Georg Simmel - Domination and Freedom

The following sample essay on Georg Simmel, in his work “Domination and Freedom”, identifies domination as a form of interaction. He claims that both the superordinate and the subordinate parties interact intentionally. By this assumption, he concludes that domination never totally kills freedom unless there is a case of physical force executed on subjugated party. The aim of this work is to demonstrate that Simmel’s argument advocating that mentioned interaction is mutually determined is fallacious. Simmel definitely misses a point while constructing his ideas on the nature of domination: the subordinate does not essentially interact intentionally.

According to Simmel, authority is established in two different ways. In first, a significant person acquires authority by his excelling decisions and merely subjective personality. Thus, superordinate enjoys being the focus of objectivity in his environment. In the other case, a super-individual power such as state blesses a person with authority. Simmel uses the term generatio aequivoca, meaning spontaneous generation, to refer to the process by which authority descends upon a person.

He strongly argues that in both processes there exists a voluntary faith of subjugated party. Subordinate elements are being seen as more or less voluntary participants of a sociological event. He furthermore exemplifies his argument by situation of a speaker or a teacher. A spekaer in front of an audience or a teacher in a class enjoys only a momentary superordination. A person in such a situation sees himself as the only decision maker. However, his actions are widely determined by the mass he claims to subordinate.

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Simmel quotes a German party leader to empower his argument: “I am their leader, therefore I must follow them. ” Simmel admits the existence of a one-sided subordination only in a medieval theory of state in which, ruler’s authority depends on subjects’ mutual contract but not on a contract between ruler and ruled. But he argues that in contemporary theories, the contract namely ‘laws’ also binds the ruler more or less. To some extent, Simmel’s arguments seem to be really convincing. On the other hand, he, in a way, attempts to narrow down the concept of freedom. Giovanni Sartori uses the term concept stretching in order to refer to attribute a meaning to a concept that it does not have. Similarly, in “Domination and Freedom”, Georg Simmel takes only a narrow account of concept of freedom. For example, his ideas about how much a ruling class should regard the opinions, delicacies and propensities of public are essential in understanding power relations.

Nevertheless, he chooses to foresee how ruling class manages these affairs; making the public think, care and tend to what the ruling class itself wants without recognizing the fact. He gives the example of a teacher as a seemingly superordination. Whereas, he avoids from drawing attention to a worker’s situation, in which employee and employer have a seemingly reciprocal interaction of power; but in fact, employer abuses employee’s labor. The status-quo prevents people from understanding what real freedom is, therefore making any seemingly reciprocity pointless. In conlusion, the claim of reciprocal determinance of domination articulated by Georg Simmel fails to explain power relations. He squeezes the concept of freedom into a so called ability to effect relations between subordinate and superordinate. Despite there is no physical violence as Simmel argues, nobody can say that a consumer in 21st century, whose needs, tastes and abilities determined by the system itself, has freedom. Without understanding systematic opression that modernity exercises upon people, it seems impossible to make sense of domination and freedom.

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Georg Simmel - Domination and Freedom. (2017, Apr 13). Retrieved from

Georg Simmel - Domination and Freedom
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