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The Sociology of Ferdinand Tonnies

Louis Wirth
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 32, No. 3 (Nov., 1926), pp. 412-422
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2765542
Page Count: 11
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The Sociology of Ferdinand Tonnies
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Abstract

Modern German sociology bears many traces of the influence of the various academic disciplines from which the present generation of German sociologist were recruited. It reflects the current philosophical thought of the various schools. One of the most important and influential figures of today is Tonnies, who was greatly influenced by Hobbes. Spencer, and Sir Henry Maine. His most important contribution consists of the fundamental dichotomy, community and society. The former refers to natural, organic groups; the latter to artificial and conscious and deliberate groupings. In accordance with this distinction he conceives of sociology as capable of division into two great fields: general and special sociology. The former, deals with social life in any form, conscious or unconscious. It includes social biology and social pshychology. Special sociology consists of pure, applied and empirical sociology. It deals mainly with structural forms of social life as seen through the concepts community and society. His three most important works are Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft; Die Sitte, which is a study of the mores; and Kritik der offentlichen Meinung, which is a comprehensive study of social movements and public opinion. Tonnies has systematically exploited a limited number of basic concepts and has attempted to see the whole of experience in terms of these. This has resulted in a conceptual and distorted point of view on the one hand, but a thorough analysis of a very limited phase of experience in intellectualistic terms on the other. In this he is fairly typical of a great number of his European contemporaries.

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