Alle haben sie Simmel gelesen, und alle haben sie davon profitiert: Husserl und Max Weber, Cassirer und Heidegger, Benjamin und Kracauer, Adorno und Blumenberg. Mit unvergleichlicher Kraft, erinnerte sich Georg Lukács in Simmels Todesjahr 1918, habe er »alle philosophisch Veranlagten« der jüngeren Denkergeneration »in seinen Bann gezogen«.
Dieser Einschätzung und Berichten darüber, dass Simmels Berliner Vorlesungen geradezu gesellschaftliche Ereignisse waren, steht die Tatsache der nicht ungebrochenen und oft verdeckten Wirkungsgeschichte des Philosophen gegenüber, der zeitweise ganz vergessen schien. Dabei ist gerade Simmels Kulturphilosophie von unerwarteter Aktualität.
Die Zeitschrift für Kulturphilosophie unternimmt es im jüngsten Band – dem ersten Doppelheft seit ihrer Neugründung –, den Spuren Georg Simmels und seiner Bedeutung (nicht nur) für die Philosophie der Kultur nachzugehen. Kultur ist für Simmel ein Schlüsselbegriff, der, anders als etwa der objektive Geist bei Hegel, nichts Substantielles mehr hat. Kultur ist nichts außerhalb von Interaktionen, sondern von sozialen Beziehungen repräsentierte Form des Zusammenlebens. In ihren beiden Momenten, Geschichte und Gesellschaft, fasst Simmel unter dem Einfluss Bergsons Kultur nicht mehr traditionell als substantielle Ganzheit, sondern als Erkenntnisgegenstand einer Soziologie, die das Zusammenleben von Menschen unter hochentwickelten technischen und ökonomischen Bedingungen mit offenem historischen Ausgang erforscht.
Simmels lebensphilosophisches Vokabular, sein tastender Gestus und die Weigerung, das philosophische Denken auf Begriffsschablonen festzulegen, haben seinen Erfolg und die öffentliche Wahrnehmung nicht eben beflügelt. Wie viel neben der Kritischen Theorie auch die Weimarer Kulturphilosophie den Vorzeichnungen Simmels verdankt, wird in diesem Band (mit Beiträgen u.a. von Günter Figal, Birgit Recki, Margaret Gilbert, Ferdinand Fellmann, Gérard Raulet, Hubertus Busche, Ernst Wolfgang Orth und Hannes Böhringer) herausgearbeitet.
Günter Figal: »Things to Touch. Phenomenological Considerations Following Georg Simmel«
Starting from the observation that there are two different kinds of experiencing a thing – grasping and using it or keeping distance and contemplating it – this essay inquires into the enablement of this difference in experience. Referring to Georg Simmel's essay »Der Henkel« the special character of the handle of a vessel is examined in order to clarify the nature of the difference between things to grasp and things to contemplate. The argument is that this difference in experiencing a thing is enabled by the spatiality of things and references to them. Therefore the example of the handles of a Japanese Iga-vase is taken to demonstrate how the particular spatiality of a thing determines the reference to it. Thus the difference in the ways of experiencing a thing results from a difference in the experience of space.
Clemens Albrecht : »›It's Rembrandt, not the Art of some Random Bunglar‹
Georg Simmel as a Philosopher of Representative Culture«
It seems misleading to regard Georg Simmel as one of the founders of modern cultural studies. Instead, it is argued that Simmel's cultural sociology remained oriented to 19th century’s culture. In this sense the article reconstructs his theory of individual and collective cultivation as standing in contrast to currently dominating cultural concepts based on egalitarianism.
