Georg Simmel first published () in 1911; the third and last edition appeared in 1923. The fact that this collection of essays has not been available for over 60 years and only reappears today could be an indication for the fact that, in a strange way, Simmel as a critic of culture is both near to, and far away from, us...
In the study of society Georg Simmel made an attempt to understand a whole range of social types such as the stranger, the mediator, the poor and so on. His social types were complementary to his concept of social forms. A social type becomes a type because of his /her relations with others who assign a certain position to this person and have certain expectations of him/her. To explain his social type Georg Simmel gives the example of 'The Stranger' in his book The sociology of Georg Simmel. The stranger has been described by Simmel as a person who comes today and stays tomorrow. This stranger is someone who has a particular place in society within the social group that the person has entered. The social position of this stranger is determined by the fact that he or she does not belong to this group from the beginning. It is this status of the stranger, which determines his or her role in the new social group and also the interaction that takes place. As a stranger a person is simultaneously both near to one as well as distant. Not being part of the social group the stranger can look at it objectively without being biased. Thus the stranger can be an ideal intermediary in any kind of exchange of ideas or goods. In this way the position of the stranger is fixed in a society and defined.
Georg Simmel, Strangeness, and the Stranger
Georg Simmel was born on March 1, 1858, in the very heart of Berlin, the corner of Leipzigerstrasse and Friedrichstrasse. This was a curious birthplace--it would correspond to Times Square in New York--but it seems symbolically fitting for a man who throughout his life lived in the intersection of many movements, intensely affected by the cross-currents of intellectual traffic and by a multiplicity of moral directions. Simmel was a modern urban man, without roots in traditional folk culture. Upon reading Simmel's first book, F. Toennies wrote to a friend: "The book is shrewd but it has the flavor of the metropolis." Like "the stranger" he described in his brilliant essay of the same name, he was near and far at the same time, a "potential wanderer; although he [had] not moved on, he [had] not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going"