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The "Fragment" on Simmel [From Draft Chapter XVIII (Structure of Social Action): Georg

Simmel and Ferdinand Toennies: Social Relationships and the Elements of Action]
Author(s): Talcott Parsons
Source: The American Sociologist, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Summer, 1998), pp. 21-30
Published by: Springer
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on Simmel
The "Fragment"
[From
XVIII
Draft Chapter
(Structure
of
Simmel
Social
and
Action):
Georg
Toennies:
Ferdinand
and the
Social Relationships
Elements
of Action]
Talcott

Parsons

cases do Iwish to attempt in the present


than in the previous
to give a general critical evaluation
of the sociological
work of the two
chapter
men whose
names are placed
at its head. It happens
some
that they approached
Much

less even

are relevant to our context inways which


are somewhat
of the problems which
we
so
A brief examination
far considered.
different from those
have
of their
the borderline

the residual
Simmel
sociology

these problems will, I think, help to illuminate some


of our own previous
analysis, to clarify one
we
which
have
encountered.1
categories

with

experience
things on

is most
should

important
or two of

as the author of the view that


generally known to sociologists
science concerned
be a special
with "forms of social relation
are concerned with their
from the other social sciences which

ship" as distinct
"content." This tenet has

become

called

the basic methodological


of the so
position
Simmel's proposition
has been the object of

"formal" school of sociology.


and has often been held to be totally untenable,
controversy
are not
refuses to be completely
and permanently
quashed. We
as
we
of
the
the
of
such?that
scope
explicitly
question
sociology

much

but somehow
ready to raise
have reserved

for the final chapter. Here our concern


iswith the relation of Simmel's
concep
tion of social
"form" to the conceptual
sch?mas of our previous
discussion.
to our problems
The relevance
of this question
should be evident from the

fact of the bifurcation

we

have

shown

to exist

in the directions

of Weber's

systematical
thinkings. In dealing with his "general ideal types" his
main explicit
out of
saw, the form of the construction,
took, as we
theorizing
a
units
social
of
whole
of
of
structural
relation,
types
system
elementary
possible
which
could be thought of as "composed"
of these units. This mode
of theoriz
theoretical

Parsons

21

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our own interest primarily lay,


from that inwhich
ing we carefully distinguished
that of a (largely implicit) system of the elements
of action. The main purpose
of Simmel is further to clarify the relations of the two
of the present discussion
to each other.
types of theorizing

In introducing
the subject, Simmel2 takes the position
is
that a new science
not normally constituted
facts which
by the discovery of a new class of concrete

has never

the object of scientific analysis before, but by "drawing a new


to each other which
the
facts, which
brings them into relations
through
a "new line" drawn
as
It
had hitherto not been adequately
is
such
understood.3
or social
his concept
"form of relationship"
through the facts that he wishes
been

line"

to be

"form"

understood.

so often proved
to be the case, in this one it should prove fruitful to
start by inquiring what
it is that Simmel primarily distinguishes
his "form" from.
It is what he calls "content."4 He is very careful to state that nothing
is to be
inferred from the terms "form and content" as such. Their meanings
in logic or
As has

must
epistemology
in
the
ing
present
ticular

above

all be held

context

is to be

to constitute

taken directly

at best analogies.
from observation

The mean

of the par

facts.5

Human

social

in terms of process.
Men have a
primarily
motivations
which
constitute
of
ends,
interests,
impulses,
are not "social." They have social impli
such these motivations
life he

conceives

of different

variety
their action.

As

In so far
individuals.
only in so far as they lead to interaction6 between
as this interaction
takes place,
exists. In so far as
"society" (Vergesellschaftung)
this is true there will be relatively constant and determinant
of
forms or modes

cations

It is as such modes

interaction.
"social

of interaction

that Simmel

defines

his concept

form."7

is very careful to point out that form in this sense is an abstraction


cannot even be thought of as concretely
which
existent by itself. Form and con
a concrete unity. In the concrete
tent together constitute
facts of social life they
Simmel

are always bound


together. Form cannot be thought of as existing by itself at all,
so
content not in
far as there is "society." Form is thus an aspect of social life.
to understand
It is important, however,
of abstrac
just what kind of process
tion Simmel is here carrying out. His starting point is a classification
of concrete
are divisible
"motives." These
into classes of concrete
interests, ends,
impulses,

it legitimate
has peculiarities
of its own which make
to regard it as the object of a separate
science. This is looking at the subject
matter of this group of sciences
from the subjective
point of view. A corre
etc.

