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Print version ISSN 0011-5258

Dados vol.4 Rio de Janeiro  2008


Simmel in Brazil*


Simmel no Brasil


Simmel au Brésil



Leopoldo Waizbort

Leopoldo Waizbort is a Professor of Sociology at the University of São Paulo and the author of As aventuras de Georg Simmel (2000, 2nd ed. 2006) and A passagem do três ao um. Sociologia – crítica literária – filologia (2007). He is a researcher on the CNPq – National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development, E-mail:

Translated by Anthony Doyle
Translation from DADOS – Revista de Ciências Sociais, v. 50, n. 1, pp. 11-48, 2007.




Simmel's presence in Social Science in Brazil is long-standing and varied. This text aims at outlining some of the forms in which his ideas and writings have been appropriated, received and imported here and the general importance they have had for a variety of Brazilian social scientists considered exemplary from the point of view of background, and the multiplicity of forms in which they established relationships with Simmel's oeuvre. From a certain perspective, this endeavour affords a brief history of sociology in Brazil.


La présence de Simmel dans les sciences sociales au Brésil est variée et ancienne. On cherche ici à indiquer quelques-uns des modes dappropriation, accueil et importation de ses idées et textes, chez plusieurs chercheurs en sociologie brésiliens, tenus dune certaine façon pour exemplaires quant aux questions de fond; on essaie de montrer la multiplicité de formes et de modes de rapports quils ont établis avec loeuvre de Simmel. Dans une certaine mesure, cette recherche aide à saisir lhistoire de la sociologie au Brésil.

Mots-clé: accueil; Simmel; Brésil



dedicated to Octávio Ianni, in memoriam


1. Introduction

When do we first begin to detect the presence of the ideas and writings of Georg Simmel (1858-1918) in Brazil? This is essentially the guiding question of this essay. I aim to specify and investigate Simmel's earliest reception in Brazil, identify the authors and works in which his presence was first felt, and pinpoint the varied modalities of this reception, importation, appropriation and discussion of his ideas. As the first approach to a previously unexplored question, the identification of these modalities will be accompanied by a critical reflection that will not only sketch a draft  of this presence, but also gather material for an appraisal of the stronger and weaker, wider and more limited, more or less literal, more or less articulated modes of dealing and thinking with Simmel and the consequences this brought for the research work and disciplines involved. From a certain perspective, this investigation will enable us to trace a certain brief history of sociology in Brazil.

However, before all else, it is important to emphasize the anti-Simmelian character of such an investigation into his critical or a-critical fortunes in Brazil, as it requires an exercise in inventory and classification wholly alien to Simmel's thought. Moreover, this investigation, which does not purport to be exhaustive, but merely a sample of the diversity of Simmel's influence, possesses nothing of his characteristically gripping, captivating and seductive verve. Quite the contrary, in fact, it is monotonous and laborious and its results somewhat tenuous, albeit a tenuity that is of sociological interest and worthy of understanding.

To speak of reception, "cultural transfers", appropriations or the circulation of ideas in relation to Georg Simmel demands that one remember his famous comments about his legacy:

"I know that I shall die without intellectual heirs, and that is as it should be. My legacy will be, as it were, in cash, distributed to many heirs, each transforming his part into use conformed to his nature: a use which will reveal no longer its indebtedness to this heritage." (SIMMEL, s.d.: 1)

For a man who wrote a philosophy of money, the analogy is laden with meanings. In his work from 1900, we read: "[...] cash transactions have the character of an absolutely fleeting relationship that leaves no trace […]" (SIMMEL, 1900: 513). Hence we can understand how the reception of Simmel's thought is, in some of its more instigating guises, underground, occult and hidden. For my part, I can only recall that other forms of property, other than money, carry vestiges of their origins – Simmel would say: vestiges that refuse to be erased, objective or psychological vestiges – that remind the owner of the origin of the property; while there is nothing traceable in the relationship with money.

Indeed, the heirs did deal with his legacy in a rather sundry manner, and one small, almost insignificant ramification of this is all we can expect of an essay entitled "Simmel in Brazil". The scope of my examination of Simmel in Brazil will be confined to social sciences in general and sociology and social anthropology in particular; I will leave a possible investigation of this nature within the fields of philosophy and history to appropriately specialized colleagues1.  

Continuing with the prolegomena, it is useful to remember that Simmel, born in Berlin 150 years ago, had German as his Muttersprache, and it was in German that he always wrote. As such, to a certain extent (yet to be fully gauged), the knowledge, reception and circulation of his writings depended on access to this language. Largely, but not exclusively, as from early on in his career, Simmel was widely translated in two important hubs of sociological thought at the turn of the century, Paris and Chicago. From early on, therefore, besides the Berliner Simmel, there was the Parisian Simmel and the Chicagoan Simmel. Of course, there were translations in other languages too, but these did not flourish, at least not in the beginning.

The circulation of books and periodicals, access to foreign languages, agents of transmission, sources of divulging, institutions of reproduction, and so on, are always fundamental elements to consider when speaking of reception and circulation. Not to mention that underpaid and under-appreciated breed, the translators. Simmel in Brazil depends on all of this, and something else. We must also consider the agents and centres of diffusion:

- there are no Brazilian sociologists who studied with Simmel;

- there is not one institution here that served as an initial vector for Simmel's thought; 

- practically none of Simmel's work has been published in Portuguese.

Let us start from this latter point, and here follows a list of Simmel's texts – or more often than not fragments of texts – I managed to compile, but which only goes up to the early 1980s, for reasons I will explain later:

1. "As formas sociais como objeto da Sociologia" (Social forms as an object of sociology), published in 1940 in the collection Leituras sociológicas (Sociological Readings), edited by Romano Barreto and Emilio Willems. (BARRETO & WILLEMS, 1940: 7-12. An excerpt from the beginning of Soziologie, from 1908)

2. "O indivíduo e a díade (The individual and the dyad)", published in 1961 in the collection Homem e sociedade (Man and Society), edited by Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Octávio Ianni. (CARDOSO and IANNI, 1961) 2

3. "A metrópole e a vida mental" (The metropolis and mental life), published in 1967 in the collection O fenômeno urbano (The Urban Phenomenon), edited by Otávio G. Velho. (VELHO, 1967: 13-28) 3

4. "Requisitos universais e axiomáticos da sociedade" (Universal and axiomatic requisites of society), published in 1969 in the collection Comunidade e sociedade (Community and Society), edited by Florestan Fernandes. (FERNANDES, 1969: 62-81)

5. "O problema da sociologia" (The problem of sociology), published in 1977 in the collection Teoria sociológica (Sociological Theory), edited by P. Birnbaum and F. Chazel. (BIRNBAUM & CHAZEL, 1977: 18-21)

6. Various texts, mostly from Soziologie (1908), published in 1983 in a collection of Simmel's writings edited by Evaristo de Moraes Filho (MORAES, 1983).4 5

In addition to this, we must also emphasize the relevance of the Spanish translations of Simmel's works, as it was often through these that Simmel was read in Brazil. In more general terms, the importance of this phenomenon is yet to be truly assessed in the  social sciences and, in the specific case of Simmel, it was just as relevant as the national translations were sparse and the Spanish versions (mostly from Madrid and Buenos Aires) were varied (cf. VERNIK, 2006).

The simple listing of the Brazilian translations reveals that Simmel was present right from the earliest days of the institutionalization of the social sciences in Brazil, as we can see from the Free School of Sociology and Politics in São Paulo6. It was there that the first translations and publications were prepared as didactic material by Barreto and Willems for an anthology that, sixty-five years later on, still has its relevance. On that occasion, Simmel was sourced from his original writings in German, which was, after all, Willem's mother tongue. Whilst the ideas and authors of the Chicago school were no less present, there was confluence between the two lines in a school that had both American and German teachers – albeit by pure chance. Thenceforth, however, the relationship with Simmel would become increasingly mediated by Chicago and even the translations would come down to us through the North-American editions, checked against the German originals only in the best of cases. And so it would remain, even up to 1983.

Given the importance of Simmel's reception in Chicago, the main hub and transmitter of sociology in the USA from the turn of the century to the between-wars period, it is important to recall certain facts and individuals, starting with Albion Small, a colleague of Simmel in Berlin, and Robert Park, his student in Germany - to name just two of the better known and most influential - the translations in the American Journal of Sociology and the inestimable role played by Robert Park and his colleague Ernst W. Burgess, who, in 1921, published their Introduction to the Science of Sociology (The University of Chicago Press), one of the most widely used collections/manuals of sociology not only in the USA, but worldwide. With ten excerpts, Simmel was the author who was featured most strongly in this volume and the importance attributed to him in the introduction to the work – which came to be known simply as "Park and Burgess" – was decisive to his lasting presence in North-American sociology and diffusion throughout western sociology in general. Also in Chicago, in 1936, Edward A. Shills published his translation of "The Metropolis and Mental Life"7, a text that would do more than any other to divulge and establish Simmel within the Brazilian social sciences.       

