Ferdinand Tönnies

Ferdinand Tönnies (German: [ˈtœniːs]; 26 July 1855 – 9 April 1936) was a German sociologist and philosopher. He was a major contributor to sociological theory and field studies, best known for his distinction between two types of social groups, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. He co-founded the German Society for Sociology, of which he was president from 1909 to 1933, after which he was ousted for having criticized the Nazis. Tönnies was considered the first German sociologist proper,[1] published over 900 works and contributed to many areas of sociology and philosophy.

Ferdinand Tönnies
Ferdinand Tönnies
Tönnies, c.1915
Born26 July 1855
Died9 April 1936 (aged 80)
Alma materUniversity of Jena
University of Bonn
University of Leipzig
University of Berlin
University of Tübingen
Known forSociological Theory; distinction between two types of social groups, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Kiel


Ferdinand Tönnies was born into a wealthy farmer's family in North Frisia, Schleswig, then under Danish rule. He studied at the universities of Jena, Bonn, Leipzig, Berlin, and Tübingen. He received a doctorate in Tübingen in 1877 (with a Latin thesis on the ancient Siwa Oasis).[2] Four years later he became a private lecturer at the University of Kiel. He held this post at the University of Kiel for only three years. Because he sympathized with the Hamburg dockers' strike of 1896,[3] the conservative Prussian government considered him to be a social democrat, and Tönnies would not be called to a professorial chair until 1913. He returned to Kiel as a professor emeritus in 1921 and taught until 1933 when he was ousted by the Nazis, due to earlier publications in which he had criticized them.[4] Remaining in Kiel, he died three years later.

Many of his writings on sociological theories—including Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887)—furthered pure sociology. He coined the metaphysical term Voluntarism. Tönnies also contributed to the study of social change, particularly on public opinion,[5] customs and technology, crime, and suicide.[6] He also had a vivid interest in methodology, especially statistics, and sociological research, inventing his own technique of statistical association.[7]

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Tönnies distinguished between two types of social groupings. Gemeinschaft—often translated as community (or left untranslated)—refers to groupings based on feelings of togetherness and on mutual bonds, which are felt as a goal to be kept up, their members being means for this goal. Gesellschaft—often translated as society—on the other hand, refers to groups that are sustained by it being instrumental for their members' individual aims and goals.

Gemeinschaft may be exemplified historically by a family or a neighborhood in a pre-modern (rural) society; Gesellschaft by a joint-stock company or a state in a modern society, i.e. the society when Tönnies lived. Gesellschaft relationships arose in an urban and capitalist setting, characterized by individualism and impersonal monetary connections between people. Social ties were often instrumental and superficial, with self-interest and exploitation increasingly the norm. Examples are corporations, states, or voluntary associations.

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.[1] 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' distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, like others between tradition and modernity, has been criticized for over-generalizing differences between societies, and implying that all societies were following a similar evolutionary path, an argument which he never proclaimed.[8]

The equilibrium in Gemeinschaft is achieved through morals, conformism, and exclusion - social control - while Gesellschaft keeps its equilibrium through police, laws, tribunals and prisons. Amish, Hassidic communities are examples of Gemeinschaft, while states are types of Gesellschaft. Rules in Gemeinschaft are implicit, while Gesellschaft has explicit rules (written laws).

