Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 56: Georg Simmel (1858–1918)
Georg Simmel (born in Berlin 1858, died in Strasbourg 1918) counts as a classic in the social sciences. Although his major book was entitled The Philosophy of Money, Simmel is regarded as a sociologist. His academic career was not successful, since he repeatedly failed to obtain a chair at a university until, finally, four years before he passed away, he was appointed to a professorship at Strasbourg University. The reasons for his failures are diverse. Simmel’s Jewish background has often been mentioned as one cause for being neglected; another reason was certainly that he was not mainstream. In 1908 he was considered for a chair in philosophy at Heidelberg University, following Max Weber’s recommendation. In the end, a majority in the university council decided to withdraw the call for Simmel, since he could not be clearly categorized as a member of one or the other discipline, and many committee members qualified his writing style as insufficiently academic and too essayist-narrative. Simmel studied history, psychology and philosophy. He submitted a work on music as PhD thesis, which was rejected, and he replaced his submission with a study on Kant, which was finally accepted. Two years later, he encountered similar problems with his “habilitation” thesis: a first submission was accepted only after a long process of confrontational debate, and his first “habilitation” defence lecture was rejected, so that a second lecture became necessary. Simmel had no real financial problems, since he was able to live on an inheritance left to him by...
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