Each

of these

classes

can also be made from the objective point of view, which


sponding classification
in that one
will yield classes of concrete acts. The two classifications
correspond
or
serves
to activate each of the classes
of the classes
motives
of
of interests
acts. This procedure
concrete
of what
Simmel calls the
yields a classification
both to the classification
and of the
of motives
According
observable
characters
of
the
is
their
acts,
economic,
externally
subject-matter
etc.
aesthetic,
religious,
political,
Simmel does not anywhere
Unfortunately
attempt to carry through this clas
"social

22

sciences."

The

American

Sociologist/Summer

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1998

sification

of

exhaustive

sciences

and

list, any list ends with


attempt to work out what

anywhere
class means,
Particularly

the social

the motives

how

are

an

to the point of an
their subject-matters
"et cetera." And above
all he does not

causal
to be

fails to inquire whether,


system of theory corresponds
he

explanation
thought of as

of the acts

in a given
the acts.

"producing"
sense a separate
far, and in what
to each of these classes
of concrete

how

integrated
"economic"
taken both
the case the list tends to begin with
fact. As is usually
as a class of concrete
state
without
facts and as a theoretical
system,
explicit
to each other. It should be clear from
ment of the relations of the two meanings
our previous
discussion
that, had he pursued
certainly have run into very serious difficulties
views
radically.

Simmel would
inquiries,
and might well have altered his
these

It is not altogether
surprising that he did not, since
the principle
of the social sciences was
of classification

this "empiricist" view of


largely taken for granted

in his time as obvious,


indeed still is. But however
this may be, having accepted
on his own way. What
laid it down as a postulate,
he proceeded
appar
the fact that the definitions
of the subject-matters
ently impressed him most was
of these sciences
did not, as such, conceptually
involve social relations but only
it and

specific

concrete

motives

and kinds

of acts. All

apart from social relations.


such relations, there must

existing

concretely
actually do involve
he called
"social form."

It may most

these could be thought of as


facts which
Then, in the concrete
be another element. This element

conveniently
of action,

be

thought
arising when

of, I think, as an
and in so far as

"emergent" property of the processes


these processes
It is an "abstrac
involve interaction of two or more persons.
tion" in the sense
or
in which
all such emergent
are, it
qualities
properties
cannot be isolated as even a hypothetically
concrete entity, but may be concep
Thus the two elements, form and content, are not for Simmel
tually distinguished.
abstractions

the same

in quite

emergent property,
on
Simmel went

which

sense.

has much

One

refers to type parts, the other to an


with an analytical element.

in common

to state that the justification for this abstraction


lay in the
could be shown to vary independently
of each other.

fact that form and content


The

same

form could

be found

"embodied"

in different contents

and vice

versa.

a form, could be found to


"competition,"
interpreted
exist in the economic
etc.
fields, in sports, in rivalry for the favor of a woman,
in different forms. Thus
Similarly the same motives or interests could be pursued
the maximization
of income of a concern may be attempted by competing with

Thus

which

he

as such

in the same market or by coming to agreements


in the suppression
of competition.
Simmel himself did not pursue
his conception
much
direction
of a further and more
explicit methodological
its rivals

with

them which

will

result

further, either
foundation,

in the
or of a

of theory on its basis. His remaining sociological


work
systematic development
took the form of a series of brilliant but disconnected
on
what
essays
purported
to be specific social forms. They are full of suggestion and insight, many of them

first-rate contributions,
but they are of relatively little help for our purposes.
What,
then, does it all amount to for our context? It seems evident in the first

Parsons

23

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place
which

that Simmel's

concentration

characterizes

"social"

on

interaction
focuses

between

individuals

his attention

on social

as

that

relation

phenomena
then is form? Nothing,
four sch?mas.8 What
ships, among Professor Znaniecki's
I think, but the structural
aspect of social relationships. We may speak mean
It is a matter of
entity in this sense.
ingfully of the "form" of any empirical
as
relations
such
the
of
the
from
structural
"parts" related
abstracting
properties
of the latter are definable
in the structure in so far as the properties
apart from

every empirical
entity has "form." The earth has a
form, its orbit around the sun an elliptical form, etc. Social form differs
spheroid
it are different,
for describing
from these examples
only in that the categories
the relations.

