Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

Georg Simmel presents the idea of the blasé attitude which is adopted by individuals who become overwhelmed by the psychological overstimulation of the city setting. This attitude, perpetuated by the money economy within the metropolis, leads to the emotional withdrawal of the individual in favor of the “psychological intellectualistic attitude” (Simmel, 1903, as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, p. 266). The intellectualistic or blasé attitude acts as a shield for an individual against constant stimuli inherent in the metropolis. It prevents the emotional investment one might be more prone to acquiring in the social setting of a more rural community (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008).

To a very large degree I can see the validity of this theory. I have visited large cities and found them thick with the apathetic, blasé attitude which Simmel describes. However, it is my opinion that this theory excludes the explanation of the anomalistic metropolis such as the one I have experienced in El Paso. I grew up in a fairly rural community, in New Mexico with a population barely one-tenth that of El Paso, where the emotional and communal connection was barely noticeable, if at all present. There was no desire to have dealings with the affairs of others within the community. In fact, the only community camaraderie which was at all palpable was found at the sporting events of the local high school. I have found the opposite to be true of what I perceive to be the metropolitan setting in El Paso. There is, in my opinion, a greater emotional connection between the people within this community than within the significantly smaller community. I notice more people here offering money to homeless individuals on the street. I can easily strike up a conversation with someone at the bus stop or in the library on campus. I rarely, if ever, rely on the shield that I produced and maintained in the sixteen years that I lived in this small town in New Mexico.

How do you think Simmel would account for this type of anomaly?


  1. To begin, it is possible Simmel did not account for borderland cities. Secondly, there is a possibility of uncertainty as to what a metropolis constitutes. To Simmel, a metropolis is the " 'genuine arena' of the growth of objective culture" (Ritzer 2008). Although El Paso is a large city it may not be a metropolis as defined by Simmel. Because El Paso is not presently viewed, say as Dallas or Denver, where the money economy is significant or predominant, it may not have a blase attitude or a blase attitude to the degree of other metropolises. Concerning the small town in New Mexico, it may be that objective culture has permeated to such an extent that even rural towns are no longer characterized by feeling and emotionality.

  2. I can clearly see the apathy (blase attitude) here in El Paso, just think of UTEP's social interaction, does every student care to support their university? A clear example is women's basketball games I hardly see students there