Published works

Ferdinand Toennies Bueste Husum-Ausschnitt
Bust of Tönnies in Husum
  • 1887: Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Leipzig: Fues's Verlag, 2nd ed. 1912, 8th edition, Leipzig: Buske, 1935 (reprint 2005, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft); his basic and never essentially changed study of social man; translated in 1957 as "Community and Society", ISBN 0-88738-750-0
  • 1896: Hobbes. Leben und Lehre, Stuttgart: Frommann, 1896, 3rd edn 1925; a philosophical study that reveals his indebtedness to Hobbes, many of whose writings he has edited
  • 1897: Der Nietzsche-Kultus, Leipzig: Reisland
  • 1905: "The Present Problems of Social Structure", in: American Journal of Sociology, 10(5), p. 569–588 (newly edited, with annotations, in: Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe, tom. 7, Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter 2009, p. 269-285)
  • 1906: Philosophische Terminologie in psychologischer Ansicht, Leipzig: Thomas
  • 1907: Die Entwicklung der sozialen Frage, Leipzig: Göschen
  • 1909: Die Sitte, Frankfurt on Main: Rütten & Loening
  • 1915: Warlike England as seen by herself, New York: Dillingham [1]
  • 1917: Der englische Staat und der deutsche Staat, Berlin: Curius; pioneering political sociology
  • 1921: Marx. Leben und Lehre, Jena: Lichtenstein
  • 1922: Kritik der öffentlichen Meinung, Berlin: Springer; 2nd ed. 2003, Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter (Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe, tom. 14); translated as On Public Opinion. Applied sociology revealing Tönnies' thorough scholarship and his commitment as an analyst and critic of modern public opinion
  • 1924, 1926, and 1929: Soziologische Studien und Kritiken, 3 vols, Jena: Fischer, a collection in three volumes of those papers he considered most relevant
  • 1926: Fortschritt und soziale Entwicklung, Karlsruhe: Braun
  • 1927: Der Selbstmord in Schleswig-Holstein, Breslau: Hirt
  • 1931: Einführung in die Soziologie, Stuttgart: Enke. His fully elaborated introduction into sociology as a social science
  • 1935: Geist der Neuzeit, Leipzig: Buske; 2nd ed. 1998 (in: Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe, tom. 22); a study in applied sociology, analysing the transformation from European Middle Ages to modern times
  • 1971: On Sociology: Pure, Applied, and Empirical. Selected writings edited and with an introd. by Werner J. Cahnman and Rudolf Heberle. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-80607-3
  • 1974: On Social Ideas and Ideologies. Edited, Translated, and Annotated by E. G. Jacoby, Harper & Row
  • 1998–: Tönnies' Complete Works (Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe), 24 vols., critically edited by Lars Clausen, Alexander Deichsel, Cornelius Bickel, Rolf Fechner (until 2006), Carsten Schlüter-Knauer, and Uwe Carstens (2006– ), Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter (1998– )
    • 2008: Soziologische Schriften 1891-1905, ed. Rolf Fechner, Munich/Vienna: Profil
    • 2009: Schriften und Rezensionen zur Anthropologie, ed. Rolf Fechner, Munich/Vienna: Profil
    • 2009: Schriften zu Friedrich von Schiller, ed. Rolf Fechner, Munich/Vienna: Profil
    • 2010: Schriften und Rezensionen zur Religion, ed. Rolf Fechner, Profil, Munich/Vienna: Profil
    • 2010: Geist der Neuzeit, ed. Rolf Fechner, Profil-Verlag, Munich/Vienna: Profil
    • 2010: Schriften zur Staatswissenschaft, ed. Rolf Fechner, Profil, Munich/Vienna: Profil
    • 2011: Schriften zum Hamburger Hafenarbeiterstreik, ed. Rolf Fechner, Munich/Vienna: Profl

See also


  1. ^ a b See Louis Wirth, The Sociology of Ferdinand Tonnies, in American Journal of Sociology Vol. 32, No. 3 (Nov., 1926), pp. 412-422. JSTOR 2765542
  2. ^ De Jove Ammone questionum specimen, Phil. Diss., Tübingen 1877
  3. ^ Ferdinand Tönnies: Hafenarbeiter und Seeleute in Hamburg vor dem Strike 1896/97, in: Archiv für soziale Gesetzgebung und Statistik, 1897, vol. 10/2, p. 173-238
  4. ^ See Uwe Carsten, Ferdinand Tönnies: Friese und Weltbürger, Norderstedt 2005, p. 287–299.
  5. ^ Kritik der öffentlichen Meinung, [1922], in: Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe, tom. 14, ed. Alexander Deichsel/Rolf Fechner/Rainer Waßner, de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 2002
  6. ^ Cf. Der Selbstmord von Maennern in Preussen, [Mens en Maatschappij, 1933], in: Ferdinand Tönnies Gesamtausgabe, tom. 22, ed. Lars Clausen, de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 1998, p. 357-380.
  7. ^ Lars Clausen: Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936), in: Christiana Albertina, No. 63, Kiel 2006, p. 663-69
  8. ^ Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Leipzig 1887, §§ 1-40


