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.”

WORKS

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.

REFERENCES

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.

I. S. KON

References in periodicals archive ?
Another valuable aspect of Sandner's biography is how deftly he uses unpublished papers and correspondences to highlight the important formative influence Ferdinand Toennies played as a father-figure and mentor following the death of Neurath's revered father, as well as the deep influences his father's colleagues Oskar Simony, Josef Popper-Lynkeus, and Victor Bohmert exercised in guiding the younger Neurath's interests and intellectual inclinations.
Ferdinand Toennies a world renowned sociologist and a classic writer in his book Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft emphasized on the concept of modernization and innovation.
Although he has a different eye to see things but in its essence his ideas are closer to the concept of modernization and innovation as advocated by Ferdinand Toennies.
Kahan rightly draws attention to Ferdinand Toennies, hardly as well known as Karl Marx, bur nevertheless of major significance.
Cahnman's argument that Ferdinand Toennies' work has had a central, though largely unattributed, influence on twentieth century sociological theories of social change is ultimately unconvincing.