The Analysis of Social Change Reconsidered: A Sociological Study

By J. A. Ponsioen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THEORIES DEALING WITH THE DYNAMICS OF INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES AS COMPREHENSIVE WHOLES

A. BY WAY OF POSING TWO TYPES
The first and rather simple theory under this heading is the well known statement by Ferdinand Tönnies ( 1855-1936) that society is moving from Gemeinschaft (community) into Geselischaft (association).
1. Society was community; it was a rather undifferentiated, strongly integrated social unit. Its members belonged to it automatically, spontaneously, by "Wesenwille" (essential will or nature). The community dominates the individuals, who do not have a will opposite to that of the community. The individuals all share the same values and beliefs, mores and customs, which they have fully integrated personally. They also share property. This community appears as a natural fact, as a kind of organic body, not as being man-made.

Society, however, is becoming more and more Gesellschaft, an association or organization. In this situation individuals associate with each other for private interests. They can and do choose their own place within it (Kürwille = choosing will). They can enter and leave that particular society. The contacts between individuals are of a commercial nature, based upon private property or interest. Society here appears as manmade, not as a natural but as a utilitarian unit. It is ruled by rationally formulated laws, which are themselves compromises between individual interests. Society is now very differentiated, it is even disintegrated, as the various utilitarian groups are not only clearly distinguished by different functions, but are, moreover, linked together through their private interests alone.

2. It seems easy to criticize this picture. Which society is Tönnies talking about? Apparently about his own German one. Is this process of transition a perennial process of society? Of course not. It is a process he sees

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