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The Stranger

Simmel offered many different social types that individuals become through their interactions with others, including the poor, the renegade, and the “man in the middle.” Each of these social types reflects elements of the wider social structure, or the networks and contexts in which the individual lives and operates. His most famous social type is the stranger, which comes about through distance from others. Read the short essay carefully and then answer the following questions about this issue of distance.


1. Simmel writes that the stranger is someone who “comes today and stays tomorrow.” What dual qualities does the stranger possess that help illustrate this point?

2. Why are traders, according to Simmel, always strangers, and what kind of ”distance” do they share?

3. What qualities do strangers possess that make them more objective than people closer to the group? Think of a concrete example of a modern day stranger that exhibits this same kind of objectivity.

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