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Georg Simmel: Modernist Sociology and the Sociology of Modernism Methodological Statement: One figure stands out as an exemplary model for the kinds of. Topics SOCIAL SCIENCES, Theories and methods in social sciences, Methods of the social sciences. PublisherThe Free Press. Collectionuniversallibrary. This article presents a systematic reconstruction of Georg Simmel's sociology of religion cosmos, religiosity, Simmel, sociology of religion, soul, symbolic forms.
The consequence is that if sociological forms and names are used with precision they apply only within a relatively contracted circle of manifestations. Long and patient labor will be necessary before we can understand the concrete historical forms of socialization as the actual compounds of a few simple fundamental forms of human association. In order to reach such particular knowledge we must study separate types of superiority and inferiority, and we must master the special features of their formation, which in proportion to their definiteness of course lose generality of application.
In what follows I will exhibit some of the typical species of superiority and inferiority, in so far as they construct forms of association between individuals. For we must observe that superiority and inferiority is by no means a formation necessarily subsequent to the existence of "society.
It is one of the manifold interactions between individuals, the sum of which we designate as the socialization of the individuals concerned. The sociological task is therefore to interpret historical examples so as to show, first, from what material or formal conditions this form of society, in its different variations, takes its rise, and, on the other hand, what material or formal consequences attach themselves to the relation so discovered.
Every social occurrence as such, consists of an interaction between individuals. In other words, each individual is at the same time an active and a passive agent in a transaction. In case of superiority and inferiority, however, the relation assumes the appearance of a one-sided operation ; the one party appears to exert, while the other seems merely to receive an influence. Such, however, is not in fact the case.
No one would give himself the trouble to gain or to maintain superiority, if it afforded him no advantage or enjoyment. This return to the superior can be derived from the relation, however, only by virtue of the fact that there is a reciprocal action of the inferior upon the superior.
The decisive characteristic of the relation at this point is this, that the effect which the inferior actually exerts upon the supe- -rior is determined by the latter. The superior causes the inferior to produce a given effect which the superior shall experience. In this operation, in case the subordination is really absolute, no sort of spontaneity is present on the part of the subordinate.
The reciprocal influence is rather the same as that between a man and a lifeless external object with which the former performs an act for his own use. That is, the person acts upon the object in order that the latter may react upon himself. In this reaction of the object no spontaneity on the part of the object is to be observed, but merely the further operation of the spontaneity of the person. Such an extreme case of superiority and inferiority will scarcely occur among human beings.
Rather will a certain measure of independence, a certain direction of the relation proceed also from the self-will and the character of the subordinate.
The different cases of superiority and inferiority will accordingly be characterized by differences in the relative amount of spontaneity which the subordinates and the superiors bring to bear upon the total relation.
In exemplification of this reciprocal action of the inferior, through which superiority and inferiority manifests itself as proper socialization, I will mention only a few cases, in which the reciprocity is difficult to discern.
When in the case of an absolute despotism the ruler attaches to his edicts the threat of penalty or the promise of reward, the meaning is that the monarch himself will be bound by the regulation which he has ordained. The inferior shall have the right on the other hand to demand something from the lawgiver. Whether the latter subsequently grants the promised reward or protection is another question.
The spirit of the relation as contemplated by the law is that the superior completely controls the inferior, to be sure, but that a certain claim is assured to the latter, which claim he may press or may allow to lapse, so that even this most definite form of the relation still contains an element of spontaneity on the part of the inferior. Still farther; the concept law seems to connote that he who gives the law is in so far unqualifiedly superior.
Apart from those cases in which the law is instituted by those who will be its subjects, there appears in lawgiving as such no sign of spontaneity on the part of the subject of the law.
It is, nevertheless, very interesting to observe how the Roman conception of law makes prominent the reciprocity between the superior and the subordinate elements.
Thus lex means originally compact, in the sense, to be sure, that the terms of the same are fixed by the proponent, and the other party can accept or reject it only en bloc. The lex publica populi Romani meant originally that the king proposed and the people accepted the same. Thus even here, where the conception itself seems to express the complete onesidedness of the superior, the nice social instinct of the Romans pointed in the verbal expression to the cooperation of the subordinate.
