The Stranger

Definition
 Not the usual "the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather as the man who comes today and stays tomorroww -- the potnetial wanderer, ...,who... has not quite got over the freedom of coming and going.

The stranger is fixed in a given location (spatial or social), but is not origional to it, and he brings qualities to it are not, and cannot be, indigenous to it.

Note the claim: all social relations are a combination of closeness and remotness.  For strangers, this is highlighted:
    "...the distance within this relation indicates that one who is close by is remote, but his strangeness indicates that one who is remote is near."

The stranger is an element of the group itself, ..., an element whose membership within the group involves both being outside it and confronting it.

Repulsion and attraction in the social form of the stranger:

  • Mobility
    • Historically, strangers are often traders.  As long as production works within the group, there is no need for a middleman to bridge groups.  A trader is only needed for goods produced outside the group -- hence the introduction of the 'stranger' into our midst.
      • The classic example is European Jews.
    • Even if he settles, his difference makes him unique in the eyes of others, so things like 'ownership' don't mean the same thing (think of xenophobic calls for removing particular people from their land)
    • Strangers are thus particularly mobile.  They are not tied to (or, perhaps, can't be tied to) land and property and place in the same way.


"The purely mobile person comes incidentally into contact with every single element, but is not bound up organically, through established ties of kinship, locality, or occupation, with any single one." (p.254).

  • Objectivity
    • Because he is not bound by roots to the particular constituents and partisan dispositions of the group, he confronts all of these wiht a distinctly "objective" attitude
      • Examples include getting judges from outside (mediators), see Super and Subordination
    • Strangers often recieve confidences that would not be given to others.
    • Note that objectivity implies involvement, just a particular type of involvement
    • Objectivity can also be defined as freedom: objective people are not bound to particular ties that preclude perception.
  • Abstraction
    • Relations are "more abstract" with strangers than with non-stranger. "with the stranger one has only certain more general qualities in common, whereas the relation with organically connected persons is based on the similarity of just thos specific traits which differentiate them from the merely universal." (p.255)
    • Commonalities unite in direct proportion to their rareness.  When we have something in common with everyone it is less likely to be a salient feature of our identity, that builds a community with others.
    • The stranger is thus close to us in terms of a set of fairly common shared traits (nationality, occupation, social position), but far from us insofar as these similarities connect us only because they connect a great many people.
    • The wider distinction on specificity is seen in other areas of social life, such as love.  A new love feels completely unique -- an overwhelming connection between the pair, and the shine falls from the coin as one starts to realize that this relation is commonplace.
      • This is probably true of a great deal of social relations, because nothing that is common to two people is probably ONLY common to those two (perhaps parenthood - of a particular child, of course?)

Toward the end, he brings back a second notion of 'stranger' -- the one outside the group entirely -- and points out that some of these points do not apply, since they hinge on the basic fact of interaction.

Strangers are not perceived of as individuals, but instead characterized by a quality that they share with somebody else -- a commonality that gives them a distinct otherness.
 
The Isolated Individual and the Dyad
  and DYAD
 1.
Isolation.
      The key is to remember that the isolated individual is isolated FROM something, in that relation, isolation is a social construction -- it's impossible to be isolated in this sense if there is nothing to be isolated from.

 2. Freedom.

"It may be that There is a kind of freedom which is actually nothing but the lack of relations, or the absence of restrictions by others. ... But for an individual who does  have relation s to other individual, freedom has a much more positive significance.  For him, freedom itself is a specific relation to the environment."

Freedom is sociological action.  It's working within a system of relations, largely to get something done.

      Freedom is:
      (1) transitory -- it is "neither a state that exists always and can be taken for granted, nor a possession of a material substance, so to speak, that has been acquired once and all."

        - Freedom emerges as a continuous process of liberation, as a fight, not only for our independence, but  also for the right, at every moment and of our own free will, to remain dependent.

     (2) Freedom is something quite different from rejection of relation or immunity of the individual sphere from adjacent spheres - not only in the function described, but  also in its contents.
      There is a positive element of freedom meaning that you can DO SOMETHING with freedom in the world.

    "freedom consists in a process of liberation; it rises above a bond, contrasts with a bond; it finds its meaning, consciousness, and value only as a reaction to it."  It also consists in a power relation.