In this sense

a spatial reference.
Social structure is not a structure
a
in
in
but
related
different frame of reference.9 Simmel does
of elements
space
not himself go very far in defining what
is beyond
the frame of reference
refer
as
to
it
social
ring
relationships.
all do not contain

above

are

the implications
for explanatory
is meant when
theory? What
as
an
are
in the sense
forms of relationship
variable,
spoken of
independent
from content? To answer this we must go back to the general question
separable
of the nature of structure. Let us first take an example
from the natural sciences.
But what

a "form," a structure. But whatever


might be the case from
no
would
of
natural
scientist
think of this form as an
view,10
point
the contours
of
element. Given
of the river bed and the volume
independent

A waterfall

has

another

flow of water

is a resultant. Moreover,
to changes
in either or

per unit of time, the form of the waterfall


in its form will be held to be attributable

any change
in the rate of flow, or erosion
both of these other factors, such as an increase
a
case
to deeper-lying
is epiphenomenal
of
part of the bed. Thus form in this
on the other.
of structure on the one hand, and those of process
elements
On the other hand, it is at least true to say that a major
school of biologists
from Aristotle

epiphenomenal
life processes.
far as

that form in the organic world was not altogether


for instance the physico-chemical
elements,
aspects of
not be so, precisely
It is probably
in so
safe to say that itwould

down

has held

to other

to enter into biological


elements of "function" are allowed
"teleological"
so
as
are
in
far
to
That
held
is,
emergent properties
organisms
possess
theory.
not manifested
constituent
by their non-organic
parts.
to the specific
is not analogy, but its relations
But the real test of a concept
empirical

facts itwas

framed

of structural

to fit. Yet

on

the social

level

get this same


are on the one

too we

which

of social

aspects
relationships
dichotomy
on the other hand not.
hand epiphenomenal,
the stage of "Crusoe economics"
theory thinks in
Beyond
ordinary economic
terms which
involve social relationships,
above all those of the division of labor
analysis the rela
of
arise are quite definitely resultants
the
demand
the interaction of the elements with which
is
the theory
concerned,
in ques
and supply schedules
of the various
individuals
involved in the market
On
and exchange,
but also competition.
for
instance
of
which
exchange
tionships

tion. The

sense

24

"form" of these

as that of the waterfall,

the level of economic

in exactly
is epiphenomenal
the same
relationships
in the
and will equally change as a result of change

The

American

Sociologist/Summer

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1998

in
underlying data. The same is true of the broader class of relationships, which
are generally called "contractual"
cludes those of exchange, which
relationships.
At the same time it is equally true that there are social relationships
the form
cannot

of which

as the resultant

be understood

of the immediate

ad hoc

action

as in the case

in marriage
of contract. Thus
there is
to the case economic
analogous
theory is con
income on the one hand, management
of the
for instance. Yet it is quite clear that in this case one

of the parties,
of services closely
earning a money

elements11

an exchange
cerned with;

on

household

the other,
takes without
for the "form" the exchange
referring to the fact
a married
case no such ref
In
that the parties constitute
the
market
couple.12
erence beyond
situation
is necessary.13
the immediate
cannot

account

as a limiting type is
of a contractual
the concept
relationship
and highly important, Durkheim
has, I think, shown con
perfectly meaningful
alone is concretely
clusively14 that a total system consisting of such relationships
Now

while

impossible.
individuals
elements
relation.

Hence

on

large
of a different
we

These

institutional
far as

for there

not be

to exist

have

contractual

there must
not

order
found

framework within

this institutional

latter will

scale

exist

formulated

to lie above

elements

in the same

in the relations

social

of

other

system
in the conception
of contractual
in the
all, though not exclusively,

these relations are formed. And just in so


is important to the concrete
the
situation,
for solely as a resultant of the ad hoc interests of
which

framework

accounted

the contracting
shows clearly that the element
parties. But just this example
over and above
is necessary
these ad hoc interests to account
for the

which

concrete

as such, for this is


lie in the "form of relationship"
a
to
the
resultant
of
the
ad
hoc
large degree
interests, some
certainly
mode
of differentiation between
the resultant aspect of form of relationship
and
other elements of itmust be found. This Simmel's conceptual
scheme entirely
fails to provide.
situation

cannot

even here

Thus we may surmise


of what we have called
thought of as something
not
It was
individuals.

