The conflict of community and society: Ferdinand Tönnies
in Beginning classical social theory
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This chapter examines an essay by Ferdinand Tönnies that serves as the ‘Introductory Article’ to the English edition of his famous Community and Association (originally 1887; more often rendered Community and Society). Tönnies proposes to examine societies under the perspective of how their members will and want things, and distinguishes between ‘natural’ and ‘deliberate will’, from which he derives his two ideal-types of society-as-community and society-as-society (or association). Tönnies is on the one hand nostalgic about a lost world of (village-type) communal life, on the other hand describes modern society merely as a temporary form of appearance of what still remains its essence – community life.

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