DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 6 Ferdinand Tonnies (1855—1936)
Examine Tonnies’ concept of community and society.
What are Tonnies’ Concept Gemeinschaft and Gessei- schaft ? Discuss critically.
Tonnies’ concept of Community (Gemeinschaft).
Gemeinschaft according to Tonnies is a society wherein both the personal and traditional relations exist. In the opinion of Charles hllynn, ‘Gemeinschaft relationship are based on nearness and sentiments. These imply close emotionalities whether through blood, kinship, religion or community. In such a society people feel that there is close relationship and nearness with each other because they are of the same type. The Indian rural society, (agrarian) is the finest example of this form of organisation. Even during the day s of Zamindari the cultivator personally knew the tenant^ and zamindars looked after the welfare of his cultivators. In such societies there was less of writing and most of the transactions were made that on well observed principles. The social order was. of such a nature, a son was not supposed to exceed his father in any respect, and one never thought of living alone.
Tonnies defined community on the basis of social relationship. The community for him is a union of individuals with organic will. In such a social organisation, as Gemeinschaft, individual will is suppressed by the community will. Society is a different type of social relationship where individuals entering according to their individual desires do so far achieving some specific purpose. Tonnies defined community as ‘intimate private and exclusive living together’. He gives an example of groups based on this type of relationship the family a kin group, the neighbourhood (rural village) and the group of friends and thus it is an artificial arrangement.
Pointing out this aspect Charles Lumis writes, Tn it Tonnies tended to idealise the old order at the expense of new present the former as animated by the spirit of brotherly love and fellow feeling he absent in the latter.’ In his attempt to define social relationship based his interpretation on the individual and society and he has tried to bring out difference between the two. According to Tonnies, historically, community was born earlier than society and with the passage of time that ‘community began to disintegrate and it began to be replaced by society ’. Thus society developed at the cost ‘of community.
Tonnies used his concepts of Gemeinschaft (community) and Geselleschaft (society or association) to.explain differences between social groups. There are groups which are such which were organic and mechanical whereas other groups were based on feelings of sympathy and co-operation. Discussing the distinction between social groups he writes, “all the groups which are born as a result of natural will are called a community and – those which are based on rational will are called society”. Thus these concepts signify the model qualities of the essence and tendency of being bound together.
Factors of Social Relationship. Social relationship emerges from the people’s wish to live together. The spirit of togetherness is one of the greatest factors giving rise to social relationships. This desire, differs from man to man. According to Tonnies, “the wills are of two types namely natural will and ‘rational will.’ Whereas natural will is based on nat ire and character of the individual, rational will is based on objectives”.
Association or Society. Tonnies define an association (Gesellschaft) as public life as something which is consciously and delibrately entered upon ; and Tonnies mention as examples principally those groups which are concerned with economic interests. The relationships that exists in society are at the most optional and attempt is made to save some personal interests people t join such relationship to achieve their ends. Thus in an association according to Tonnies special relation is somewhat like a contact and this special association is a sort of optional special aimed group. To quote Karl Mannheim, “Gesselschaft weakens traditional bonds and encourages rationality and the division of labour”.
Difference Between Gemeinschaft and Gesselschaft. Tonnies used two major criteria in defining’ community and association. First in communities individuals are involved as complete persons who can satisfy all or most of a wide range of purpose in the groups, while in associations individual are not wholly involved but look to the satisfaction of specific and partial ends. Secondly, a community is united by an accord of feeling or sentiment between individuals, whereas an association is united by a rational agreement of interest.
Thus, Gemeinschaft (community) is ‘person-centred whereas Gesselschaft is business-centred.’
Thus Tonnies used the word Gemeinschaft to describe communities characterised by many primary group relationships. Whereas in Gesselschaft, the relationship is business like contractual society, emphasising efficiency rather than primary personalities.
Thus according to Tonnies, Gesselschaft pattern is more imper-sonal, and goals of the individual take precedence over the goals of the group. Rather than depending upon tradition and custom for guidance, people are controlled through a formalised system of law. . This is an associational society, with superficial and transitory relationships based upon the rational pursuit of self-interest through business and commerce. Although Gesselschaft society exists only in the imagination, many sectors of the modern world are rapidly approaching its realisation.
The difference between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesselschaft (association) or society, can be tested as under :
- Homogeniety, oneness and likeness
- Tradition dominates patterns
- Individual guided by sentiment
- Each member a jack of all trades
- Relationships among people valuable in and of themselves
- Heterogeneity, mixed background and interests
- Business and commerce dominate
- Members guided by reasonal pursuit of their own interests
- Relationships transitory and superficial
Critical Evaluation –
Some critics hold that these concepts are self-contradictory and that these can’t be used as types of classification, it is also pointed but that it is difficult to proceed with both these concepts logically. So we have the famous, or notorious, dichotomy between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesselschaft (association). We have already shown what these two concepts mean and how Tonnies used them to describe the changes that have overtaken modern society; here we shall attempt to show theory’s sociological unsoundness, as well as the enormous harm which it has caused.