In consequence of like feeling of the nature of socialization the later Roman jurists declared that the societas leoniua is not to be regarded as a social compact ; where the one absolutely controls the other, that is, where all spontaneity of the subordinate is excluded, there is no longer any socialization.
Once more, the orator who confronts the assembly, or the teacher his class, seems to be the sole leader, the temporary superior. Nevertheless every one who finds himself in that situation is conscious of the limiting and leading reaction of the mass which is apparently merely passive and submissive to his guidance.
This is the case not merely when the parties immediately confront each other. All leaders are also led, as in countless cases the master is the slave of his slaves. Every journalist is influenced by the public upon which he seems to exert an influence entirely without reaction. The most characteristic case of actual reciprocal influence, in spite of what appears to be subordination without corresponding reaction, is that of hypnotic suggestion. An eminent hypnotist recently asserted that in every hypnosis there occurs an actual if not easily defined influence of the hypnotized upon the hypnotist, and that without this the effect would not be produced.
Superiority may be exercised a by an individual b by a group c by an objective principle higher than individuals. I proceed to notice some of the sociological significance of these three cases. The subordination of a group to a single person has in the first place as a consequence a very decided unification of the group, and this is equally the case with both the characteristic forms of this subordination : viz.
In both cases the unity of the supreme head tends to bring about an inner unification of the group. The elements of the latter are conscious of themselves as belonging together, because their interests converge at one point. Moreover the opposition to this unified controlling power compels the group to collect itself, to condense itself into unity. This is true not alone of the political group. In the factory, the ecclesiastical community, a school class and in associated bodies of every sort it is to be observed that the termination of the organization in a head, whether in case of harmony or of opposition, helps to effect unification of the group.
This is most conspicuous to be sure in the political sphere. History has shown it to be the enormous advantage of monarchies that they unify the political interests of the popular mass. The totality has a common interest in holding the prerogatives of the crown within their boundaries, possibly in restricting them ; or there is a common field of conflict between those whose interests are with the crown and those who are opposed.
Thus there is a supreme point with reference to which the whole people constitutes either a single party or at most two. Upon the disappearance of its head, to which all are subordinate—with the end of this political pressure—all political unity often likewise ceases.
There spring up a great number of party factions which previously, in view of that supreme political interest for or against the monarchy, found no room. This transformation in the political life of a people occurs not merely in the case of a complete abolition of monarchy, but also in the case of gradual limitation of its power, i.
The parliamentary history of Germany and of France shows this very clearly. The unification of the groupelements through common subordination expresses itself moreover in this, that in this case factional disturbances are much more easily quieted than when the elements are independent and subordinate to no one. Here comes in force the conception of the tribunal of final appeal hohere Instanz , of such weight sociologically, i. The Greek as well as the Italian city-states in many instances made shipwreck simply for this reason, that they had over them no higher authority which might have adjusted differences, as would have been done if they were in common subordination to a central power.
Where several elements stand opposed to each other, and none of them recognizes a superior power, conflicts are, as a rule, to be reconciled only by direct comparison of force.
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The Christian religion is credited with attuning men's souls to peaceableness. In so far as this is the case the sociological ground for the fact is surely the feeling of the common subordination of all beings to the divine principle. The Christian believer is filled with the conception that over him and every opponent, be the latter a believer or not, stands that supreme authority.
This thought removes the temptation to forcible measurement of strength as far from him as under normal conditions it would be from those who are subordinate to a supreme principle. This unification may present itself in two different forms, viz.
In case a collection of human beings are alike subordinate to a single individual, they are in so far equal. The correlation between despotism and equality has long been recognized. On that account, from the other point of view, the autocrat often has an interest in equalizing the differ- -ences of social classes because marked superiorities and inferiorities in the relations between subjects come into real as well as psychological competition with his own supremacy.
Thus we see in a large portion of European history, so long as feudalism and the legal differences of estates prevailed, that the struggles of the lower orders for legal equality were aided by the princes. The overlords sought to diminish the privileges of the nobility, because as rulers they elevated themselves to a more lofty and more equal eminence over an equalized society. But there is concealed in this relation between autocracy and the leveling of the ruled another social factor of great significance.
This factor may be indicated as follows: The structure of a society in which a single person rules and the great mass obeys is to be understood only through the consideration that the mass, that is the ruled, includes only a portion of the personality belonging to the individuals concerned, while the ruler invests his whole personality in the relationship.
