Individual and Society in Catalonia by Georg Simmel | Literature

A few years ago, the publishing house Gedisa, which has a catalog of first-rate articles, launched a collection called Teoría Social, which published many books in the field of sociology, among them a few books by a sociologist who is less read today than yesterday – today everything is less read than yesterday -, Georg Simmel (1858-1918), a person who Albert Serra, the eccentric director (as it should be) of Banyoles, appreciated whenever he had the opportunity to publish the article in German on “Great Cities and the Life of the Spirit”, from 1903. In this text, Simmel reinforced the hypothesis that large cities are the places where the greatest stimulation of consciousness and senses is generated, in contrast to rural areas, where people live immersed in a hermetic world. Legends and ancestral customs: in the “Catalonian countryside” this happens more than anywhere else, but it also happens in the major Catalan capitals, due to the passion for folklore and “La Terra” of TV3, which never forgets to make us part of the snail celebrations and the competitive swallowing of the calço. One of the editors responsible for that collection we mentioned, Esteve Boch, will be remembered for the help he gave to the quasi-revolutionary initiative we are discussing.

The book that will come today, Fundamental issues of sociology (Barcelona, ​​Jeddesa, 2018), contains, if nothing else, two very important articles: “The Social Level and the Individual Level” and “The Individual and Society in the Conceptions of Life in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, dating from 1917. What Simmel shows – and which impressed the other great German sociologist of his time, Max Weber, whose Galaxia Gutenberg is an edition containing texts by him and his brother Alfred – is that each individual, in an organized society, struggles against two opposing tendencies: now he does everything he can to conform to the myths and customs of the “tribe” – this comes from Mallarmé, who hated it, like Horace –, while Adès strives to form himself as a unique subject in the midst of the common people, the public, and society.

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In this sense, Nietzsche is superior to any philosophical and social theory on the subject, because he wished, with a little common sense, that society would one day consist only of supermen and women, which is impossible if you want to build a society based on a good understanding of the universal character. Simmel, a pragmatist to the point that he was a sociologist – a science that has become more useful than philosophy for understanding the world – pointed out that the centripetal and conservative forces in every society make it extremely difficult for the individual to distinguish himself, to be central previously and since it could not be otherwise in its historical context, Gustave Le Bon’s article was already published, Crowd psychology Freud will not take long to publish the response. Group Psychology and Ego Analysis-, refers to the formation of masses as the greatest enemy of the development of individuals with “qualities,” as Robert Musil said: Men with “qualities” characteristics“Appropriate qualities”.

In this conflict between the desire for individuality and the forces of great social construction, Simmel called it “social tragedy”: “The fact that the new, the rare, and the individual is valued as the most selective… is its counterpart: that the characteristics and modes of behavior by which the individual forms the mass which he shares with others, appear as something of lower value. This is what we may call social tragedy.” What is more: it seemed to Simmel that the mass, or society, is always formed by emotions (and not only this), while the construction of individuality takes place mainly in the realm of intellectual thought: “For this reason, those who have always succeeded in influencing the mass by appealing to their feelings have rarely used theoretical discourse, however coherent… Countless cases show that the intensification of emotion—as if the number of those who feel mutual sensitive proximity were somehow multiplying the potential of feeling contributed by individuals—suffocates the intellectual level of the individual.

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In Catalonia, there have been a few recent years in which the pressure of the emotional factor exerted on the population has been clearly transformed into masses – perhaps the mass demonstrations, the pedestrian paths, the folding stakes, the uniforms, etc. – have raised the participants to a higher level. To the extent that they have benefited from an aesthetic work of great effort, but it has also been the reason why many people today believe that reason – and we did not write “intellectuals” – has nothing to do with the course of the world. General accuracy. For this reason, a tremendous effort must now be made to “re-educate,” with a good incentive through discussions broadcast on television, an effective promotion of reading in the educational world, the promotion of all forms of artistic expression—which is always necessary of an individual nature—and the absolute doubt about the effectiveness, or futility, which entails the fact of inciting and modifying the feelings of citizens (in itself, legitimate) for any reason.

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