Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft

Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft

There once was a city called "Gemeintown." It was made up of a group of people with a strong sense of membership and close personal relations, much as Gemeinschaft communities are described. This city was located near another city called "Geselltown." Geselltown was made up of people who didn't really know each other, but were living near their work. The reason most of the people in Geselltown lived in that city was because they worked for the Japanese auto manufacturer who ran the factory which produced the Mitsubishi Eclipse RS with a Chrysler engine in the immediate vicinity. The car was considered "American-made" because more than 50% of it was produced in the United States and it had 50% of its parts (by value) made in America (Barber, p. 25).

The people in Geselltown lived there because of the Mitsubishi plant, not because they had relatives or any other reason to be there, therefore, most of the people living there did not even have a reason to know their neighbors' names. Geselltown was somewhat like a Gesellschaft community. According to Toennis, Gesellschaft communities are groupings made up of people who live in a place because of economic reasons; having replaced ties with relatives with business relationships, based on their economic needs. Indeed, Wirth saw the transition of interpersonal relationships from primary individual-based relationships to secondary role-based ones as the wave of the future.

The children who lived in Geselltown only got to see their relatives, at most, once or twice a year and then only for a few hours around the Christmas tree. The rest of the time they spent with others of their own age, in classroom situations and, after school, in either caretaker's quarters or hanging out with other children their age whose families were, like their own, rather isolated from their relatives. Because they did not know their relatives well and their parents could not be there to control them, the children had a sense of freedom in almost every area of their lives, including what they believed, how they dressed, who their friends were and how they dressed. Their time was their own to decide what to do with and often they chose to spend it with friends, playing, rather than working. "In cities, among a huge diversity of people and norms, a gesellschaft produces an air of freedom" (Cohen, p. 4).

The children in Gemeintown lived in close contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as their own parents and siblings. They did see children their own age, but only in the classroom. After school and on weekends they spent most of their time in the company of one or another relative and cousins who might be their same age. They were not allowed to play with children that their grandparents or parents did not approve of. They were closely supervised and could not decide on how they spent their time, what their activities were to be, how they dressed or what they ate. These children often felt restricted and limited. They envied the children in the neighboring town who seemed to be able to do so many more things than they were allowed to do. As Luhmann expounded, "social systems consist not merely of communications but also of expectation structures" (Viskovatoff, p. 482).

Meanwhile, the Geselltown youths envied the Gemeintown teens, who seemed to be able to get money whenever they wanted it, were able to share Christmas with their family and got lots of presents. Their freedom didn't seem to mean very much to them when they were at such loose ends. They had nothing to look forward to in life, it seemed, as family life did not look very pleasant, if they were to look at their own families. All they cared about was running around with their friends and getting some thrills in life. They expected they would die early from either drug overdoses or later from working too hard in the factory. They seemed to have no values, they had no identity, except when they identified with their buddies. Family life was non-existent and they could not admire their mother or father for their ethics, their stands on issues or their religion. "Can modern liberal society provide strong unifying communal beliefs in view of the fact that on the one hand it views communal life as nonessential, while on the other, it remains impotent to envision any belief - unless this belief is reducible to economic conduct?" (deBenoist, p. 263).

As the grew into their teens, different things began to happen to their lives. The teenagers in Gemeintown began to feel the restrictions of their elders as ties that they did not want. They looked at Geselltown teenagers with envy. They wanted to have free time, to get a driver's license and drive wherever they wanted. They wanted their own cars, rather than having to use their parents to shuttle cousins and aunts around town. They wanted to dress provocatively, as the Geselltown teens did, with clothes that revealed naked parts of their bodies. They wanted to be able to get tattoos and piercings, to skip school whenever they wanted and smoke and drink at the local hangout. But their parents did not allow any of this. Their parents and grandparents watched them carefully to make sure they dressed conservatively, avoided drinking and smoking ("until they were old enough to,") and were not allowed to go to the rock concerts or to lover's lane in a convertible to make out with their girlfriends. As a matter of fact, girls were kept away from boys as much as possible until they were to be married, then the parents and grandparents met, discussed family matters with his family and either approved or disapproved of the boy that she had chosen before the girl could marry him.

The teenagers in Gemeintown did not like this at all, but it seemed as if nothing could be done about this, until a visiting leader of their parents' clan came to visit. This man was charismatic and loudly disclaimed the "progress" that the neighboring town exhibited. As a matter of fact, he called what the teens in Geselltown were doing "evil" and dangerous. "These teens," he said, "will grow up to be lazy hoodlums. They have no respect for anything, not the law, not their relatives and families and spend money as if it was water." He advised the teenagers in the town to not only avoid any contact with their neighboring townspeople, but to keep them out of Gemeintown at any cost.

The grown-ups in Gemeintown were so swayed by this leader's speeches that they decided that they should do something about the evil which seemed to be emanating from the city nearby. Not only that, but the city appeared to be growing larger and the schools were numerous in that city, while their little town was growing smaller. It seemed that all the children who grew up in Gemeintown went away and got jobs in the city and never came back. It was a threat to their community and to their way of life that the teens from Geselltown could be so free and even come to visit their town without parents accompanying them. They decided to outlaw certain kinds of clothing in their town that might be revealing or considered provocative. They outlawed smoking and drinking and dancing. They didn't allow certain kinds of movies or music to be played in their town (the kind of music that the Geselltown teens listened to). They made it very hard to get a driver's license and they even made it mandatory that teens drive with their parents until they were 18 years of age.

The demands of the elders of theā€¦