Birgit Recki: »No tragedy … Simmel's Controversial Theory of Culture«
In his essay »Der Begriff und die Tragödie der Kultur« (1912/13) [»The concept and the tragedy of culture«] Georg Simmel has argued (and for many critical contemporaries convincingly so) that modern culture in the overwhelming acceleration of its productivity had risen into a sphere no longer disposable to human actors: What he in an Hegelian approach calls »objective culture«, signifying the sphere of human artefacts, in a kind-of self-sufficient and autonomous development moves out of reach for their former producers, thus no longer serving as fruitful elements of their »subjective culture«. Ernst Cassirer in one of his essays from 1942 (»Zur Logik der Kulturwissenschaften«) strictly denies the thereby supposed »tragedy of culture« by arguing that Simmel in a hidden mysticism makes claim for imparted unity of Human Being and World, which – Cassirer holds – would be completely illusionary. In his arguing Cassirer insists on an essential intuition concerning all human culture: the transformation of meaning always is an open process requiring active communication and work, unpredictable from the perspective of any »objective« measure; he thereby reminds of the never ending work-in-progress, as which culture is to be taken. – The »virtual debate« between Simmel and Cassirer is ultimately about the indirect evaluation which has to be part of any philosophy of culture, providing human actors with a – preferably positive – prejudice for confidently leading their lives in what is necessary to be regarded as their culture.
Michael Großheim: »Creative Destruction. On a German Intellectual Topos during the ›Culture War‹«
Georg Simmel is among the intellectuals taking part in the German side of the »Culture War«, parallel to the war 1914–1918. This article discusses three different meanings of »Culture War«: 1. »Culture War« as war about culture, 2. »Culture War« as war by means of culture, 3. »Culture War« as aggravated proceeding of criticism of culture. Among the motives of the »Culture War« is the reproach of »barbarism« made by Henri Bergson against the German side originating from a public debate after the destruction of the Cathedral of Reims. In the reactions of German intellectuals (alongside Georg Simmel were Alfred Döblin, Friedrich Gundolf, Max Scheler and Georg Misch) a reinterpretation of the concept of culture is apparent, inspired by philosophy of life and leading to a peculiar »ethic of the creative power of culture«. Simmel’s examination of the generic case of the Cathedral of Reims conclusively serves as prototype of a criticism of this approach: German intellectuals confuse metaphors stemming from the sphere of nature with those of culture without reflection, thus obliterating essential differences between those spheres.
Ferdinand Fellmann: »The End of Culture. How Georg Simmel's Sociology Deconstructs the Concept of Culture«
In this paper I claim that the metaphysical concept of culture has come to an end. Among the European authors Georg Simmel is the foremost who has deconstructed the myth of culture as a substantial totality beyond relations or prior to them. Two tenets of research have prepared the end of all-inclusive culture: First, Simmel’s formal access that considers society as the modality of interactions and relations between individuals, thus overcoming the social evolutionism of Auguste Comte; second, his critical exegesis of idealistic philosophy of history, thus leaving behind the Hegelian tradition. Although Simmel adheres in some statements to the out-dated idea of morphological unity, his sociological and epistemological thinking paved the way for the concept of social identity as a network of series connected loosely by contiguity. This type of connection is confirmed by the present feeling of life as individual self-invention according to changing situations.
Gérard Raulet: »Expressions and Pathologies of the Social«
What is the nature of the relation between self presentation and political representation? Drawing on Simmel and Plessner this article tries to define the constitutive function of the role and the danger of self-expression as well as of a total transparency. Both of them are inhabited by a pathological excess of representation which undermines what it pretends to aim at: democracy.
Uwe C. Steiner: »From the Objects to the Objectivity of the Social
Simmel's Sociology of Perception and Acoustic Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction«
Simmel’s Sociology explores elementary processes of socialization or collectivization. Thus, the sociology of the senses examines how sight, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting contributes to constituting societies. Though Simmel observes that modern refined civilization diminishes the depths of the senses but increases its emphasis or enhancement with lust or aversion, the conclusion cannot be avoided that the artifacts and technologies of hearing have to be examined. Accordingly, this article can be regarded as a case study in the wake of Simmel: How do modern aural technologies at the threshold between high fidelity and postfidelity inform contemporary hearing?
Margaret Gilbert: »Plural Subjects. A Simmelian View of Social Groups«
This paper discusses certain desiderata for an acceptable »Simmelian« account of social groups, and explains why my own account of social groups as plural subjects is preferable to the accounts considered (Weber, Tönnies, Mises). With regard to the »we«-intentionality of plural subjects, this theory of social groups should be taken to demand only that some rough general type of shared action or shared cognition must be understood to be in question of all sides. It is hoped, then, that this theory of plural subjects in general may turn out to be of help in demystifying older accounts of collectivity.