Lordship over a developed society does not consequently differ so very much from rule over a horde, since the individuals build into the structure of the mass only fragments of their personality and reserve the remainder. There are wanting therefore in the mass, as the ruled subject, the resources, adaptabilities, the accommodations, the developments of power which the whole individual possesses through the unity and presence of his total psychical energy.
Apart from consideration of this difference, this devotion of a mere fraction of individuality to the mass, the frequent facility of its subserviency is not to be understood. Wonder has often been felt over the irrationality of the condition in which a single person exercises lordship over a great mass of others. The contradiction will be modified when we reflect that the ruler and the individual subject in the controlled mass by no means enter into the relationship with an equal quantum of their personality.
The mass is composed through the fact that many individuals unite fractions of their personality,—one-sided purposes, interests and powers, while that which each personality as such actually is towers above this common level and does not at all enter into that "mass," i. Hence it is also that frequently in very despotically ruled groups individuality may develop itself very freely, in those aspects particularly which are not in participation with the mass.
Thus began the development of modern individuality in the despotisms of the Italian Renaissance. Here, as in other similar cases for example, under Napoleon I and III, it was for the direct interest of the despots to allow the largest freedom to all those aspects of personality which were not identified with the regulated mass, i.
Thus subordination was more tolerable. It is one of the highest tasks of administrative art to distinguish properly between those characteristics of men with respect to which they may be included in a leveled mass, and those other characteristics which may be left to free individual development.
The Sociology Of Georg Simmel
For this distinction there is needed the most accurate knowledge of what is common to the mass, and what consequently is the material for the establishment of a common level, upon which the subjects may stand at a constantly equal height, while that in which the individuals composing the mass cannot be unified must be left outside the circuit of superiority and subordination.
This is a formal sociological demand and arrangement which is by no means valid in political autocracies alone, but in every possible autocracy as well.
It is therefore in this more exact sense that the leveling must be understood which corresponds with the superiority of a single person. In the second place the group may assume the form of a pyramid.
In this case the subordinates stand over against the superior not in an equalized mass, but in very nicely graded strata of power. These strata grow constantly smaller in extent but greater in significance. They lead up from the inferior mass to the head, the single ruler. This form of the group may come into existence in two ways. It may emerge from the autocratic supremacy of an individual.
The latter often loses the substance of his power, and allows it to slip downwards, while retaining its form and titles. In this case more of the power is retained by the orders nearest to the former autocrat than is acquired by those more distant. Since the power thus gradually percolates, a continuity and graduation of superiority and inferiority must develop itself.
This is in fact the way in which in oriental states the social forms often arise. The power of the superior orders disintegrates, either because it is essentially incoherent, and does not know how to attain the above emphasized proportion between subordination and individual freedom ; or because the persons comprising the administration are too indolent or too ignorant of governmental technique to preserve supreme power.
For the power which is exercised over a large circle is never a constant possession. It must be constantly acquired and defended anew if anything more than its shadow and name is to remain.
The other way in which a scale of power is constructed up to a supreme head is the reverse of that just described. Starting with a relative equality of the social elements, certain elements gain greater significance ; within the circle of influence thus constituted certain especially powerful individuals differentiate themselves, until this development accommodates itself to one or to a few heads.
The pyramid of superiority and inferiority is built in this case from below upward, while in the former case the development was from above downward. This second form of development is often found in economic relationships, where at first there exists a certain equality between the persons carrying on the work of a certain industrial society.
Georg Simmel: sociologia
Presently some of the number acquire wealth ; others become poor; others fall into intermediate conditions which are as dependent upon an aristocracy of property as the lower orders are upon the middle strata; this aristocracy rises in manifold gradations to the magnates, of whom sometimes a single individual is appropriately designated as the "king" of a branch of industry.
So long as the full citizen—either Greek, Roman or Teutonic—knew no subordination under an individual, there existed for him on the one hand complete equality with those of his own order, but on the other hand rigid exclusiveness toward those of lower orders. Feudalism remodeled this characteristic social form into the equally characteristic arrangement which filled the gap between freedom and bondage with a scale of classes.
Service, servitium, united all members of the realm with each other and with the king.
