Friday, 6 April 2018

SIMMEL ON MODERN CULTURE

The development of modern society also involves the progressive alienation of the individual from his culture. Due to the increasing division of labor in modern societies leads to an improved ability to create the various components of the cultural world. But at the same time, the highly specialized individual loses a sense of the total culture and loses the ability to control it. The massive expansion of objective culture has had a dramatic effect on the rhythm of life. For example, our means of communication are more efficient, meaning that slow and unpredictable communication has been replaced with readily available mail, telephone, and e-mail service. On the positive side, people have much more freedom because they are less restricted by the natural rhythm of life. On the negative side, problems arise because the growth of objective culture generates cultural malaise, cultural ambivalence and, ultimately, a tragedy of culture.
Due to the constant growing of the individual that has resulted from the continuous development of societal complexity and heterogeneity, Simmel highlight some of his works both scholarly and popular.
  i.      Simmel’s strong exemplar of high culture. He regarded modern condition of alienation as the result of the growth of money economy, the profession and specialization of cultural development. Each aspect of culture gains a momentum of its own, such that it develops a multiplicity of specialized elements that are increasingly unrelated to other aspects of culture as well as to the total unity of the personality. Individuals, therefore, and necessarily suffer – they suffer a kind a cultural alienation and the impoverishment of their personalities as creative, meaningful wholes.
ii.      The modern culture view on Industrialization and urbanization. Division of labour severes the creator from the creation so that the latter attains an autonomy of its own. By virtue of this gradual emergence of the reification or objectification of cultural products; which is necessarily accentuated by the division of labour, there is a concomitant increase in alienation between the person and the products he makes or shares in making. The producer can no longer find himself within his product; rather, owing to the distancing from his creative efforts brought about by the division of labour, he actually loses himself in the product itself. He encounters the bafflingly dialectical realization that while the cultural universe is objectively made by individuals in time and space, he nevertheless perceives it as a world he never made.
iii.      Simmel’s view of modern society. For the sake of self-preservation modern man tends to develop a defensive reserve around his personality which protects him from the overwhelming social forces that threaten to engulf him. Individuals living in today’s mass society acquire the ‘blase attitude’ which involves antipathy, repulsion, unmerciful matter-of-factness and utmost particularization. This attitude precludes them from interacting with other men as full, emotional and concerned human beings. And precisely because in their everyday life men interact with one another in the most rational, matter-of-fact and impersonal way their psychic system is largely unaffected by the disruptive consequences of structural disintegration and de-institutionalization.
iv.       The psychological and social consequences of the development of money economy. He saw a close relationship between the existence of money economy, rationality and individualism. Money permits rational calculation and impersonal transaction; replaces personalities with impersonal relationship; it stimulates the growth of large and purposive groups; it reduces all relationships to the pecuniary principles of sheer exchange value, and transforms the whole world into an arithmetic problem.
As money becomes “the most frightful leveler”, man becomes a calculating machine devoid of all emotion, sentiments and symbolism. The human mind creates a variety of products that have an existence independent of both their creator and those who create them.
v.      The cultural objects. As man becomes freer by virtue of technological mechanization he becomes more entrapped by the necessary interdependency in society fostered by this technology. Human freedom creates cultural modes of existence which in turn capture their creator.
Cultural, social, industrial, and technological differentiation involves a shift from homogeneity to heterogeneity, from uniformity to individualization, from absorption in the predictable routine of a small traditional world to participation in a wider world of multifaceted involvements and open possibilities. Within the movement of modern history all of this happened in spite of the increasing domination of man by cultural products of his own creation. In modern society, an individual is a member of many rather specified groups of individuals and activities. No one of these groups can possibly involve and control the totality of his life and personality.
Thus Simmel was not only optimistic about human culture in the modern world as influenced by his adopted British and French philosophies of social progress he also, in his characteristically dialectical fashion, has drawn from the sober philosophies of cultural pessimism among the German intellectuals of the day as well as from Karl Marx himself. The enduring dualism between the individual and the objective cultural values which are so sought after threaten to engulf and to subjugate the individual. The division of labour, while it constitutes the origins of a differentiated cultural life, in its own way actually subjugates and enslaves the individual who is ‘cultivated’.

1 comment:

  1. This is excellent information which is shared by you. Culture teaches us about our families' ideals and gives us knowledge into the purpose of life. If you want to know more about importance of cultures in society, then visit our website.

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