectical thinking and the idea of multiplicity and abstraction. Simmel uses theses ideas in an attempt to move away from the rigid and linear construction of history throughout “accumulations of experimental knowledge” (L. H. Morgan, 1877), where history is divided into stages of development (upper, middle and lower status) containing everything from “the growth of religious ideas” (L.H. Morgan, 1887) to the formation of language. With the use of dialectical thinking he concludes that the ridged construct of society does in fact exist and not exist. He concludes this because of Kants answer to the “fundamental question”, “how is nature possible?”, it is possible due to it only being a representation of nature. Therefore because reality or society is a representation of itself, it is constructed by us therefore exist but “It is characteristic of the human mind to be capable of erecting solid structures, while their foundations are still insecure”. To prove that the ridged structure does not exist he shows how no fact is concrete, using “methodical relationism”, because as soon as you start it is impossible to have total clarity therefore to pretend definitiveness is ludicrous (AF Bentley, 1926). “Scientific practice… cannot do without a certain measure of instinctive advances”.

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