“The Metropolis and Mental Life:” Applications in Sociology Nashville, although a very southern city, is nevertheless a city that has grown and changed with the increasing populace. As Georg Simmel states in his short work, The Metropolis and Mental Life, as the city becomes more modern and changes its personality, so too do the people of the city (qtd. in Wilsey, “The Modernism Lab”).
While the people in the smaller towns surrounding Nashville still smile and wave to each other, Nashville has become a place similar to New York City: no one knows their neighbor and the mass of people is simply too large to acknowledge everyone on a personal level.
Simmel discusses the change from individuality to mass personality as the city changes with time. While there is more freedom in a large city such as Nashville to have individuality without judgment, there is also the choice to make decisions based on one’s own perception of circumstances or to view things as the mass does. Simmel calls this “…the predomination of the objective spirit over the subjective…” (qtd. in Wilsey, “The Modernism Lab”).
Author David Frisby writes: “[Simmel] is led to a theory of cultural alienation which culminates…in the inevitable conflict and ever-widening gap between subjective and objective culture, in which individuals are locked within the experience of the eternal present of modernity” (qtd. in Wilsey, “The Modernism Lab”).
The idea behind symbolic interactionism, coined by George Herbert Mead, is how we develop our sense of self. As we grow up, our perception of the world around us encourages us to develop our ideals, ethics and decisions based on those perceptions. Our text, Think Sociology, states: “Mead suggests that this process is never-ending; therefore, we have a fluid sense of who we are” (Pearson 19, 25).
Referring back to Georg Simmel on urban life, this “fluid sense of who we are” is inevitably shaped by the circumstances in city life. There is always the choice to base decisions on how we perceive the world around us, or to join the mass in judgment of situations. One such situation is the homelessness in cities. The majority of the population looks upon the homeless with disdain and believe that their situation is their own fault.
As Simmel wrote, this again is “…the predomination of objective spirit over the subjective…” (qtd. in Wilsey, “The Modernism Lab”). More and more often the population chooses to hold onto one belief (that of the majority) rather than an individual belief. It is here that we see Simmel’s theories at work in both the modernism movement, and in a time that is considerably after he wrote and published his work.