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Simmel believed that the process of social differentiation produced two major changes in patterns of organization. First, as social differentiation increases, so too does the number of groups that a person can belong to. This is a difference in quantity.

Second, the central principle driving group formation changed from organic to rational standards. This is a difference in quality.

? In less complex societies, group affiliation is often traditional* and stable. Membership has strong ties with personal identity

? In complex societies, group affiliation is often chosen on the basis of logical or rational* grounds (i.e. skill, interest, desire). Membership is impermanent and can change over time

A key point of consistency across Simmel’s work is his focus on the relationship between the individual and society. Or, Simmel is interested in the antagonistic battle, the permanent conflict, between:

? Individualism vs. socialism

? Creativity vs. tradition

? Avant-garde* vs. orthodox

? Action vs. inaction

? Change vs. stability

? Difference/dissimilarity vs. generalization/uniformity

? Need for isolation vs. need for unionA key point of consistency across Simmel’s work is his focus on the relationship between the individual and society. Or, Simmel is interested in the antagonistic battle, the permanent conflict, between:

? Individualism vs. socialism

? Creativity vs. tradition

? Avant-garde* vs. orthodox

? Action vs. inaction

? Change vs. stability

? Difference/dissimilarity vs. generalization/uniformity

? Need for isolation vs. need for union

Simmel says a great deal about fashion — its objects, processes,motivations, outcomes, and failings.

? Fashion is “the child of thought and thoughtlessness” (p. 295)

? “very frequently not the slightest reason can be found for the creations of fashion from the standpoint of an objective, aesthetic, or other expediency” (p. 297)

? “seen as though fashion were desirous of exhibiting its power by getting us to adopt the most atrocious things for its sake alone” (p. 297) So, uhm, why are you dressed that way?

How do you resist being fashionable?

Can you escape fashion?

Could you have a club of people who hate clubs? Can atheism be a religion?

Is the desire to avoid fads, trends, and contemporary styles of dress itself

not a commitment to a fashion? Is counter-culture, well, a culture?

Or, what’s outside of fashion, style, and design?

Social Differentiation and Group Formation

Social theories can be defined as the ideas, arguments, hypotheses and thought experiments and explanatory speculations that helps understanding human societies and the way it has come to be formed, changed and developed over time or have disappeared from being existing (Martindale, 2013). Social theories have presented the world with various theories explaining a various social phenomenon. Social theories may vary along with time, region or people however in most of the case they deal with human behavior and social changes. Therefore, these theories along with time have shaped the modern theories as well. In this paper, the contribution of the German sociologist George Simmel is discussed. Simmel’s famous article Fashion has been one of the significant contributions to understanding the contemporary social life. Firstly, the paper examines in brief about the sociologist followed by his thinking about the concept of Fashion in the contemporary social life. Secondly, the paper critically evaluates the social theory and presents an argument based on the concept and contemporary life.

The philosopher, sociologist and critic George Simmel is one of the major contributors who has created theories to understand contemporary social life. Born in 1858, the German philosopher with his neo-Kantian approach has built the foundations for sociological antipositivism. His insightful essays based on social interaction and personal interactions inspired the development of qualitative analysis in sociology (Frisby, 2013). He was one of the sociologists who isolated the general forms of social interaction from the activities that are more specific. He gave focus on the obedience and authority such as economics, the role of money and other special activities. One of his significant contributions that the world obtained is his theory of fashion (Frisby, 2013).

According to Simmel, the purpose of identifying social group is served by fashion. To be more precise, fashion serves as a tool of demarcating social position and an identifier for the people who belong to the demarcated social position (Veenstra & Kuipers, 2013). Like the way it has already discussed, Simmel’s work was focused on the relationship between the individual and society. Also, it can be put as he was interested in antagonistic battles as well as the continuous conflict between individualism versus socialism, action versus inaction, change versus stability, need for isolation versus the need for union, creativity versus tradition, avant-garde versus orthodox and difference versus uniformity (Ruiz?Tagle, 2013). Society from its inception has been comprised of conflicts. According to Simmel, fashion is a complex structure which is not merely a facet of life however it presents the perfect site to examine nature, culture and society of human. Simmel perceives fashion as “the child of thought and thoughtlessness”, and he does not find any reason for the creation of such objects, possesses, motivations, outcomes and failings (Machuco Rosa, 2016). From his perspective, it is only to exhibit its power by getting humans to adopt the most atrocious possessions for its sake solely. Fashion being complex in nature provides a strange feeling of satisfaction to individuals by imitation which, according to them, does not make them stand alone in their actions. This satisfaction includes freedom from the worry, the worry of choosing and hence makes them belonged to the group like the social contents’ vessel.

The Relationship between Individual and Society

Since fashion has been essential for human’s living, it is deeply enrooted to human psychology. People opting for the fashion draws a sense of satisfaction by the thought that his possession is special, striking and in the meantime largely supported by set persons who are striving for the same properties carried by him. The person labelled ‘fashionable’ is considered with mixed feelings of envy as well as approval. Therefore, by the way, fashion operates and regulates it can be understood that it furnishes an ideal field with dependent nature for individuals.  The dependent feels from the individual’s self-consciousness which in some way requires a certain proportion of prominence. Also, fashion is highly capable of making any unimportant individual an representative of a class. Fashion is deeply integrated with gender, class and time which allow different people to have a sense of satisfaction. Also, fashion cannot be escaped for someone paying any heed to the fashion will belong to another set of a group with some different form of fashion (Cavell, 2013).