I wanted to highlight these two North-American publications because they reveal something very significant about the theme and problematic aspects of Simmel in Brazil, insofar as they correspond, in broad strokes, to the two key moments of his reception here. In this sense, I would like to paraphrase a classic study on the reception of Simmel in the USA with the Brazilian perspective in mind:

"The transmission of Simmel's ideas into American [Brazilian, LW] sociology actually took place at different times, in different places, in different ways, and for different reasons." (LEVINE, CARTER & GORMAN, 1976: 178)

If we can shed some light on these variables, I believe we can begin to form an idea of Simmel's reception in Brazil. We shall see.

The very beginnings can perhaps be described in the manner of the American authors Levine, Carter, Gorman in "Defining the sociological domain", according to whom:

"Simmel stood out during those years as one who took the question of establishing a clearly demarcated analytic domain for sociology with special seriousness, and his forthright delimitation of the field helped to provide a sense of professional identity for some of those who learned from him." (LEVINE, CARTER & GORMAN, 1976: 178-179)

Precisely the same occurs in Brazil roughly between the 1930s and the early 1980s: 

1. Simmel is incorporated into manuals and introductions to sociology by various authors, such as the above-mentioned anthologies/manuals of Barreto and Willems, Cardoso and Ianni, and Florestan, all produced in Brazil, as well as in the collection by Birnbaum and Chazel, a foreign work translated to Portuguese.

2. Simmel features alongside others as an important or very important sociologist in the process of defining, delimiting, constituting and legitimizing sociology as a science and/or autonomous field of problematization and study. Simmel is recognized as one of the founding fathers of the discipline, and therefore as someone with whom everyone ought to be at least vaguely familiar. He also serves, to greater and lesser degrees, as a framework for the investigations of Brazilian sociologists.

3. However, there is still no intellectual and academic space, interest, maturity or denseness for any deeper involvement with Simmel's thought: he appears, as already said, as one of various other important sociologists in the founding process of the discipline.

The second phase is made visible through its contrast with the previous one. The legitimization of the sociological domain, the growing denseness of  social sciences in Brazil, the institutionalization of the discipline and the creation of undergraduate and post-graduate courses, agencies and research programmes, in short, the consolidation and differentiation of the discipline, enabled more detailed attention to be paid to Simmel's thought, and from that point on, he is no longer considered just one of many other authors, but as a thinker worthy of attention in his own right. Evidently, this phenomenon has two dimensions, representing the diminished relevance of Simmel on the one hand, and his heightened relevance on the other. Either Simmel lies outside the field of interest and therefore ceases to exist, or he becomes a significant focus in another field of interest and therefore an author and oeuvre worth knowing more broadly and more deeply. In other words, Simmel ceases to be an author obligatorily known, but progressively relegated to the fringe and re-emerges at the other end of the spectrum as an author of special relevance for the study in question.

From this moment on, one can identify, albeit schematically, two different but not mutually exclusive strains of research and thought about Simmel: one that sees him as a classic sociologist, as a present and living reference in the history of the discipline; and another that holds him as an author who provides important platforms from which to approach research and varied investigations, and, in this sense, as a foundational intellectual reference (often in conjunction with other developments).

As already indicated, I believe it is in the early 80s that one can chronologically situate this transition, which was far more gradual than abrupt brusque. Basically, three occurrences mark this passage:

1. Gabriel Cohn's associate professor thesis at University of São Paulo in 1977, published in 1979 under the title Crítica e resignação. Fundamentos da sociologia de Max Weber (Criticism and resignation. The fundaments of Max Weber's sociology). While the book is devoted to Weber, as the title would suggest, it contains a chapter on Georg Simmel which that is something of a milestone in the treatment of Simmel in Brazil, given the penetration with which he is approached and the emphasis he receives over the course of the argument. The intellectual and academic denseness that allowed for the conception, writing, submission, approval, publication and recognition of such a thesis is a clear indication in itself that there was already a place in Brazilian social sciences for work of that nature at that time.

2. The anthology collection Georg Simmel: sociology, edited by Evaristo de Moraes Filho and published in 1983 in the series "Grandes cientistas sociais" (Great Social Scientists), directed by Florestan Fernandes. As I have already mentioned, this anthology comprises an assortment of texts: one whole article and eleven excerpts from books, mostly from Soziologie (1908). It is worth noting that the volume dedicated to Simmel was number 34 of the series, which means that it was preceded by 33 volumes on other authors, which reflects, albeit not in an absolute form, the importance then attributed to the Berlin sociologist (as was only fitting, the series was inaugurated by a volume on Emile Durkheim).

3. A series of investigations by Gilberto Velho, begun in the late 70s, early 80s and continuing to the present day, in which Simmel is a fundamental reference: at the core of these investigations is the problem of the individual/individualism and sociability, with Simmel taken as an authority on the matter, albeit not the only one. By way of illustration – as our concern here is not so much books, but the programme of investigation from which the books resulted – we can mention the works Individualismo e cultura. Notas para uma antropologia da sociedade contemporânea (Individualism and Culture. Notes for an anthropology of contemporary society), from 1981, and Subjetividade e sociedade. Uma experiência de geração (Subjectivity and society. An experience of generation), from 1986.

These three phenomena, one from São Paulo, one a São Paulo-Rio mix and the other from Rio de Janeiro, are significant, and likewise the fact that they are the work of a sociologist, a jurisconsult and a social anthropologist. One way or the other, my proposal here is to investigate the first of these phases, and the only way to do that is through inventory.


2. A manual from the 1930s and an important figure: Fernando de Azevedo.

In 1935, Fernando de Azevedo published his Princípios de sociologia. Pequena introdução ao estudo de sociologia geral (Principles of Sociology. A short introduction to the study of general sociology), a manual that contains over a dozen references to Simmel (AZEVEDO, 1935) 8. It is a large, wide-ranging book that covers a host of sociological trends and authors (especially French, North-American, English, German and Italian); Simmel appears at various stages throughout the manual:

1. In defence of the objectivity of knowledge of social facts and phenomena; in the search for impartiality, though he does not fail to recognize that the subject of knowledge needs to have an intimate relationship with the object it wishes to understand. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 23)

2. In a chapter on the importance of sociology of social groups, Azevedo returns to and highlights Simmel's understanding of the relationship between the formation of an independent and individual personality and the distinct and multiple social circles. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 66)

3.  Azevedo also highlights the question of "social forms", understood as "types of interaction among individuals in their reciprocal relations" (AZEVEDO, 1935: 69). While investigating such forms, interest should fall upon the relationship modalities at play, such as conflict, cooperation, imitation, subordination, etc., as it is in such relationships that "people become society" (AZEVEDO, 1935: 69, 150). Here we can see Fernando de Azevedo's keen perception of a founding nexus of sociology and Simmel's thought.

4. Azevedo underscores the importance Simmel attributes to the size of social groups as a significant factor for the analysis of social forms. In this sense, Azevedo also pinpoints, by way of Bouglé (a key figure in the history of Simmel's reception in France), the Simmelian theme of the largeness of the city as an important factor in the analysis of the social relations established therein, especially when it comes to the dimensions of individual dependence/independence. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 72, 82-84)

5. Azevedo returns to Durkheim's criticism of the shortcomings of Simmelian sociology as a study of forms, which he claimed would result in an equivocal and erroneous grounding of sociology, as the process of abstraction operated by Simmel is not disciplined enough in terms of method. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 78, 151, 154)

6. In a chapter entitled "The struggle for the autonomy of sociology as a science", Azevedo reserves an item for "The formal sociology of G. Simmel", (AZEVEDO, 1935: 14, 141, 150-151), complete with a portrait of the sociologist. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 153)

Here it would be interesting to quote at length from Azevedo, as it is perhaps the first time Simmel is glossed in Brazil:

In this struggle for the emancipation of sociology, G. Simmel, philosopher and sociologist, took a stand, using his books, in which he presents what is undoubtedly a sociological theory of striking originality, to establish the subject of sociology and free it from mechanical, biological and psychological analogies. In his "theory of forms" he saw the only means of unshackling the new science from these analogies and making it a substantial and independent science in its own right and therefore also as 'the only way of preventing this science from forever spilling over into neighbouring fields'. In pursuit of this subject, the German sociologist presents a preliminary notion of 'society', which he defines as 'reciprocal action among individuals', before going on to establish (by scientific abstraction) a distinction between 'forms of association' and the material 'content' of association [...] (AZEVEDO, 1935: 150).

Azevedo proceeds to distinguish the idea of "content" from that of "form" and returns to Durkheim's criticism of Simmel, siding with the former: "It is in fact with E. Durkheim that sociology first emerges as truly scientific […]"(AZEVEDO, 1935: 151). The general slant of Fernando de Azevedo's book and sociology is indeed based on Durkheim and so his reiteration of Durkheim's criticism of Simmel does little other than reinforce the author's own positions through the play of tautologies characteristic of such affiliations.