  • Adair-Toteff, C., Ferdinand Tönnies: Utopian Visionar, in: Sociological Theory, vol. 13, 1996, p. 58-65
  • Bickel, Cornelius: Ferdinand Tönnies: Soziologie als skeptische Aufklärung zwischen Historismus und Rationalismus, Opladen: Westdt. Verlag, 1991.
  • Bond, Niall, "Ferdinand Tönnies's Romanticism," The European Legacy, 16.4 (2011), 487-504.
  • Cahnman, Werner J. (ed.), Ferdinand Tönnies: A New Evaluation, Leiden, Brill, 1973.
  • Cahnman, Werner J., Weber and Toennies: Comparative Sociology in Historical Perspective. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1995.
  • Cahnman, Werner J./Heberle, Rudolf: Ferdinand Toennies on Sociology: Pure, Applied and Empirical, 1971.
  • Carstens, Uwe: Ferdinand Tönnies: Friese und Weltbürger, Norderstedt: Books on Demand 2005, ISBN 3-8334-2966-6 [Biography, German]
  • Clausen, Lars: The European Revival of Tönnies, in: Cornelius Bickel/Lars Clausen, Tönnies in Toronto, C.A.U.S.A. 26 (Christian-Albrechts-Universität • Soziologische Arbeitsberichte), Kiel 1998, p. 1-11
  • Clausen, Lars: Tönnies, Ferdinand, in: Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie, tom. X, Munich: K. G. Saur ²2008, p. 60–62 [German]
  • Clausen, Lars/Schlüter, Carsten (eds.): Hundert Jahre "Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft", Opladen: Leske + Budrich 1991 [German]
  • Deflem, Mathieu, "Ferdinand Tönnies on Crime and Society: An Unexplored Contribution to Criminological Sociology." History of the Human Sciences 12(3):87-116, 1999
  • Deflem, Mathieu, "Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936)." In the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, edited by Edward Craig. London: Routledge, 2001.
  • Fechner, Rolf: Ferdinand Tönnies - Werkverzeichnis, Berlin/New York (Walter de Gruyter) 1992, ISBN 3-11-013519-1 [Bibliography, German]
  • Fechner, Rolf: Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936), in: Handbuch der Politischen Philosophie und Sozialphilosophie, Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-017408-3, p. 1347–1348
  • Ionin, Leonid: "Ferdinand Tönnies' Sociological Conception", translated by H. Campbell Creighton, in: Igor Kon (ed.), A History of Classical Sociology (pp. 173–188). Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1989.
  • Jacoby, Eduard Georg: Die moderne Gesellschaft im sozialwissenschaftlichen Denken von Ferdinand Tönnies, Stuttgart: Enke 1971 [German]
  • Merz-Benz, Peter-Ulrich: Tiefsinn und Scharfsinn: Ferdinand Tönnies' begriffliche Konstitution der Sozialwelt, Frankfurt on Main 1995 (same year: Amalfi Prize) [German]
  • Podoksik, Efraim: 'Overcoming the Conservative Disposition: Oakeshott vs. Tönnies. Political Studies 56(4):857-880, 2008.

External links

Alexander Deichsel

Alexander Deichsel (born 23 February 1935) is a German sociologist and professor at the University of Hamburg (Germany).Deichsel completed his abitur at the Christianeum Hamburg.

He is the founder of sociology of brand (Markensoziologie) and co-editor of the Complete Works of Ferdinand Tönnies.

Dyad (sociology)

In sociology, a dyad (from the Greek: δυάς dyás, "pair") is a group of two people, the smallest possible social group. As an adjective, "dyadic" describes their interaction.

The pair of individuals in a dyad can be linked via romantic interest, family relation, interests, work, partners in crime, and so on. The relation can be based on equality, but may be based on an asymmetrical or hierarchical relationship (master–servant).

The strength of the relationship is evaluated on the basis of time the individuals spend together, as well as on the emotional intensity of their relationship.