Annika Schlitte: »Simmel's Philosophy of Money and its Repercussions«
The paper aims at highlighting the importance of Simmel’s Philosophy of Money for his philosophical approach. First, the text discusses how money is not only explicitly under-stood as a cultural phenomenon but even serves as the prototype of cultural symbols. Second, the paper examins how Simmel develops a »symbolic« method from his analysis of money, which he uses for a new understanding of philosophy as philosophy of culture.
Timo Klattenhoff: »›Understanding the World in Terms of Money‹?: Simmel and Cassirer on Substance and Function«
Among many things, Simmel in his Philosophy of Money works out a cultural perspective on money. In reference to socio-historical examples, Simmel differentiates between the »Substanzwert« of those objects, which serve monetary purposes: Whereas the former quality stands for the equalization of material attributes and value, the later describes money's capability for universal exchange. With Ernst Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, we can argue that this a »revolution of the way of thinking«: Drawing a parallel between Simmel's »Substanz-« and »Funktionswert« and Cassirers »Ausdrucks-« und »Darstellungsfunktion« does not only point out characteristics of each thinkers cultural philosophy. It also shows how an argument for a monetary understanding of the world money as a symbolic form can be developed.
Raimund Dietz: »Economic Theory as Cultural Science: Economic Fundamentalism vs. Simmelian Relativism«
It seems evident that only »civil« culture is able to release the promethean powers of mankind. This process, going on for 200 years, is closely related to money as a socio-cultural device. Simmel is the first theoretician who revealed the indissoluble relationship between money and modern culture. In contrast, economics abstracts from culture in order to comply with the norms of »natural« sciences, therefore failing to integrate the essential category of economics – money – in its theory. Simmel's approach could be a rescue device to economic sciences caught up in their naturalistic web.
Christian Emden: »The Normativity of Capital. On the Political Topicality of Simmel's Philosophy of Money«
This paper argues that Georg Simmel's Philosophy of Money is best understood as a political theory that focuses on the normativity of finance capitalism and the latter's effects on modern societies. Simmel shares some common ground with recent critiques of capitalism, such as the work of Thomas Piketty and Joseph Vogl, but he also presents a more comprehensive philosophical framework for understanding the dynamics of capitalism and financialization.
Barbara Schmelzer-Ziringer: »The Grand Couturier flirts with Art. Simmel's Critique of Fashion in Context«
Georg Simmel is regarded as a co-founder of fashion theory. In his treatises of vestmental culture of the fin de siècle developed in his main work on the philosophy of money, he emphasizes imitation as a social force of changes in fashion. The then active makers of clothes and couturiers such as Charles Frederick Worth were not given any attention, Simmel instead developed his basic theorems of art referring to the work of painters and sculptors including Rembrandt and Auguste Rodin. The current debate on the convergence of art and fashion proposes to connect Simmel's philosophical analyses of culture with what were, for him, separate phenomena.
Hubertus Busche: »Simmel's Philosophy of Fashion – obsolete or latest style?«
The following reconstruction and critical evaluation of Georg Simmel's »Philosophy of Fashion« intends to show that until today this theory offers one of the clearest and most fruitful explanations of the modern periodical change of fashion. The close meshed knitted web of psychological, social, historical und economic factors of explanation used by Simmel allows – regardless of some lacking elements – a very instructive answer to the question, as to why fashion forms such a popular cosmos, and can easily be related to contemporary debates on fashion.
Matthieu Amat: »Cultural Philosophy as Cosmology in Georg Simmel«
The quasi-interchangeability of the words »culture« and »world« (or »worldview«, »spiritual world«, etc.) in German philosophy of culture at the beginning of the 20th century has frequently been stressed. Can we infer from that the idea that this philosophy of culture could be described as a type of cosmology? This article argues for such an interpretation, reflecting on Georg Simmel's work, particularly his little known concept of »ideal world«. Following this path, Simmel’s relation to Kant and the Southwest School of Neo-Kantianism is analyzed.