Does The Structure Of Social Relations Determine Who We

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Does the Structure of Social Relations Determine Who We Are? The structure of social relations is of utmost importance when analyzing the factors that constitute one’s personality. Sociological theorist, Georg Simmel, explains the development of individuality through the expansion and subsequent differentiation of one’s social circles and how this expansion affects the individual. Simmel asserts, “Individuality in being and action generally increases to the degree that the social circle encompassing the individual expands” (Simmel, et al., 2012, p. 366). In other words, the development of one’s individuality is predicated upon the gradual expansion and differentiation of the overarching social circle in which one is a member. Simmel…show more content…
371). The idea proposed is that freedom allows for a balanced trade-off between drive for individuality and drive for homogeneity. Moreover, the larger the social circle we take part in, the greater freedom we have to individualize within the circle. Consequently, as a part of the whole we are less unique. Conversely, the narrower the social circle we take part in, the less freedom we have to individualize, yet the circle itself is more unique than aforementioned circles of larger size. Therefore, freedom is what allows us to continue leading this halved existence. Furthermore, freedom leads to an increase in social differentiation through role expansion which, in the process, engenders changes in behavior, power, and equality. Inequality, therefore, is an important consequence of freedom because it enforces structure in development of individuality. For example, class structure allows for the stature of individuals to be compared effectively placing them in newly formed social circles, of which individuals can distinguish themselves from others. Therefore, an individual’s personality can be circumscribed as the intersection of concentric social circles mediated by the resulting freedom and inequality. The fundamental mechanism of group expansion lies in
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