Last Updated 14 Apr 2020

Simmel Modern Individual

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Beatrice Ajighevi March 13, 2013 Berlin Irene According to Simmel, the development of a protective, rational barrier has a profound impact on individuals living in a metropolis. A modern individual becomes indifferent, the “blase outlook” becomes a consequence of the urban mind-set which results in a larger degree of personal freedom, they are freed from prejudices, develop a cosmopolitan attitude which develops a greater degree of personal freedom and struggle to maintain their personality and preserve their unique inwardness in a metropolis. The metropolis does differ significantly from the upbringing of a rural town.

While living in a metropolis, the modern individual is constantly bombarded by a constant change of stimuli on a daily basis, “In order to adjust itself to the shifts and contradictions in events, it does not require the disturbances and inner upheavals which are the only means whereby more conservative personalities are able to adapt themselves to the same rhythm of events. Thus the metropolitan type creates a protective organ for itself against the profound disruption with the fluctuations and discontinuities of the external milieu that threaten it”.

Unlike those of a more rural setting, whose daily activities are more common, ritualistic, and expected, the modern individual deals with rapid change in a very short amount of time. In order to cope with these constant shifts, one develops a “protective organ”. The metropolitan encounters so many individuals, the protective organ allows one to not deal with each person on an emotional or personal based level. Especially in a money based economy, personal relationships are nearly impossible.

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The modern individual becomes indifferent to all things personal because intellectual relationships deal with others specifically for self-gain and how can other help ones advancement. One must deal with others in a matter-of-fact attitude. People are no longer treated based off of personality or their individuality, but numerical value and worth. The blase attitude is a direct consequence of the urban mindset. The metropolitan dulls themselves due to the constant changes. It arouses the one’s mind so significantly that they can no longer harvest reaction at all. The urban environment is so superfluous, that which would amaze one from a ural setting, is boring, below average, and simply not worth noticing to the metropolitan. “Not in the sense that they are not perceived, but rather that the meaning and the value of the distinctions between things are experienced as meaningless”. In a more pastoral lifestyle, one grows up not as themselves, meaning that they have no personal freedom. Yes, they might have individual freedom; however, this is still very restricted. They are an individual of their community. They must still abide by the unspoken rules, and tolerate what is acceptable and what is not.

One might be considered an individual part to a larger organism, instead of its own being. Although, in a metropolis, one is exposed to personal freedom, they are allowed to make their own choices without the stipulation of another’s individual’s opinion. The blase mind-set results in a larger degree of personal freedom because “it assures the individual of a type and degree of personal freedom to which there is no analogy in other circumstances”. A being has more space to cultivate his/her own abilities and undertakings for which they themselves are accountable.

The blase attitude allows a person to separate themselves from other and explore themselves internally and externally. In a rural community, things may be more closed off and closed minded. An individual in an urban setting may be freed from the kinds of political and religious prejudices felt in smaller communities because a metropolitan city is made of different people from different backgrounds with different experiences coming together to form a community. There is no need for self-preservation of traditional values or beliefs that one has been brought up believing.

People of incomparably individualized personalities were in constant struggle against the incessant inner and external oppression of the de-individualizing small town. A cosmopolitan attitude is when an individual’s horizon is enlarged, “For the metropolis it’s decisive that its inner life is extended in a wave-like motion over a broader national or international area”. A cosmopolitan person does not have one home, but the world is their home. They can identify with many places in the world and many cultures, unlike one from a small town, who is restricted to their traditional lifestyle.

It is not about being in a place physically or being there when the action takes place, but acceptance of the moments that once took time in that place. A cosmopolitan person is not motivated to make long term roots in any given area. It is rather about planting seeds in many areas and making personal connections in each one. This is where quantitative values are replaced by qualitative, because it’s no longer about personal gain, but now individual relationships. Having a cosmopolitan attitude reflects a degree of personal freedom that can be achieved in an urban setting because one is not bound to one area in particular.

They are free in the literal sense to go where they please, and not be bound by time-based relationships. “It is our irreplaceability by others which shows that our mode of existence is not imposed upon us from the outside” this is the definite magnitude in which ones independence and being are articulated. A cosmopolitan attitude allows a greater sense of personal freedom to set one self apart from anything else, without having to worry about the negative reprocautions imposed by a small town life.

It allows one to be themselves in any given area at any given time. In a metropolis, because of its large size, the modern individual may have to struggle to maintain his/her personality and preserve their unique inwardness. It may be difficult to stand apart in a highly diversified community. One must make themselves noticeable. Through the responsiveness accumulated from others one may feel a feeling of self-worth, in a community where everyone has a blase attitude, and everyone is average, one wants to be out of the ordinary, and most importantly remembered.

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Simmel Modern Individual. (2017, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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