This project intends to further pursue questions already addressed in my Ph.D. dissertation, which consisted in a theoretical reconstruction of Georg Simmel’s oeuvre, as well as to deal with these issues in the context of empirical research. Its main purpose is to formulate in more robust terms a concept of social pathology capable of furnishing a diagnosis of pressing problems of contemporary societies. The previously conducted reconstruction of Simmel’s oeuvre, which gave special attention to his writings on money and modernity, was able to identify three different ways of conceiving the normative foundations of modern society and its social pathologies: first, as the rationality (or irrationality) of individual actions; second, as the self-realizing (or alienated) relationship of each subject, as a particular totality of capabilities and potentials, with the realm of cultural objectivity; and third, as the vitality (or the mechanistic character) of transsubjective life in the process of its expression in social forms. Such a framework constitutes the main basis and the starting point for the theoretical and empirical questions this project intends to develop. A first part of the project consists of the investigation of certain theoretical connections between Simmel’s arguments and some of the authors that either influenced his writings or were influenced by them: Marx and Lukács, Nietzsche and Bergson. A second part of the project will be devoted to the empirical research of two cases – one of them previously explored – which are considered fruitful for the development of a conception of social pathology capable of being not only theoretically and normatively consistent, but also precise enough to serve as a guiding concept for further sociological empirical researches: the experiences of individuals who consider themselves “shopaholics” or “workaholics”.
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien Universität Erfurt Postfach 90 02 21 99105 Erfurt