A dyad can be unstable because both persons must cooperate to make it work. If one of the two fails to complete their duties, the group would fall apart. Because of the significance of marriages in society, their stability is very important. For this reason marital dyads are often enforced through legal, economic, and religious laws.Dyadic friendships refer to the most immediate and concrete level of peer interaction, which is expanded to include new forms of relationships in adolescence – most notably, romantic and sexual relationships. Already Ferdinand Tönnies treated it as a special pattern of gemeinschaft, 1887, as community of spirit.


FTG may refer to:

FTG (band), a Malaysian thrash metal band

Ferdinand Tönnies Society (German: Ferdinand-Tönnies-Gesellschaft), a German sociological research society

Ferntree Gully railway station, in Victoria, Australia

Front Range Airport, near Aurora, Colorado, United States

Ferdinand Tönnies Society

The Ferdinand Tönnies Society (Ferdinand-Tönnies-Gesellschaft e. V., FTG) was founded in 1956 in Kiel, Germany. Its main purpose is to further sociological research, especially on Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936), the founder of German sociology.

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Gemeinschaft (German pronunciation: [ɡəˈmaɪnʃaft]) and Gesellschaft ([ɡəˈzɛlʃaft]), generally translated as "community and society", are categories which were used by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies in order to categorize social ties into two dichotomous sociological types which define each other. Max Weber, who is generally recognized as being a founding figure in sociology, also wrote extensively about the relationship between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Weber wrote in direct response to Tönnies.

German Sociological Association

The German Sociological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie, DGS) organizes social scientists in Germany. It was founded January 3, 1909, at Berlin by its initiators Rudolf Goldscheid (1870–1931), Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, et al. First president was Tönnies, forced out of office by the Nazis, 1933.

The DGS is still flourishing, with about 1800 members (2010).

Gerrit Friedrich Otto Toennies

Gerrit Friedrich Otto Toennies (January 31, 1898 in Hamburg, Germany – September 16, 1978 in Kensington, Prince Edward Island, Canada) was a research biochemist. He was the oldest of five children of the famous sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies and a brother of Jan Friedrich Tönnies.

Heinrich Herkner

Heinrich Herkner (27 June 1863 – 27 May 1932) was a German economist.

Herkner was born in Liberec (German: Reichenberg), Bohemia and died in Berlin, Germany.

Herkner taught as a professor at the universities of Freiburg (1890–1892), Karlsruhe (1892–1898), and Zürich (1898–1907), as well as the Technical University (1907–1913) and Frederick William University (1913–1932) of Berlin.

Herkner was originally a Marxist who later evolved towards realist views. Alexandra Kollontai went to Zürich to study under him, but found he had become a “revisionist” and spent much of her time at the university contesting his views.He was a founding member of the German Society for Sociology and along with Max Weber, Ferdinand Tönnies and Georg Simmel on its first board.


Individualization may refer to

discrimination or perception of the individual within a group or species

identification in forensics and intelligence

the development of individual traits

a central concept in the philosophy of C. G. Jung on personal development, under the term individuation.

in sociology and political theory, a process towards individualism (so in Hans T. Blokland, Georg Simmel, Ferdinand Tönnies)

in recent sociology (Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, Zygmunt Bauman) the consequence of social changes in late modernity, in which individuals are increasingly required to construct their own lives.

in economics, separate taxation of married couples

personalization; using technology to accommodate the differences between individuals

Personalized learning

Johan Asplund

Johan Asplund (May 19, 1937 – November 13, 2018) was a Swedish sociologist interested in social interaction and ethnomethodology. At present, his works are not widely translated from the original Swedish. Until his retirement, he held the chair of Sociology at Lund University.

Two of his most widely read books are "Det sociala livets elementära former" (1987, approximately "Elementary forms of social life"), in which he introduces his theory about humans as essentially "socially responsive" (socialt responsiva), and "Essä om Gemeinschaft och Gesellschaft" (1991, "Essay about Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft"), in which he explains and discusses this concept, originally developed by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, 1887. Johan Asplund's writings on cities are summarized in English by Bo Gronlund in New Urban Theory.

Lars Clausen

Lars Michael Clausen (8 April 1935, Berlin – 20 May 2010, Hamburg) was a German sociologist and professor at the University of Kiel.