 The Dyad.
    While isolation and freedom are clearly social, sociological interaction really takes its first significant form as interaction between two people - between dyads. "It contains the scheme, germ, and material of innumerable more complex forms" (p. 122) but it is significant in and of itself (in addition to the wider formation is forms)

    The dyad is where many general social forms exist in their pure state, also the limitation two only two members is the a condition that gives rise to specific social forms.
    Two facts are important:
    a) that the greatest variation in individualities and motives does not alter the identify of the [strictly dyadic] forms
    b) that occasionally these exist between two groups

      The characteristics of the dyad follow for all groups of  two actors.  Note that an actor can be a group too, as long as it acts uniformly.

    The differences between the dyad and larger groups "consists in the fact that the dyad has a different relation to each of its two elements than have larger groups to their members." (p123)

Key: the dyad does not attain a super-personal life which the individual feels to be beyond himself.
 

"The dyad therefor, does not attain the super-personal life which the individual feels to be independent of himself.  As soon, however, as the there is a sociation of three, a group continues to exists even in case one of the members drops out." (p.123)


 Characteristics.
      - Only in dyads are secrets safe.
      - A dyad is a FRAGILE social form: The death of one member destroys the dyad for good.
      - This means that it lacks a 'supra-individual' characteristic.
      - The dyad faces its own mortality.

      1) Triviality.
      Triviality refers to the frequency of the relationship. The dyad can be more or less trivial, due to the dependence of 'the group' on each individual.

    "Triviality connotes a certain measure of frequency, of the consciousness that a content of life is repeated, while the value of this content depends on its very opposite -- a certain measure of rarity" (p125)

"In dyadic relations -- love, friendship -- which do not result in higher units, the tone of triviality frequently becomes desperate and fatal.  This phenomenon indicates the sociological character of the dyad: the dyad is inseparable form the immediacy of interaction; for neither of its two elements is it the super-individual unit which elsewhere confronts the individual..." (p.126)

      2) Intimacy:
        Intimacy involves sharing w. another something that you wouldn't share with anyone else. "the individual's inclination to consider that which distinguishes him from others"

    "the peculiar color of intimacy exists ... if [the dyad's] whose affective structure is based on what each of the two participates gives or shows only to the one other person and to nobody else." [p.126]

True intimacy is only possible in Dyads, (or groups that are dependent on each member equally). Intimacy follows from seeing and recognizing the other member of the group as an individual, not a part of a supra-individual whole.  Here equality is possible, though difficult.

"This intimacy ... is the reason why the dyad constitutes the chief seat of jealousy" (p.136)

Delegation of duties and Responsibilities to the Group
The one characteristic absent in all dyads, but in principle characteristic of all larger groups is the delegation of duties and responsibilities to the impersonal group structure (which characterizes social life in general).

Two forms:
    a) Any collectivity which is more than a mere aggregation of certain individuals has indefinite boundaries and powers.
        Example: turning things over to public opinion in the United states makes followers out of leaders.

    b) The group enables / obliges the individual to commit acts for which, as an individual, he does not carte to be responsible for. [example: milgram experiments, bureaucracy, rioting, etc.]

These are not possible in the dyad , the partner can reject the passing off of duties
[is this true? Think of two person prisoner dilemma situations]
 

The Expansion of the Dyad:
[a] The Triad Vs. the Dyad.
         The characteristics of the dyad are best seen in comparison the Triad.  With the introduction of the 3rd, the supra individual character comes into the relation.  There can be no group of three, Simmel says, in which at one point or another the third isn't seen as an intruder on the relations of the dyad.  This probably rotates throughout the group. Here we see the notions of balance and exclusion.

    We also find differences in the evaluation of outside characteristics, a feeling of social balance. The difficulty in forming a "really uniform mood"

         The key to remember with the dyad is that it is dependent on each member equally.  This gives rise to the power and unique characteristics of the dyad. The introduction of more actors changes the relationship drastically by dissolving this dependence of the group on EACH relation equally.
 

[c] Dyads, triads and larger groups
The movement to more people doesn't do much for the formation of group changes - the key is the distinction from 2 to 3.  Note that this has interesting implications for super and subordination.  That as soon as you get multiple slaves, the distinction between master and slave is heightened (p.141)

[d] The formal radicalism of the Mass
Simmel points out that groups can, and often will, form extreme positions.  Against a large set of possible relations, there are usually only two SIMPLE positions, which leads to this kind of dualism.

The Triad
Here Simmel continues the discussion of the importance of mixes of three or more people.  He does this by going through the particular roles possible in groups of three +.

