The categorical dichotomy Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft in sociological classics: Tonnies - Weber - Freyer - Parsons

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The article considers the history of the conceptual pair Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft (community/society) used by classics of sociology to explain the fundamental difference of modern society from the previous forms of social life. The author emphasizes the popularity of these categories as identifying the temporally successive types of sociality: Gemeinschaft refers to the original form of traditional organic community, and Gesellschaft - to the mass urbanized society of the modern age. The article shows the structural relationship between the early sociological concepts and the philosophy of modern history as an analytical (self)description of modern societies. The article reconstructs the development of Ferdinand Tönnies’ views, who introduced the pair Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft as an analytical tool for social theory and challenged the opposition of these two types of social integration by emphasizing their presence in every social interaction. The author briefly outlines Max Weber’s perception of this conceptual pair in the form of Vergemeinschaftung/Vergesellschaftung social relations as ideally-typically value-oriented and instrumentally rational. The article explains the drastic politicization of the Gemeinschaft semantics in inter-war Germany - the term became a marker of the social-political polarization. Then the author focuses on the differentiated theory of Gemeinschaft developed in Hans Freyer’s sociology and on the Nazis’ attempt to make this term a basis of their theory of homogeneous society. The article considers the reception of Tönnies’ categories in American sociology, especially by Talcott Parsons, and highlights his contribution to the theory of socialization and integration of large societies with small solidarity groups. The last part of the article emphasizes the significance of the conceptual pair for the theory of late modernity - its structure of social action consists of elements of both community and society.

About the authors

O. V. Kildyushov

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Author for correspondence.
Myasnitskaya St., 20, Moscow, 101000, Russia


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