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Georg Simmel: Expansion of the Dyad

THE two person, or two group "dyad" is a particularly important social grouping, according to George Simmel in The Sociology of Georg Simmel translated and edited by Kurt H. Wolff. But what happens when you expand the dyad to three people, to the "triad?"

"The appearance of the third party.. [means an] abandonment of absolute contrast." In Simmel's view, it introduces three kinds of group formations. The third person might be a non-partisan mediator; he might be a "tertius gaudens" or someone who benefits from a two person quarrel; and he might even be someone who uses a dispute between two people to divide and conquer them. Let us look at each in turn.

The Non-partisan and the mediator. In many cases the addition of a third person can weld the two-person dyad together; the child "closes the circle by typing the parents to one another." But just as significant is the non-partisan mediator.

The non-partisan shows each party the claims and arguments of the other; they thus lose the tone of subjective passion which usually provokes the same tone on the part of the adversary.

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Christopher Chantrill Follow chrischantrill on Twitter

Christopher Chantrill is a writer and conservative, and author of Road to the Middle Class. He runs, the go-to resource for government finance data, is a frequent contributor to the American Thinker, and blogs regularly at He lives in Seattle, Washington ...

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