What Is Georg Simmel's Work "The Stranger" About?

"The Stranger" is a sociological essay by Georg Simmel that describes the role of the stranger in society. In the essay, Simmel explains how the stranger is neither the "outsider, a person who remains separate from society, nor the wanderer, a person who travels from place to place without ever establishing relationships with others.

According to Bowdoin College, Simmel begins "The Stranger" by arguing that the stranger plays a significant role in society. He explains how a stranger is physically close to others but remains psychologically distant by refraining from forging relationships. In Simmel's opinion, the stranger is a lonely and unhappy person, since relationships fulfill individuals.

This discussion sets Simmel up for his second point: love is a fluid phenomenon that can happen between any two given people. Specifically, Simmel argues that any one person can find the same kind of love with any number of other people. Ultimately, Simmel explains that society only exists if there is a network of relationships, so it does not matter which people form relationships, it is only important that they do.

Simmel concludes the essay by stating that the stranger plays a valuable role in society. He insists that without a stranger who is different from others, society would be too uniform, and there would never be an individual who was different and therefore capable of creating new situations.