Simmel's ideas were very influential onthe Marxist scholar Georg Lukacs (1885-1971) and Simmel's writingson the city and on money are now being used by contemporary sociologists.
Of the six essays dealing directly with modernity, two set the general scene, one by locating Simmel's treatment of modernity alongside that of Toennies and Weber, the other by providing a general summary of Simmel's overall theory of modernity, doing so in terms previously presented in Frisby's earlier work (1986). Of the four further essays in the book's second section, two deal with familiar topics in Simmel's work - `the Philosophy of Money' and the `Metropolis' - and two with topics which are perhaps rather less familiar - leisure, and the aesthetics of modern life.
A further crucial dimension to Simmel's work which again chimes well with currently fashionable sociological concerns is that it is sociation which defines `space'. It is the development of the mature economy which enables an increasing emancipation from space, and it is the metropolis which provides `social space' for the development of individual independence, though also often leading to anonymity.
Simmel's writings on leisure grow directly from his general concerns with modernity and demonstrate why leisure is central not marginal in modern societies. Fashion, for example, is seen as above all a phenomenon of the metropolis, a reaction against social levelling as well as anonymity, which can give us such a strong sense of the present but can also underline the fleeting and changeable character of modern social life. More generally, modern leisure is seen as particularly associated with the move from non-commodified relations to commodification and consumption. The `thirst for new leisure forms' that so much typifies modern society is plainly a phenomenon that combines the influence of the metropolis and the money economy. While such processes sometimes enrich the individual, equally, they can also lead to passivity and to mechanical, alienated forms of leisure such as the slot machine. The argument is advanced, with complete plausibility, by Frisby, that Simmel was the first major sociologist to offer a satisfactory analysis of leisure, demonstrating especially that leisure must be analysed as an activity `framed' in contrast with workaday life. Such a focus, including an emphasis on an escape from the mundane, is uppermost, for example, in Simmel's accounts of `sociability'. The `adventure' (including amorous adventures), comprises travel, exhibitions and places of' entertainment, as well as fashion. Frisby suggests that the incessant capacity of the world of commodities to ideologically incorporate leisure forms would be no surprise to Simmel.
According to Frisby, it is a virtue of Simmel's particular analysis of money that it centres especially on its non-economic as well as economic implications. It is an analysis that arises from a critical engagement with but not a replacement of historical materialism. For Simmel the metropolis and the mature money economy constitute the two main intersecting sites of modernity. The metropolis is "the point of of modernity", while the mature money economy (which also has its focal point in the metropolis) is responsible for "the diffusion of modernity throughout society" (p. 69). The outcome of these twin influences - and a central feature of Simmel's focus on modernity often anticipating elements of the later perspectives of Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse - is a tendency for the objective and subjective to be prised apart, a fragmentation of individual experience (a "chaos of impressions and interactions") and retreat from objective culture as well as a tendency for the "culture of human beings" to become "the culture of things". Simmel's analysis involves rather less cultural pessimism than the critical theorists, but such pessimism clearly remains as a strong element in his work.
Intellectuality is thus seento preserve subjective life against the overwhelming power ofmetropolitan life, and intellectuality branches out in many directionsand is integrated with numerous discrete phenomena.
Simmel's treatment of the aesthetic dimension of modern life is perhaps furthest removed from previously conventional sociological analysis. Once again, however, the relevance of his discussion in these terms has increased in recent decades, given the aesthetic dimension is now becoming prominent in contemporary sociological discussions of the `post-modern' experience. In this and in other ways, Frisby's contention that "Simmel opened up specific areas of sociological analysis . . . that are only now being fully developed" (p.79) is thoroughly vindicated by this volume.
Thus the metropolitan type of man -- which, of course, existsin a thousand individual variants -- develops an organ protectinghim against the threatening currents and discrepancies of hisexternal environment which would uproot him.
At the same time Simmelnotes that for the individual this creates the "difficultyof asserting his own personality within the dimensions of metropolitanlife." (Farganis, p.
As Frisby sees it, the central elements in Simmel's analysis of modernity compared with Toennies and Weber (or Marx and Durkheim) are a greater emphasis on modernity's transitory elements, on sources of flux as against linear development, and a far greater emphasis on microprocesses, the subjective, individual experiences, the emotions and the `life world', and aesthetic judgements. For Frisby, a special strength of Simmel's analysis of modernity is that "modes of experiencing the new" are central in his analysis.
137)Thus Simmel views objective culture as having an effecton the individual, but at the same time considers how this altersthe development of the individual, how the individual understandsthis and develops in this context, how the individual interactswith other individuals, and how these interactions form the sociallife of the city.
David Frisby's view is that "our traditional conception of Simmel has been that of a formal sociologist who made a surprising number of contributions to a disparate range of themes in sociology" (p. 78). The argument of this stimulating volume by one of Britain's foremost commentators on Simmel is that by taking fully into account Simmel's untranslated works these apparently unconnected themes can in fact be shown to be connected. The connecting link, according to Frisby, is Simmel's concern with modernity, thus casting Simmel's work in a substantially different light than hitherto. Furthermore, since Simmel was also centrally concerned with the , and regarded the flux and fragmentation of modern society as one of the master themes of modernity, his work also deals with many of the themes which recently have become part of the stock in trade of theories of post-modernity. Hence, in Frisby's view, Simmel's work is not only about modernity, it connects directly with our contemporary concerns.
Simmel was troubled by this relationship,viewing modern society as freeing the individual from historicaland traditional bonds and creating much greater individual freedom,but with individuals also experiencing a great sense of alienationwithin the culture of urban life.