to all the other sociologists discussed so far, Simmel's interest
in current affairs and in social and political issues was minimal.
Occasionally he would comment in newspaper articles on questions
of the day--social medicine, the position of women, or criminal
insanity--but such topical concerns were clearly peripheral to him.
There is one major exception, however. With the outbreak of the
war Simmel threw himself into war propaganda with passionate intensity.
"I love Germany," he wrote then, "and therefore want
it to live--to hell with all 'objective' justification of this will
in terms of culture, ethics, history, or God knows what else."
Some of Simmel's wartime writings are rather painful to read, exuding
a kind of superpatriotism so alien to his previous detached stance.
They represent a desperate effort by a man who had always regarded
himself as a "stranger" in the land to become immersed
in the patriotic community. His young friend Ernst Bloch told him:
"You avoided decision throughout your life--Tertium datur--now
you find the absolute in the trenches." Throughout his career
Simmel had managed to preserve a distance that enabled him to view
events with cool rationality; in the last years of his life he succumbed
to the desire for nearness and communion. Perhaps it was a failure
was a most prolific writer. More than two hundred of his articles
appeared in a great variety of journals, newspapers, and magazines
during his lifetime, and several more were published posthumously.
He wrote fifteen major works in the fields of philosophy, ethics,
sociology, and cultural criticism, and another five or six less
significant works. After his dissertation, his first publication,
entitled On Social Differentiation (1890), was devoted to sociological
problems, but for a number of years thereafter he published mainly
in the field of ethics and the philosophy of history, returning
to sociology only at a later date. His two major early works, The
Problems of the Philosophy of History and the two volumes of the
Introduction to the Science of Ethics, were published in 1892-93;
these were followed in 1900 by his seminal work, The Philosophy
of Money, a book on the borderline between philosophy and sociology.
After several smaller volumes on religion, on Kant and Goethe, and
on Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, Simmel produced his major sociological
work, Sociology: Investigations on the Forms of Sociation, in 1908.
Much of its content had already been published previously in journal
articles. He then turned away from sociological questions for almost
a decade, but he returned to them in the small volume published
in 1917, Fundamental Questions of Sociology. His other books in
the last period of his life dealt with cultural criticism (Philosophische
Kultur, 1911), with literary and art criticism (Goethe, 1913, and
Rembrandt, 1916), and with the history of philosophy (Hauptprobleme
der Philosophie, 1910). His last publication, Lebensanschauung (1918),
set forth the vitalistic philosophy he had elaborated toward the
end of his life.
he was unable to develop a consistent sociological or philosophical
system, it is not altogether surprising that Simmel did not succeed
in creating a "school" or that he left few direct disciples.
With his accustomed lucidity and self-consciousness, he noted in
his diary shortly before his death: "I know that I shall die
without intellectual heirs, and that is as it should be. My legacy
will be, as it were, in cash, distributed to many heirs, each transforming
his part into use conformed to his nature: a use which will reveal
no longer its indebtedness to this heritage." This is indeed
what happened. Simmel's influence on the further development of
both philosophy and sociology, whether acknowledged or not, has
been diffuse yet pervasive, even during those periods when his fame
seemed to have been eclipsed. Robert K. Merton once called him "that
man of innumerable seminal ideas" and Ortega y Gasset compared
him to a kind of philosophical squirrel, jumping from one nut to
the other, scarcely bothering to nibble much at any of them, mainly
concerned with performing his splendid exercises as he leaped from
branch to branch, and rejoicing in the sheer gracefulness of his
acrobatic leaps. Simmel attracted generation after generation of
enthralled listeners, but hardly anyone who would call himself a
Americans who sat at his feet was Robert Park. No one who reads
Park's work can overlook Simmel's profound impact. Continentals
who derived major inspiration from his lectures include such dissimilar
figures as the Marxist philosophers Georg Lukacs and Ernst Bloch,
the existentialist philosopher-theologian Martin Buber, the philosopher-sociologist
Max Scheler, and the social historian Bernhard Groethuysen. German
sociologists Karl Mannheim, Alfred Vierkandt, Hans Freyer and Leopold
von Wiese also were influenced by Simmel's work. Theodor Adorno,
Max Horkheimer, and the other representatives of the Frankfort school
of neo-Marxist sociology owe his a great deal, especially in their
criticism of mass culture and mass society. Modern German philosophers
from Nicolai Hartmann to Martin Heidegger were also indebted to
him. It is not an exaggeration to state that hardly a German intellectual
from the 1890's to World War I and after managed to escape the powerful
thrusts of Simmel's rhetorical and dialectical skills.