Sociology Index


Gemeinschaft is a form of social integration based on personal ties; more a 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.

A German word, translated as ‘society-association’, used by Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) to refer to an ‘ideal type’, or model, of a society where social bonds are primarily impersonal, instrumental and narrow. Characteristic of large scale, complex societies, with a strict division between private and public spheres of life, it contrasts to the community-oriented life of the Gemeinschaft. In 1887 Toennies 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.
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. By contrast, in a Gesellschaft (often ‘society’ in English), relationships are contracted on the basis of rationality and a high degree of role differentiation, and rights and obligations are contractual. Rather than to scrutiny by a group of people, individuals are now subordinated to abstract authorities and impersonal institutions, whence regulation also proceeds. Tonnies explicitly associated these two types of social organization with rural and urban lifestyles, considering the former to have historically preceded the latter (2001 [1887]: 19). Furthermore, he thought of the two as normal types, i.e. theoretical constructs that cannot be instantiated in pure form but only blended to various degrees in real life. The usefulness of these theoretical notions for linguistic analysis has been demonstrated in previous research (e.g., George 1990). In this chapter, I wish to explore the relationship between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft and face as this is instantiated in contemporary Greek society.

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. The comparison across occupations reveals several common concerns, including the need to do similar work with fewer resources and the challenge of dealing with dual relationships. I argue that conventional standards of professional behavior reflect an urban bias and that rural life problematizes the notion of professionalism. 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 T�nnies' 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. Two empirical studies from Germany dealing with the necessary competencies for social workers advising immigrants are drawn upon. A variety of other case study material is included to make the point that social workers need Gemeinschaft' skills more than has traditionally been assumed.

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. More abstractly, a society is a network of relationships between entities. Gemeinschaft may by exemplified by a family or a neighbourhood; Gesellschaft by a joint-stock company or a state. His distinction between social groupings is based on the assumption that there are only two basic forms of an actor's will, to approve of other men. Groupings formed around an essential will are called a Gemeinschaft. The other will is the arbitrary will: An actor sees a social grouping as a means to further his individual goals; so it is purposive and future-oriented. Groupings around the latter are called Gesellschaft. Whereas the membership in a Gemeinschaft is self-fulfilling, a Gesellschaft is instrumental for its members.

Theory of Community (Gemeinschaft) -

a. nature of authority: fatherhood or paternity; authority of age, authority of force, and authority of wisdom/spirit
b. key social groups/relations: kinship, neighborhood, friendship, ‘relations of kin and individuals’
c. real foundation of unity and possibility: blood relationships, physical proximity, intellectual proximity (‘great main laws’)
d. common state of mind (custom and belief) and VOLK: mutual possession and enjoyment (collective ownership and communal consumption),’common goods, common evils; common friends, common enemies’

Theory of modern society (Gesellschaft)

a. ens fictivum (artificial being): an artificial construction of the aggregate of human beings, isolation/separation, common values and fictions
b. exchange, contract, money=power, bourgeois class society, speculative Utopia, zero-sum game, competition and coalition
c. the form of the general will: convention or tradition? System of conventional rules, dependence on relations with state vs. church
d. Gesellschaft as the final culmination of developed Gemeinschaft: general trade economy, industry, the world market, capitalists vs. noncapitalists, hierarchy of control.

"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. Urban sociologists have found Gemeinschaft-like settlements in urban communities (Whyte, 1945, Gans, 1962, Wellman, 1979). Sociologists have assigned a variety of characterizations to these forms of social relations. 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).
Yet a curious and unsatisfying theoretical gap lies between how a community transforms a Gemeinschaft community into a Gesellschaft association (Parsons, 1947).
This paper demonstrates how the community Maverick Gardens typified the Gemeinschaft ideal and how it transformed into the current Maverick Landing which approaches the Gesellschaft type. Moreover, I will point out that the mechanism governing the transition.

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). Participant observation was used to record structural and interactional data related to student life at and around the time when the children at St. Francis Elementary School were reaching the end of the elementary school experience and entering high school. Two sets of questionnaires provided supplementary data. A descriptive account follows, first of the general characteristics of St. Francis Elementary School and of Royalton High, and then of the fundamental differences between elementary school life and high school life as viewed by students in transition. The paper concludes with general reflections on the findings of the study with respect to the issue of school size, the differing socialization environments of elementary and high school, attitudes toward work, student relationships, and staff-student relationships. This is followed by a brief survey of future considerations for researchers and issues for policymakers, educators, and parents. - Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April 5-9, 1988).

"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. In this paper, I examine how the idea of Canada as a multicultural nation is (re)produced through the construction of boundaries with “American Gesellschaft (Society)” on the one hand and Gemeinschaft (Community)” on the other. With the negative elements of these two social formations projected to the outside of Canadianness, multicultural nationhood is represented as the incarnation of a “just balance” between individual freedom and communal solidarity. In sum, Canadian multicultural nation-building is an example of how some great divides are created with the aim to bridge others.

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.    

From Marcello Truzzi, Sociology: The Classic Statements. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.