Now Simmel’s distinctive type of sociology will be discussed. Unlike Durkheim who saw the study of society as a whole organism as sociology (2), Simmel believed sociology was understood by looking at the intricate and complex relations between individuals which he called ‘sociation’ (Pampel, 2000). It could be said that Simmel’s type of sociology is a form of microsociology. Simmel strongly criticised Marx for categorising individuals and society as two separate things, but he believed individuals made society and also society has an effect on individuals. Pampel (2000) argues because of Simmel’s thought process; this led him to, as explained before observing and studying group interactions as well as one to one interactions between people instead of creating a general law for society (Pampel, 2000). There are many similarities within contemporary theory such as symbolic interactionists and Simmel’s views, it would be argued that many of these theories interlink.
One fundamental aspect of Simmel’s work was his formal sociology . Formal Sociology looked at the ‘common patterns and routines of behaviour that select from and organize the diversity of social contents’ (Pampel, 2000,p.140). Furthermore from this, he believed if you were to observe individuals you would be able to see the routines they do subconsciously between one another or in a group setting. He believed in a group such as a dyad which consist of two people, in order for the relationship to last both people have to commit, if one were to leave or leave the relationship would end, unlike a larger group a dyad are more like to share personal experiences and talk about their emotions (Pampel, 2000, 6). This approach of formal sociology has been vastly used by symbolic interactionists such as Goffman to understand the social patterns that happen subconsciously. Unfortunately as like many other theorists before him, there are many criticisms that same along with Simmel’s work. The theorist Sorokin saw it ‘as a ‘purely scholastic and dead science, a..useless catalogue of "human relations"’ (Pampel, 2000,p.151). Nevertheless it should be remembered that Simmel observed interactions such as exchange or conflict which do exist in daily life. However one criticism is that Simmel ignores social class of the individuals observed and assumes their class does not play apart in how they interact with others. This criticism could be mentioned by Marx who believed social class has a major effect one a person’s life. Taking all this into account Simmel’s formal sociology is crucial when trying to understand relationship between people. On the other hand, these relationships and bonds are too complex that it could be argued Simmel’s formal sociology still would not be able to grasp the this complex concept.
When it comes to sociology the main question someone should question is what makes this sociologist different from the rest? Simmel not only looks at the routines individuals carry out subconsciously but also as discussed before he was one of the first to focus on individuals emotions and their interactions as well as their experiences and not looking at the society as a whole, this was shown in his ‘The Metropolis and Mental life’ (1903) where he explains people as having a ‘blasé attitude’ (Simmel, 1903, p.14)
. In contrast, Marx’s analysis of modernity discusses the laws of motion in capitalist society as the means and mode of production, whilst Weber observes modernity accelerating the modes of rationalisation and bureaucracies that occur in the modern western world. Both Marx and Weber discuss modernity in relation to structures. However Simmel suggests; modernity is the immediate discontinuous present and therefore never concrete undermining its ability to be analysed through structures. This is highlighted in his essay The Metropolis of Mental Life where he discusses how individuals retreat into an inner world due to an overload of the exterior senses as ‘cultural things’ are constantly changing. This generates individual emotions of a blasé attitude. Simmel’s understanding of modernity is significant showing how the totality of modernity needs to be understood through analysing the individual experience of society, which although individual acts, holds a subjective social pattern in the urbane such as the ‘blasé attitude’ (Frisby, 1992). Simmel was one of the first theorists to discuss the inner consequences of everyday cultural experiences. This idea was profound to the development of symbolic interactionism in the 20th century.