Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. What?

Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Gemeinschaft (communal society) and the Gesellschaft (associational society). In the Gemeinschaft, personal relationships are defined and regulated on the basis of traditional social rules. People have simple and direct face-to-face relations with each other that are determined by Wesenwille (natural will)—i.e., natural and spontaneously arising emotions and expressions of sentiment.

The Gesellschaft, in contrast, is the creation of Kürwille (rational will) and is typified by modern, cosmopolitan societies with their government bureaucracies and large industrial organizations. In the Gesellschaft, rational self-interest and calculating conduct act to weaken the traditional bonds of family, kinship, and religion that permeate the Gemeinschaft’s structure. In the Gesellschaft, human relations are more impersonal and indirect, being rationally constructed in the interest of efficiency or other economic and political considerations.

The Gemeinschft and Gesellschatf came from the work of Ferdinand Tönnies ( 26 July 1855 – 9 April 1936) who was a German sociologist and philosopher. His idea of communal society and rational will was picked up by another German sociologist/philosopher, Max Weber, a name more familiar to Americans. Weber was a member of the Frankfurt School, a collection of intellectuals, academics, and political dissidents who pessimistically saw the Western world in crisis decline and in their ivory tower mentality thought they knew the reasons why; capitalism, the scourge of the world, of decency, of immoralism, and religion.

In Weber’s Book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he proposed that ascetic Protestantism—a lifestyle which reduces material aspects of life to the utmost simplicity and to a minimum—was one of the major “elective affinities” associated with the rise in the Western world of market-driven capitalism and the rational-legal nation-state. “Elective Affinities” is the English translation of Die Wahlverwandtschaften by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1809.

Weber argued that it was in the basic tenets of Protestantism to boost capitalism in contradiction to their desire for an ascetic lifestyle. Thus, it can be said that the spirit of capitalism is inherent to Protestant religious values.

Do I need to know all this? After all, isn’t this idea of communal society and associational society talk going on in the 1930s and in Germany, not America? Will knowing all this help me? If what happens in Germany among German intellectuals stays in Germany then there is nothing there necessary for me to know except it’s an interesting story. But what was happening in Germany, France, and England was happening in America and our intellectuals were heavily influenced by the ideologues of Europe.

American progressivism is a retelling of Marxism, the clash of classes, the evils of capitalism, the out-of-touch and corrupting theology of religion, the causes of the decline of the West. In his book The Idea Of Decline In Western History, Arthur Herman shows us we’ve always been in decline, not just in the west but all over the world. Decline is not a myth.

Gesellschaft is about a self-centric society. The gesellschaft society doesn’t believe in social ties and group values as individual needs are given more importance than anything else. Individualism is the curse of mankind, the original sin, it’s an either/or not a both/and. We either are all about ourselves (free-market capitalism) and destroy society or all about others and build society (egalatarinism).  This is why America was built on wrong principles because it was about the individual, about individual success (capitalism), not community building; communal society. So Weber sees the church as choosing capitalism over socialism as an elective affinity, something they chose when it would always betray them because it serves the evil side of man, not the redemption side of man. It’s why the West is in decline, because we chose the wrong side. 

This is the fight we are now in right here in 2019 in America, the same fight Weber saw being waged in Germany in the 1930s. We are being sold the philosophy of evil capitalism and good socialism, the one destroying us the other saving us. Redemption is not individual redemption but social redemption.

It’s a religious war we are waging because progressivism/socialism is every bit the new religion adopted in whole by the Democrat party and accepted by a growing majority of the Republican party. Even conservatives are finding themselves influenced by the new religion.

Solomon told us that there is nothing new under the sun. George Santayana told us if we don’t learn from history we are for sure going to repeat it. We are being sold new wine in old wineskins, but the wine isn’t really new, it’s yesteryear’s wine, and the wineskins are just polished to look good. So it is important to know Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft because it’s an intellectual idealism trying to explain and fix academically what we experience pragmatically, living. The elitists always see society different from the rest of us, they know better, we’re just numbnuts, simpletons who don’t understand. God bless the elites who do know and show us the way. But be careful, what looks good on paper doesn’t always work out like it did on paper. I’m afraid we’re living that.