Georg Simmel and Avant-Garde Sociology

Leck, Ralph M.

These prophetic words, written shortly before Simmel's death in 1918, have held true to the present day. His immense cultural capital was distributed to many heirs, but after his death there remained little trace of where it came from. This work resuscitates Simmel's reputation among his contemporaries as "the philosopher of the avant-garde" by revealing the cultural origins of his sociological thought. Naturalism, socialism, and Nietzsche contributed to the formulation of a social theory that galvanized Simmel's reputation as the greatest social critic of Wilhelmine Germany. From the 1880s to 1914, Simmel was a philosopher at Berlin University. Within academic circles, he was most widely recognized as a founding father of the discipline of sociology. Indeed, his contributions to modern sociology were extensive. Far less well known today are Simmel's unparalleled contributions to the aesthetic and political counterculture. Ralph Leck examines Simmel's impact upon significant movements of the period: radical feminism, literary Expressionism, the homosexual rights movement, the antiwar activist movement, and Western Marxism. As a result of Leck's research, Simmel emerges for the first time as a key figure in the intellectual history of the European counterculture. Simmel's wide-ranging social theories-dealing with such themes as feminism, alienation, money culture, social hierarchy, and fashion-are still relevant to current debates about gender, sociological, cultural, and political theory.

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