Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are sociological categories introduced by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies for two normal types of human association. (A normal type as coined by Tönnies is a purely conceptual tool to be built up logically, wheras an ideal type, as coined by Max Weber, is a concept formed by accentuating main elements of a historic/social change.) Tönnies' concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, conceptionally strictly to be separated from each other, are fully discussed in his work Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887, seven more German editions). Only the 2nd edition of 1912 turned out to be a success, and the juxtaposition of these two terms belonged to the general stock of concepts German pre-1933 intellectuals were quite familiar with and quite often misunderstood.

Table of contents
1 Gemeinschaft
2 Gesellschaft
3 References
4 See Also

Gemeinschaft

Gemeinschaft is an association in which individuals are oriented to the large association as much if not more than to their own self interest. Furthermore, individuals in Gemeinschaft are regulated by common mores, or beliefs about the appropriate behaviour and responsibility of members of the association, to each other and to the association at large; associations marked by "unity of will" (Tönnies, 22). Tönnies saw the family as the most perfect expression of Gemeinschaft, however he expected that Gemeinschaft could be based on shared place and shared belief as well as kinship, and he included globally dispersed religious communities as possible examples of Gemeinschaft (often translated as community).

Gesellschaft

Gesellschaft on the other hand describes associations in which, for the individual, the larger association never takes on more importance than individual self interest, and lack the same level of shared mores. Gesellschaft is maintained through individuals acting in their own self interest. A modern business is a good example of Gesellschaft, the workers, managers, and owners may have very little in terms of shared orientations or beliefs, they may not care deeply for the product they are making, but it is in all their self interest to come to work to make money, and thus the business continues. (Gesellschaft is often translated as society or civil society.)

Since, for Tönnies, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are normal types, he considered them a matter of Pure Sociology, whereas in Applied Sociology, on doing empirical research, he expected to find nothing else than a mix of them. Nevertheless, following Tönnies, without normal types one might not be able to analyze this mix.

References

See Also