Ferdinand Tönnies

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Tönnies, Ferdinand


Born July 26, 1855, in Riep, near Oldenswort; died Apr. 11, 1935, in Kiel. German sociologist and one of the fathers of professional sociology in Germany.

Tönnies was a lecturer at the University of Kiel from 1881 to 1933, when he was dismissed from his post by the Nazis. His most important work was Community and Society (1887). Tönnies regarded social relationships as volitional, subdividing them according to the type of will manifested; the natural instinctive will (Wesenwille) lies behind man, as it were, and guides his behavior, while the rational will (Kürwille) presumes the possibility of choice and a consciously formulated goal of action. Maternal love may serve as an example of natural will, and commerce as an example of rational will. Natural will gives birth to community (Gemeinschaft); rational will, to society (Gesellschaft). A community is maintained by instincts, feelings, and organic relations, while a society is governed by calculating reason and mechanical relations. More and more, in the course of history, the first type of relationship has given way to the second. In a later work, Introduction to Sociology (1931), Tönnies proposed a more complex classification that included relationships of dominance and comradeship and the relations of groups and associations.

In spite of the psychologism of Tönnies’ concepts—that is, his classification of social relationships according to types of will—a number of his ideas were highly important. Tönnies was one of the first to advocate a strictly logical system of sociological concepts. Behind the contraposition of community and society lies the problem of the transition from feudal and patriarchal relations—and generally from relations of personal dependence and traditional forms of culture—to capitalist relations. Tönnies’ numerous empirical works were a significant contribution to scientific study. While adverse to the idea of revolution, Tönnies nonetheless acknowledged the great scientific importance of K. Marx’ works and corresponded with F. Engels. Tönnies was a consistent democrat and antifascist. He openly opposed racism, calling it “modern barbarism.”


Die Sitte. Frankfurt am Main, 1909.
Der englische Stoat und der deutsche Staat. Berlin, 1917.
Marx: Leben und Lehre. Jena, 1921.
Kritik der öffentlichen Meinung. Berlin, 1922.
T. Hobbes: Leben und Lehre, 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1925.
Soziologische Studien und Kritiken, vols. 1–3. Jena, 1925–29.
Die Entwicklung der sozialen Frage bis zum Weltkrieg, 4th ed. Berlin-Leipzig, 1926.
Das Eigentum. Vienna-Leipzig, 1926.
Fortschritt und soziale Entwicklung: Geschichtsphilosophische Ansichten. Karlsruhe, 1926.
Geist der Neuzeit. Leipzig, 1935.


Bellebaum, A. Das soziologische System von F. Tönnies unter besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner soziographischen Untersuchungen. Meisenheim am Glan, 1966.
Cahnman, W. J., ed. F. Tönnies. Leiden, 1973.


References in periodicals archive ?
Niall Bond presents an intellectual biography of Ferdinand Tonnies, specifically to elucidate the classical text he wrote on social organization: Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, or "Community and Society," written in the later 19th century.
His interventions illustrate the way an individual navigated an "ethnicized" social network and circulated resources between the market economy and the gift economy, spheres that Ferdinand Tonnies termed the Gesellschaft and the Gemeinschaft (1887).
Our effort will be easier due to the investigations of the German thinker Ferdinand Tonnies [2].
Para contextualizar a sociedade buscou-se desenvolver aspectos acerca do estereotipo e das tematicas adjuntas como: identidade, comunidade, sociedade e coabitacao, partindo das ideias de Walter Lippmann, Bruno Mazzara, Ferdinand Tonnies e outros autores da psicologia, sociologia e neurociencia.
Her theory is based on concepts developed by the 19th-century German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies, who distinguished between two social systems: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.
Lees begins his discussion by outlining the development of anti-urbanism, starting with men like Wilhelm Heinrich Reihl and progressing through the work of Georg Hansen, Otto Ammon, Ferdinand Tonnies, and others.
In this readable and well-researched text, the strengths include an acknowledgment of earlier studies of community by Ferdinand Tonnies, Max Weber, Georg Simmel and Emile Durkheim.
The roster of his personal and academic acquaintances during the Twenties is mind-boggling, from close family contacts with the Weber family to an abiding literary curiosity kindled by Friedrich Gundolf (a leader of the Stefan George circle), from seminars with Ludwig Curtius, the preeminent archeologist of the day, to close contact with the sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies.
It all adds up to a blending of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, German words used by the 19th century sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies.
These are the family (especially the extended family), the stable town or village, the church, rigid social and economic classes, and guilds for people in the same line of work-the set of institutions that together constitute the traditional form of authority that the German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies called Gemeinschaft.
These massive human movements were the very ones that concerned contemporary social observers such as Ferdinand Tonnies, Georg Simmel, and Max Weber.
Raymond Williams, Keywords (Harmondsworth, 1976); Ferdinand Tonnies, Community and Association, English edn.