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HISTORICKÁ SOCIOLOGIE, Vol 5 No 2 (2013), 51–74

Simmelova sémiologie

[Simmel’s semiology]

Lukáš Bůžek

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14712/23363525.2014.21
announced: 03. 04. 2014


Simmel’s social theory, namely his formal sociology, has long been considered if not dead, then of little relevance for contemporary sociological theories. This study is an attempt at proving the contrary. Our aim is to show that Simmel’s social ontology can be seen as a form of semiology, i.e. a complex body capable of integrating seemingly irreconcilable segments of society into a social science of signs, thus showing that his “social grammar” is a true social theory of sign systems. A keystone which helped us span the bridge between society and language, linguistics and sociology, was the concept of value. By dint of Simmel’s theory of economic value we try to connect his social theory, on which it lies, with his theory of sign-money, which it supports. Simmel’s social theory is based on an unorthodox concept of interaction, whose main qualities are that of perfect synchrony and unity that is dealt with by Simmel on the empirical as well as experience level. The puzzling term of form is revealed as Simmel’s attempt to conceptually grasp this synchronic dimension of interaction. Simmel’s theory of economic value is seen as an extension of Simmel’s formal sociology. Simmel conceives value as a relation between two processes of valuation brought about within the exchange as a form of interaction. Money is the physical representation of this relation. To prove that Simmel’s social theory can be regarded as a fully-grown theory of sign systems, as well as to elaborate our analysis of his social theory, we use the conceptual apparatus of Saussure’s linguistics showing that not only does Simmel’s theory imply all Saussure’s key concepts, but it also solves some of its blind spots in contemporary sociology and spans the so far unsurpassable gulf between the individual and society or structure and development.

keywords: semiology; interaction; formal sociology; value; symbol; sign

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