Aside from their many afﬁnities, the fundamental difference between these two thinkers is that they address the problem of alienation from two very different standpoints and with very different moral preoccupations. Marx’s moral vision is that of a revolutionary thinker who seeks to guide the masses toward the fulﬁllment of an impossible task: “the solution of the riddle of history,” the construction of a totally new society, free of alienation, on the ruins of the existent one. What chieﬂy inspires Simmel is a concern for individualistic values. Simmel thus is more “micro” and Marx more “macro” in their respective sociological analyses. Simmel is particularly concerned with those values implicit in the idea of “cultivation”: scholarly or scientiﬁc attainment, intellectual integrity, and above all, aesthetic sensitivity. What he sees as being above all at stake in modern life, is the individual capacity to reﬂect on, understand, appreciate, and evaluate the events that impinge upon direct experiences, whether through participation in ordinary life or, better yet, through cultured and creative pursuits.
"Contrasting Simmel’s and Marx’s Ideas on Alienation,"
Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge:
1, Article 15.
Available at: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/humanarchitecture/vol3/iss1/15