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Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel (March 1, 1858-September 28, 1918) was one of the first generation of German sociologists. Simmel was born in Berlin and lived there most of his life. After the early death of his father a guardian was appointed to him.

Simmel studied philosophy and history at the University of Berlin. In 1881 he received his doctorate for his thesis "The Nature of Matter According to Kant's Physical Monadology". He became a Privatdozent (unpaid lecturer) at the University of Berlin in 1885. His lectures were popular not only inside the university, but attracted the intellectual elite of Berlin.

Although his applications for vacant chairs at German universities were supported by Max Weber, Simmel remained an academic outsider. Only in 1901 he was entitled Außerordentlicher Professor (a title of honor, not of payment). At that time he was well-known throughout Europe and America and was seen as a man of great eminence.

Simmel nevertheless continued his intellectual and academic work, taking part at artistic circles as well as being a cofounder of the German Society for Sociology[?], together with Max Weber and Ferdinand Toennis[?]. This life at the meeting point of university and society, arts and philosophy was possible because Simmel had been the heir of a fortune by his appointed guardian.

He befriended many well-known men, e.g. Max Weber, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George[?] and Edmund Husserl.

In 1890 he married his wife, Gertrude. She published as a philosopher herself under the pseudonym of Marie-Luise Enckendorf[?]. Together they lived a sheltered and bourgoise life, becoming the home of many societable and intellectual gatherings.

Only in 1914 he received a professorship at the then german University of Strasbourg[?]. Because of the outbreak of World War I, all academic activties and lectures were stalled shortly thereafter. Lecture halls were converted to military hospitals. In 1915 he applied -- without success -- for a chair at the University of Heidelberg.

Shortly before the end of the war in 1918, he died from liver cancer[?].

The Work of Simmel

Simmel was known as an essayist as well as author of sociological and philosophical books. Some of his mayor monographic works include:

  • On Social Differentiation (1890)
  • The Problems of the Philosophy of History (1892-93)
  • Introduction to the Science of Ethics (1892-93)
  • The Philosophy of Money (1900)
  • Sociology: Investigations on the Forms of Sociation (1908)
  • Fundamental Questions of Sociology (1917)
  • Lebensanschauung (1918)

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