Georg Simmel : interactionist before symbolic interactionism?

Smith, GWH ORCID: 2017, 'Georg Simmel : interactionist before symbolic interactionism?' , in: The Interactionist Imagination: Studying Meaning, Situation and Micro-Social Order , Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 41-70.

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Georg Simmel was the first great figure in sociology’s classical tradition to set out a distinctive conception of society not as a supra-individual structure but as a series of enabling and constraining interactions and associations among human beings. His novel insight was to direct his analytical gaze to the sociological significance of ordinary experiences and everyday interactions, highlighting features of their details that have since made him a significant forerunner of symbolic interactionism. Simmel brought an original approach to this sociologically unexamined field, addressing the ‘formal’ features of everyday practices that stood apart from the personal propensities, drives and inclinations of individual persons. The chapter traces the impact of Simmel’s thinking on the emergence of symbolic interactionism, principally through the sociology of the Chicago School. Simmel’s method and analytic attitude were adapted to the strongly empirical bent of the interactionist perspective. Extant commentary does not give sufficient attention to how Simmel presented a model of social being that underlined the importance of knowledge in social life in a way consistent with interactionism’s pragmatist roots. Simmel showed the importance of thinking imaginatively about the constituent elements of social life – he held out the prospect of “finding in each of life’s details the totality of its meaning” (Simmel 1978:55). The chapter explores how Simmel accomplished this aim and why he was of such importance to the development of interactionist sociology.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Jacobsen, MH
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 9781137581839
Related URLs:
Depositing User: GWH Smith
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2017 14:44
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 22:21

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