 I. The non-partisan:
      - A person who brings together alters, but who may not stay there very long.
      - The power of the mediator comes from the impartiality of the third.

 Two Types:
      a) Mediator: Helps the conflicting parties to get to a mutually agreeable solution, by "depriv[ing] claims of their affective qualities because [the mediator] neutrally formulates and presents these claims to the two parties involved." (p.147)
        Mediators can be those who are equally non interested, and those who are equally interested in both.

      b) Arbitrator: Imposes a decision through the authority granted by the parties (or the state).

Simmel says that this is a VERY common interaction type: That we all play the role of mediator often in daily interactions with friends.
    "form the conversation among three persons that lasts only an hour to the permanent family of three, there is no triad in which a dissent between any two elements does not occur from time to time ... and in which the third member does not play a mediating role" (p.148-149)

 Two Forms of 'unbiased' participation.

  1. The mediator must stand above / apart from the conflicting parties.
  2. The mediator has an equal interest in both parties. Note the second form often leads to conflicts, because each party often perceives the third to have a bias.

Simmel points out that the key to doing sociology is to recognize these 'embryonic forms' (p.152).  We see this in the extension to social balance theory.

II. The Tertius Gaudens: (The third who enjoys).

The following sections move to people who are definitely involved in the activity of interest, and he describes a set of triad types, characterized by differing levels of engagement of the third actor to the other two.

  • Advantage to C because A and B hold each other in check.  See this in some types of competition
  • Advantage to C because a conflict between A and B leads to a good for C, i.e. C is used in the relation.  Example: Promotion of C by B to slight A.  {for graduate students, this suggests getting your committee members to fight over you. :-) }
  • More essential: when the Tertius makes his own gain by turning toward one of the others.
    • Two parties that are hostile toward one another compete for the favor of the third
    • Two parties that compete for the favor of a third become hostile to each other

In the largest scale, the Tertius Gaudens is represented by the buying public with respect to the rest of the market: we play merchants off each other for the best price.

The advantage of the TG derives from the fact that he has an equal, independent, and for this reason decisive, relation to the other two (p.159)

Note that the favorable position of the TG dissolves as soon as the other two become a unit: then you get a dyad (TG to Group).

     Here Simmel is pointing out the power that comes from being the third party in a relationship.  There are various configurations of three that lead to power for the third party.  Simmel really only talks about how using the two in direct conflict (or gaining favor of one against the other) might lead to benefits for the third.  In your thinking about this topic, think of how ELSE a third member might benefit from POSITIONS that relate to various alters.  One that comes readily to mind is being in the center of an information flow:
                     A --- >   B   -----> C
In this situation, C is dependent on B to get the information from A.  This makes B a very powerful actor.
 

      This notion of structural power, determined from the configurations actors and the flow of influence, information,
 authority, etc., is a HUGE field in sociology right now. James Coleman touches on it in his Foundations of Social Theory, and you can't hardly pick up a copy of Rationality and Society without seeing articles on this topic.

      There are association assumptions built into most models of society.  Classic economics, for example, posits perfect information and fluid exchange markets.  This assumption of perfect information flows implies a network structure of all connected directly to all.  What happens when there are certain players in a field who control the flow of information?  This is what this line of research tries to ascertain:  what can we say about the influence/power of a given configuration of ties?  How do we expect to see such configurations change over time? (an excellent application of this line of work is called "Social Structure in a Securities Exchange Market" in the American Journal of Sociology, 1984.)

 Anyway... Back to Simmel.

 Types of 'Tertius Gaudens".

  1.  Serendipity


The third gains benefits from the conflict of the other  two through no active part of his/her own.
Two types:

    • alters hold each other at bay, while the third takes the goods.  This is a 'scavenger' model.
    • alters give favors to the third in order to annoy the other alter (this is the 'malevolent benefactor model').
  1. Active Participation.


There are other forms of the TG, where the third deliberately manipulates the situation to gain benefit.

    • Two parties are hostile toward one another and therefore compete for the favor of the third.
    • Two people compete for the favor of the third and are therefore hostile toward each other.


In both cases, the power given to TG depends on his/her ability to choose between the alters.  This quality is     represented by a scale of discretion that corresponds to power of the third:


                   Continuum of Discretion
      I-------------------------------------------------I
      No Choice                                                   Full Choice
      No Power                                                    Full Power.

 

      At the 'full power' end is the logic of pure competition in a market: the purchaser can buy from anyone, therefore they have the power to play sellers off each other for the best price.

