The sociology of Auguste Rodin

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




George V. Zito


Rodin, Fran\c cois Auguste Ren\'e, sculpture, France, Simmel, Georg

Subject Categories

Sociology of Culture


This study encompasses cultural sociology and specifically relates to the sociology of art. It is concerned with the theoretical question of how art comes to be valued, and it is a question which has been posed by several social theorists.

Georg Simmel asked how art comes to be valued as genuine and belonging in the ideal realm. I would argue that what is considered ideal in art is a social construction. How certain sculptures come to be valued as important and significant is explored through the social relations between Rodin and his family, his art circle, his critics, and his followers; as well as through his ideas about art and what has been written about his art then and now.

The dissertation employs the theoretical perspective of Georg Simmel, who considers art as a social form involving the artist's will and individual property, along with the attitude of the artist and other spectators. Simmel views art as a dynamic of culture, which also involves the dynamic of social life.

The methodology for the study involves an interpretive analysis of the historical events, social relations, and artifacts relating to Rodin. These are cast in social forms depicting cooperation, conflict, competition, reciprocity, individualism, and the group. These characteristic forms convey the argument that one artist's life and art form may be generalized to other artists' experiences.

The results demonstrate that art is subject to continual re-interpretation, the ideal in art is socially defined, and the continued interest in Rodin's art might be construed as the search for the ideal. This study provides the example of an artist whose individual life was unique in history, and yet typical in forms of social conflict, competition, and exchange, and whose work concretizes social relations in movements between subjective (microsocial) and objective (macrosocial) expression. It also provides an example of how individualism and social grouping may be applied to an art form which depicts human beings. It teaches that the nature of human relations is both essential and vital to each culture and every society. By demonstrating Georg Simmel's theory of historical understanding and objective values in an applied manner, it contributes to the substantive content of sociological theory. In effect, it argues for the necessity and importance of both an historical and an ahistorical interpretation in understanding the artist and the art form.


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