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03 November 2011

Getting the -schaft

I was reminded yesterday about an old theoretical expression of the ongoing discussion I have between communalism and individualism. Ferdinand T√∂nnies introduced the respective German types Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft is essentially social organization/interaction that is group-oriented for the group's sake, while Gesellschaft is social organization/interaction that is self-oriented for one's own benefit. There is really no good way to talk about these concepts without misconstruing or oversimplifying them, but I'll risk it and write that we can think about them as being roughly realized in the following dichotomies: rural vs. urban, agricultural vs. industrial, family vs. stranger, traditional vs. modern, etc. To say that Gemeinschaft = communalism and Gesselschaft = individualism would be wrong, but I think these concepts offer another way to think about the abstract distinctions and transition about which I have been blogging here for a while. I just wanted to introduce the terms for future use.

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