Course:SOCI1110/Georg Simmel

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Personal Life

Georg Simmel was born on March,1 1858 in Berlin Germany. Georg Simmel came from a large family; he was one of seven children. Tragedy struck him when he was young with the passing of his father, from this death Georg Simmel inherited a decent sum. After the passing of his father guardianship fell to a family friend. Simmel kept a distance relationship with his mother in the years after his fathers passing. Simmel’s family had a spread of religious beliefs, Georg Simmel’s father was Jewish but converted to Christianity and Georg Simmel was Jewish and converted to Protestant. Georg Simmel spent most of his life in Berlin, he lived in Berlin until 1914 when he received a job at the University of Strasbourg. Simmel remained in Strasbourg until his death of liver cancer in 1918. During his life Simmel married Gertrud, together they had one child.

Georg Simmel

Academic career

Simmel achieved his doctorate in 1881 from the University of Berlin, his major area of study was philosophy. His lecturing career began in 1885 at the University of Berlin where he addressed mainly philosophy and ethics. While the beginning of his career was not economically promising, students and colleagues attended his lectures in great numbers. This popularity led to promotion at the University of Berlin 15 years after beginning his career as a lecturer. He continued to attempt to find a position as a full professor, but was unable to until 1914. At this time, he achieved a full professorship at the University Strasbourg where he remained until his death in 1918. Throughout his life Georg Simmel had many fields of interest, lecturing and writing on a vast number of topics. Simmmel had broad topics of study, this included sociology, philosophy, ethics, visual art, and music. While a majority of his academic carer was not directly focused on sociology, Georg Simmel’s work laid down the base that helped found the humanist branch of sociology. He also, together with Weber and Toennies, founded the German Society for Sociology.

Major Works

The following is a list of the major written works of Georg Simmel.

On Social Differentiation, 1890

On Social Differeniation was Simmel's first published work and was focused on sociology. The work examined social problems and observations.

The Problems of the Philosophy of History, 1892

Introduction to the Science of Ethics, 1893

The Philosophy of Money, 1900

Sociology: Investigations on the Forms of Sociation, 1908

Fundamental Questions of Sociology, 1908

Philosophische Kultur, 1911

Goethe, 1913

Some of Simmel's later work including "Goethe" are books that lean away from sociology and are primarily focused on visual art. These books were written later in his life and demonstrate his passion for many fields of study.

Rembrandt, 1916


Personal Experience and Inspiration

Georg Simmel’s interest in writing about money and social behaviour towards it may have been impacted by many factors in his life. One such factor is the large inheritance from his father. This inheritance allowed him a relatively easy life and allowed for his pursuits in academia. After completing his schooling, his position as a lecturer did not pay well. Around this time in his life, his new guardian passed away leaving him another large inheritance. These two vastly different economic standings in his social context may have been the reason for his interest in writing on society’s behaviours with money.

Another topic of great interest to Georg Simmel was his concept of “The Stranger” and social behaviour of small groups. The interest in The Stranger, may have been derived from his own personal experience. Georg Simmel may have viewed himself as an outsider, or stranger. A possible reason for this being that sociology was such a new field and discrimination against him for his Jewish ancestry. During his time sociology was a newly immerging field of study and because of this his involvement would make him one of a smaller group of academics. The social behaviour toward people of Jewish ancestry in Germany before World War One was less hostile, however they were not a fully integrated culture, they were a group of outsiders.

Through his life in Germany, Simmel lived through many conflicts in Europe. These conflicts, including World War One, would have made a great impact on his personal morals and understanding of the world. Simmel's major work did not directly focus on the war but it may have inspired and guided his work. The economic standing of the world after the World War One would have changed Simmel's beliefs about money and econmic standing. The vast switch in many countries economies would have guided his work on money as many new policies and ideas about economics were implemented.


A sample of some well known Georg Simmel quotes.

1) Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each to take form in the mind of the other, and this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship.

2) Every relationship between two individuals or two groups will be characterized by the ratio of secrecy that is involved in it.

3)The individual has become a mere cog in an enormous organization of things and powers which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of a purely objective life.

The source of the above quotes was retrieved from


1)Fernandez, R. (2003). Mappers of society : the lives and legacies of great sociologists. Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2003.

2) Georg Simmel Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

3)Geser, H. (n.d.). Georg Simmel: Biography. Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

4)Lewis, T. T. (2016). Georg Simmel. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia,

5)Mayntz, R. (n.d.). Simmel, Georg. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from

6)Ritzer, G. (2005). Encyclopedia of social theory. Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications, c2005.

7)Simmel, G., & Lawrence, P. A. (1976). Georg Simmel : sociologist and European. New York : Barnes & Noble Books, 1976.