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Georg Simmel’ Views on Individuals and Social Structures Essay


Summary

Georg Simmel argues that social bonds are transformed when groups expand and adopt modern ways of existence. He argues that individuation of personality and issues that attach it to its social circle shows interdependent development. This means that people’s differentiation plays important roles in developing societies and ensuring they expand to accommodate the needs and abilities of people.

This author claims that most societies are homogeneous and have tightly cohesive elements; however, the need for their members to satisfy their needs propel them to look for effective ways of ensuring they are not disadvantaged in their communities.

An increase in social differentiation occurs because of quantitative expansion necessitated by differences in inner predictions and external resources that force individuals to compete. He uses the example of the ancient Guilds that were ruled by the principle of equality. Competition and the need to dominate markets forced members of this group to ignore the strict spirit rule of equality as they looked for better ways of improving their trade activities.

Moreover, he argues that the relationship between personal and collective individuality leads to societal development because people are forced to stay above others in competitions. Homogenous societies become differentiated when members start to develop interests and place their needs above societal norms. He argues that the freedom of individuals is determined by the level of commitment to their societies. Those that narrow their commitments have less freedom over their lives than those that do not.

He uses Quakerism and how its members advocate for equality and uniformity to exist among them. This explains why members of this religious group play important roles in deciding the future of marriages and other personal issues. This author argues that the dualistic drives of human beings enable them to live as individuals and follow societal requirements. Groups become differentiated depending on how their members are individualized, and this determines the existence of future ties among them.

He adds that the individualization of members has different processes that enable them to understand their society. Lastly, he claims that freedom and individuality are inseparable even though they manifest themselves in different forms; therefore, an individual cannot claim to be independent of his family or society.

Harrison White claims that individuals are interconnected by various factors, and that is why he presents them as dots joined by long lines. He uses the structure of a net to illustrate that individuals are either part of a group or not and that they are connected to other factions. This means that a person may not be directly related to another through blood, marriage, or birth but works with them in social security, business activities, or communal development.

He explains that people have relationships with those they are not directly related to if they are connected with their friends or family members. This motivates them to seek to know those they are not directly related to because their connections matter even though they may seem distant. However, these indirect connections are not standardized, and this explains why this author uses nets to illustrate the connections and degree of closeness among people.

Social Structures and Identities

These structures include social, political, and economic groups that determine the behavior and place of people in society. These structures decide who people are because they define their social paths. For instance, an individual born in a poor Indian family or slave parents will find himself belonging to the lower caste. These structures define the social, economic, and political classes of individuals and determine their levels of interactions with other members of society.

Social structures are assigned different roles according to how societies view their importance in developing and nurturing their members. The family is considered to be the basic unit of socialization.

Families have different traditions, and this explains why people from the same society may not have similar perceptions about various issues in life. The importance of taboos and laws that govern human behavior determine their interactions and thus shapes their lives. For that reason, social structures give their members identities and shape the way they perceive and interact with others.

Theory Purpose

The theories presented by Georg Simmel and Harrison White help readers to define, understand, and describe individuals and social relations. These authors have described how human relations affect the behavior of individuals and their interactions with other members of society.

They have defined social structures, and their roles in developing differentiation in individuals, and this help audiences to understand the importance of different personalities in transforming society. Also, they present various aspects that are inalienable in society, including the freedom of individuals. This helps readers to understand how different relations affect people and control their activities to ensure there are no conflicts among them.

The central theoretical foundations of these arguments are based on explaining actions like human desires, societal expectations, and the need to develop individuals and how they determine the existence of relationships. These authors agree that people act in ways that will help them to achieve their goals and place others at disadvantaged positions when it comes to competitions.

They explain the functions of structures like families, religions, and politics in shaping the behavior of individuals. Also, they claim that the freedom of individuals is determined by how these structures dictate various activities in their lives. Therefore, people do not have absolute freedoms because the power to decide what to do is vested in these structures.

Moreover, they explain the meaning of collectivity in deciding various aspects of society. They claim that an individual’s interests supersede the regulations of social structures if they are advanced in collectivism.

This means that the legitimacy of social structures and regulations is determined by how the collective will of the society perceives their appropriateness. The level of analysis of these theoretical foundations explores individuals, groups, and societies in general by examining the contributions of each party to the development, sustainability, and promotion of relations.

The theory is concrete because it describes the relationship between different variables that shape human relations and personalities. For instance, they have presented how social structures (family, economy, religion, and politics) determine the size and effectiveness of human interactions. Also, it explains how social solidarity and individuals’ differentiation is established in society.

The testable illustration of this theory includes the differentiation in the Hindu’s caste system and how it affects its members. Also, the Quakers’ religious perception regarding equality and wealth enhances the credibility and application of this theory in examining human relations. Therefore, these authors have successfully used their theories to explain how personalities and human relations are affected by society and family.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 11). Georg Simmel' Views on Individuals and Social Structures. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/georg-simmel-views-on-individuals-and-social-structures/

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"Georg Simmel' Views on Individuals and Social Structures." IvyPanda, 11 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/georg-simmel-views-on-individuals-and-social-structures/.

1. IvyPanda. "Georg Simmel' Views on Individuals and Social Structures." May 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/georg-simmel-views-on-individuals-and-social-structures/.


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IvyPanda. "Georg Simmel' Views on Individuals and Social Structures." May 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/georg-simmel-views-on-individuals-and-social-structures/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Georg Simmel' Views on Individuals and Social Structures." May 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/georg-simmel-views-on-individuals-and-social-structures/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Georg Simmel' Views on Individuals and Social Structures'. 11 May.

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