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[Xmca-l] Re: Further reflections on hope as the not yet formed

Larry---- a delayed thank you for the comments on Simmel. A very accessible
and thoughtful account of his work, *Cultivating Minds: Identity as meaning
making practice,*
might interest XMCAers because of its emphasis the centrality of culture in
human nature formulated in a way that is comfortable ground for
developmentally oriented scholars.

The chapter on "Behavior settings as media for children's development"  is
particularly close to the interests of those xmca-ers for whom
intervention/design research is important.


On Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 4:56 PM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

>  This is an extended commentary introducing a few key concepts of Simmel's
> approach to being human,
> I thought I would post this reflection on Simmel as a dialectical thinker
> and a hopeful thinker.
>  It may be of interest to a few on this site to add to understanding of
> "salon culture" in the Germanic cities at the beginning of the 20th
> century.
> There is a re-emerging interest by Simmel scholars who are
> re-searching  the centrality of the theme of dialectic within Simmel's
> scholarly explorations. This is the subject of a new book, titled: "Form
> and Dialectic in Simmel's Sociology. A New Interpretation" [2013].  The
> authors are Henry Schermer and David Jury.
> They make a case that what Simmel offers is a mode of analysis located
> within the dialectical tradition within German social thought, a tradition
> with roots extending from Heraclitus and Paramedes through Kant, Hegel, and
> Marx. This dialectical thread has been hidden in Anglo-American reception
> and rendering a Simmel cleansed of what was seen as the contamination of
> the dialectic within his work. The aim of this book is to convey what the
> authors see as the core of Simmel's method and the potential of its further
> expansion.
> The core concept is "Wechselwirkung" [reciprocal effect] and the dialectic.
> This has a similar sense to Zinchenko's concept of "oscillation".
>  Wechselwirkung or recirocal effect is ever present in Simmel's approach
> and the movement at the core of his "relational" and "dialectical theory.
> Wechselwirkung AS "social interaction" is his central concept of
> interaction.
> This overarching conception is a Spinozian emphasis on "interrelations" and
> on "process" rather than discrete "things". This notion of dialectical
> "truth" as neither absolute nor relative.  Both separations AND
> unifications are significant aspects of his conceptual truth of the world
> as mediated by a plurality of concepts. All such relational assumptions
> include an open-endedness of human "possibilities".
> Simmel does make a connection between the biological and sociological
> realms as dialectically related between nature and human social existence.
> This is Simmel's first great dualism, within which the second great dualism
> [between subject and object within modernity]
> Henry Schermer and David Jury elaborate what they see as Simmel's abstract
> conceptual model and method.  In outline they make these key formulations
> of Simmel's work:
> 1] Simmel proceeds dialectically with two sets of concepts: i] a limited
> number of GENERAL polarities or dualities. ii ] identification of a
> potentially unlimited number of social and cultural 'forms' derived from
> application of these general polarities.
> 2] The former general categories are seen as a hierarchy from most general
> to least general dualities, including modalities and categories - such as
> space and time - drawn from Kant and Hegel and others. Simmel draws a well
> known distinction between "form" and "contents". These forms reveal the
> fundamental patterns, and causes, and implications, of phenomena and by
> presenting examples of these forms he elaborates his method.
> 3] the  polarities consist of pairs of "contradictory" concepts that
> operate dialectically, with outcomes in cultural and social forms as
> syntheses. For Simmel, recurring "social forms" such as "conflict" and
> "co-operation" or "superordination" and "subordination" are patterns of
> interaction analyzable as the dialectical outcome and synthesis, [the
> reciprocal effects] of the combination of numerous polarities, dualities,
> or "continua" [these related terms reflect  variations in emphasis,
> according to context, of rejection of previous dichotomous categories of
> thought.
> 4] This relational epistemology emphasizing interrelationships introduces a
> related dialectical operation of dualities such as the tension between on
> the one hand "human fulfillment and creativity" and on the other hand a
> potentially oppressive "objective culture"-  which leads to human
> "estrangement" and "alienation" - which for Simmel is thoroughly
> dialectical implying an open-endedness of human capacities is present, but
> this has more of a "blues hope" than the Enlightenment concept of hope.
> For Simmel it is crucial we differentiate "dualism" from
> polarities/dualities. Dualism is dichotomies but polarities/dualities are
> "continua". Simmel opposes "fixed" categories. Simmel's approach can be
> summed up as involving "a unity of opposites". For Simmel there is no
> endpoint or a final synthesis. Fusions of polarities are identified in
> myriad social forms, without a fixed or final synthesis. Simmel, though
> sometimes linked with Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bergson,  his viewpoint
> goes beyond these comparisons.
> "Reciprocity" the core concept for Simmel implies that nothing has a fixed
> meaning and that meaning arises only through interaction.  The
> subjective-objective duality [not pre-determined sides as in dualism]
> Simmel sees as inherent in all social forms.  Simmel sees the properties of
> form and the meanings of things AS a function of the relative distances -
> and the routes taken - between things.  Life as the play of the dualities
> of [distance and proximity] [separation and connection] [boundary and
> separation] as hungers of the life force drives Simmel's analysis. Simmel
> uses metaphor as a basic GENERAL TOOL in his analysis of forms. For
> example the "bridge" correlates "separateness and unity"  The "door" in a
> decisive manner reciprocally imagines "opening and closing" representing
> the boundary between spaces. The doors "closure" provides a stronger
> feeling of isolation against everything outside the space than does the
> unstructured wall.
> Hmanity can both imagine everything connected and everything separate
> within reciprocal oscillation.Most often one side is imagined as "natural"
> and the other side as "humanly constructed".
> For Simmel, humans are BOTH "connecting" AND "bordering" creatures. This
> notion of human beings suggests Simmel's general method which can guide all
> our activity.
> The criticism of Simmel's work is that it was "impressionistic" and not
> systematized but these may be caricatures of his work.
> Lukac's belittledSimmel's work as "impressionistic". Frisby, taking his cue
> from Walter Benjamin calling Baudelaire as a "flaneur"  [merely a roving
> sketcher of city life as he wandered the streets] called Simmel a flaneur.
> Randall Collins called Simmel a "salon entertainer"
> Theodor Adorno saw Simmel as "a bourgeois aesthete" alluding to Simmel's
> participation in artistic and literary salons in Berlin.
> What this actually shows is that Simmel was most focused on the "movement"
> of thought itself characterized by paradox, duality, dialectic, and
> relationism.  Simmel was always revising his concepts of form and content
> and offered no final word.
> Simmel's work presents a "unity" using the twin notions of
> 1] reciprocal effect
> 2] form and content
> Simmel is presenting a particular form of sociocultural order as a model of
> modernity centered around "differentiation" within reciprocal enactments.
> Simmel's work was not as systematic and disciplined and standardized to fit
> into the emerging academy with its closed boundaries. He was more than a
> sociologist. and cannot be "housed" or enclosed in that discipline. His
> context was the "salon culture" and he must be read within this context.
> [see Wittgenstein's Vienna for a picture into salon culture]
> His informality is deceptive.  and the new re-search on Simmel as a
> dialectical scholar shows how blind others are to the structure within his
> approach.
> Simmel's last book [1918] "The View of Life" develops further Simmel's
> notion of "life" as the vital force that moves us as an urge [a hunger] FOR
> LIFE and the reciprocal life as a sense of "deadness" when closed off from
> the vitality of life as open ended. This for Simmel is the realm of the "as
> if" [similar to Bloch's Philosophy of Hope].
> But that also is for another post.

It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
that creates history. Ernst Boesch.