on synchronisity of art and culture, technology and environment

“The Metropolis and Mental Life”

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The concept of the flâneur is important in academic discussions of the phenomenon of modernity.
While Baudelaire’s aesthetic and critical visions helped open up the
modern city as a space for investigation, theorists, such as Georg Simmel,
began to codify the urban experience in more sociological and
psychological terms. In his essay “The Metropolis and Mental Life”,
Simmel theorizes that the complexities of the modern city create new
social bonds and new attitudes towards others. The modern city was
transforming humans, giving them a new relationship to time and space,
inculcating in them a “blasé attitude”, and altering fundamental
notions of freedom and being:

The deepest problems of
modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the
autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming
social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the
technique of life. The fight with nature which primitive man has to
wage for his bodily existence attains in this modern form its latest
transformation. The eighteenth century called upon man to free himself
of all the historical bonds in the state and in religion, in morals and
in economics. Man’s nature, originally good and common to all, should
develop unhampered. In addition to more liberty, the nineteenth century
demanded the functional specialization of man and his work; this
specialization makes one individual incomparable to another, and each
of them indispensable to the highest possible extent. However, this
specialization makes each man the more directly dependent upon the
supplementary activities of all others. Nietzsche sees the full
development of the individual conditioned by the most ruthless struggle
of individuals; socialism believes in the suppression of all
competition for the same reason. Be that as it may, in all these
positions the same basic motive is at work: the person resists to being
leveled down and worn out by a social-technological mechanism. An
inquiry into the inner meaning of specifically modern life and its
products, into the soul of the cultural body, so to speak, must seek to
solve the equation which structures like the metropolis set up between
the individual and the super-individual contents of life. (“The
Metropolis and Mental Life”)

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February 2nd, 2009 at 10:47 am

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