7. Azevedo discusses the process of the autonomization of sociology as a science in Germany and it is in this context that he returns to Simmel's propositions of the 1890s and efforts to delimit the nascent discipline. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 377-378)

8. In a sub-chapter entitled "Modern sociology in Germany", Azevedo provides some notes on the most important German sociologists, Simmel included. (AZEVEDO, 1935: 386-387)

Simmel's presence in this manual (taken here as a representative of a series of manuals and similar s from the 1930s) basically comes down to these eight topics. It is interesting to note that, according to Fernando de Azevedo, Simmel arrives in Brazil via French rather than North-American channels. As Simmel would practically disappear from France after the Great War, the supply line used by Azevedo would soon run dry, given his syntony with the French developments. In this same sense, it is revealing how Simmel was rated by Durkheim and Bouglé, the two key beacons of Fernando de Azevedo's development.9

Also of central importance is the systematization of Leopold von Wiese. (cf. AZEVEDO, 1935: 386-387),10 whose formal sociology is generally seen – and not just by Azevedo – as being synoptic with that of Simmel, largely construed as a continuation that systematized what Simmel left unorganized or merely suggested. We shall see this in clear tones in the item on the review Sociologia, in which von Wiese featured heavily early on. Here von Wiese is explicitly characterized as a follower and a systematizer of Simmelian sociology, especially, for example, in relation to the concept of "sociation". Likewise, whenever Simmel is criticized, it is always in conjunction with von Wiese.11


3. The review Sociologia, Emilio Willems, Donald Pierson.

I have already mentioned the seminal endeavour of Antenor Romano Barreto and Emilio Willems, whose 1940 collection Leituras sociológicas contained a fragment from the beginning of Simmel's masterwork Sociologie - the first publication of one of his writings in Brazil. This collection came just one year after the duo founded the magazine Sociologia, the first Brazilian publication dedicated entirely to sociology, thus confirming the pioneering vocation of this dyad.12

According to an investigation by Andrea Alves, in its very first year Sociologia revealed Simmel's importance to Willems, who was interested in such themes as "sociability" and "assimilation", etc. Of the German sociologists most regularly cited during the three-year period 1939-41, Simmel takes first place (ALVES, 1993: 15, 17 and unpaged appendix). In this manner, when it came to defining sociology in the inaugural issue, various important platforms were found in Simmel: on the one hand was the idea of sociability, albeit not in a properly Simmelian sense (there may have been some translation static here: after all, which Simmelian concept could truly correspond to "sociability"? Probably "Vergesellschaftung", as opposed to "Geselligkeit"). According to Alves, the idea of "formal sociology" also features as foundational, hence the conclusion that the morphological interest of the magazine's founders identified in Simmel a source of legitimation, specifically in the idea of a formal sociology operating through such concepts as "interaction", "association" and "assimilation", all directed towards eminently empirical research (ALVES, 1993: 20)13.

Alves also points out that these sparks of Simmelian inspiration are combined with North-American pragmatism: "If the conception of sociology is taken from Simmel, the way of studying it is essentially inspired by the North-American sociological tradition. [...] This conflictory process of appropriating the Simmelian perspective and adapting it to a pragmatist bent is reflected in the reading of Sociologia". (ALVES, 1993: 21) The review therefore functioned as an agent of the institutionalization, legitimation and divulgation of sociological thought and practice, and in so doing, disseminated ideas of a Simmelian origin, but uncluttered and digested by Park and colleagues – think of Simmel's presence in Park's study on marginalized man, the use he makes of the ideas of social distance, the "stranger" and interaction. All of this illustrates the above mentioned process of  appropriation of Simmelian sociology in the USA.

Observing the review as a whole, Simmel is one of the most often featured authors during the years 1939 to 1955. He "was the German-language author most often mentioned in the periodical during the period under examination, with mentions in 16 articles", says another researcher, Naara Luna (LUNA, 1998:20). In those articles which Luna classifies as didactic, Simmel basically appears in three different contexts: a) the definition of sociology; b) the conception of formal sociology; and c) the discussion of social groups. In short, Simmel is treated as one of the most important founders of the discipline (LUNA, 1998: 21-22).

Besides the didactic aspect, Simmel is also drawn upon as an interlocutor and/or source of legitimization  in other articles by various authors:

a) Mário Lins, who worked on a sociology of space in the 1940s (LINS, 1940), saw Simmel as an important buttress, especially in terms of his notion of social distance and in the use of the concepts of "sociation" and "sociability"- testament to the reception of Soziologie (1908) in Spanish translation.

b) Costa Pinto, in an article entitled "Sociologia e mudança social" (Sociology and social change) (1947), used Simmel's formalist sociology as a counterpoise to his own celebrated historical sociology (LUNA, 1998: 23-24).

c) Oracy Nogueira, in "A história de vida como técnica de pesquisa" (History of a life as a research technique), 1952, resorts to the idea of the "sociological stranger" to provide foundations for the relationship he establishes between the interviewer and interviewee, quoting Simmel through Burgess (LUNA, 1998: 24).

Regarding her research on mentions of Simmel in the review, Luna sums up her findings as follows:

Unlike the other authors, from the very beginning, Simmel's reception went beyond simple presentation and classification in didactic articles, but coincides and blends with the introduction of the sociological science itself. As such, the first articles present Sociology through Simmelian concepts and while these concepts are debated, the review even reaches the point of using the distinction between social form and content in order to classify sociological schools into formal sociology and cultural sociology. [...] Early on, the most pervasive theme is formal sociology, social forms and content varying independently. […] In the reception process, Simmel answered a lot of questions about the formation of society and social groups and the role of social interaction […] There is no unity in the authors' selections of texts when searching through Simmel's work [...] Simmel's theory of social forms as the object of Sociology is celebrated in the early years only to be refuted and discarded later on. His approach to social interaction as the fabric of society is also much debated from 1944. In fact, if the number of mentions made of the author is a measure of the degree of interest in him, then there was very intense interest indeed in the review's first two years, after which the number of citations begins to dwindle, but remains annual between 1941 and 1944, though growing increasingly infrequent for the next few years, before an d upsurge in 1947 and again in 1952. There seems to have been a decrease in the reading of Simmel, especially in terms of general sociology, though he remained of interest concerning questions of a more limited scope, such as conflict and the situation of the stranger (LUNA, 1998: 24-25, cf. 45, 46).

As we can see, this statement corresponds to something already suggested, namely that Simmel's importance in the 30s and 40s was largely connected with the process of delimiting sociological knowledge, of defining, institutionalizing and legitimizing the discipline, and that interest in him –hitherto an important source and reference– waned as this process progressed.

I believe that Simmel's importance to Willems shared a similar fate. Willems, who arrived in Brazil in 1931 and in São Paulo in 1936, taught at the University of São Paulo and Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política from 1937 onwards. Luna's analysis of Willem's work in Sociologia revealed that Simmel was not an author he frequently mentioned (LUNA, 1998:18), though his scathing critique on the sociology of snobbery, published in 1939 in the Revista do Arquivo Municipal,14 is deeply and clearly in his debt – even if, paradoxically, Simmel is not actually mentioned.

In Dicionário de etnologia e sociologia (Dictionary of ethnology and sociology), published in 1939, another of Willem's pioneering endeavours, this time in partnership with his fellow countryman Herbert Baldus, natural mention is made of Simmel and various concepts steeped in Simmelian thought are listed, such as interaction, conflict, accommodation, competition, assimilation and social space, etc.15.

Some years later, in 1947-48, Willems published Cunha: Tradição e transição em uma cultura rural do Brasil (Cunha: tradition and transition in a Brazilian rural culture), in which no reference is made to Simmel. However, the lengthy anthropometric close was edited out of the 1961 second edition of the work (under the title Uma vila brasileira. Tradição e transição [A Brazilian village. Tradition and transition]), though Simmel's sociology of conflict is mentioned in the new introduction as a decisive contribution to the type of investigation he aimed to undertake (WILLEMS, 1961: 11). Retrospective illusion or an eclipsing of all things German in a time of war? One way or the other, it is certainly revealing.

A colleague of Willems at Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política was Donald Pierson, a student of Mead, Park, Redfield & Co. in Chicago16. Pierson, for whom, as a former Chicago student, the idea/concept of "interaction" played a fundamental role, wrote a manual of sociology in the early 40s entitled Teoria e pesquisa em sociologia (Theory and research in sociology – 1945), in which he identifies Simmel and Durkheim as the "pioneers of sociology" in its establishing as a scientific discipline (PIERSON, 1945: 18, 48, 71)17. While, specifically in this sense, Pierson's manual is aligned with that of Fernando de Azevedo, there is one important point on which they thoroughly diverge, as the title itself suggests: namely the emphasis each places on empirical research and the formation of the sociological researcher. Pierson's North-American training determined to the very core his conception of the sociologist as a researcher, but – and this is very important and interesting – this did not come at the cost of  a lesser interest and engagement in the theoretical fundaments of the discipline. To mention just one example, during a discussion on the relationship between history and sociology, Pierson refers to Simmel's Die Probleme der Geschichtsphilosophie, the 2nd edition of which came out in 1915 (PIERSON, 1945: 48-49). This reveals the researcher's solid background and Simmel's pervasiveness of the Chicago School environment during Pierson's time there, not only in terms of his better-known works specifically on sociology, but also with regard to the issue of the conditions of the possibility of historical knowledge, a theme whose importance would be difficult to overstate in the founding process of the social sciences.

