Deciphering The Labyrinth: The Influence of Georg Simmel on the Sociology of Octavio Paz

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Octavio Paz has been known worldwide as a talented poet and essayist, but not as a sociologist. And yet his seminal work, The Labyrinth of Solitude, published in 1950 and containing Paz’s interpretation of Mexican history and identity, arrived at via his analysis of Mexican ‘myths’ or cultural forms, is rich in sociological content – particularly sociology of culture and sociology of knowledge. The author of this article, after noting that very few of the experts on Paz’s work have tried to analyze in a serious and sustained manner its sociological content, has determined not only to decipher Paz’s method but to reveal its strong links to the sociology of form and content produced by the German sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel. Thus, the main goal of this article is to apply Simmel’s methods to The Labyrinth of Solitude and to thereby (1) shed some light on the sociological aspects of Paz’s seminal work, thus bringing him the credit he deserves as an early Mexican sociologist, and (2) reveal the extent of Simmel’s influence – hitherto ignored or at least very much minimized – upon The Labyrinth.