Jul 15, 2011

Classical Sociology Beyond the Nation-Sate? The Quest for Today's Europe

The conference Classical Sociology Beyond the Nation-Sate? The Quest for Today’s Europe will take place at the University of Salerno, 6-7 October 2011
The purpose of this conference is to reassess the way classic sociology looked at society between 1871 and 1945, when the nation was at its apogee, and try to shed light on the possible ways of using some of its ideas to understand the ongoing changes in today’s Europe; the conference will try to pursue such aims by addressing issues such as: the relationship between the ‘nation’ and ‘society’ according to classic sociologists; the relationship between the ‘national society’ and ‘European society’ in the works of these authors; the way their analysis can help develop a sociology of global society capable of understanding today’s Europe”.
The speakers of the first plenary session From Nationalism to Cosmopolitanism are David Inglis, Vittorio Cotesta, Austin Harringhton, Dimitri D’Andrea.  I will present a paper (below title and abstract) in the second plenary session Classical Sociology Beyond The Nation.

Simmel’s Double Boundary and the Cosmopolitan Experience in Europe: Strangers, Wanderers and Blasé Individuals
An interpretation of Simmel’s double boundary dialectic — human beings are boundaries, and only who stands outside his/her boundary knows it as such — can shed sociological light on the discourse about National, European and Cosmopolitan identity. The difficulty to define oneself as “European” stems (also) from what could be named the “Double Other” (intra- and extra-European) diachronic recognition process. The possible/impossible cosmopolitan meta-synthesis can be investigated depicting some traits of the cosmopolitan experience in Europe. Even in this case the reference to Simmel’s social types (strangers, wanderers, blasé individuals, etc.) and to his theory of fashion and distinction (compared to Veblen and Bourdieu viewpoints) can assist us in the effort to grasp the mentality of the Cosmopolitan in Europe as well as the European Cosmopolitan. Furthermore, some reference to the aesthetic and romanticized representation of a “Europe without Europeans” might help us recognize that travelling to or within the Old World does not necessarily mean to cross social and cultural boundaries; thus, a “cosmopolitan globetrotter” might not be the best “broker of knowledge” in our globalized world. As for the mental life of the metropolis represented by Simmel, even the socio-psychological life in a G-world might degenerate into a series of defensive mechanisms, where boundaries become the walls of an overinflated self — a social actor who fails the mediation between objective  and subjective culture.  Finally, Simmel’s argument that people are attracted for free-playing sociability, a kind of  pure interaction as an end in itself,  will be seen as another solid conceptual bridge to seize some meanings given by young people to their studying abroad  experiences in Europe: playing as the reality.