In addition, Pierson highlights the problems of interaction and of the forms interaction takes in society (PIERSON, 1945: 58, 106-107, 191-279), indicating competition, conflict, accommodation and assimilation as fundamental types of interaction (PIERSON, 1945: 106-107, 228-279) – and therefore approaching what we have already suggested with regard to Emilio Willems. Teoria e pesquisa em sociologia devotes whole passages to discussing "the process of interaction: the basic concept of the social sciences" (PIERSON, 1945: 191ss.), always bearing in mind the "deep and penetrating analyses of the German thinker Georg Simmel" (PIERSON, 1945: 71), whose Soziologie (1908) is singled out as one of the works considered "indispensable" to the sociologist (cf. PIERSON, 1945: 58) 18.

Another theme of enormous importance to Pierson, and in which Simmel is once again fundamental, is that of the "sociological stranger", which Pierson takes from Soziologie (PIERSON 1945: 178, 181-182, 448) and develops in more than one work, such as, for example, in his 1941 essay for the review Sociologia, "Um sistema de referência para o estudo de contatos raciais e culturais" (A reference system for the study of racial and cultural contacts), and to which he would return in 1947 in an empirical study on the community of Icapara in the São Paulo countryside, when speaking of "outsiders" (cf. PIERSON & TEIXEIRA, 1947).

So it was not only in Teoria e pesquisa em sociologia, but also in many of Pierson's articles that Simmel comes to the fore. For example, in his article "Competição e conflito" (Competition and conflict), published in Sociologia in 1943, Simmel arises in connection with the notions of interaction, conflict and competition (LUNA, 1998: 23). It is important to underscore the fact that Pierson's vision of Simmel is a literal repetition of Park's incorporation of the German's ideas and his diffusion of them in the work he co-authored with Burgess in 1921, Introduction to the Science of Sociology. In other words: Pierson arrives at Simmel through Park and reproduces the exact way the latter received and "organized" his ideas. In Park and Burgess, interaction is identified in its four main modalities, likewise listed by Pierson. And when he outlines his "indispensable" bibliography, top of his list is "Park and Burgess" – in which, as I mentioned at the beginning, Simmel is given pride-of-place (PIERSON, 1945: 108 & 231,430, 431; see PIERSON, 1988: 33-34). In fact, in his manual, Pierson himself mentions the importance Simmel held on the courses he took in Chicago during his undergraduate years, as if giving advance notice, in an autobiographical tone, of what he would later say in relation to Simmel's importance to the student Park (PIERSON, 1945: 94 & PIERSON, 1988: 91).


4. Roger Bastide.

A São Paulo periodical recently re-published an article by Roger Bastide from 1951, entitled "Variações sobre a porta barroca" (Variations on the Baroque door), accompanied by a pair of photographs by Pierre Verger. Had it been possible to publish Georg Simmel's celebrated text "Bridge and Door" (1909) alongside it, there would  have been little doubt as to the tribute the former pays to the latter, such is the similarity of perspective, analysis procedure and interpretation. (cf. BASTIDE, 1951 and SIMMEL, 1909)19.

And yet references to Simmel are extremely rare in Bastide, which reveals in a certain manner how very much alive the wounds and differences opened by the Great War still were in the between-wars period, as were the developmental fissures it left in the French intellectual field and its differences of origin and institutionalization, even after the demise of the initial protagonists.

As already mentioned, explicit references to Simmel in Bastide are very rare and insufficient in themselves to establish a strong and meaningful relationship with the reception of Simmel. You have to immerse yourself in Bastide's works in order to perceive just how close some of them are to Simmel's, almost like tributaries. And this can be revealed by a simple question: from what well of the French sociological tradition could Bastide have drunk in his pursuit of a sociology that takes poetry as its method? I cannot think of any. But we must recall that Simmel had been widely translated into French during a period ending in August 1914, so no-one can deny the presence of this Berlin philosopher in the French environment interested in sociology – nor can we forget that Bastide went to study in Strasbourg in 1919, a university that had just been re-conquered by the French and where Simmel had taught in the years preceding his death in 1918, in other words, only months before the retaking of the city, the end of the war and the arrival of Bastide.

This leads me to suggest that, for a young man interested in sociology at the end of 1910s, and for whom the Durkheimian doctrine did not seem a perfect fit, Simmel must have been an instigating, stimulating and maybe even compulsory read, despite the 'stain' of his German origins20.

If there is a rubric that allows one to synthesize poetry as a sociological method for Bastide, it is the idea of "a sociological aesthetic" or "aesthetic sociology". The sides of the equation are used interchangeably by Bastide, depending on whether he wants to stress the aesthetics or the sociology, and sometimes without any discernible differentiation. After all, the two are one and the same21.  Once again, we cannot help but recall Simmel's important 1896 work "Soziologische Ästhetik" (cf. SIMMEL, 1896).22

If the reader were to compare the two texts about the door, we could say one was a development from the other. Simmel's work is more generic and abstract, and was intended to be, as a Simmelian take on the metaphysical dimensions of the bridge and door as "the forms that dominate the dynamic of our lives" (SIMMEL, 1909: 60). In Bastide, this metaphysical vein is rapidly sociologized in pursuit of the social function of the door (which is, within the scope of Simmel's discussion, one particular aspect in an ample nexus and which he merely intends to suggest, and nothing beyond suggestion), which he will then direct towards the Brazilian Baroque door. In this respect one could say that Bastide's text is a highly successful paraphrasing of Simmel's work, as it fits it into a specific context in which it problematizes and develops. A pupil worthy of his master, one could say. So much so, in fact, that I am occasionally tempted to declare Bastide the richest, most multifaceted, creative and instigating reception of Simmel on Brazilian soil – and I assume thus, out of interest, Bastide as a Brazilian, which naturally is done with a liberal pinch of salt.23

It must be noted, however, that poetry as a sociological method, at least in its impassioned vindication, consists of the Brazilian Bastide.24 He characterizes his procedure by that "principle of converging projections, which illuminate the object under study, much like a ballerina on a stage is caught in the multiple beams of light that shine down from all corners of the theatre" (BASTIDE, 1946: 79). It is no coincidence that Bastide has to resort to an analogy – exactly that analogy so recurrent in and revealing of Simmelian procedure (cf. KRACAUER, 1920) – and this idea of the multiple illumination of the object coincides with countless descriptions and accounts by Simmel's students, as the Berlin philosopher's favorite procedure for treating his various subjects (WAIZBORT, 2000: 11-34 & 571-588). It is not our intention here to make an inventory of their shared subjects of investigation, but merely to pinpoint a handful of others besides the door motif, such as: the secret, the landscape, the hall, the meal, cities, etc., not to mention, of course, the more general sociological themes (suffice it to recall that Simmel was one of the founders of the specialization "sociology of religion"). 25.

The result of this is rendered clear in the conclusion drawn by his student Gilda de Mello e Souza: "sift the aesthetic phenomenon from the quotidian, from the insignificant, grandeur lacking facts that nevertheless weave the fabric of our lives". (SOUZA,1980:34). As we can see, it would take little effort to lay such a statement at Simmel's door. But this "sifting", at the end of the day, leads us back to what is most meaningful of all, that stuff of life that Simmel did not hesitate to call metaphysics.

The absence of a more frequent or explicit allusion to Simmel in Bastide begs an observation on the procedures and standards of allusion and citation in scientific literature, which are themselves intrinsically historical and relative in terms of context. The crux of the matter surfaces early: allusion and citation do not always occur in the same way, with the same precision, with the same impetus; quite the contrary. The praxis is established in complex processes of inter- and intra-disciplinary differentiation, of the configuration of readerships, the formation and existence of interested communities, among other factors, so much so that one often cites without citing, so well-known is the reference, which may have already become public property. Or, then again, perhaps one simply does not wish to reveal  the source. There are just as many reasons as there are cases. You can imagine my surprise, then, to read an article in which a colleague brilliantly demonstrated how Simmel "plagiarized" the scientific literature of his day, without citation or mention. Yet what would be plagiarism today was common academic practice then. The boundaries between citation, paraphrase, plagiarism and copying are tenuous and, as I have said, fundamentally historical and context-bound. Hence the necessity that the researcher, when trying to reconstruct a process of reception, first re-assemble the context, as recommended by P. Bourdieu: "les déformations du texte étant d'autant plus probables que l'ignorance du contexte d'origine est plus grande." (the greater the ignorance of the original context, the more likely a text is to be distorted) (BOURDIEU: 2002:7).


