The Metropolis And Mental Life By Georg Simmel And German School Of Urban Studies

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Georg Simmel's The Metropolis and Mental Life best fits within the German school of urban studies. The German school, as Sennet explains, began with the work of Max Weber. Weber attempted to deal with cities through a 'scientific' and value-free approach, purporting to address cities in a merely descriptive way. He developed an ideal-typical method that sought to model social life according to a rational, and not simply historical, system. Other members of the German school, including Simmel, adopted this ideal-typical approach. However, the particular forms it took differed among them. For Weber, the ideal-typical descriptions of cities were structural. For Simmel, they were social and psychological. Spengler, another member of the German school, focused not on features of the city understood as a social form, but on the stages of city development. Still, these approaches shared in common an attempt to abstract from specific historical circumstances to arrive at more general descriptions or models. An assumption underlying the work of the German school is that characteristics of a city's culture, "the large impersonal bureaucracies, the rule of rational exchange and rational law, the lack of warm personal contact between city men are qualities that pertain to the city as a whole". This stood in contrast to the later Chicago school, whose members treated cities as collections of different parts.

Many qualities of Simmel's The Metropolis and Mental Life exemplify the approach of the German school. For example, in one section he explains, "There is perhaps no psychic phenomenon which is so unconditionally reserved to the city as the blasé outlook". This outlook involves being indifferent to innate qualitative differences between things because the perspective imposed by the money economy essentially reduces the perception of all things to the question of monetary value. The crucial aspect of this passage that clearly ties it to the German school is that Simmel is arguing that this is an outlook that cities produce in all of their inhabitants.

The effect, that is, is uniform throughout all residents; it is not limited to certain highly market-oriented portions of the population. Later, Simmel writes, "Even today the city dweller who is placed in a small town feels a type of narrowness which is very similar to what small town dwellers in the Middle Ages felt". This reflects the German school's ideal-typical approach, which aims to develop models that are not specific to a historical period.

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