constructed a gallery of social types to complement his inventory
of social forms. Along with "the stranger," he describes
in great phenomenological detail such diverse types as "the
mediator," "the poor," "the adventurer,"
"the man in the middle," and "the renegade."
Simmel conceives of each particular social type as being cast by
the specifiable reactions and expectations of others. The type becomes
what he is through his relations with others who assign him a particular
position and expect him to behave in specific ways. His characteristics
are seen as attributes of the social structure.
example, "the stranger," in Simmel's terminology, is not
just a wanderer "who comes today and goes tomorrow," having
no specific structural position. On the contrary, he is a "person
who comes today and stays tomorrow. . . . He is fixed within a particular
spatial group . . . but his position . . . is determined . . . by
the fact that he does no belong to it from the beginning,"
and that he may leave again. The stranger is "an element of
the group itself" while not being fully part of it. He therefore
is assigned a role that no other members of the group can play.
By virtue of his partial involvement in group affairs he can attain
an objectivity that other members cannot reach. "He is not
radically committed to the unique ingredients and peculiar tendencies
of the group, and therefore approaches them with the specific attitude
of 'objectivity.' " Moreover, being distant and near at the
same time, the stranger will often be called on as a confidant.
Confidences that must me withheld from more closely related persons
can be given to him just because with him they are not likely to
have consequences. In similar ways, the stranger may be a better
judge between conflicting parties than full members of the group
since he is not tied to either of the contenders. Not being "bound
by commitments which could prejudice his perception, understanding,
and evaluation of the given," he is the ideal intermediary
in the traffic of goods as well as in the traffic of emotions.
the poor as a social type emerge only when society recognizes poverty
as a special status and assigns specific persons requiring assistance
to that category. In Simmel's view,
fact that someone is poor does not mean that he belongs to the specific
social category of the 'poor' . . . . It is only from the moment
that [the poor] are assisted . . . that they become part of a group
characterized by poverty. This group does not remain united by interaction
among its members, but by the collective attitude which society
as a whole adopts toward it. . . . Poverty cannot be defined in
itself as a quantitative state, but only in terms of the social
reaction resulting from a specific situation. . . . Poverty is a
unique sociological phenomenon: a number of individuals who, out
of a purely individual fate, occupy a specific organic position
within the whole; but this position is not determined by this fate
and condition, but rather by the fact that others . . . attempt
to correct this condition.
Once the poor accept assistance, they are removed from the preconditions
of their previous status, they are declassified, and their private
trouble now becomes a public issue. The poor come to be viewed not
by what they do--the criteria ordinarily used in social categorization--but
by virtue of what is done to them. Society creates the social type
of the poor and assigns them a peculiar status that is marked only
by negative attributes, by what the status-holders do not have.
stranger and the poor, as well as Simmel's other types, are assigned
their position by virtue of specific interactive relations. They
are societal creations and must act out their assigned roles. They
resemble the character in one of Randall Jarrell's academic novels
who "had never been what intellectuals consider an intellectual
but other people had thought him one, and he had had to suffer the
consequences of their mistake."