5. Gilberto Freyre.

Though I have long planned to reread "Introdução à história da sociedade patriarcal no Brasil" (Introduction to the history of patriarchal society in Brazil) to comb for possible "influences" or "affinities" Freyre may have had with Simmel, I still have not gotten round to doing so. For now, then, I can only point out the explicit occurrences, which are actually listed in the indexes to the volumes. There are no occurrences in volume 1, but in volume 2 – Sobrados e mucambos (The Mansions and the Shanties) – we find a reference to Philosophische Kultur, specifically in relation to the essay entitled "The relative and absolute problem of the sexes", which Freyre mentions in critical mode whilst discussing "Women and Men". For those who may not remember, at this point Freyre was tackling the problem of characteristically masculine and feminine attributes in order to suggest a fundamental and irreducible difference between them (FREYRE, 1952: 138-139, 174, 836). Finally, in the third and last completed volume of the planned tetralogy, though some mention is made of Simmel, there is nothing of any real weight, merely references to possible readings, or lack thereof, on the part of figures from the Order and Progress (Brazilian flag motto) world.

It is genuinely frustrating that in an oeuvre in which the scent of Simmel seems to exude from various passages, it is not possible to actually pinpoint "influences" or "affinities" more concretely. As such, I would like to merely give a foretaste of what more detailed research may someday yield. At one point, while discussing the issue of the "interpenetration of feudalism and capitalism" in Latin America and Brazil, Freyre says:

"In 1822, in Memórias Econopolíticas sobre a Administração Pública no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1822-23), 'Hum Portuguez' [A Portuguese] writes, on page 4 of the 'Primeira Memória' [First Memory], that colonial organization in Brazil 'was no different from feudalism' except for the fact that the 'peasants' were replaced by the 'black slaves', who worked for themselves, not just for their masters. 'Hum Portuguez' realized that the content can vary within the same forms, without sociologically altering those forms" (FREYRE, 1952: 94, my underline).

As we can see, this is a literal appropriation of one of the most influential dimensions of Simmelian sociology, and would seem to suggest that, if it did not come from direct contact with Simmel's work – and we know that he did read sociology from Berlin -, it nonetheless happens to echo the topic of his sociology that most found fertile ground in the sociologies of the between-wars period, whether in the "formal sociology" that took hold in the USA, or in von Wiese's Beziehungs- und Gebildelehre (widely received in the USA thanks to his partnership with Howard Becker). One way or the other, one would have to check the variations in the successive editions of Freyre's text in order to determine the chronology of events with any degree of certainty.

Going back to the passage, the distinction between form and content is perfectly in tune with the Simmelian spirit, as if following the primer Simmel composed at the end of the 19th  century in his programmatic "On the problem of sociology", and to which he would frequently return in his writings, as he did in the masterwork Soziologie, of 1908. The fact that Gilberto Freyre formulated and expressed his thoughts in such terms does, I believe, indicate a strong reception that begs deeper study.

As for the rest, the thematic affinities are more than evident: fashion, the standing of women, social space, distinction, food and nutrition, in short, an attention to detail and to the unusual that ranks – or would appear to rank – Gilberto Freyre among the host of Simmelians in spirit and in word.

It should therefore come as no surprise to find numerous references to Georg Simmel in Freyre's manual of sociology, published in 1945 (cf. FREYRE, 1957)26.  His definition of sociology would seem to have been cut from the Simmelian mould, as he states that the discipline should prize the:

"...insights into the social reality of which great intelligences or so-called 'perceptive' geniuses are capable, as their 'impressionism' can beat new paths to the most objective verifications possible, whether made by themselves or by other observers. In this respect, sensibility to the picturesque, be it on behalf of the observer less unfamiliar with the environment, or of the native whose regional perception has been sharpened by lengthy periods of residence or study in a foreign scientific milieu, not only of his own group, but of other groups as well, can be stimulating and fertile for scientific Sociology" (FREYRE, 1957: 42).

It is obvious that the unnamed figure sketched above was designed to describe Gilberto Freyre himself, but notice just how many of the attributes precisely describe the fulcrum of the Simmelian sociological experience. Insight, impressionism, opening paths; are these not clearly from Simmel's own repertoire? It is no coincidence, then, that Freyre goes on to rank Simmel amongst those "social scientists" who valued expression and who "cultivated it to the point of being recognised as writers" (FREYRE, 1957: 43) – once again, Freyre has found a way to speak of himself through the figure of the other, and this other is Simmel. It is important to recognize that Freyre would never have "run the risk of disdaining anything impurely or sociologically diffuse", of dying in "sociological chastity" (FREYRE, 1957: 58). For Freyre as for Simmel, method is insight – which by no means indicates any sloppiness or disinterest in terms of interpretive rigour.

In some other respects, Simmel comes to the fore in Sociologia:

1. In the definition of what sociology ought to be, we read:

"[of] the enormous world of social life, we can say that Sociology looks to take as its subjects of study: a) the facts, in their aspect of sociality – of sociation, as Simmel would say, to accentuate the dynamic nature of those facts; that is, the facts of the individual's dependence upon social organization and culture and of the dependence - through that same sociality – of social organization and culture upon the individual; b) the process or form of interaction through which this interdependence occurs and at whose mercy the individual, from the outset, loses individual purity in order to become, through functions, social man, a social person or socius: an individual with status or position in social life". (FREYRE, 1957: 113)27.

It may be said that this formulation owes a lot to Simmel in both its terminological veneer and depth of conception. Effectively, what is basically at play here is a conception of society and of the individual's relationship with it that stresses the relational character that articulates one with the other and which tries to pass itself off as emphatically  procedural (FREYRE, 1957: 113-114, cf. also 146, 280) – We will see at the end how this was perceived in Gilberto Freyre's own intellectual activities and the meanings attributed to it.

2. In the importance of the question of social distance (on which Freyre had written an article in 1936), when he refers to Simmel's chapter on space in Soziologie. (FREYRE, 1957: 193, 298, 241-242)

3. In the importance given to the problem of social "types" (FREYRE, 1957: 126).

4. In his interest in fashion (in this case, without mentioning Simmel) (FREYRE, 1957: 135, 547-553, 578).

5. In his recognition of the problem of the social constitution of time (once again, without mentioning Simmel) (FREYRE, 1957: 185-86, 241-42).

6. In the varied discussions on the social role, tied to the question of social groups.28

7. In the importance placed on differentiation, conflict, competition and assimilation as basic social processes (part of this coincides with Pierson's arrival from Chicago) (FREYRE, 1957: 380-390)

8. Superiority and subordination (social superiors and inferiors for Freyre) as social processes. (FREYRE, 1957: 453, 483) This warrants an illustrative quotation:

"Likewise in Brazil, the patriarchal civilization, or agrarian, slavocratic and a latifundium-based society before it [...] ended up so heavily influenced by the African slave that we can now speak […], as would Simmel, of a Brazilian social formation in which the rule of the Lusitanian master, or the patriarch of European-origin, reveals itself to be, in more than one respect, compromised, weakened and in some zones even neutralized by the 'reverse influence' of the slave; of the 'inferior' over the 'superior'." (FREYRE, 1957: 451-452) 29

The importance placed on this appropriation from Simmel will be obvious to Freyre's readers.

9. In his criticism of the determination of economic infrastructure over and above other dimensions of social life (for example,  FREYRE, 1957: 506-508), Freyre leans heavily on Simmel, defending the multiple and complex character of "interpenetrating influences" (FREYRE, 1957: 506, 586).30 In fact, this notion offers a suggestive inroad to an approach to Simmel's problem from within the inter-penetration of influences that mould the thought and writings of Gilberto Freyre.

10. In the importance allotted to the most varied mechanisms of social distinction, as a privileged key to understanding society and its various processes (in this case, without naming Simmel). (cf. p. ex. FREYRE, 1957: 545-570)

11. By affirming the idea of interaction to be the base of his sociology, Freyre formulates, in his own way, one of the fundaments of Simmelian sociology.  (FREYRE, 1957: 611-625)

One can and indeed should object that these themes, problems and approaches are neither specific nor exclusive to Simmel, but pertain to the general sociological patrimony. However, one might suggest that perhaps something of Gilberto Freyre's sensibility to these themes and problems derived from the reception of Simmel's thought in Brazil. The suggestion is legitimate, given the fact that, as I have already shown, there is a firm and already proven link with Simmel, even if this has not been demonstrated in its entirety.

