Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

David Inglis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are a pair of concepts normally translated into English from German as “community” and “society.” The terms were originally coined by the German social and political theorist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936). They came subsequently to be highly influential in German‐speaking social theory. The terms were systematically propounded in Tönnies's first book, entitled Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887). This work was indebted to, among others, Hobbes, Adam Smith, Tocqueville, Marx, Nietzsche, and Carlyle. These writers furnished Tönnies with a vocabulary to describe what he saw as the key contemporary sociopolitical issue, namely the shift from more “community”‐oriented to more “individualistic” forms of thought and practice in western Europe since around the sixteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Political Thought
EditorsMichael T. Gibbons, Diana Coole, Elisabeth Ellis, Kennan Ferguson
Place of PublicationOxford
ISBN (Electronic)9781118474396
ISBN (Print)9781405191296
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • community
  • Germany
  • social order
  • society


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