                Simmel says that a person faced with two suitors marks the other end, because there is no active element of choice, but that the decision of the third depends entirely on the 'nature' of the suitors.  I'm not wholly convinced by this argument.

     "The power TG must expend in order to attain his advantageous position does not have to be great in comparison with the power of each of the two parties, since the quantity of his power is determined exclusively by the strength which] each of them has relative to each other."

Here Simmel is explaining the power of minority parties -- TG gets his/her power through the balancing of alters, not through their own power per se.

      Power comes from the freedom to act, and thus to some extent, it has to come from the interaction of equals. If the two that ego tries to separate are highly unequal, then playing them off of each other is going to do no good.

 Divide and Rule.
      This is another form of TG, where the third actively divides the other two.  This is a classic military strategy.  Again, there are two types.

  1. Divide an already unified whole into two groups, and create a situation of competition between them.
  2. Bait and Switch: Work with one party long enough to put down the third, then attack the second (who was an ally against the third).  This is the 'back stabbing' solution.

The thing to take from this portion of Simmel is that a 'simple group of three' is not so simple.  That the shape of  interaction between participants decides the tenor of the whole relationship.  Also, Simmel is pointing out the importance of interaction between one actor with another non- individual actor i.e. the TG is reacting against a dyad. This is one of the reasons that the move from 2-3 is so much more significant than the move from 3-4.  The key is that interaction takes on a supra-individual characteristic.

Group Expansion and the Development of Individuality <not read!, just FYI>
Group expansion and the Transformation of Social Bonds

1) Group expansion leads to solidarity.
There is a general pattern between the extent of individuality and the the size of groups.  Simmel says, "Individuality in being and action generally increase to the degree the the social circle encompassing the individual expands" (p.258)

This happens in multiple ways.  Imagine two groups: M and N, both of them small, tightly knit and separated.  Then imagine they grow.  Simmel says that, "quantitative expansion will produce an increase in social differentiation.  What were once minimal differences in inner predilection, ... will be accentuated by the necessity of competition for a livelihood ..." (p.258)  Moreover, as different as the starting points of M and N may be, they will become more and more similar as they expand, since the number of "fundamental human formations upon which a group can build is relatively limited."
 

The development of M and N over time will push them towards similarity. "This convergence will come about if for no other reason than because even within very diverse groups, the forms of social differentiation are identical or approximately the same."  Such as the relational pattern of simple competition, the alliance of many against one, etc. (p.258).  That is, there are only a small number of relational patterns that are evident in social life, driven by rules that guide relationship formation, which will generate substantively similar social units.

Moreover, this will likely lead to solidarity among groups occupying similar positions (a notion that pre-dates contemporary network understandings of structural equivalence).  He then uses the transformation of guilds into markets as an example, leading to differentiated groups with common interests.

2) But if the group expands to break a homogeneous whole (i.e. move from self-production to trade), it breaks this boundary, creating inequality.

A fissioning is also apparent with this correlation (between individuality and expansion) involving the content of labor and its "sociological dimension."  If you have a self-contained Division of Labor, you still essentially have equality, since every person is producing for the group.  As soon as you have a distinction between internal and external production, you get a division of inequality.  His example is the transformation of serf - lord relations.  What used to be a combination of owner-laborer was divided directly into two very different types.

The voluntary organization quote highlights this relation (p.261).

"The modern voluntary association restricts its members and imposes uniformity upon them only so far as the strictly circumscribed organizational goal requires.  In all other matters, it allows members complete freedom and tolerates every individuality and heterogeneity of their full personalities.  But for all that, the modern association gravitates toward an all-embracing union of organizations by virtue of interpenetrating division of labor, leveling that results form equal justice and the cash economy, and solidarity of interests in the national economy." (p.261)

The general point is that groups are faced with two competing pressures: on the one hand, be internally  equal, but externally distinct. If, however, you have internal inequality, you end up building links to a wider external group.  This is a trade-off between internal and external differentiation.

The Relation between Personal and Collective Individuality
Simmel makes this point quite clearly at the start of this section:

"The narrower the circle to which we commit ourselves, the less freedom of individuality we possess; however, this narrower circle is itself something individual, and it cuts itself off sharply from all other circles precisely because it is small.  Correspondingly, if the circle in which we are active and in which our interests hold sway enlarges, there is more room in it for the development of our individuality; but as parts of this whole, we have less uniqueness: the larger whole is less individual as a social group.  Thus, the levering of individual differences corresponds not only to the relative smallness and narrowness of the collectivity, but also -- or above all -- to its own individualist coloring." (p261)

He points out that this is not a natural law, but the phenomenological result of many disparate activities.

