The paper "Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin" is a worthy example of a biography essay. There is a necessity to know and understand the different features of modern urban life and the place of a man in a modern city. This paper will demonstrate Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin’ s positions on modern and post-modern urban experience and a new politics of vision, a new understanding of the modern city and mass media influence on human life. Simmel lived in Berlin the most part of his life, and this fact of his biography predetermined his views on modern urban life.
In his best-known essay The Metropolis and Mental Life Simmel “ analyses individual life in the context of modern, metropolitan life, contrasting the social forces and structures of urban life with those of traditional rural and small-town settings” (Micro Approaches and Simmel). In this work, Simmel underlined that in conditions of the modern city and urban society an individual can successfully develop his skills and abilities, as the economical and political situation of modern and post-modern community promotes individual freedom and flexibility.
Simmel underlined that “ the city conspires to erase difference by assaulting the individual with an overwhelming and never-ending stream of visual stimuli” (Byram, 2002). This vision is inherent to the spacing theory of scientific rationalism, modern and post-modern experience that fills the space with giant cubic forms suppressing the consciousness of people and their freedom. In Simmel’ s opinion, our society consists of individuals who interact with each other, and this interacting forms features and specificity of our society: “ While there is no perception of society until individuals begin to interact, once formed by the interaction of individuals, the society affects the individuals as an outside force” (Crow Ch. , et al. , 2000).
Benjamin considered modern urban experience and a new politics of vision through the development of technologies. He underlined that “ because of mechanical reproduction, art loses its authenticity. Simmel also underlined that metropolis allows individuals to develop their freedom and art. But on the other hand, Simmel asserted that post-modern urban spirit threats individuality (see above). As well as Simmel, Benjamin had a positive attitude toward communications development: “ Benjamin is positive about new technologies, emphasizing their liberating, democratizing influences.
Simmel gave more social approach to the communication technologies as interactions between people asserting that they form our society, but Benjamin wrote about the positive attitude towards such technologies as film and photography: “ New media technologies such as photographs, epic theatre, and especially film and photography, not only destroy art's ‘ aura’ but demystifies the process of creating art, making available radical new access and roles for art in mass culture” (Bicket, 2001). With the development of photography and film, human perception is changed, and the understanding of modern and post-modern urban reality is also transformed.
The paper has demonstrated two authors’ positions on modern and post-modern urban experience and their attitude to mass media and technology development. Both Simmel and Benjamin underlined the importance of technological development and its influence on art, culture and our understanding of the social environment. They underlined positive and negative approaches of modern and post-modern urban experience and explained the influence of urban life on people. Simmel’ s views are more approached to the negative and depressing influence of urban life on individuals, while those of Benjamin are more inclined to the positive perception of technological and cultural aspects of modern and post-modern urban society.