A Great Sociologist

A Great Sociologist

CONFLICT, by Georg Simmel. Free Press. $3.50.

The name of Georg SimmeI is barely known in America, and that only among professional sociologists. This is a pity, since Simmel is one of the handful of eminent European sociological theorists whose work remains alive and significant. At a time when most of what passes for sociological theorizing consists either of painstaking investigations into the obvious or elaborate and formalistic system-making, it is particularly valuable to have Simmel’s essay on Conflict translated into English.

Georg Simmel was born in Berlin in 1858, the son of a prosperous Jewish businessman. His Jewish origin blocked the successful academic career that would otherwise have been open to him; he lectured for almost thirty years at the Berlin University and though his courses attracted international attention he remained a privatdozent until a few years before his death, when he was accorded a full professorship at the University of Strasbourg. The marginality of his own fate was perfectly clear to Simmel and his marvelous essay, “The Stranger,” like a somewhat similar essay by Thorstein Veblen on “The Intellectual Preeminence of the Jews,” may be read on two levels, as social analysis and an effort at self-analysis.