Illustrations of the Formula in Religious and Political Settings
He uses the quakers as an example of the first part of this formula. In the affairs of the group, each person is equal, but each person as individuals is subject to the ruling of the group. He points out both sides of this argument w. the North and South states in the US prior to the Civil War.  THe North was built around small towns and local government, resting on duties of each individual to the town.  The south was a collection of 'lone adventurers' who came together in much larger aggregates.

The Basic Relation as a Dualistic Drive
We live a 'dual' existence:
    a) as an individual within a social circle, distinct from other members in the circle
    b) as a member of a social circle, distinct from other circles
If there is a basic need for both individualization and non-differentiation, it can be met by working on either side of this dualism.
[IS THIS TRUE, given modern social interaction?  See, for example, Pescosolido & Rubin, 2000.

The Differentiation Drive as a Heuristic Principle
If we assume, for as if purposes only, that this drive is operative, "we have a most universal norm that is particularly salient when differences in group size are involved, but one that also applies to other arrangements." and can thus be useful in many context.  For example, understanding fashion as a the differentiation of us and them.  Once fashions are diffused, they must be changed to maintain the distinction between us and them (this dynamic largely drives adolescent sub-culture.  Viewed from without, everyone looks the same.  Viewed from within, they all look different.  Keep this in mind next time you see a group of friends walking across campus. They likely dress 'the same', but if you asked them, they are different.).

he extends this idea to German states and Russian politics.  Note the last paragraph:

"In a narrow circle, one can preserve one's individuality ... in only two ways.  Either one leads the circle or one exists in it only externally, being independent of it in all essential matters." (p.264)

Stages of Social Commitment
In this section, Simmel gives a discussion of the role of family, pointing out that membership in this small, narrow group, makes it possible for the total to interact, only so long as the family is seen as 'psychological and ideal" as a mode of transformation.  THe family provides a "preliminary differentiation that at least prepares them."

The Sociological Duality of the Family
The family plays a double role:

  • "it is an extension of one's own personality; it is a unit through which one feels one's own blood cursing" It is closed to all other groups
  • But it is also a complex within which one distinguishes oneself

This double role is part of the reason that the family is sociologically ambiguous, it's role is never clear.

Note the interesting implication of his historical sketch: what role does the family, especially the extended family, play today?

Freedom and Individuality
The meanings of freedom

    If we consider the nested social circles people live in, the smallest one restricts freedom, the larger one encourages freedom.  "Freedom" ranges over many things, from freedom in choosing a spouse to freedom in economic initiative, that depend solely on the area of interest you are explaining.

Note that as individuality increases, in some ways, freedom decreases, since the range of options that would satisfy an individual are much more narrow. (see discussion around p.268-9), particularly concerning questions of partners..

Individual freedom is freedom that is limited by individuality, out of the uniqueness of the individual arrises a corresponding uniqueness of that which can complement and free him.

The meanings of Individuality
    There are two senses to take individuality:

  • individuality in the sense of the freedom and the responsibility for oneself that comes from a broad and fluid social environment
  • a qualitative meaning: "the single human being distinguishes himself form all others; that his being and conduct ... suit him alone; and that being different has a positive meaning and value for his life"


The historical emphasis of these two forms has varied over time.  The 18th century was about the first kind - clearing the fetters that held people down, to free "man in general", giving rise to notions of 'human rights' - the widest possible circle.

The 19th century has been about the 2nd type, which is contradictory to the first (is it?  I'm not sure I buy this claim, it seems to me they really work on different levels, which is what makes his claim that they move together sensible).  GS argues that the first sense of individuality focused on what was common among humanity -- the potential that was thwarted by political fetters.  The 2nd type of individuality focuses on that which is unique in each person.
 

Group Expansion and the Consciousness of the Ego

In addition to the effect on will (i.e. individualism) group expansion affects the 'sensation' of a particular ego.  Mass society has lead to the "unprecidented levelings of the personality form of life." (p.271)

In settings where people confront many differences, the personality exapnds.  "The mre uniformly and unwaveringly life progresses, ..., the les strongly does the sensation of personality arise; but the farter apart they stretch, .., the more intenslely does a human being sense himself as a personality. (p.271)  The ego is percieved as the one constant in all the "social alternation" found in life.