Samples Relationships Georg Simmel’s Analysis of Group Size

Georg Simmel’s Analysis of Group Size

1017 words 4 page(s)

Georg Simmel was among the first sociologists to examine how a group’s size impacts interactions among members. In his analysis, he considered some of the abstract characteristics of groups. He revealed that the structural arrangements and group processes are usually based on quantitative relationships (Frisby 15). He illustrated that the dyad, which is a group comprising two people was characterized by intense and personal relationships. He considered the dyad as the least stable in the category of groups. He used marriage as an example of a dyadic relationship. The other analysis of the group size was on the triad. The triad comprised three people but was more stable than the dyad because when conflicts arose between two of the members, a third party could help with mediation. In his analysis of groups, he illustrated that larger groups were more stable than smaller groups. However, in smaller groups interactions were intense and intimate.

Simmel’s analysis of groups is not restricted to dyad and triad groups. He attempted to show that there is a difference between large and small groups. He revealed that in small groups, members have the chance of interacting directly with one another. However, when the group exceeds the relatively limited size, interactions have to be mediated using formal arrangements. Increasing complexity of relationships in a large group may force the group to create special organs (Simmel, Blasi and Anton 86). Such bodies can help with patterning interactions among members. As a result, large groups cannot operate without the differentiation of status, delegation of tasks and creation of offices. Simmel illustrated that these factors have made large groups societies of unequals because for them to be maintained they need to be structurally differentiated.

Need A Unique Essay on "Georg Simmel’s Analysis of Group Size"? Use Promo "custom20" And Get 20% Off!

Order Now

Simmel revealed that smaller groups tend to be suitable because they enhance the involvement of members. He illustrated that interaction among few people is normally intense compared to interaction among many people (Simmel, Blasi and Anton 87). Therefore, when a group is large, there is minimal participation among members, meaning that people will be involved with a segment of their personalities and not as whole human beings. Simmel believed that large groups paralyze individual members because they are normally less demanding to the members and they create objective structures, which confront people who have superpersonal powers.

Simmel’s analysis illustrated that in a dyad group, the relationships differ qualitatively from other types of groups. Since the dyadic relationship involves two participants, individuals are confronted by one another and not collectivity. Since the group is made of two members, if one member withdraws, the group is destroyed (Johnson 39). Simmel illustrated that dyadic relationships never attain a superpersonal structure, which creates a sense of constraint in other groups. The lack of a superpersonal structure leads to the intense absorption of other participants in the relationship. The dyad is characterized by increased dependence on each partner. It is different from other groups in that responsibilities and duties cannot be delegated. Each participant is usually responsible for a given action. Since individuals in the dyad deal with a single person, neither of the two parties can deny responsibility because the group does not allow shifting. Members of the group cannot hold the group responsible for actions they have failed to accomplish.

Simmel illustrated that changing a dyad into a triad by adding a single member brings qualitative changes to the group. Since the triad is an association that involves more than two people, a participant is usually confronted with the likelihood of being outvoted by a majority of the members. Simmel believed that the triad had the simplest structure because the group can achieve domination over the members. This is because the triad presents a social framework that enhances constraining of participants for collective purposes (Johnson 40). Unlike the dyad, which depends on immediate reciprocity, the triad frequently imposes its will upon a single member through a coalition between two members.

Simmel’s analysis shows that adding a third member to a dyadic group causes various impossible processes to become possible. Some of the processes that become possible in a triad are that the third member can become a mediator if there is a conflict between two of the members. As a result, the third party can help moderate passions that may tear the group apart. Simmel revealed that the third party may also turn out to be the individual who rejoices when there are disagreements between two parties in the group. Lastly using the strategy of divide and rule, a third party may create a conflict between two parties in the group to attain dominance or other gains (Johnson 40).
An example of a dyadic relationship I have witnessed in life is being in an intimate relationship. I consider the relationship dyadic because it was a long-term relationship, and it involved many interactions with my partner. The relationship was also intense and intimate where a person’s actions affected the other person. It involved sharing inner thoughts and emotions. The experience was different from my experience of a triadic relationship, which occurred when a friend came visiting. Since he was a third party in the relationship, he had to make efforts to try and connect with one of us. However, the two of us seemed to be united against him.

In summary, Simmel’s analysis of large and small groups depicts his dialectical approach towards the relationship between group structure and individual freedom. He believes that the size of a group determines its nature. Simmel was concerned with the size of the group instead of the nature of interactions. For example, he believed that the dyadic relationship was straightforward because individuals presented themselves in a manner that maintained their identity. Triadic relationships, on the other hand, led to relationships that were independent of individuals in the group.

  • Frisby, David. Simmel and Since (Routledge Revivals): Essays on Georg Simmel’s Social Theory. N.p.: Routledge, 2011. Print. 15
  • Johnson, Doyle P. Contemporary Sociological Theory: An Integrated Multi-Level Approach. New York: Springer, 2010. Print. 39
  • Simmel, Georg, Anthony J. Blasi, and Anton K. Jacobs. Sociology: Inquiries into the Construction of Social Forms. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Print. 86