Now, to describe a pre-modern society as a community of people who are bound to each other by close ties of family, kinship or friendship, and who adhere to a common traditional form of life in dose and intimate harmony and co-operation, is open to two fatal objections. The first is the quite remarkable variation in the types of the so-called communities that existed in the pre-modern era. Was the feudal society in Europe a community in this Sense ? And the old Greek city states ? What about Chinese, Indian, African and American societies ? Are we to say of all these societies that they were distinguished by those specific qualities that Tonnies asserts’ pertain to a community ? To assert this would be to fly against every known fact. Therefore, to use a very broad a priori statement of this kind about a community, even if we admit its validity and apply it to every case, is doing violence to thought.
Secondly, Tonnies makes no bones about it, his manifest intention was to show how in fundamental respects the older form of society was more satisfying than the modern form, and how much had been lost by the movement of one into the other. To say what is wrong with a certain form of society is one thing; to say that a society is superior or inferior to another, better or worse, is quite another, for the criteria by which such a judgment is made, by the every nature of things, are arbitrary and cannot be supported by hard, indisputable evidence.
One could press this criticism even further. It is a form of self-deception, and by that taken it betrays its unscientific value and irrationalism, to exhibit the virtues of one type of social organization, the community, and to highlight the vices of the other, the association, overlooking in this way the precariousness and the weakness of the one and the durability and strength of the other. The mere fact that community has given way to association is prima facie evidence that such a transformation was inevitable and that community was no longer capable of confronting the new tasks and challanges which were unfolding.
Moreover, the traditional static, small-scale society, wherever it is, must be seen, however much admire its capacity to survive, against a background of illiteracy, disease and superstition, which only a dynamic, more rational, large-scale association can hope to alleviate and eradicate. What Tonnies did was to highlight the defects of association and he was right to draw attention to them for their potentially disastrous consequences – against the ideal of community.
But the latter remain an ideal nevertheless, having no relation whatsoever to anything real that has ever existed. As a Utopia, it is a form of escapism, engendering a spurious enchantment and a nostalgic sentiment for a lost world of happiness. Unwillingly Tonnies provided powerful ammunition to the wild aberrations, of Nazi thought and to their criminal action. As such, what started as a social analysis of the forms and structures of social organization served the nefarious and blood thirsty designs of a completely dominted subspecies of humanity.
Description of all these conditions, the concepts formulated by Tonnies h^s given valuable inspiration for further studies of this aspect of sociology.
Discuss Tonnies’views about social entities.
Ferdinand Tonnies conceived sociology as study of individuals. Particularly social form and social characteristics of individuals. He wrote, “Sociology is the study of man, not of his bodily, nor of his physical but of his social nature. His bodily and physical beings are considered only in so far as they condition the social nature”.
Classification of Social Entities. Social entities have been classified by Tonnies as under :
- Social relationship
- Collective and
- Social organisation.
Tonnies opines that like an individual, social organisation in the above those classes of social entities are the same.
1. Social Relationship. Social relationship is based on many important factors, such as mutual dependence of the individuals. The relationship can be based on consanguinity and then called natural relationship. But when the relationship is not based on blood, then there are certain other values and objectives which bind the people together. In such a relationship there must be some rights and duties. In this relationship mutual expectations are unavoidable. This happens so when all the needs on individuals not met within the relationship of the family, and thus people „ come in contact with other individuals and new relations emerge.
This gives rise to the class of workers and employers involving conomic relationship and it comes to an end as soon as purpose is achieved. But relationship which comes into being on account of family relationship is based on faith and rational will. In the words of Tonnies, “Relationships of the first type are to be classified under the concept of Gemeinschaft and those, of the other type under the concept of Gesselschaft, thus the differentiating the Gemeinschaft-lile and Gesselschaft-like relationship”.
Then Tonnies proceeds to explain the relationships as fellowship relationship and the Authoritative relationship.
2. Collectives. Another class of social entities, according to Tonnies are collectives. These comprise group of individuals which have common natural physical and mental attributes. This applies to the people belonging to one race or linguistic group. Though the collectives can be physical, psychological and social but social collectives are important because it is based on mutual co-operation and there is desire to maintain relationship and accept its existence.