According to Ramarajan (2014), George Simmel illustrated in various ways the contradiction existing fashion. His journal on fashion suggests that in every individual there exists dualism, which begins from one’s soul and involves in every aspect including life. There are broadly two tendencies in society, generalisation and another specialisation. Every person wants to belong to society as well as social situations. Fashion is a form of social relationship, and it allows individuals to conform to the demands of the group to do the same. At the same time fashion also provides scope to the individuals who wish to be individualistic to deviate. The tendency of generalisation is upheld by individuals who imitate. According to Almond (2016), imitation is processed by which people escape the responsibility of becoming creative and create something. They get the opportunity to fit in society without necessarily making any choice or even worrying about making any decision. On the other hand, the tendency of specialisation wishes to become different and be individual as for them imitation is frowned upon in society to a certain extent. The dualism is present in fashion as it gives people the opportunity of both, becoming an imitator as well as stand out of the crown by being individual.

According to Aspers and Godart (2013), Simmel discusses the nature of fashion that the way the upper class turn away from a particular fashion once it reaches the masses involving even the lower class. Through this Simmel have portrayed the way fashion is class oriented.  The differentiation is also evident in groups that are closely related yet refuse to be considered the same. For them, fashion is used to promote the differences. Also, dualism nature of fashion is reflected through the necessity in its production that is the need to unionise as well as the need for isolation. Supported by Appleford, (2013), these two factors are seen and expressed in order to show the isolation and to unionize of different cultural, social, religious group throughout history. It is also important to represent the two ideas of fashion that manifest fashion imitation is either obedience to rejection. Rejection of fashion as well as the obedience of fashion, despite making any choice a person will undoubtedly fall under one of the two categories. In both the case people feel a sense of satisfaction that may be the need to individualise of the need or to be different. Simmel also discusses the way fashion is related to people’s inner and outer struggle in life. The most important battle of people is balancing self into fitting in or standing out the society and social situation. Fashion is a tool that either helps or hurts this particular struggle. Fashion also majorly revolves around this mentioned concept. Simmel says, “fashion is merely a product of social demands”. If the human did not feel the need for fitting in or standing out, there would not have been the existence of fashion in society. Simmel also discusses how fashion is time oriented, class oriented and gender oriented. However, these are only aspects of the economy related to fashion.

According to Atik and F?rat, (2013), in the contemporary era, the trend of becoming ‘fashionable is only a way of fitting in some social group, and this can be derived from Simmel’s line ‘attempts to combine the interest in duration, unity, and similarity with that in change, specialisation, and peculiarity’. This also explains the way fashion tends to make every individual similar. People seek fashion in order to differentiate themselves from other groups, however, to fit in with own social group or class. People use fashion to make themselves different yet same, it is only to differentiate from one group and be same to another group.

Conclusion:

George Simmel’s theory of fashion is still relevant in today’s 21st century. It is a theory that represents people’s desire to belong as well as different. He has beautifully represented the duality that is involved. It represents the society’s behaviour and the way it shapes human perspective. Therefore, at the end of the paper, it can be concluded the importance of social theory is evident. They comprise various aspects of society that logically explain the social phenomenon. In this paper, the social phenomenon, fashion has been analysed which has helped in gaining the insights of people behaviour, people’s relationship with the social phenomenon and last the social phenomenon itself.

References:

Almond, K. (2016). A Potential Dichotomy: Clothing, Fashion and the UK Apparel Industry. The International Journal of Designed Objects.

Appleford, K. (2013). Fashion and class evaluation. The Handbook of Fashion Studies, 102Á120.

Aspers, P., & Godart, F. (2013). Sociology of fashion: Order and change. Annual Review of Sociology, 39, 171-192.

Atik, D., & F?rat, A. F. (2013). Fashion creation and diffusion: The institution of marketing. Journal of Marketing Management, 29(7-8), 836-860.

Cavell, S. (2013). The world as things: Collecting thoughts on collecting. Contemporary collecting: Objects, practices, and the fate of things, 99-130.

Frisby, D. (2013). Fragments of Modernity (Routledge Revivals): Theories of Modernity in the Work of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin. Routledge.

Frisby, D. (2013). Sociological Impressionism (Routledge Revivals): A Reassessment of Georg Simmel's Social Theory. Routledge.

Machuco Rosa, A. (2016). From dandyism to ‘Coco’Chanel: A reassessment of Georg Simmel’s theory of fashion. International Journal of Fashion Studies, 3(1), 91-110.

Martindale, D. (2013). The nature and types of sociological theory. Routledge.

Ramarajan, L. (2014). Past, present and future research on multiple identities: Toward an intrapersonal network approach. The Academy of Management Annals, 8(1), 589-659.

Ruiz?Tagle, J. (2013). A theory of socio?spatial integration: Problems, policies and concepts from a US perspective. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(2), 388-408.

Veenstra, A., & Kuipers, G. (2013). It is not old?fashioned, it is vintage, vintage fashion and the complexities of 21st century consumption practices. Sociology Compass, 7(5), 355-365.

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