Enemy of the people: Simmel, Ibsen, and the Civic legacy of Nietzschean sociology

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The fall of Communism continued an ongoing weakening of Marxist ideology, which had been hegemonic among the European Left since the Great War. While the decline of Marxist thought can be justly seen negatively as the historical correlative of globalization, this decline has also produced cultural space for a re-evaluation of non-Marxist critiques of capitalist civilization. One example of a powerful non-Marxist critique of capitalist civilization is Georg Simmel's sociology of money culture. Before turning to Simmel's radical critique, this essay explains how Simmel came to be viewed as a conservative. Simmel's presumed conservatism is challenged via a re-examination of the civic implications of his Nietzschean sociology. A central question is whether Simmel's ethical individualism is conservative. This question is finally answered through an analysis of Ibsen's Enemy of the People. The choice of Ibsen is not random, for it amplifies the close ethical and historical affinity of Naturalist drama and Simmel's philosophy.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10848770500084747

Affiliations: National University, 804 East Brier Drive, San Bernardino, CA 92408, USA, Email: rleck@nu.edu

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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