43rd Newsletter of the Georg Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies (Berlin)

Georg Simmel and Current Urban Research: Georg Simmel was the initiator of socio-cultural urban studies with his essays on The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903). He is one of the founding fathers of urban sociology and an academic “godfather” of the Chicago School. In November 2008 the Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies held a conference on the relevance of Simmel’s work in contemporary research. As a result of this conference a book on “Georg Simmel und die aktuelle Stadtforschung” (Georg Simmel and contemporary urban research), has now been published by VS-Verlag (http://www.vs-verlag.de/Buch/978-3-531-17034-3/Georg-Simmel-und-die-aktuelle-Stadtforschung.html)

Simmel was a great thinker and his manifold influence upon modern urban research is commensurate with the versatility of his work. (1) Simmel’s understanding of the increased productivity attainable in big cities is today still a central theme of urban research e.g. in political discussion on the creative economy. According to Simmel, increased productivity in cities is due partly to division of labor in modern business and society, and further to the great variety of social and commercial interaction. (2) His work has remained relevant concerning such aspects as the constitution of city society (“city and individuality”, “the stranger”). Much present discussion centers on governance. Simmel’s view is that division of labor and diversity of interaction allow for new opportunities, individual and social change. This not only determines cooperation in urban society but also enables a high degree of anonymity and freedom, typical in big cities. (3) Considerable potential for future research ensues when we project Simmel’s essays on architecture back to his major work “The Philosophy of Money” (1900) or “Sociology” (1908). This is particularly true for a view of architectural sociology which understands urban space as a social reality, as in the current debate on cultural heritage. In this manner we acquire a most modern theoretical perspective regarding architecture.

The GSZ-Book “Georg Simmel und die aktuelle Stadtforschung” combines contributions from Hartmut Häußermann, Rolf Lindner, Harald A. Mieg, Majken Bienoik, Walter Siebel, Florian Koch, Astrid O. Sundsboe, Jörg Blasius, Hans-Peter Müller, Y. Michal Bodemann, Wolf-Dietrich Bukow, Heike Delitz, Konstanze Noack und Heike Oevermann. We would like to take this opportunity to refer you once again to the extensive internet-archive of Simmel’s work at the University of Zurich (http://socio.ch/sim).