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Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin - Essay Example

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Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin

Georg Simmel lived in Berlin the most part of his life, and this fact of his biography predetermined his views on modern urban life. In his best-known essay, The Metropolis and Mental Life Simmel “analyzes individual life in the context of modern, metropolitan life, contrasting the social forces and structures of urban life with those of traditional rural and small town settings”. In this work, Georg Simmel underlined that in conditions of the modern city and urban society an individual can successfully develop his skills and abilities, as the economic and political situation of modern and post-modern community promotes individual freedom and flexibility. But in the other hand in modern urban society an individual is under pressure of numerous factors and restrictions, as “the metropolis is a site or location for social life where the larger structures, forms of contact, and forces such as the money economy threaten ‘the autonomy and individuality’ of the individual”. So, the situation in modern urban cities leads to the new politics of vision, when an individual has to perceive everything from the point of view of modern urban experience. Simmel underlined that “the city conspires to erase difference by assaulting the individual with an overwhelming and never-ending stream of visual stimuli”. This vision is inherent to the spacing theory of scientific rationalism, modern and post-modern experience which fills the space with giant cubic forms suppressing the consciousness of people and their freedom. Simmel asserted that "the urban eye must see fast and understand at a glance while walking among the crowd" (Erickson, 2001). All these features form a certain type of people living in large cities in post-modern urban atmosphere. In Simmel's opinion, our society consists of individuals who interact with each other, and this interacting forms features and specificity of our society: "While there is no perception of society until individuals begin to interact, once formed by the interaction of individuals, the society affects the individuals as an outside force" (Crow Ch., et al., 2000). So, taking into account the modern development of such communication means as telephone, telegraph and the Internet one can say that our society has high level of interactions, and, according Georg Simmel, we have high level of social development. He also underlined that post-modern urban life destroyed differences, and people try to make differences inside themselves: "Precisely because conditions conspire to destroy difference, however, the individual feels herself driven to cultivate uniqueness and have it noticed" (Byram, 2002).

Walter Benjamin's position is reflected in his main works The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Arcades Project. Benjamin considered modern urban ...Show more

Summary

This paper demonstrates both authors’ positions on modern and post-modern urban experience and a new politics of vision, new understanding of modern city and mass media influence on human life. The philosophical and sociological views of Simmel and Benjamin differ from each other in some aspects…
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Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin essay example
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