On the centenary of Georg Simmel’s death (1918-2018), the Department of Sociology and the ARC Centre at the Catholic University of Milan, in collaboration with AIS (Italian Sociological Association), will hold a conference celebrating one of the greatest founding fathers of sociology and social philosophy. The conference will present and debate some of the most important lines of inquiry into the heritage of Georg Simmel’s work.
Four ‘Simmelian lectures’ will introduce the sessions of the conference: they will show that Simmel’s importance is the result of an original interweaving between the analysis of the anthropological dimension of social phenomena and analysis of socio-historical processes. This interweaving runs through all his writings as a linking thread – from his first writings on morality in relation to social life, through analyses of the emerging social differentiation and studies of the spirit and the implications of the modern era, to his philosophy of life.
As a thinker on the border between sociology and philosophy, Simmel safeguarded both the different specific characters of the two disciplines and the richness of the dialogue between them. He was thus able to hold together processes and contents of the experience with what is never fully objectivised in any event of human existence. This position aroused a still ongoing debate between the supporters of an exclusively sociologist Simmel and the supporters of a prevalently philosophical Simmel, while in between are those who have maintained that he should be marginalised from both disciplinary areas. In this regard, the conference will argue for a position distant from all kinds of unilaterality, which may appear great but amount to an illegitimate simplification of Simmel’s thought and of reality.
Simmel renounced univocal schemas and concentrated on the irreducibility of life and its many manifestations, focusing on different aspects of human experience within both the historical macro-processes and the micro-fragments of social interaction. His analysis was traversed by a constant endeavour to understand the dynamics of relationships between the individual and society beyond all reductionism: the questions linked to the meaning of experience emerged as a fundamental concern for his sociological investigation. These questions guided his intellectual work and are at the heart of his importance today.