Sociology Index


Gemeinschaft is a form of social integration based on personal ties and community than an association as in Gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft is a German word, translated as community, used by sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) to define an ‘ideal type’, or model, society where social bonds are personal and direct and there are strong shared values and beliefs. Characteristic of small scale, localized societies, it is in contrast to Gesellschaft which refers to complex, impersonal societies. American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) amplified the contrasts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft with his pattern variable value alternatives.

Gesellschaft is a form of social integration based on impersonal ties; more an association than a community as in Gemeinschaft. In 1887 Tonnies introduced the terms Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, which have "proved to be one of the discipline's most enduring and fruitful concepts for studying social change" ( Bender, 17). Extending his sociological perspective to include a social psychology, Tonnies conceived of social formations as expressions of the human will. He argued human volition to be either of the type of essential-will, dominant in Gemeinschaft, or arbitrary-will, which characterizes Gesellschaft.

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft Abstracts

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft: Testing the Spatial and Communal Hypotheses 
JAMES A. CHRISTENSON, University of Kentucky 
Abstract: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft often have been and still are equated with the rural-urban continuum and are employed to describe the "way of life" or the "moral basis" for rural/urban living. Gemeinschaft describes binding, primary interactional relationships based on sentiment; while Gesellschaft describes an interactional system characterized by self-interest, competition, and negotiated accommodation. Much of rural and urban sociological theories has looked to these concepts as "ideal types." Fischer observes that, even in advanced industrial societies like the United States, different ways of life are ascribed to people in urban and rural areas. While Toennies' concepts continue to be used to describe different ways of living, little empirical evidence has been generated to document this relationship.

Finding face between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
Marina Terkourafi, University of Illinois
The terms Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft were introduced into sociology by Ferdinand Tonnies to describe two different types of social organization. A Gemeinschaft (often community in English) is characterized by a network of personal relationships, common values and ideals, and a strong sense of group belonging. Because in a Gemeinschaft individual existence is possible only within and via the group, self-regulation prevails and there is little need for external arbitration.

The Work of Rural Professionals: Doing the Gemeinschaft-Gesellschaft Gavotte - Mellow Muriel
Abstract: This paper considers how rurality affects the work of professionals. Sociologists have paid little attention to possible rural-urban differences in work styles and no study exists which compares the rural experience of those in different professions. I review the literature describing the work of various rural professionals and examine interview data from rural clergy to see whether rural professionals differentiate their work from that of their urban peers. Those who work in rural places are caught trying to dance between the "tunes" of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft society.

'Gemeinschaft' skills versus 'gesellschaft' skills in social work education and practice. Applying Tonnies' dichotomy for a model of intercultural communication
Author: KORNBECK Jacob ; Social work education
Abstract: F. Tonnies's Gemeinschaft'/Gesellschaft' dichotomy is discussed as an analytical and explanatory framework for identifying individual social work education modules' relevance to immigration related and migration related problems in social work practice. It is claimed that 'Gemeinschaft' (community) skills are especially needed in these practice contexts, as opposed to the more scientific, legal or administrative Gesellschaft'(state, society) skills.

Community and Society: (GEMEINSCHAFT AND GESELLSCHAFT) - Ferdinand Tonnies. Tonnies distinguished between two types of social groupings. Gemeinschaft, often translated as community. Community is a set of people (or agents in a more abstract sense) with some shared element. Also a community is a group of people or things that live in the same area. Gesellschaft is often translated as society. A society is a group of people that form a semi-closed (or semi-open) system, in which most social interaction are with other individuals belonging to the group. Gemeinschaft may by exemplified by a family or a neighbourhood; Gesellschaft by a joint-stock company or a state. Groupings formed around an essential will are called a Gemeinschaft. Whereas the membership in a Gemeinschaft is self-fulfilling, a Gesellschaft is instrumental for its members.

"Out of the Gemeinschaft: A Urban Community Transitions" - Graves, Erin. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, TBA, New York, New York City
Abstract: Toennies ([1887]1957) distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, roughly translated as? community? and society? respectively, has intrigued urbanists for nearly a century. Gemeinschaft, typified by a distinctive way of life, strong identification with the community, emotionalism and traditionalism, contrasts with Gesellschaft relations which are rational, individualistic and emotionally disengaged (Lyon, 1999).

From Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft: A Case Study of Student Transition from Elementary School to High School.
Ahola-Sidaway, Janice A.
Abstract: This paper examines the key differences between elementary school culture and high school culture as experienced by a group of Quebec youngsters making the transition from elementary school to high school. Two theoretical perspectives provided the basis for the analysis: symbolic interactionism and Ferdinand Tonnies' distinction between "Gemeinschaft" (Community) and "Gesellschaft" (Association).

"Between 'American Gesellschaft' and 'Qu�b�cois Gemeinschaft': Constructing the Boundaries of the Canadian Multicultural Nation". - Winter, Elke.
Abstract: The recent years have witnessed serious backlashes against multicultural policies throughout the Western world. In Canada, by contrast, multiculturalism has not only survived an international climate characterized by financial recession, fear of terrorism, and security concerns. It even evolved into social imaginary that deeply impacts Canada’s self-understanding as a nation.

Gemeinschaft in Gesellschaft. - by Michael Opielka (Author)

The Urban Experience: Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft - Urban Affairs Review.

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft: A sociological view of the decay of modern society.