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Gemeinschaft & Gesellschaft -- Research Starters Sociology

By: Lee, Mary E.;

2009 / EBSCO


Gemeinschaft and gesellschaft are concepts originally developed by the German sociologist Ferdinand Toennies (1855-1937). Toennies was one of several European social thinkers during this time period who presents an "evolutionary" view of society. The terms represent two, seemingly opposite concepts (thesis, antithesis) developed by Toennies as he examined change in social relationships as populations grew and urban centers of social activity developed. Toennies' theory is among one of many theories of social evolution developed around the same time period. Elements of Toennies' gemeinschaft-gesellschaft concepts have commonalities with the theories of Comte, Durkheim, Marx, Simmel, and Max Weber. Toennies' theory is open to a number of criticisms, not the least of which is its Eurocentricity. Though the actual terms gemeinschaft and gesellschaft are more often found in European, particularly German, sociological theories and research today, the concepts underlying Toennies' theory of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft forms of social structure are important ideas in sociological theory and applied research across the globe. The concepts of the gemeinschaft and gesellschaft ideal types of social relationships have been extended and applied in fields such as rural and urban studies, demographic studies, social work and community development as well as racial, ethnic, and multicultural and international relationships.