In those times of primitive economy the king had no other resort for rewarding his officials and for binding the great men of his dominions to himself than by enfeoffing them with land and laborers. At first this bestowal was only for life tenure or at will, but the fief later passed into property.
The king parted with some of his domain, and his greater subjects likewise assigned land as fiefs to their inferior vassals and thus a gradation of social position, possessions and obligations came into existence. But the same progress came about from the opposite direction. The intermediate strata came into being not alone through concessions from above, but also through accumulations from below.
On the one hand small landowners, originally free, gave up their land to more powerful lords, to receive it back from them as a fief. These lords of domains on the other hand, through constant accretions of power, which weakened royalty could not prevent, rose in their turn to kingly power.
It is consistent with this contemporaneous duality of genesis that the feudal form of society may have quite antithetical consequences for its monarchical head. While the outcome in Germany was that the central power became hollow, being changed into a mere form, the French crown founded upon the same system its power to organize and control throughout the entire realm.
So much with reference to the forms which the group assumes in subordination to an individual, which forms, either in clear exhibit or as elements of a complicated manifestation, are to be found in the structure of the most various groups, ecclesiastical not less than political, military as well as relationships which receive their structure entirely from the traits of character of those who compose them.
It goes without saying that similar phenomena may occur in case of subordination to a numerous body. The numerical composition of the superior power is not always characteristic of it. In the sociological respect thus far referred to it may be a matter of indifference if the superior position of the one person happens to be occupied by a number of persons.
In passing to consideration of the relations which are characterized by the superiority of such a number of persons, I observe that monarchy is the type and the primary form of the superior and inferior relation in general. Monarchy is so expressive and effective that it continues to have a function even in those constitutions which arose from reaction against it, in constitutions which directly purposed to introduce in the place of monarchy a division of the sovereignty. It has been said of the American President, as of the Athenian Archon and of the Roman Consul, that with certain restrictions they are still merely the heirs of the royal power, of which the kings have been robbed through revolution.
Maine has shown that the democracy of the French Revolution was nothing but the inverted French monarchy, equipped with precisely the same qualities as the latter; and Proudhon declares that a parliament based on universal suffrage differs in no respect from an absolute monarchy.
If the popular representative be infallible, indestructible and irresponsible, the monarch cannot be essentially more. The monarchical principle according to this claim is as vitally present and complete in a parliament as in a legitimate king. Just in this respect is the significance of the form of socialization to be correctly apprehended.
Quite new elements are introduced into the surviving form, yet in consequence of the stability of the form these substitutes exercise their functions in quite similar fashion.
We shall presently meet again this further working of the form of organization. In reference to those social structures which are characterized by the superiority of a number of persons, a social totality over individuals or other totalities, it is to be noticed at once that the consequences for the subordinates are very unequal.
The highest wish of the Spartan and Thessalian slaves was to become slaves of the state rather than of individuals. In Prussia before the emancipation of the serfs the peasants attached to the state domains had a much preferable lot to that of those upon private estates. The situation of India under British administration is far better than under the sway of the East India Company and its private interests. In the great modern industrial enterprises where there is no entirely individual control, but which are either stock companies, or are under equally impersonal modes of administration, the employes are better off than in the smaller concerns where they are subject to the personal exploitation of the proprietor.
At the same time the contrary may be observed. The allies of Athens and Rome, the territories which were formerly subject to single Swiss Cantons, were more cruelly oppressed and plundered than could easily have happened under the tyranny of a single master. The stock company which, thanks to the methods in force in the business, as just now observed exploits its employes less than the private entrepreneur, is not at liberty in many cases, e. And in relation to momentary impulses; the cruelties which were perpetrated for the amusement of the Roman circus goers, the extrem- -est refinement of which was often demanded by the latter, would scarcely have been practiced by many of these if the delinquent had been accountable to a single person alone.
An immediately cooperating mass knows no individual considerations, because in the mass itself the individual impulses and qualities are paralyzed so that it cannot feel any sympathy with that which is specifically individual.
The chief consideration is however that the point in which all the members of a large group securely coincide is very low in the scale of the moral; that consideration and delicacy is always of an individual and personal nature ; that it will not usually be possible to unite a great number upon the same personal considerations ; and that, especially in an association for economic ends, unlimited egoism in pursuit of material advantage and in saving cost is the one interest to be unqualifiedly accredited to all.
