Simmel's Influence on American Sociology

  • Levine D
  • Carter E
  • Miller Gorman E
  • 43


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Three phases in the diffusion of Simmel's thought within the Ameri-can sociological community are identified. His influence is then traced, first, in the area of general theoretical orientations, and second, with respect to research traditions on the stranger and social distance. Part II, to be published in the next issue of this Journl, will discuss Simmel's influence on other substantive areas. Georg Simmel stands in the unusual position of being the only European scholar who has had a palpable influence on sociology in the United States throughout the course of the 20th century. This is particularly noteworthy in view of the fact that, contrary to current impressions about the history of the discipline, when sociology was becoming established within the American academic system during the first few decades of this century, it was truly a homegrown product. Social research in this country was initially stimulated by such indigenous currents in American intellectual life as pragmatism and the social gospel movement, and by conspicuous domestic problems such as crime, ethnic relations, immigration, industrial conflict, suffragism, and rapid changes in rural and urban communities. Its leading proponents were predominantly self-made American social analysts- These five were the men named most frequently as important sources of intellectual stimulation in the autobiographical statements of 258 Ameri-can sociologists collected by Luther L. Bernard in 1927. Only 20% of those respondents mentioned any European author as having exerted a significant influence on their intellectual outlook.2 Among the European authors who were mentioned as influential by professional American sociologists in the late 1920s, the three most often cited were, in order of frequency, Herbert Spencer, Georg Simmel, and Gabriel Tarde. A similar picture emerges from a look at the general treatises on sociology and social psychology of that period: the authors AJS Volume 81 Number 4 813

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  • Donald N Levine

  • Ellwood B Carter

  • Eleanor Miller Gorman

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