Blase Attitude

What is the definition of the blase attitude in Georg Simmel's "The Metorpolis and Mental Life"?

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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"The Metropolis and Mental Life" (1903), one of Simmel's most influential contributions to cultural theory, develops a central thesis from his study The Philosophy of Money (1900): the rise in the value of the intellect and rationality in modern life and the complementary reduction of situations where "the subjective soul can interpose its will and feelings". The city, with its historical association with economic exchange, is the place where money fully develops its rationalizing potential.

According to Simmel, city life produces new social relations and a new type of person. The continuous nervous stimulation caused by the crowded, noisy and polluted urban spaces leads city dwellers to develop a defensive reaction to the Metropolis. They respond to the shocks of the metropolitan world with their intellect rather than the heart and taking refuge in reserve rather than human contact. The blasé type embodies this reaction. His seeming indifference to what goes on around him is in fact a defence mechanism to avoid being overwhelmed by the emotional interactions with all the other city dwellers that he meets.

However, Simmel's description of urban life is not entirely negative as one could think if focussing on the blasé alone. Simmel finds an enormous liberating and cosmopolitan potential in the metropolis which grants more anonymity and autonomy to individuals than rural areas where everyone knows everyone else.

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