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Metropolis and Mental Life

The United Nations estimates that, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. More than a century earlier, Georg Simmel reflected on the effects city living had on the minds of city dwellers in his essay, “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” As you read the essay, answer the following questions, but also think about how living in cities today resembles or perhaps runs counter to Simmel’s observations.


1. What does Simmel think is the biggest challenge individuals face living in modern society?

2. Simmel asserts that people depend on differences for their existence. What kinds of differences is he talking about, and how does living in cities contribute to these differences?

3. According to Simmel, people tend to have a “blasé attitude” toward metropolitan life. Can you think of examples of how living in a city today might lead to a similar sense of apathy?

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