On the other hand, at a certain point in his Sociologia, Freyre tries to show where he diverges from the Berlin sociologist when he argues that – and in this, he follows the North-American line in relation to Simmel – Simmelian sociology is exclusively a formal sociology. It is absolutely not a matter of questioning the critique Freyre makes of formal sociology, as this in itself is a significant aspect of Simmel's reception, i.e., his conversion to formal sociology. In this sense, it is elucidating to remember that Simmel came to Freyre through various channels: the Chicago scholars, the German von Wiese (and this includes the Germano-American vein through von Wiese's work in conjunction with H. Becker), and, as I have said, directly.  However, it seems to me that the formula and rubric of formal sociology frames Freyre's reception and understanding of Simmel within very general lines. To quote:

"So numerous are the facts of interaction that Sociology can but become increasingly interactionist in its attempts at generalization and synthesis. Through interactionism, Sociology escapes all manner of simplisms [...] It looks to analyze, understand and explain the social reality considered in all its complexity and in its totality as a possible nexus of situations and forms in which the so-called 'material' and 'ideological' elements interpenetrate and complete each other, forming, through processes particular to the social and the cultural, not only socio-cultural clusters, but also sociological combinations or complexes. Though these may be combinations or complexes that the observer cannot touch, feel or smell, this does not prevent us from considering them in scientific Sociology through the special processes or the general processes by which they occur. It is here that we part with the exclusively formal sociology of Simmel in order to include, among the subjects of sociological study, these combinations and processes and the situations they create from their forms." (FREYRE, 1957: 620)

Simmel's readers well know that he never limited himself to the doctrine of formal sociology and that the other facets were left to sediment in the hands of von Wiese - another sociologist received by Freyre31.

One way or another, what falls into place here is an aspect that allows us to turn to the debates of the day, underscore disputes within the intellectual field and, lastly, highlight to what extent Simmel was perceived in Freyre and the meanings attributed to this. I am, of course, referring to Sérgio Buarque de Holanda's controversial assertions about Freyre's work, largely formulated in relation to the reworked edition of Sobrados e mucambos (Mansions and Shanties) (1952),  the very work I lingered on above in order to flag Simmel's presence within its analysis framework.

Buarque de Holanda's argument is too extensive to reproduce here in full, but I would like to quote one passage from his critique. He focuses on the Freyrean distinction between form and content, of clearly Simmelian provenance, in which the idea of the patriarchal organization of life and family is imposed as a form capable of amalgamating various contents. This is precisely what Freyre states and restates on various occasions throughout the book, as in the following passage, also highlighted by Buarque de Holanda:

From the sociological perspective, it matters little how varied were the designations and dimensions of the noble mansions, or the almost always precarious materials from which the houses of the serfs were built. It matters little whether the latter – the serfs – were Africans or Indians, slaves or 'tenants' reduced to the condition of serfs. Nor does it matter much that, in some areas, there was even fraternization between the masters of the tile-roofed houses and the 'tenants' of the thatched shacks and that the patriarchal character of the relations between these elements ceased to appear 'patriarchal' or 'feudal' and assumed a 'democratic' or even 'collectivist' appearance – but appearance only -, as in some areas of the hinterlands and Rio Grande do Sul. From the denomination or even the specific condition of 'slave', in opposition to that of 'master', it would be a mistake to take as indispensable the existence of a system sociologically patriarchal/feudal in its main relational processes between superiors and subordinates: domination, subordination, accommodation. The system can exist and function under far gentler guises: the simple 'colonel' or 'major', the gentry, the 'resident', the servant. This would seem to have succeeded rather well in parts of Piauí, Ceará, the São Francisco region and Rio Grande do Sul, giving these states and areas the appearance of pure and complete exceptions to the predominant patriarchal/feudal or patron/charge system characteristic of the formation of Brazil in its older colonial areas". (FREYRE, 1952: 753-754)32

As we can see, what is at work here is a form/content distinction of clearly Simmelian origin through which Freyre asserts that the same form can concretize historically in often varied contents. It is from this point that Buarque de Holanda launches his criticism:

"Those notions of 'form' and 'content' or 'substance' to which he clings so tightly, and which, in the last analysis, can be traced back to the social philosophy of Simmel, draw their power from their own lack of definition. It is true that in Simmel they are nothing more than simple metaphors, at least theoretically, but in the role allotted them by the author of Mansions and Shanties this deliberate nominalism tends to dissipate even on the level of theory. From instruments of exposition, distinction, confrontation, analysis, they well-nigh become empirical realities, serving as the bases for barely disguised value judgements. / Hence, in his writings, social 'forms' change readily, from real entities one minute, like biological organisms – which practically blend into social 'processes', now capable of growing, maturing and dying –, to 'ideas' in the Hegelian mould the next, from which their 'material objects' must mysteriously emanate". (HOLANDA, 1979: 106, cf. 102-108, 207) 33

Regardless of the fairness or otherwise of Sérgio Buarque's criticism, what is interesting here is the way he mobilizes Simmel for support. There is Gilberto Freyre's own appropriation of Simmel and then there is the appropriation of this Freyrean appropriation by Sérgio Buarque. The discussion unfolds – of course, among other aspects too – around Simmel as a point of reference. A point of reference, that is, for the discussion of a problem, on the one hand, and for the criticism of that same discussion, on the other.

Besides this, what strikes me as central here is to work out the functionality that this Simmelian approach has in Gilberto Freyre's argument. Basically, it allows him to garrison the core argument against the attenuating influences of the conflict and tension and interaction between the two mutually antagonistic forces; it enables him to dissolve a fierce opposition into a relationship of coexistence, if not pacific, at least more tolerable, symbiotic and perhaps even reasonable. Otherwise put, the form/content relationship is functional and conducive to the way Gilberto Freyre dilutes the tension of racial conflict by harmonizing and reconciling it. In this sense, Simmel's presence assumes a very important role of facilitating the argument of balance between antagonistic poles.

I believe the same goes for the idea of the patriarchal family as the form of socialization: the patriarchal family can, and does, assume varied contents and may even perish, but the form always remains. In this sense, in the Introduction to the 2nd edition of Sobrados e mucambos, Simmel becomes the cornerstone of the argument Freyre goes on to construct.

With Simmel's presence thus indicated on various sides, we can now move on to Sérgio Buarque himself.


6. Sérgio Buarque de Holanda.

Much has been said and speculated about the presence and influence of German authors in the work of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, and particularly in Raízes do Brasil (The Roots of Brazil), partly due to a confession to that effect by the author himself (HOLANDA, 1979: 29-30). For our purposes, Gabriel Cohn's contribution to the theme is of special interest, as he demystifies the importance of Max Weber and points (though he was no pioneer in doing so) towards a much more substantial and meaningful approximation to the work of Georg Simmel. Contrary to the continuous flow of literature that insists on seeing Weberian ideal types in Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Cohn does not hesitate to affirm that if there are any ideal types to be found in Raízes do Brasil they are somewhat distorted, as "they are not types by construction, nor do they operate as such in the analysis" (COHN, 2002: 11) – and it is precisely these dimensions, the "Begriffsbildung" and the method, that are fundamental for Weber. With a simple distinction, then, one unmasks a vice of interpretation whilst opening up the vantage point for a new, unencumbered view of the object, and what one sees is an approximation to Simmel loaded with meanings. The hypothesis raised, the author sets about attempting to find some ground for it in Raízes do Brasil:

"One indication [...] is the tortuous and indirect way in which the questions are raised and pursued in the exposition. There is no trace of those hard Weberian incisions, but the lamplight of the tireless pursuer of fugacious meanings that was Simmel […]. Both the Brazilian and the German are, each in his own way, thinkers from the wilderness, from the fringe, from the distance between the spontaneous flow of the vital impulses and the form that flow is forced to take in the ordering bed of culture." (COHN, 2002: 11)

In fact, throbbing under the surface of Sérgio Buarque is a theory of culture – it is no accident that the working title of Raízes do Brasil was Teoria da América (Theory of America) –, one that seems deeply indebted to the German discussions from the turn of the century, of which Simmel formulated one of the most powerful and successful versions.

It is not possible to reconstruct the problem with Sérgio Buarque's work in discussion, at least not on this occasion, so we shall have to content ourselves with the mother-article of Raízes do Brasil, "Corpo e alma do Brasil" (Brazil, body and soul), which exudes this by no means homogeneous theory through every pore and provides fertile ground for such vocabulary as "the standardization of the external forms of cordiality", the "triumph of spirit over life", the bases for a psychology of the cordial man, "national character", "emotional backdrop", "precocious maturity", "hypertrophy", the "vital forces", the "formative process", the "impersonalism/caudillo rule polarity", "the prevalence of the emotional element over the rational", the "two radically diverse styles of life", the "forms of life", the "solid normative element, innate to the soul of the people or implanted there by tyranny, by so that there can be social crystallization", as well as other expressions and ideas that mould Sérgio Buarque's essay and would culminate the following year in Raízes do Brasil (quoting from HOLANDA, 1935). One of the elements that earned it the status of a classic was the maturity that kept Sérgio from succumbing to the dark side of the irrational impulses, as Antonio Candido so aptly pointed out (CANDIDO, 1982: 329-330).

In fact, while some types are actually discernible in Raízes do Brasil, they are certainly not Weber's ideal types, but rather Simmel's social types. This was also stressed by Antonio Candido, who explicitly associated the Sérgio Buarque of Raízes do Brasil with Simmel, especially "[…] when he defines ambiguous social types" (CANDIDO, 1982: 329). To take this line of reasoning a bit further, it would be interesting to test the hypothesis that the celebrated "cordial man" is a social type of Simmelian extraction – a form invested with content34. However, the connection does not stop there, as the adventurer and the tile setter, to name just two of the better known types, warrant the same reflection. Whatever the case, all of these can be found in Sérgio Buarque de Holanda in a heavily mediated guise, in borrowings and amalgamations that lift from a positive and uniform genealogy – and even in this respect he leans closer to Georg Simmel. With this, we move on to the following.


