Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RS12_07: Beyond the Social: Life, Spirituality and Individuality
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Pedro Jorge Caetano, New Lisbon University
Location: GM.326
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Religious Identity and the Law of the Individual: The Search for the Authentic Self

Thomas Sealy

University of Bristol, United Kingdom

While Simmel’s writings on the city, money and culture enjoy widespread attention in sociology, his writings on religion have been almost completely neglected. Indeed, one commentator has remarked that Simmel’s essays on religion, which constitute as much a sociology of religiosity as of religion, have been something of an embarrassment for sociology. This paper draws on this neglected area of Simmel’s thought, drawing on a reading of Simmel’s essays on religion, and distinction between religiosity and religion to demonstrate how it can be fruitfully applied to understanding some forms of contemporary religiosity. To do this, the paper brings together analysis of narratives from an empirical project on converts to Islam with reflections on other trends in the literature in the sociology of religion. This, moreover, is brought into relation with Simmel’s law of the individual to reflect on the wider contemporary social context and dynamics between religiosity and religion.

From Modernity To The Postsecular: Georg Simmel On Religion and Spirituality

Michal Warchala

Pedagogical University of Cracow, Poland

Simmel's releveance for the sociology of religion has been more and more appreciated for the last two decades (cf. Helle 1997; Lee Erickson 2003). He can now be said to stand together with Max Weber and Emile Durkheim as another founding father of the discipline. Moreover, he is sometimes considered a forerunner of both the postmodern reflection on culture and society and of today's “sociology of spirituality” (Varga, 2007).

In my paper I would like to concentrate on two aspects of Simmel's thought related to this latter point. The first aspect is his conception of religiosity (or religiousness) as a “bridge” or “third realm” between the subjective sphere of individual experience and the objective sphere of social relationships. This makes religious transcendence the inconspicous matter of everyday life – much as it is considered in contemporary research on spirituality (cf. the notion of “little transcendences” in Luckmann 1990 and similar concepts in Joas 2014). The second aspect deals with his consideration of art and eroticism as having a special relationship with religiosity. Whereas both domains were usually considered in Simmel's times as largely opposed to the sphere of religion his emphasis on their similarities and continuity between them as forms of life makes him herald much of the 20th century reflection on the matter (Bataille, Lacan etc.).

These two aspects together testify, I contend, to Simmel's crucial position as a source of inspiration for today's “postsecular” thought concentrating on the survival of the religious element in the secularized environment.

Life-Capital after Simmel and Freud

Barbara Anna Markowska

Collegium Civitas, Poland

In The Philosophy of Money (1900) Simmel has depicted a world of modern money-economy in which money became a symbolic form of life. He has discovered that a human desires lie in the background of the whole market-exchange but the living being acts according to own individual law. In other words, the most generic desire of attaining a positive balance and possibility of equvivalence is a part of process of individualization. As he wrote in the posthumous essay Life as Transcendence: “Life finds its essence, its process, in being more-life and more-than-life; its positive is as such already its comparative” (2010: 17). The same one could say about capital, understood in the common way as historical process in which money makes money or value ‘makes' value. Thus, we can say that money symbolizes the capitalisation of life.

In the presentation I argue that category of desire and life-capital is a key code for understanding the phenomen of modern capitalism. I will show that Simmel’s way of thinking about the money economy and human desire is supplementary with Freud’s libidinal economy sketched in the essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1922). This juxtaposition creates an important analytical framework allow to understand better the dynamic and productivity of our modes of subjectivity. Actually, it signifies a shift from the question “what we are desiring?” to much less metaphysique „how we are desiring?”.