But subordination to a single individual may be preferred to that under a body of persons upon more ideal grounds, viz. In that case there is in subordination a certain freedom and dignity which disappears when one is subordinate to a number of persons.
Under the conditions of individualisation the self becomes fragmented and internally differentiated. This dialectic expresses itself both in the way Simmel addresses various philosophical and sociological questions and in his conceptualisation of how particular individual types can transcend binary thinking.
Wessely argues that Simmel searches for a third category that will move beyond the distorting philosophical language of binary oppositions: Philosophy, maintains Simmel, tends to accept a dualistic framework.
Rather than strangeness being determined by social distance between self and other, spatial configurations can impact on social processes. Strangerhood then exposes a dialectical spatial relation between proximity and distance. In this spatial reading of the stranger, Simmel conceptualises it as a positive relation; it is a specific form of interaction Simmel However, from this point onwards this geometric reading of the stranger coexist with a conceptualisation of the stranger which emphasises social distance.
Although there is social distance between the stranger and the host, Simmel also identifies commonalities between them. For example, a stranger may share with the host a common national identity, similar social and occupational identity or a common human nature.
Nonetheless, while at some fundamental level there are some similarities between the stranger and the host group, these ties do not run very deep. Downloaded by [Deakin University Library] at This otherness is heightened when groups reject the common connection we have with strangers.
In such a situation the interaction between self and other turns from a positive to a negative relation and our relationship with the stranger becomes a non-relation. By denying the other their humanity it effectively negates their existence.
The non-relation that exists with the stranger suppresses what ties us together as human beings. This dimension relates to a sense of dread or existential angst as one comes to the realisation that we are connected to forces beyond our control. Strangeness is connected to a sense of loss, renunciation or relinquishment indicating some recognition that what one is experiencing is not unique or different, but rather part of something greater than oneself.
Strangeness then emerges when we lose our sense of self as a unique individual with a set of unique experiences.
This new individualism, argues Simmel, is clearly expressed in Romanti- cism and is characterised by its claims to uniqueness and incomparability Simmel a: Simmel illustrates the ways in which differentiated societies develop highly differential individuals Simmel b: These highly differentiated individuals have a broad education and a diverse range of experiences. The cosmopolitan is the personality type that emerges under modern conditions. The cosmopolitan also has the ability to perceive the universal within the particular and the particular in the universal.
Simmel in his later works rejects instrumental reason and systematic theorising and replaces it with aesthetic reflection Fuchs This aesthetic, third type of consciousness finds its expression in the work of historians.
The in-between aesthetic consciousness refers to an Downloaded by [Deakin University Library] at The aesthetic sensibility encourages a closer intimacy between subject and object. The historian, according to Simmel, has the potential to adopt this hermeneutical stance.
Simmel problematises the realist view of history that conceptualises history as a copy or reproduction of its subject matter. At one level, historians need to recreate the mental acts of historical subjects by reducing as much as possible the intellectual, social and cultural distance between themselves and historical actors.
The historian, for Simmel, needs to transcend the boundaries between self and other. Historical knowledge or understanding is not solely concerned with the naturalistic reproduction of the historical person because it extends beyond this pattern of congruence Simmel The genius seems to create knowledge out of himself, knowledge which the ordinary person can discover only through the basis of experience.
On the basis of the slightest hints and allusions, he constructs an internally consistent and convincing picture of the intellectual processes, ideational associations and passions of historical persons, even though the actual examples of this cast of mind disappeared long ago.
Simmel The ability of the genius to transcend, but also be close to the historical person is related to forces beyond human control: I interpret this phenomenon as a process whereby one becomes conscious of an inheritance that is unconscious or latent.
In some form or other, earlier generations have transmitted their organic modifications to later generations; in some obscure fashion, the organic modifications are related to mental processes. The boundary between self and other is not only maintained but also transcended.
The genius is different, but because of his special ability he can also reflect on the universality of the human condition. Marotta There is a continuity of experience between the historian as genius and the other. They represent an aestheticism that expresses the proximity between subject and object while concomitantly maintaining distance and detachment.
They signify the condition of the stranger who through both commonality and organic differences reinforces and blurs the distinction between self and other. The Third Element, the Stranger and the Sociology of Knowledge This final section explores the relevance of Simmelian stranger to a discussion on the sociology of knowledge and its contribution to debates on standpoint epistemologies.
