Georg-Simmel Center for Urban Studies

Georg Simmel

The metropolis indicates direction, form and pace of social transformation sooner and more clearly than any other city; it is a pioneer to the remaining society. Each metropolis combines history, present, and future in an individual way; it forms the relation of nature and culture; it embodies very individual constellations of local, regional, national, and global aspects.

Key aspects of this metropolitan understanding draw back on the work of Berlin sociologist and adjunct professor (Privatdozent) at Berlin University, Georg Simmel, who published in 1903 his groundbreaking seminal essay titling The Metropolis and Mental Life (Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben).
More than any other publication, this short article has determined the way numerous disciplines have studied and defined quality, role, and meaning of the metropolis, in Simmel's case: Berlin. By naming the center after Simmel, we do not solely intend to honor an outstanding scholar, who during his life-time never received the recognition he deserved, but we would also like to take up some essential analytical strategies developed by Simmel and further develop these in the direction of interdisciplinary metropolitan studies.


Simmel characterized the metropolis as a focal point where the relevant social developments crystallize in a paradigmatic way. A new mode of social life - the "modern lifestyle" - develops, and along with it a new type of city-dweller. The metropolis is defined as a place of exemplary social experience.

Simmel, however, did not only refer to the modern metropolis as a driving force of cultural innovation, but emphasized its particular economic productivity resulting from its characteristics such as size, density, and heterogeneity. Increasing division of labor and specialization are the consequences - and to this day these are the outstanding features of large city economy.

Georg Simmel - The Metropolis and Mental Life (PDF)