This is very basic, of course. I read Simmel after I had read Adorno on this, in fact, and I may be interpreting Simmel through this perspective – certainly Adorno was to make much of the exchange relation among commodities as a kind of organising metaphor for social life, and was to locate it in a number of attempts to cope with and indeed dominate the complexity of the social world, in everyday thought (what we might now call the ‘politics of identity’) and more formally in systematic philosophies, especially positivism. This also reintroduces the link between this cultural tendency towards cool indifference and a real process of domination, of course.
I must say I was also struck by immediate similarities between this
work and the work on ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ learning styles in higher education.
I have already argued that going to a big cosmopolitan university is a
crucial encounter with modernity in this sense of cultural relativism,
and it is an opportunity to try out the skills one has acquired already,
as ‘cultural capital’. Following Bourdieu, (see
the file) one coping strategy for those with the most cultural capital
is to become a kind of flâneur, wittily playing the cultural game,
enjoying university life with little interest in the qualifications. The
work on learning styles develops options for those less well endowed with
more of an interest in qualification – the ‘deep’ approach could involve
the cool detachment and reduction to principles and functions of
the modernist sensibility, while the ‘surface approach’ offers a more proletarian
and less skilled ‘collection’ form based on immediately perceived connections.
Did any modernist commentators discuss or investigate how proles coped
with cosmopolitan cities? -- the usual answer seems to be with sullen withdrawal
and conservatism bordering on racism (even Mulgan implies this).