insight was primarily into the importance


the institutional aspect of social systems. It was clearly
that Simmel's

from the immediate


"motives" of
analytically
separable
a "part" of the social structure
in this sense.
It was
as
which
be
could
of
their
actions
in
certain
something
thought
"canalizing"
not have been
directions which would
a
taken without
its existence.
It was
"mould"
into which
the pliable material
of action was poured. And this is the

arises through the processes


of interaction as such. It is
emergent quality which
this and this only which
is the grain of truth in the "organic"
theories of soci
as
but
the
of
as that of eco
"reification"
"mechanistic"
schemes
against
ety,15
a
nomic
theory, it is
important truth. Finally, true to the predomi
profoundly

nant

"historicism"

the differentiation
The

"content"

All

of different

of social

this is true and

severely
theory.

of German

social

social

life is ever

thought, it is in this element of "form" that


structures from each other is to be sought.

the same, only its "form" varies.16


of a deeply important insight. But

the expression
in its capability
of development
It is true that uform of relationship"
is not
limited

into

it is very
scientific

systematic
a concrete
descriptive

Parsons

cat

25

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is the concrete entity. The "form" is not a "part" of this


egory. Social relationship
from it in a different direction.
But it is not in our sense an
but an abstraction
analytical
aspect."
directly
our

a "descriptive
It is rather what may be tentatively called
element.
In spite of the abstraction
it is a mode
involved
abstraction
of
which
cuts across the line of analysis into elements of action which
has been
concern.

main

evident

becomes

This

from further consideration

we

have

that the latter element

alone

to which

referred.

of the case

of contractual

It is true that the concrete

form
relations,
already
cannot be understood
of such relationships
entirely in terms of the contractual
to "the non
elements
terms, involves references
alone, but also, in Durkheim's
to say
contractual
element of contract." But it is at the same time not possible
accounts

for the form while

the "contractual

ele

ments"

their role may otherwise


excluded
must, whatever
be, be altogether
must be
influence on form. On the contrary the "form" of a relationship
in
of
of
influenced
all
the
as,
thought
being
principle,
capable
causally
impor
by

from

or factors which

tant elements

in any way
be generalized
with

influence

the concrete

relationship.
to the category of struc
reference
may
ture. Structure is in the first place a "descriptive
aspect" of all concrete phenom
It is, as such, not an explanatory
individuals."
ena, of all "historical
category at
on
It
all but a descriptive
take
may, however,
category.
significance
explanatory
conclusion

This

it can

in so far as

a "rigid" framework within


justifiably be held to describe
in understanding
which
the operation
of a steam
go on. Thus
given processes
steam at
is
the
the
element
of
of
process
engine,
power
expanding
compressed
so that
structure
The
of
the
"canalizes"
this
process
high temperature.
engine
the thrust of the piston.17 Similarly in the biological
only one thing can happen,
case
there are certain structural features of the organism which
can, for the
to be fixed independently
be assumed
of
of studying certain processes
purpose
the dynamic elements of the process.
Thus the structure of the heart and blood
the
canalizes
flow
of
blood.
vessels
(literally)
terms
In
of the scheme of analysis used above,18 structure in this sense is a
It is a mode
of relation
feature of the concrete historical
individual.
descriptive

of relation
neither an analytical element nor a mode
of type parts in a whole,19
same
sense that
in
the
of them. It can have explanatory
significance
precisely
statement
that a
The
and
them
have.
about
type-part concepts
generalizations

is to be
has a given form or structure
system of relationship
a concrete
a statement
it. Like any other fact about
of fact about
as a "causal factor" for purposes
it may acquire
of
significance
phenomenon
given
taken

concrete
as

historical
in hand

In many cases itmay be quite


imputation.
to the fact of the existence
to call attention

for the purposes


adequate
of this structure.20

are not restricted to description


of
these structural form concepts
Moreover,
one particular historical
The same
individual. They are capable of generalization.
to a variety of different historical
"form elements" may be found to be common
In fact, as Simmel pointed
like any structure, be
individuals.
out, they may,
into structural units, and different structures thought of as "made up"
analyzed
of different

26

combinations

of these units.