7. Gilda Rocha de Melo e Souza.

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda was among those who accompanied the production of Gilda Rocha de Melo e Souza's thesis entitled A moda no século XIX (Fashion in the 19th century), which she presented and defended at the University of São Paulo in 1950. This thesis, written under the supervision of Roger Bastide, shares the supervisor's terminological and spatial-disciplinary ambiguity, oscillating between a sociological aesthetics and an aesthetic sociology. If she opted for the latter in the end, it was first and foremost because it was, after all, a doctoral thesis in sociology. With her migration from the sociology department to that of philosophy not long afterwards, the author would make an institutional switch to the other side, where she embraced a sociological aesthetic. The curious thing is that one does not notice any real difference, and that is precisely the point, as already mentioned in relation to her supervisor (cf. WAIZBORT 2007).

In her thesis, Simmel features as an important sociological author, but not the only one; interestingly, those authors who had received Simmel in Brazil had already become referential literature themselves, almost like an acclimatized Simmel. Clear cases would be Emilio Willems and his sociology of snobbery and Gilberto Freyre and his mansions, not to mention, of course, the supervisor of Gilda's thesis himself.

In Gilda's thesis, Simmel sometimes appears as an author of texts on fashion and feminine culture, sometimes as the author of works on the sociology of groups, the mechanisms of social distinction, conflict and competition, and sometimes as a perspicacious observer of the social meanings of modes of behaviour, trimmings and parties. His is a background presence that flowers only occasionally, and only readers of his masterwork of 1908, Soziologie, can see just how present and active he really is between the lines.


8. Evaristo de Moraes Filho.

In a treatise on the sociology of law, also published in 1950, Evaristo de Moraes Filho made a general overview of sociology, though with an historical bent, in which he produced a roll-call of the main authors. In this context, he dedicated a few pages to Georg Simmel based on his works Über soziale Differenzierung (1890), "Das Problem der Soziologie" (1894) and on the Argentine translation of his Soziologie (1908). Though he stresses the idea of formal sociology in Simmel, he also does his best to defend him against all charges of formalism and insists on the unity of content and form in social phenomena. Moreover, he also underscores the notion of "reciprocal action", in a nod to the celebrated Simmelian Wechselwirkung. Even so, in Moraes' manual Simmel is regarded as merely one author among countless others, with no special treatment whatsoever (MORAES, 1950: 101-107). And yet, not long afterwards, in his book O problema do sindicato único no Brasil. Seus fundamentos sociológicos (The problem of the umbrella union in Brazil. Its sociological fundaments), published in 1952, Evaristo draws upon a concept of society that is clearly inspired by Simmel, specifically by the idea of Vergesellschaftung and his sociology of groups, and which saw him conduct his work in a manner that deviated from the norm of the day – and here I am merely following Glaucia Villas Boas's interpretation. However, this book had little or no impact on Brazilian sociology (cf. VILLAS BOAS, 2005: 61-84, esp. 64, 72-74).

In addition, Evaristo de Moraes Filho seems to have played a significant role in diffusing Simmel in the classroom. Below is a first-hand account by a student of Moraes, Gilberto Velho, who attended the National Faculty of Philosophy shortly after the military coup of 1964 and who experienced the difficulties the institution went through in that context, especially the department of sociology:

"[...] eventually, Professor Evaristo de Moraes Filho came to give us classes, so that we wouldn't end up missing the year. Evaristo was a  Professor in labour law at the Faculty of Law, but was associate professor in Sociology at the Philosophy Faculty. [...] With Evaristo in charge, sociology improved dramatically. He is a man of vast culture and was fond of an author who already interested me at the time: Georg Simmel. Evaristo is responsible for the publication of the first and only [sic] collection of Simmel in Brazil. At the time, the collection had not yet been published, but he spoke about Simmel a lot, and I, with the little I knew then, was very keen" (VELHO, 2001a: 267-268).

With this testimony, we have arrived at that generation and those figures I mentioned at the beginning and which I believe represent a new moment in the history of Simmel's reception in Brazil.


9. An example in negative: Florestan Fernandes.

In the 50s and 60s, the themes of greatest interest in the Brazilian social sciences had little affinity with Simmelian sociology, and in this sense the stance of Florestan Fernandes is emblematic. This position can be clearly seen in the reviews he wrote in 1945 and 1952 for Roger Bastide's Arte e sociedade and Gilda de Mello e Souza's A moda no século XIX. In both cases, he was dealing with colleagues from the Faculty of  Sciences and Languages at the University of São Paulo and with whom he sought to maintain a tone of discreet disagreement. Even so, a reading of these reviews leaves no doubt as to Florestan Fernandes's differences with their work: in a nutshell, they were too Simmelian for his liking, i.e., they erred by being insufficiently systematic and excessively essayistic. Everything that smacks of Simmel in Brazilian sociology irritates the São Paulo sociologist, concerned as he is with the grounds for a sociological explanation, in which, we might add, Simmel's name is only mentioned in order to be immediately discarded35.

Simmel's irrelevance to Brazilian sociology in the 50s and 60s – the sociology of modernization and development – only began to revert when the cultural dimension – as opposed to the economy, politics or social transformation – became once again an important focus for sociologists. However, this, on the other hand, also reinforced the position of Gilberto Freyre, whose reworked Sobrados e mucambos was published in the early 50s.


10. New times.

In this manner, it seems to me that the themes of greatest interest in the Brazilian social sciences in the 50s and 60s had little affinity with Simmelian sociology, as we have just seen with Florestan Fernandes, or with Luís de Aguiar Costa Pinto. As such, during these decades, the reception and traffic of Simmel in the social sciences seems to have lost both ground and its verve.

As I suggested at the beginning, we can see the early 80s as the threshold of a new phase in the history of the reception of Simmel's thought in Brazil. In addition to the points already raised, we can approach this fact from another dimension, indicated in a statement by Gilberto Velho about Gilberto Freyre:

"Freyre's is an original recovery of the thought of G. Simmel. The great German thinker was one of the deepest influences on North-American sociology. I believe that Freyre has very strong affinities with his work, especially in relation to the theme of the individual and society and the question of subjectivity. With this foundation, we see him develop reflections on the frontier between a cultural anthropology and a social psychology. / The valorisation of Brazilian socio-cultural heterogeneity allows him to be attentive to and to value the phenomenon of reciprocity and socio-cultural exchange. It was not a matter of being oblivious to contradictions or conflicts, but of seeing them as a dimension of social life, present in both society as a whole and in individual life-paths – a perception that brings him close to Simmel."(VELHO, 2001b: 116).

In passing quickly through Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, I took as my base a reflection by Gabriel Cohn on the possible presence of Simmel in Sérgio's work. Likewise here, we can see similar musings in Gilberto Velho as to the presence of Simmel in Gilberto Freyre. If, on one hand, these two colleagues produced significant works in which Simmel's presence was important, more relevant still is the realization of the effort they made to show that the crux of what was and remains precious to them could also be found in an earlier tradition to which, through this process of identification, they found themselves somehow bound. With this recognition, they created a nexus of continuity and the possibility of a cumulative and formative movement in which they could situate their own works and claim a vantage point from which to observe the process of the social sciences in Brazil. I believe that this allows us to apprehend a new moment in the history of Simmel's reception here, namely in a self-reflexive dimension of the social sciences, or, couched in other jargon, in a second-order observation (cf. LUHMANN, 1997: esp. chap. 2).

When all is said and done, with the inventory now made (albeit far from an exhaustive one), we can clearly see that Simmel's legacy is not dead and lifeless, indifferent or undifferentiating, but very much alive after its own fashion and pulsing through the Brazilian social sciences, as it has done for as long as these have been considered sciences. As such, his legacy bears no resemblance to cash, as the man himself apparently erroneously suggested. Indeed, the exercise in remembering Simmel has been constant and his legacy revisited differently with each passing moment of the history of our social sciences. Rather than stress a set of historical facts verifiable under the positivist lens of a magnifying glass, it would be far more interesting to probe and investigate to what extent and in what ways Simmel has lingered in the collective memory that shapes the intellectual landscape of the Brazilian social sciences36, and thus the ways in which he has been revealed and concealed in the writings of Brazilian authors, from the most canonical to the most obscure, the most widely read to the most seldom visited, across all the various levels of renown.


