13 February 2011

Ferdinand Tönnies: Community and Association (Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft)

Ref: Sociology, Modern Society and Social Thinkers

Ferdinand Tönnies* (1855–1936) was German social thinker.

In "Community and Association" (1887) Tönnies tried to analyse the differences between agricultural/rural/traditional society and industrial/urban/modern society. The first he called "community" (Gemeinschaft), and the second he called "association" (Gesellschaft).

In agricultural society ("community"), an individual interacts with a small number of people – the people in his village. He has close relationships with them. The relationships are personal and informal, based on familiarity and friendship. But in an industrial society ("association"), an individual interacts with a large number of people. However these interactions are functional in nature. Thus the relationships are impersonal and formal; they are commercial and business-like.

Thus "community" is characterised by a small number of primary (private) relationships. "Association" is characterised by a large number of secondary (public) relationships.

*The English spelling is not "Tonnies", but "Toennies".

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