Finally,

The

the different

American

"objectively

Sociologist/Summer

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pos

1998

indeed may be built up


combinations
constructed,
may be systematically
into a formally complete
of
structural
system
type concepts.
This last enterprise
Simmel never even attempted to carry out. But it has been

sible"

what I think is the most notable


indeed we have already encountered
of ideal types. For this scheme
Weber's
scheme
has
been
which
made,
attempt21
sense. Its starting point
in
I
in
all essentials,
formal sociology
Simmel's
is,
think,
is essentially
"social relationship."
The
the same, as we have seen, the concept
are
is
out
is
that
the
which
the
of
"form"?it
of
built
unit
types
predominant
attempted;

social relationship. Weber


takes the three basic
aspect of the concrete
as the struc
and Vergesellschaftung
formal units, conflict, Vergemeinschaftung
tural units out of which
his more complex
types are built.22 In almost all cases
structural

these

"forms"

"Verein"23

admit

may

in the case

"religious ends"
of the American
We

of widely
differing
"economic
ends"

involve

Sociological
already criticized

have

of a sect, and

"content"
in the case
scientific

in Simmel's

sense.

Thus

of a joint-stock company,
in the case
ends (we hope)

Society.
in terms of its gen
this kind of conceptualization
as
not
It
is
the
sole mode,
but for
theory.
adequate

eral adequacy
for scientific
certain purposes
and within certain limits it is not only valid but indispensable.
is an excellent
The fate of Simmel's position
difficul
illustration of the practical
ties a creative

in making
itsway. Simmel set up the concept
"form" as
of sociology.
The great majority of the critics have not
itwas
it be in scientific
kind of concept
and of what use could
idea has

for a science

the basis

inquired what
work generally.

They have rather, after trying to determine what he "meant" by


it can be made the sole basis for a science
it, gone directly to the question whether
of sociology. Then coming, by whatever
that it could not,
path, to the conclusion
to
cannot
at
have
infer
that
the
be
used
all, that Simmel
they
concept
proceeded

was

"wrong."24 As we shall see in the next chapter I also do not think it a useful
as a "science of social forms." But that does not
to define sociology
procedure
that
Simmel
had very important insights into the facts and
prevent
recognizing
a very genuine
made
contribution.
with his specific essays
Any acquaintance

one of that. Let us hope that some day we will get over feeling
convince
as either "right" or "wrong."
to dub a writer
the necessity
to me
It seems
on reading only a few of his pages
a highly intelligent
obvious
that Simmel was
man. Then
it is a fair presumption
that he had something
in
important in mind
should

his

talk about

what
with.

"form." The

it is, especially
Then he should

it seems

to me, should first attempt to find out


to the empirical
facts Simmel was
concerned
to find out how the author arrived at the propo

critic,
in relation

attempt
the critic regards as objectionable.
restated the author's empirical
insights
sitions

to "criticize."

Only after having done this and having


in more acceptable
terms is he entitled
in the continual
consists
amendment
and

The progress of science


of conceptual
sch?mas, not in deciding
they are "right" or "wrong."
But this is a digression. We must return to a few further considerations
about
structure. So farwe have considered
on
structure
it only
the level of the
of the

restatement

concrete

descriptive

historical
aspect

individual

on which

of this, structure

interest is centered. As a
explanatory
not an explana
is something to be explained,

Parsons

27

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to explain
certain features of this concrete
quite possible
that certain other structures have existed
the ground
the
among
constitute
in
the direct antecedents
of the one
individuals which

It is however

tion.

structure

on

historical
question.

have, however,
already noted that it is only legitimate to employ a struc
in this sense for explanatory
it may
within
the limits in which
purposes
a
as
matter
to
soon
be
As
of
assumed
be
legitimately,
(relatively) unchanged.
fact
We

ture
as

are transcended
in circumstances,
limits, of change
But when
this is done the category
away into process.

our

these

solves

structure

of structure

dis
reap
The

level. Take our previous


of the waterfall.
pears again on another
example
of its form was
relevant structure for explanation
that of the river bed. Over

of time this cannot

to be constant,
itwill
be assumed
the process
certain other more
of erosion
structural elements will be relevant, that of the kind of rock at the
"elementary"
brink of the fall. By this process we may fall back on more and more elementary
even farther back.
structures, reaching
finally that of the atom, or perhaps
As Simmel very clearly saw, structure
is not an ultimate
It is a
category.
sufficiently
But
erode.

