Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ferdinand Tönnies (July 26, 1855, near Oldenswort (Eiderstedt ) - April 9, 1936, Kiel, Germany) was a German sociologist. He was a major contributor to sociological theory and field studies, as well as bringing Thomas Hobbes back on the agenda, by publishing his manuscripts. His distinction between two types of social groups — Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft — is what Tönnies is best known for. He was, however, a prolific writer and also co-founder of the German Society for Sociology . In English his name is often spelt without umlauts: Ferdinand Toennies.
Ferdinand Tönnies was born into a wealthy farmer's family in Schleswig-Holstein, then under Danish rule. He studied at the universities of Jena, Bonn, Leipzig, Berlin, and Tübingen. He received a doctorate in Tübingen in 1877. Four years later he became a private lecturer at the University of Kiel. Because the Prussian government considered him to be a social democrat, Tönnies was not called to a professorship until 1913. He held this post at the university of Kiel for only three years. He returned to the university as a professor emeritus in 1921 and taught until 1933 when he was ousted by the Nazis, due to his earlier publications critizising them.
Tönnies published over 900 works and contributed to many areas of sociology and philosophy. Many of his writings on sociological theories — including Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887) — furthered pure sociology. Tönnies also contributed to the study of social change, particularly on public opinion, customs and technology, crime, and suicide. He also had a vivid interest in methodology, especially statistics, and sociological research, inventing his own technique of statistical association.
Tönnies distinguished between two types of social groupings. Gemeinschaft — often translated as community — refers to groupings based on a feeling of togetherness. Gesellschaft — often translated as society — on the other hand, refers to groups that are sustained by an instrumental goal. Gemeinschaft may by exemplified by a family or a neighbourhood; Gesellschaft by a joint-stock company or a state.
His distinction between social groupings is based on the assumption that there are only two basic forms of an actor's will, to approve of other men. (For Tönnies, such an approval is by no means self-evident, he is quite influenced by Thomas Hobbes' homo homini lupus.) Following his essential will ("Wesenwille"), an actor will see himself as a means to serve the goals of social grouping; very often it is an underlying, subconscious force. Groupings formed around an essential will are called a Gemeinschaft. The other will is the arbitrary will ("Kürwille"): An actor sees a social grouping as a means to further his individual goals; so it is purposive and future-oriented. Groupings around the latter are called Gesellschaft. Whereas the membership in a Gemeinschaft is self-fulfilling, a Gesellschaft is instrumental for its members. In pure sociology - theoretically -, these two normal types of will are to be strictly separated; in applied sociology - empirically - they are always mixed.
Tönnies' Complete Workes (Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe, 24 vols., since 1998, critically edited by Lars Clausen, Alexander Deichsel, Cornelius Bickel, Rolf Fechner, and Carsten Schlüter-Knauer; Publisher: Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York)
- Tönnies, F. (1887) Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft —, 2nd ed. 1912, 6 further editions; his basic and never essentially changed study of social man; translated in 1957 as Community and Society ISBN 0887387500
- Tönnies, F. (1910) Thomas Hobbes, der Mann und der Denker ISBN — a philosophical study that reveals his indebtedness to Hobbes, many of whose writings he has edited
- Tönnies, F. (1922) Kritik der Öffentlichen Meinung —, 2nd ed. 2003; translated as On Public Opinion; applied sociology revealing Tönnies' thorough scholarship and his commitment as a analyst and critic of modern public opinion
- Tönnies, F. (1924, 1926, 1929) Soziologische Studien und Kritiken — collection in three volumes of those papers of his he considered most relevant
- Tönnies, F. (1931) Einführung in die Soziologie — his fully elaborated introduction into sociology as a social science
- Tönnies, F. (1935) Geist der Neuzeit, 2nd ed. 1998; a study in applied sociology, analysing the transformation from European Middle Ages to modern times
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