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Quote from George Simmel June 22, 2008

Posted by Sun Ran in Writings.
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“Then deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces.”

The quote suggested that modern man wanted Individualism, to be free and have his own unique identity. Social ideals such as equality, democracy and prosperity were believed, and success and happiness in life can be achieved as a result of hard work, as can be seen in the “rags to riches” stories. However, these ideas have led to people starting to work in white-collar jobs. The fast pace of society has led many of them to work and be part of a group, but loss of identity as an individual. Specialization of man and his work makes one individual incomparable to another, but also dependent upon the supplementary activities of others. Are they really free and special? Will the people be able to “survive” by themselves? From the text, in an ideal society is “where one knows almost everybody one meets and where one has a positive relation to almost everyone” but in reality, we may not even know by sight those who have been our neighbours for years. Metropolitan man is supposed to be “free” in a spiritualized and refined sense, yet “one nowhere feels as lonely and lost as in the metropolitan crowd”. Modern man living in a crowd so big is thus lost and forgotten and could not be thought as a special individual. Many are not known and his own identity is lost as he follows the crowd. A definition of an ideal life was already vaguely defined, and not for the man himself to discover. At the very start, man already has the “life” that he wants or has to follow, and he is no longer free to choose his path in life in this sense. Also, when everyone chooses to follow the same path, is anyone special?

Modern man wanted to preserve his individuality yet, like the many cans in 100 cans by Andy Warhol, each one is just similar to another. As someone goes around buying Campbell soup, one would just take any can from the rack. Each can is just the same as another, hardly anyone will go around finding the difference between the cans or even read what is on the labels. The cans would be like modern man, there is no sense of individuality and uniqueness between each can and each man. Also, the producer produces large amounts of can food each day. Does the producer know who he is selling them to? Much unlike the past, the producer may never see the consumer in his field of vision. Personal relationships are also becoming lost; the population and the place is too large for us to know many people. Man is lost in the new aspects of modern life, such as invention of can food and mass production.

The pace in which man lives becomes faster, causing fast food becoming also increasing known in the post-industrial age, as seen in 100 cans and, I Love You with My Ford by James Rosenquist. I Love You with My Ford is a montage of American values at that time; the automobile, sex and canned spaghetti. Perhaps it represents a narrative of an age of fast cars, the strip, and fast food; vision on the run, fragmented. It may signify how fast the society is going; modern man keeps following, but loses himself in the crowd. Another idea that this artwork represents is how materialistic the Americans were becoming. The society is superficial. Questions asked were “Can money buy happiness?” Indeed, one works and earns money; hard work can mean putting off social life. Man earns, becomes more calculative, more practical, more materialistic. The previous ideas which started the hard work were thus forgotten, for the direction man goes changed. The idealism has led to a different outcome. I Love You with My Ford is a representation of what was in an American’s mind at that time and what they did. Americans wanted to earn money to enjoy life, as depicted in the ford, happiness as depicted in the woman, and in order to do this, they live off fast food, for time cannot be wasted. These were social pressures on them, and what it meant for “happiness”. Is money defined as happiness?

Modern man wanted Individualism, they each wanted to be special and independent and free. They have set their own goals and a particular idealism was followed. However, man went a different path from the “ideal life” unknowingly, resulted by several issues. As the society progressed very fast, man had to rely on “fast food and cars”, and in order to be successful, live fast. The more time spent on work resulted in poor social relations, and man seemed cold to even those who are around them everyday, because lack of time was spent on knowing them. There were jobs that were considered ideal, but too many people took the same job, in the end everyone seemed to remain the same and do the same things, resulting in lack of identity and Individualism seemed to become Collectivism. The mind set for achieving success has also caused man to be more materialistic and have an unclear illusion of what they really want. The seeking for happiness though hard work changed to seek for money. Man lived, unknowing of the real path they want in live, lost and alone in the many social pressures in the big metropolitan crowd.

References
AH439FINAL – Rosenquist/I love you w/my Ford, http://www.csulb.edu/~karenk/20thcwebsite/439final/ah439fin-Info.00003.html , Accessed on 1st May 2007
http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/1996/johns/pages/johns.flag.html , Accessed on 1st May 2007
http://www.fotos.org/galeria/data/518/medium/3Andy-Warhol-100-Cans.jpg , Accessed on 1st May 2007
Kevin Cannon, The Meaning behind I love you with my Ford,
http://www.bigtimeattic.com/blog/2006/08/meaning-behind-i-love-you-with-my-ford.html , Accessed on 2nd May 2007

Jasper Johns, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasper_Johns , Accessed on 2nd May 2007

Campbell’s Soup Cans, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell’s_Soup_Cans , Accessed on 2nd May 2007

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