long period
to the explanation

of

are
of relatively constant
"forms" or modes
of process. What
elements
structural and what processual
is not "inherent"
in the phenomena
in hand. We must break down structure
but a matter of the scientific problem
fixation

to be called

and more elementary


structures as far as is neces
of process
can serve ex
at an "adequate"
judgment. A structural category

into combinations
sary to arrive

in hand does not involve a range


planatory purposes
only in so far as the problem
in variation of the concrete phenomena
in question which
transcends
the limits
were
of its structural constancy. The "form" concepts
Simmel had inmind
prima

so far as they
level for concrete social phenomena
rily those on the first descriptive
to the social scientist. Hence
constitute interesting problems
the narrow limitations
to their explanatory
usefulness and the fact that formal sociology
tends to run off

into relatively sterile construction


and classification of possible
types.
relationship
sense by
saved from "formalism"
Simmel's own work was
in this derogatory
a system and confined himself
his very "dilettantism."
He refused to construct
on
to empirical
was genuinely
where
his
method
essays
illuminating.
subjects
on the other hand was
saved primarily by his deep absorption
in empiri
a
on
we
can see
cal problems
of historical
significance
grand scale. Here again
a basis for his insistence on the fictional character of his ideal type concepts.
To

Weber

have

been

"formalist"

a systematic
theorist on the ideal type level would
in just this sense. Probably at the same time he was

have made

him a

saved by his
structural
types in
also

of action which
tied his
system of the elements
in
researches
and prevented
them from running wild
securely with his empirical
uncontrolled
fictional proliferation.
had
Weber
formulated
spe
Every concept
emerging

cific empirical
applications
directly in mind.
One more
remark should be made
about these structural concepts
of form.
histori
They are inherently concerned with the relations of "parts" of concrete
cal individuals and can only constitute
"factors" in the same sense that the latter

28

The

American

Sociologist/Summer

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1998

of which
the causal
is to be
significance
They are among the "elements"
use of
concrete
Simmel's
demonstrated
by their "thinking away" or alteration.
Thus again we see clearly that "analysis" in
them demonstrates
this conclusively.
can.

this sense

cuts clean

of action

the elements

across

In principle
that in terms of analytical elements.
all
to the understanding
of any particular
"social

are relevant

form."

the one who


has most clearly
Sorokin has, I think, been
main
that
the
is
theoretical
what
contribu
true,
out,25
pointed
unquestionably
the formal systematics of social relationships,
has been
tion of formal sociology,
out in another discipline,
and systematically worked
very thoroughly
jurispru
Professor

Finally,

that the most distinguished


formal sociologist
It is no sheer coincidence
in this sense, Weber,
had juristic training. Its marks may be seen all through his
To make
the main theoretical
scheme of type concepts.
task of soci
systematic

dence.

ology
atics

or any other empirical


social
in this sense would
certainly

science
involve

the development
it in a serious

of formal

system
I
and,
think, quite
It is for the sociologist,

unnecessary
jurisprudence.
jurisdictional
dispute with
above all in the institutional field, to make use of the jurists' schemes when
needs
himself to fill in gaps for his particular
them, if necessary
purposes,

not

to make

are

concepts

the development

of such
tools

indispensable

schemes

his main

for sociological

theoretical
but not

research,

he
but

task. Form
the aim of

systematic
Thus we

sociological
theory.
see that the principal
of the concept
of social form lies
significance
in the direction
of attention toward structure and above all differentiation
of
structural types. It is thus a product
of the soundest
elements
of the idealistic

of thought. But its main significance


lies on the descriptive
level. It is
to
on
more
science
the
of
the
purposes
important
explanatory
only
analytically
level of historical
It is quite definitively not a satisfactory
elementary
imputation.
as a basis for general
for a
substitute,
sciences,
theory in any of the social
tradition

systematic
It does,

scheme
however,

of analytical elements.
show the importance of not confining attention to any one
inwhich
sch?mas
the facts of human social life may be stated.

of the descriptive
I am quite convinced

that the schema

of elements

of action

is quite adequate26
aspects of social life.

as any other
for the explanation
of the structural as well
have seen, particularly
in the case of Weber,
the common
ultimate value
element
is peculiarly
relevant to this problem,
in
to non
the
relation
especially

As we

scientific

For example
the predominant
feature of Indian social struc
to this. But these conse
is most
ture, the caste hierarchy,
intimately related
come out in relation to the action schema only when
in its
quences
analysis
terms has been pushed
a
to
advanced
On
the
whole
the
stage.
through
relatively
action
tural

"ideas."

schema

elements.

