Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft


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Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

the German sociologist TÖNNIES’ (1887) twin IDEAL-TYPE concepts referring to contrasting types of social relationship and, by extension, types of society. Gemeinschaft (usually translated as ‘community’) refers to relationships which are spontaneous and ‘affective’, tend to be related to a person's overall social status, are repeated or long-enduring (as in relationships with kin), and occur in a context involving cultural homogeneity. Characteristically, these are the relationships within families and within simpler, small-scale and premodern societies, including peasant societies. Gesellschaft (usually translated as ‘association’) refers to relationships which are individualistic, impersonal, competitive, calculative and contractual, often employing explicit conceptions of rationality and efficiency. Relationships of this type are characteristic of modern urban industrial societies in which the DIVISION OF LABOUR is advanced. For Tönnies, such relationships involved a loss of the naturalness and mutuality of earlier Gemeinschaft relationships. See also COMMUNITY.

Tönnies derived aspects of his concept from Henry MAINE's distinction between status and contract. Compare also Max Weber's TYPES OF SOCIAL ACTION, Talcott Parsons’ PATTERN VARIABLES and Emile Durkheim's MECHANICAL AND ORGANIC SOLIDARITY. See also Herbert Spencer (MILITANT AND INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY) and Robert Redfield (RURAL-URBAN CONTINUUM).

References in periodicals archive ?
The relevance of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to our readings of Mortal Instruments and Wicked Lovely is underlined by Gelder's allusion to the supernatural in his account of Maffesoli's neo-tribalism.
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State Press.
Toennies' most visible impact on American sociology is seen in his often unattributed concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Cahnman argues that these concepts have been widely misunderstood and are best understood in terms of Toennies' distinction between "pure" and "applied" sociology and his corresponding notions of "essential will" and "arbitrary will." It is not until Part III that the editors provide us with Cahnman's discussion of these concepts as part of his attempt to draw together Toennies' largely implicit theory of social change.
It all adds up to a blending of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, German words used by the 19th century sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies.
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