|Born||1 March 1858
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
|Died||28 September 1918
Strassburg, German Empire
|Alma mater||University of Berlin|
|Institutions||University of Berlin
University of Strasbourg
|Formal sociology, social forms and contents, the metropolis of modern life, the tragedy of culture, web of group affiliation|
Discretion is nothing other than the sense of justice with respect to the sphere of the intimate contents of life.
The psychological basis of the metropolitan type of individuality consists in the intensification of nervous stimulation which results from the swift and uninterrupted change of outer and inner stimuli.
For the division of labor demands from the individual an ever more one-sided accomplishment, and the greatest advance in a one-sided pursuit only too frequently means dearth to the personality of the individual.
Every relationship between two individuals or two groups will be characterized by the ratio of secrecy that is involved in it.
Man's nature, originally good and common to all, should develop unhampered.
The earliest phase of social formations found in historical as well as in contemporary social structures is this: a relatively small circle firmly closed against neighboring, strange, or in some way antagonistic circles.
The metropolis reveals itself as one of those great historical formations in which opposing streams which enclose life unfold, as well as join one another with equal right.
Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each to take form in the mind of the other, and this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship.
Modern culture is constantly growing more objective. Its tissues grow more and more out of impersonal energies, and absorb less and less the subjective entirety of the individual.
Secrecy is thus, so to speak, a transition stadium between being and not-being.
In order to accommodate to change and to the contrast of phenomena, the intellect does not require any shocks and inner upheavals; it is only through such upheavals that the more conservative mind could accommodate to the metropolitan rhythm of events.
In the latter case life rests upon a thousand presuppositions which the individual can never trace back to their origins, and verify; but which he must accept upon faith and belief.
The individual has become a mere cog in an enormous organization of things and powers which tear from his hands all progress, spirituality, and value in order to transform them from their subjective form into the form of a purely objective life.
Secrecy sets barriers between men, but at the same time offers the seductive temptation to break through the barriers by gossip or confession.
On the one hand, life is made infinitely easy for the personality in that stimulations, interests, uses of time and consciousness are offered to it from all sides. They carry the person as if in a stream, and one needs hardly to swim for oneself.
The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life.
Thus, the technique of metropolitan life is unimaginable without the most punctual integration of all activities and mutual relations into a stable and impersonal time schedule.
Secrecy involves a tension which, at the moment of revelation, finds its release.
For, to be a stranger is naturally a very positive relation; it is a specific form of interaction.
For this reason, strangers are not really conceived as individuals, but as strangers of a particular type: the element of distance is no less general in regard to them than the element of nearness.
The intellectually sophisticated person is indifferent to all genuine individuality, because relationships and reactions result from it which cannot be exhausted with logical operations.
Every superior personality, and every superior performance, has, for the average of mankind, something mysterious.
For the metropolis presents the peculiar conditions which are revealed to us as the opportunities and the stimuli for the development of both these ways of allocating roles to men.
The first internal relation that is essential to a secret society is the reciprocal confidence of its members.