states

social

facts

in a form which

tends

to minimize

the struc

Hence

the relationship
throws them directly
schema, which
of attention,
is a highly important descriptive
corrective.
It is
itself ultimate but it states the facts in such a way as to throw the problems

into the center


not
which

analytical

theory

has

to solve,

into a much

clearer

Parsons

relief

and wider

29

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a signal service
Simmel has performed
perspective.27
so forcibly to our attention....
this
[At
point, Parsons

in bringing
these things
turned to his discussion

of T?nnies.]
Notes
This material on Georg Simmel is from Parson's draft chapter XVIII of a book manuscript with the working
and the Elements
title of Sociology
Action. While
the chapter itself was ultimately excluded
of Human
from what became The Structure of Social Action, a somewhat revised segment of the chapter that dealt
with T?nnies was retained as an extended note on "Gemeinschaft
and Gesellschaft."
The "fragment" on
Simmel published here has been taken directly from the original draft chapter located in the Talcott Parsons
[HUG (FP) 42.41, Box 2] at the Harvard University Archives. The chapter has previously been
Papers
in its entirety in Teor?a Sociol?gica
(Parsons
1993) and in the Simmel Newsletter
(Parsons
published

to endnotes. For
1994). Full references have been added, and the original footnotes have been converted
a discussion
of when
the chapter was likely written, see note 17 on page 70 of William J. Buxton*s article
in this issue of The American
Sociologist.
of the present discussion
1. For the limited purposes
I shall not attempt an intensive textual criticism even
in the respects relevant here, but shall confine myself to the most general references.
2. Most of the material
relevant to the present discussion
is to be found in the essay "Das Problem der
Soziologie"
printed as chapter I of his Soziologie.

3.
4.

pp. 3-4.
Soziologie,
Inhalt.
in seinem einzigartigen Sinn unmittelbar erkant werden m?ssen."
5. "Dieser Gegensatz wird
p.
(Soziologie,
that Simmel relied on some sort of
4). This Statement has often, quite unjustly, been taken to mean
"intuition." He is simply stating that he wishes his distinction to be clarified in relation to the
mysterious
particular empirical facts of human social life, not any others.
6. Wechselwirkung.
7. Soziologie,
p. 5.
in chapter I.
8. Mentioned
it is kept clearly in mind that the term is used by
9. It is legitimate to talk of "social space" but only when
analogy only.
10. Aesthetic, for instance.
11. That is, their immediate concrete ends, and the means and conditions directly related to them.
12. We
shall speak of this type of relationship below.
13. It seems to me that this difficulty lies at the basis of the criticism sometimes made of Simmel (for instance
that the concept of form shifts from
Theories, pp. 500-1)
by Professor Sorokin, Contemporary
Sociological
being merely the general element common to a plurality of particular cases, to being an independent factor.

In the Division
du travail. See above, Chapter VIII.
in the "sociologistic"
school.
15. On this basis Simmel may quite legitimately be placed
16. This can to be sure be maintained
only in terms of certain classes of motives or ends, not, as we have seen,
for the concrete "content" of ultimate values. This points to the limitation on Simmel's scheme just noted.
I know is that of W. K?hler, Gestalt Psychology,
17. The best account of the logic of this situation which
IV, "Dynamics and Machine Theory."
Chapter
18. Chapter XVI.
in so far as the whole
is "organic."
19. And becomes
important precisely
independently
20. So long as the "alteration" of the historical imputation required does not transcend the limits within which
to hold.
the constancy of the structure may legitimately be assumed
in his Beziehungslehre.
21. The other most notable
See, in English,
is, I think, that of Leopold von Wiese
I personally find Weber's
Wiese-Becker,
distinctly more satisfactory.
Systematic Sociology.
14.

22.

It is also
"social structure" may be described.
The use of the "relational" unit is not the only way inwhich
of "individuals" and
in terms of the "group schema" to think of social structure as "composed"
possible
from forms of relationship. The two are not the same though often confused. They
groups as distinguished
into terms of each other.
are, of course, "translatable"

23.
24.

roughly.
"Voluntary association,"
This seems to me a not unfair rendering of the attitude Professor Abel
in Germany,
chapter I.
Sociology
Theories, pp. 496-7.
Contemporary
Sociological
As far as it has itself been adequately developed.
have profited greatly by its use.
for instance, would
Marshall,

25.
26.
27.

takes toward Simmel.

See Systematic

30 The American Sociologist/Summer 1998

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