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* I would like to thank Glaucia Villas Boas, Otávio Velho, Gilberto Velho, Gabriel Cohn, Fernanda Peixoto, Juri Jakob and Federico Neiburg for their precious collaboration, as well as all the participants at the International symposium "Simmel and modernity" (Belém, November, 2006) and at the 3rd Sociology of Culture Seminar held by the IFCS-UFRJ Sociology of Culture Research Centre in December 2006.
1 Historians and philosophers I consulted on the matter could identify no such reception of Simmel in their respective fields.
2 Once again, an excerpt from the beginning of Soziologie (1908), translated from the collection edited by K.H. Wolff, The Sociology of Georg Simmel, and checked against Robert Schwarz's translation from the German.
3 This text was translated from the collection edited by K.H. Wolff, The Sociology of Georg Simmel.
4 This collection (192 pp.) contained 12 "texts" by Simmel, 7 extracted from Soziologie (1908), 2 from the short sociology of 1917, and three other texts. Some were translated directly from German, while others were based on North-American translations and revised by the editor.
5 In addition: SIMMEL, 1992, translation of a French collection, and SOUZA & OELZE, 1999, a collection of texts by and on Simmel; as well as the Portuguese edition of SIMMEL, 1910.
6 Cf. in general, MICELI, 1989/1995; in specific, vol.1 Fernando Limongi, "A Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política em São Paulo" (The Free School of Sociology and Politics in São Paulo), pp. 217-233.
7 This text would only become widely known in the US from 1950 onwards, with its publication in WOLFF, 1950, in a translation by Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills.
8 References to Simmel on pp. 23, 47, 66, 69, 72, 76, 78, 83, 84, 86, 140, 150-154, 158, 166, 377-78, 386-87.
9 Simmel's works cited by Azevedo: "Le problème de la sociologie" (1894); "Das Problem der Soziologie" (1894); "Comment les formes sociales se mantiennent" (1898); "Superiority and Subordination as subject matter of Sociology" (1896); Sociologia, trad. Revista de occidente, Madrid (p. 76, 86); and an unspecified text published in the Révue de Sociologie, March 1908. On Simmel, Azevedo recommends and uses: C. Bouglé, Les sciences sociales en Allemagne; F. Squillace, Dicionario di sociologia; F. Squillace, I problemi constituzionali della sociologia; F. Squillace, Le dotrine sociologiche and L. von Wiese, Sociologia, historia y principales problemas.
10 Azevedo cites Leopold von Wiese: Sociologia, historia y principales problemas; Wiese & H. Becker, Systematic Sociology.
11 For an example of the disjunction between form and content in the criticism of Costa Pinto see his text "Sociologia e mudança social" in Sociologia, 1947, nr. 2. Cf. LUNA, 1998: 41-42.
12 On Emilio Willems see VILLAS BOAS, 2006, and his own work, "Dezoito anos no Brasil. Resumo de atividades didáticas e científicas". (WILLEMS, 1988)
13 It is worthwhile checking the respective entries in the dictionaries by BALDUS & WILLEMS (1939) and WILLEMS (1950).  As mechanisms of definition, fixation, legitimation and reproduction, dictionaries are key elements in the processes examined here.
14 For more on this review and its context, see Silvana Rubino, "Clubes de pesquisadores. A Sociedade de Etnografia e Folclore e a Sociedade de Sociologia" in MICELI, 1989/1995: vol. 2, 479-521, esp. 494-499. Willems' text is probably a return to his earlier essay  "Essai über den Snobismus", published in Germany in the early 30s. (Archiv für angewandte Soziologie, 2. Jg., 3).
15 The same occurs in Dicionário de sociologia, this time under the sole responsibility of Willems and published in 1950.
16 On Donald Pierson see his "Algumas atividades no Brasil em prol da Antropologia e outras ciências sociais" (PIERSON, 1988).
17 The same occurred in an essay that appeared in Sociologia in 1942, "Estudo e ensino da sociologia".
18 Among Pierson's recommendations for further reading is A. Small's translation of "The Sociology of Conflict" for the American Journal of Sociology, 9, 1903-4 (p. 110); Philosophie der Mode. Berlin, 1905.
19 For a reading of Bastide that touches upon the issues raised here, see PEIXOTO, 2000: esp. 15-43.
20 One can only assume that Bastide, as someone interested in sociology, would have been familiar with the following French versions of Simmel's works, if not the German originals themselves: "La différenciation sociale" (1894), "Le problème de la sociologie" (1894), "Influence du nombre des unités sociales sur les caractères des societés" (1895), "Sur quelques relations de la pensée avec les intérêts pratiques" (1896), "Comment les formes sociales se maintiennent" (1898), "De la religion au point de vue de la théorie de la conaissance" (1903), "Quelques considérations sur la philosophie de l'histoire" (1909), and, above all, Mélanges de philosophie relativiste, published by Alcan in Paris in 1912.
21 I dealt with this issue in WAIZBORT: 2007. At the time, Florestan Fernandes assumed a critical stance toward Bastide's deportment in his review of the latter's Arte e sociedade: FERNANDES, 1945.
22 Charles Lalo was a very important reference for Bastide and it was Lalo, in the 1920s, who developed the idea of an "esthétique sociologique". Cf. LALO, 1926 & LALO, 1921 (in which he cites Simmel's Mélanges); Bastide considered him "the founder of sociological aesthetics". (BASTIDE,1945: 48). Arte e sociedade contains only one mention of Simmel (BASTIDE, 1945: 121), and he is not mentioned again, even when Bastide deals with themes Simmel himself developed, such as fashion, for example. (cf. BASTIDE, 1945: 231). On the other hand, he does seem to refer to Simmel when speaking of "life styles" (BASTIDE, 1945: 227, where he uses the German word Lebensstil.).
23 "Since the moment of his arrival in 1938, Roger Bastide can be considered a Brazilian in-progress".   (SOUZA, 1980: 18)
24 Programmatically, in texts like "Carta sobre a crítica sociológica" (Letter on sociological criticism -1944) and "A propósito da poesia como método sociológico" (A proposal of poetry as sociological method - 1946), Bastide professes a sociology of clearly Simmelian inspiration, albeit with no mention of Simmel whatsoever. It must be recognized, however, that in that context it was not indispensable to explicitly state one's sources, borrowings or influences. On the other hand, one could argue that we can detect here the presence of the "Collège de Sociologie" to which Bastide had close ties (cf. PEIXOTO, 2000). Whatever the case, one does not invalidate the other and both demand continued investigation.
25 In the article "A teoria sociológica do conhecimento" (Sociological theory of knowledge), published in Sociologia in 1944, Bastide uses Simmel's notion of the individual as a point of intersection of the social circles.  (Cf. LUNA, 1998: 23)
26 Simmel is referred to on pages  43, 61, 69, 79, 84, 88, 110, 113-114, 117, 126, 141, 151, 175, 187, 188, 193, 209, 280, 287-88, 298, 321, 446, 452, 453, 483, 484, 502, 505, 506, 517, 524, 525, 580, 586, 590, 620, 636, 651 and 704. – I was unable to consult the first edition, from 1945.
Works by Simmel cited in Freyre's Sociologia: Soziologie, 1908; Über soziale Differenzierung, 1890; Lebensanschauung, 1918; I Problemi Fondamentali della Filosofia (trans. of Grundprobleme der Philosophie); and Nicholas Spykman, The Social Theory of Georg Simmel. Chicago, 1925.
27 Cf. FREYRE, 1957: 116-17, 141, 151, 209, 538, 651-52 (here Freyre veers very close to Simmel's position) and, with a certain distance, p. 517.
28 The problem is recurrent in Freyre's Sociologia, p. ex. pp. 116-117, with reference to Simmel.
29 Freyre refers to chap. 3 of Soziologie de 1908: "Sobre-ordenação e subordinação". Cf. FREYRE, 483: "The subordinate is influenced by the dominator, but acts upon that influence."
30 Freyre remits to Simmel, Die Probleme der Geschichtsphilosophie. Leipzig, 1892, pp. 94-101.
31 Freyre made recurrent use of: L. von Wiese, Allgemeine Soziologie. Berlin, 1921-29; L. von Wiese, Allgemeine Soziologie. Berlin, 1923; and L. von Wiese & Howard Becker, Systematic Sociology on the Basis of the "Beziehungslehre" and "Gebildelehre" von Leopoldo von Wiese. New York, 1932. In addition to this, Freyre also mentions the work of  Pinto Ferreira, Von Wiese und die zeitgenossiche Beziehungslehre. Rio de Janeiro, 1941 (FREYRE: 1957: 193).
32 Sérgio Buarque de Holanda quotes a part of this passage in HOLANDA, 1979: 104.
33 Note that Sérgio not only attributes a sociology to Simmel, but a "social philosophy".
34 See the paragraph entitled "Psicologia do nosso 'homem cordial'" in HOLANDA, 1935: 400-403.
35 See, for example, the references to Simmel in FERNANDES, 1959. Nothing could have been further from the scientific system Florestan was aiming for than the sociology of Simmel – as was confirmed first-hand by one of his former students and assistants. On Florestan Fernandes, see the text by Maria Arminda N. Arruda in MICELI, 1989/1995.
36 In this sense: LINK and LINK-HEER, 2002: 414.