In other words, it has been argued that the marginal situation of strangers has allowed them a different type of knowledge that lends itself to a critique of conventional knowledge.
The objectivity of strangers is characterised by their ability to be both remote and near or indifferent and involved Simmel They are able to perceive the particular within the universal or the universal in the particular. While this is partly true, this interpretation of Simmel overlooks his complex understanding of objectivity, its relationship to stranger and the construction of historical knowledge.
First, Simmel ponders the connection between objectivity, subjectivism and the stranger. Journal of Intercultural Studies [. It is rather a positive and definite kind of participation, in the same way that the objectivity of a theoretical observation clearly does not mean that the mind is a passive tabula rasa on which things inscribe their qualities [.
In contrast, Simmel argues that knowledge construction is a process Downloaded by [Deakin University Library] at First, the third element changes the content and quality of the relationship between individuals and groups: The appearance of the third party indicates transition, conciliation, and abandon- ment of absolute contrast although, on occasion, it introduces contrast.
Simmel b: The third element thus transcends the individual interests of the single elements.
The third element overcomes the hermeneutical problem of misunderstanding that exists between the two parties. The third party can place itself in close proximity to the two opposing groups while simultaneously distancing itself from each position. Concluding Remarks: Marotta extent to which such a position is possible. A central argument of standpoint epistemologies is that the Enlightenment view of knowledge as disinterested and context-free is misleading.
This critique is usually directed at scientific knowledge and other forms of knowledge which adopt the positivist scientific method. Feminist standpoint epistemology has been particularly critical of universal and context free knowledge. She does question the supposed vantage point of the subjugated; especially when it is appropriated by academics who occupy less marginal positions. There is a danger of romanticising and uncritically accepting this marginal position and thus we must not assume that the marginal is an innocent position.
It is their social and cultural situation which partly contributes to the construction of historical knowledge and the historical person. This goes at the very heart of identity politics and the standpoint epistemology which informs it.
Thus self-representation is the only way of grasping the true nature of the other. For example, only Chinese women can represent Chinese women, only Muslims can represent Muslims and only Jews can represent Jews. In other words, radical forms of standpoint epistemologies overstate our differences at the cost of illuminating our commonalities.
Nonetheless, his work also implies that the radical forms of standpoint epistemology which privileges the knowledge of the marginal position and argues that the identity of the ethnic and racial other can only be achieved through self-representation provides an incomplete understanding of knowledge construction.
In order to see well, there is a third possibility that Simmel advocates in which knowledge construction incorporates the subjective and the specificity of the situated while acknowledging the commonalities between those who are situated the historical subject and those who are detached from the situated experience the historian.
I would like to end on a point of caution. Marotta in-between perspective collapses into another standpoint. Such a common ground is not impossible to find, but the in-between stranger does not have privilege access to it, rather it may be found through a critical conversation between self and other.
Works Cited Alexander, J. Rethinking strangeness: Bauman, Z.
Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
Modernity and the holocaust. Polity Press. Beck, U. How neighbours become Jews: Ethington, P. European journal of geography [online], Available from: Fuchs, S.
From theory to critique of modernity: Haraway, D. Situated knowledges: Harding, S. Whose science? Whose knowledge? Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Harman, L. The modern stranger: Mouton de Gruyter. Heller, A. Self-representation and the representation of the other. Rundell, eds. Blurred boundaries: Jansen, S.
The stranger as seer or voyeur: Karakayali, N. The uses of the stranger:Through his work on the Globe, a left-wing paper, Hapgood accessed a wide array of leftist intellectuals and radical artists.
The monarchical principle according to this claim is as vitally present and complete in a parliament as in a legitimate king. Simmel In consequence of like feeling of the nature of socialization the later Roman jurists declared that the societas leoniua is not to be regarded as a social compact ; where the one absolutely controls the other, that is, where all spontaneity of the subordinate is excluded, there is no longer any socialization.
According to what he says, the reason is that individuals are, from a psychological point of view ,involved in the chaotic rhythm of the city and in addition they are influenced by the economic system wherein they assume an egoistic and pragmatic behaviour.
Wolff p. For Dodge, this discursive component was crucial: Still farther; the concept law seems to connote that he who gives the law is in so far unqualifiedly superior.