Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

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Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (German terms here meaning "communal society" and "associational society") refers to a theory by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. It was presented in his influential work Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887).

Gemeinschaft (communal society) is typically rural and with interpersonal relationships based on direct face-to-face contact and traditional social rules, based on "Wesenwille" ("natural will"), natural and instinctively arising emotions and expressions of sentiment.

Gesellschaft (associational society) is typically urban and non-traditional, with relationships being impersonal and indirect, weakening the traditional bonds of family, kinship, and communal organizations, being based on "Kürwille" ("rational will"), supposed rational efficiency and self-interest, but causing various negative effects such alienation.

Tönnies himself had certain leftist views, at least later in his life, was critical of both Imperial Germany and later the NSDAP, and eventually joined the socialist/Marxist Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Regardless, aside from its influence on sociology, the theory has influenced concepts such as the German Volksgemeinschaft and ideologies such as corporatism, and by extension fascism (broad sense) and National Socialism.

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