Normal type

Normal type (in German: Normaltyp) is a typological term in sociology coined by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936). It can be considered both as a forerunner of, and a challenge to, the rather better known concept of Max Weber’s: the ideal type (in German Idealtyp).


Oldenswort (Danish: Oldensvort) is a municipality in the district of Nordfriesland, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, next to the river Eider.

Social structure

In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. On the macro scale, social structure is the system of socioeconomic stratification (most notably the class structure), social institutions, or, other patterned relations between large social groups. On the meso scale, it is the structure of social network ties between individuals or organizations. On the micro scale, it can be the way norms shape the behavior of individuals within the social system.

Social norms influence social structure through relations between the majority and the minority. Because those who align with the majority are considered normal while those who align with the minority are considered abnormal, majority-minority relations create a hierarchical stratification within social structures that favors the majority in all aspects of society.

These scales are not always kept separate. For example, recent scholarship by John Levi Martin has theorized that certain macro-scale structures are the emergent properties of micro-scale cultural institutions (this meaning of "structure" resembles that used by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss). Likewise, another recent study, in ethnography, describes how indigenous social structure in the Republic of Panama changed macro social structures and impeded a planned Panama Canal expansion. Marxist sociology also has a history of mixing different meanings of social structure, though it has done so by simply treating the cultural aspects of social structure as epiphenomena of its economic ones.

Since the 1920s, the term has been in general use in social science, especially as a variable whose sub-components needed to be distinguished in relationship to other sociological variables.

Unilineal evolution

Unilineal evolution, also referred to as classical social evolution, is a 19th-century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It was composed of many competing theories by various anthropologists and sociologists, who believed that Western culture is the contemporary pinnacle of social evolution. Different social status is aligned in a single line that moves from most primitive to most civilized. This theory is now generally considered obsolete in academic circles.

Urban sociology

Urban sociology is the sociological study of life and human interaction in metropolitan areas. It is a normative discipline of sociology seeking to study the structures, environmental processes, changes and problems of an urban area and by doing so provide inputs for urban planning and policy making. In other words, it is the sociological study of cities and their role in the development of society.

Like most areas of sociology, urban sociologists use statistical analysis, observation, social theory, interviews, and other methods to study a range of topics, including migration and demographic trends, economics, poverty, race relations and economic trends.

The philosophical foundations of modern urban sociology originate from the work of sociologists such as Karl Marx, Ferdinand Tönnies, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and Georg Simmel who studied and theorized the economic, social and cultural processes of urbanization and its effects on social alienation, class formation, and the production or destruction of collective and individual identities.

These theoretical foundations were further expanded upon and analyzed by a group of sociologists and researchers who worked at the University of Chicago in the early twentieth century. In what became known as the Chicago School of sociology the work of Robert Park, Louis Wirth and Ernest Burgess on the inner city of Chicago revolutionized the purpose of urban research in sociology but also the development of human geography through its use of quantitative and ethnographic research methods. The importance of the theories developed by the Chicago School within urban sociology have been critically sustained and critiqued but still remain one of the most significant historical advancements in understanding urbanization and the city within the social sciences.

Voluntarism (philosophy)

Voluntarism is "any metaphysical or psychological system that assigns to the will (Latin: voluntas) a more predominant role than that attributed to the intellect", or, equivalently, "the doctrine that will is the basic factor, both in the universe and in human conduct". This description has been applied to various points of view, from different cultural eras, in the areas of metaphysics, psychology, political philosophy, and theology.

The term "voluntarism" was introduced by Ferdinand Tönnies into the philosophical literature and particularly used by Wilhelm Wundt and Friedrich Paulsen.

Will (sociology)

In sociology, will is a concept introduced by Ferdinand Tönnies in "Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft", 1887. Tönnies' approach was very much indebted to Spinoza's dictum voluntas atque intellectus unum et idem sunt ("will as well as ratio are one and the same"), and to Arthur Schopenhauer.

Tönnies saw a fundamental cleavage between "essential will" (Wesenwille) creating community (Gemeinschaft), and "arbitrary will" (Kürwille), creating society (Gesellschaft) - see Ferdinand Tönnies.

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