Simmel’s Hidden King - and Ours

John A. Y. Andrews


Georg Simmel’s “hidden king” metaphor for the leading idea of an historic age evokes narrative associations that reach deep to depict the intrinsic dynamics and tensions in human activity that arise for Simmel from the basic contradiction between life as continuous flow vs. the resistant forms life creates and through which alone it can express itself. This paper first elaborates these narrative associations, then uses them to explore the key problem of Simmel’s essay—the unique antipathy to form per se that Simmel saw as characteristic of modernity—and finally offers some suggestions as to how his metaphor may or may not serve to address features of our current order, a century on.


Simmel, Georg; Hidden King; Lebensphilosophie | Modernity; Social Imaginary

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