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Social Types

In the study of society Georg Simmel made an attempt to understand a whole range of social types such as the stranger, the mediator, the poor and so on. A social type becomes a type because of his/her relations with others who assign a certain position to this person and have certain expectations of him/her. The characteristics of the social type are therefore seen as the features of social structure. He gives an example of the stranger in his book, The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Simmel has described the stranger as a person who comes today and stays tomorrow. This stranger is someone who has a particular place in society within the social group that the person has entered. The social position of this stranger is determined by the fact that he or she does not belong to this group from the beginning. It is this status of the stranger that determines his or her role in the new social group and also the interaction that takes place. As a stranger a person is simultaneously both near to one as well as distant. Not being part of the social group the stranger can look at it objectively without being biased. Thus the stranger can be an ideal intermediary in any kind of exchange of ideas or goods. In this way the position of the stranger is fixed in a society and defined.

George Simmel in all his works stressed both the connection as well as the tensions between the individual and society. In his opinion an individual is both a product of society as well as the link in all-social processes that take place in society. The relationship between an individual and the society is therefore dual in nature. Individual is at one and the same time within the society and outside it. He exists for society as well as for himself. Social individual cannot be partly social and partly individual. Social individual is shaped by a fundamental unity in which we find a synthesis of two logically opposed elements. These elements are than an individual is both a being and social link is himself as well as a product of society. This dialectical approach that brings out the dynamic –interlinkages as well as conflicts that exist between social units in society.

In real life no society can exist with absolute harmony. Conflict is an essential and complementary aspect of consensus or harmony in society. He maintains that socialization or human interactions involve contradictory elements like harmony and conflict, attraction and repulsion, love and hatred and so on. He also made a distinction between social appearances and social realities. There are certain relationships of conflict that give the appearance of being negative to both the participants as well as the outsiders. But if we analyze these conflictive relationships it has latent positive aspects.