Writing Out Loud: The Stranger

Simmel wrote about 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. Simmel’s most famous social type is the stranger. Read Simmel’s writing and then answer the following questions about this issue of distance.

Theme: Rise of the Avatar


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