Tonnies opines that ‘a social entity or collective has the characteristics of Gemeinschaft so long as it is regarded as gift of some divine power e.g. caste system in India, because by many it is considered as the gift of nature and is determined by birth alone. For instance, there are certain occupations which go with the caste in the system. The reactions of various social collectives differ particularly when various social groups struggle to establish their own authority. There are occasions were a group having superiority complex tries to suppress other groups and this gives rise to class conflicts in the society.
Ferdinand Tonnies tried to explain that the group being so suppressed in this struggle has the characteristic of Gemeinschaft, wheseas the superior group having acquired are treated as belonging to Gesellschaft.
3. Social Organisation. This class of social entity helps in exhibiting social relationship. Instead of being a psychological affair it has social aspect, and is composed of several individuals who have capacity to take action and competent to pass resolutions: Any opinion may be formed by the organisation about any individual or group of individuals but desires of social organisations ought to be treated as those of the individual. According to Tonnies the social organisation is the result of natural relations, which are social in nature e.g. kinship in which there is rational love. The organisations which are born as a result of natural life generate desire to live together and keep them intact and living. These also create feelings of collectivism. It is also true that social organisations also emerge from economic, political and other considerations.
Tonnies holds that the desire of the people to live together is the basis of social organisation and group or community. “This he believes is Gemeinschaft. With the passage of time when living conditions change with that outlook of people in many respect changes, whereas in some other respects it altogether vanishes with the result that new aspects are born in gemeinschaft’. At the same time it was also held by Tonnies that the people liked various types of social entities because of rational desires. Consequently every step leads towards social development and has the characteristics of either Gemeinschaft or Gesselschaft.
Expla in Tonnies’ views about Social Norms.
Tonnies views regarding social norms are complementary to his views about social entities. Social norms according to Tonnies are factors which determine, direct as well as influenced control social behaviour of individuals and social group. These norms are accepted because people feel their need and necessity on the one hand and the fear of consequences that would follow’ by the violation of those norms.
Social norms are classified as order, law and morality and of these order is universally accepted form and the basis of such a norm is the tradition individuals desire for unity and integrity. Law includes such, norms which are based on legal decisions. Norms based religion are called normal laws. These norms, according to Tonnies, Keep on changing with the. circumstances of, the society but a balance is always realised in the social organisation.
Traditions and Customs. Tonnies believed that there are some traditions that can form the basis of social norms, yet all traditions can be essentially basis of social norms, yet all it is not necessary that different types of traditions can form the basis of different types of social norms. Social norms help in the preservation of society and social .systems.
Public Opinion. Tonnies opined that public opinion different from popular feeling was the result of intellectual deliberation. As feeling influence public opinion it essentially differs from one group to the other, because social structure is very complex and complicated and thus public opinion in big cities is likely to be different from the one in small towns and cities ard ultimately national public opinion can’t be guided by individual political or vocational group but should reflect collective will of the nation.
Public opinion reflects public .consciousness. It is related to national consciousness and has nothing to do with the individuals. Now-s-days, public opinion is very close to political opinion. Bat public opinion plays a crucial role in controlling the behaviour of both the individual as well as the society time it was also held by Tonnies that the people liked various types of social entities because of rational desires. Consequently every step leads towards social development and has the characteristics of either Genieinschaft or Gesselschaft.
Explain Tonnies’ views about Social Norms.
Tonnies views regarding social norms are complementary to his view’s about social entities. Social norms according to Tonnies are factors which determine, direct as well as influenced control social behaviour of individuals and social group. These norms are accepted because people feel their need and necessity on the one hand and the fear of consequences that would follow by the violation, of those norms.
Social norms are classified as order, law and morality and of these order is universally accepted form and the basis of such a norm is the tradition individuals desire for unity and integrity. Law includes such, norms which are based on legal decisions. Norms based on religion are called normal laws. These norms, according to Tonnies, Keep on changing with the. circumstances of. the society but a balance Is always realised in the social organisation.
Traditions and Customs. Tonnies believed that there are some traditions that can form the basis of social norms, yet all traditions can’t be essentially basis of social norms, yet all it is not necessary that different types of traditions can form the basis of different types of social norms. Social norms help in the preservation of society and social .systems.
Public Opinion. Tonnies opined that public opinion different from popular feeling was the result of intellectual deliberation. As feeling influence public, opinion it essentially differs from one group to the other, because social structure is very complex and complicated and thus public opinion in big cities is likely to be different from the one in small towns and cities and ultimately national public opinion can’t be guided by individual political or vocational group bat should reflect collective will of the nation.
Public opinion reflects public .consciousness. It is related to national consciousness and has nothing to do with the individuals. Now-s-days, public opinion is very close to political .opinion. But public opinion plays a crucial role in controlling the behavior of both the individual as well as the society.