Difference Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Key Difference – Gemeinschaft vs Gesellschaft 


Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are two concepts that come in sociology between which a difference can be identified. These two concepts were introduced by the German sociologist, Ferdinand Tonnies. Once this has been introduced other sociologists such as Emilie Durkheim has taken inspiration for his concepts of organic and mechanic solidarity from this. The key difference between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft is that the Gemeinschaft emphasizes on collectivity while the Gesellschaft emphasizes on individualism. Through this article let us gain a further understanding of the two concepts and also clarify the main differences between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.

What is Gemeinschaft?

First let us begin with the first concept of Gemeinschaft. According to Tonnies, this refers to small communities or groups of people which emphasize the value of collectivity rather than individualism. In such societies, the people usually work together as a group. The significance given to social values, norms, customs and taboos of that particular society is very high.

When observing the people in such communities, the bond among the people is very strong. The stress laid on relationships with other members of the community is also high. This is why this idea of Gemeinschaft can be compared to Emilie Durkheim’s mechanic solidarity, in which the focus is on the collective conscience of the community. It is the consensus among the members that keeps the society together. However, Tonnies points out that at some point, Gemeinschaft transforms into Gesellschaft. Now, let us move on to the next section to comprehend the difference between the two.

Difference Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

What is Gesellschaft?

The social organization of Gesellschaft is quite different to that of Gemeinschaft for many reasons. Mostly such social organizations cannot be viewed in village settings as in the case of Gemeinschaft. On the contrary, these can mainly be seen in cities.  A clear difference that one can notice between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft is the shift from collectivity to individualism. Although in villages the efforts are usually collective and the focus is not on the individual but the community, in Gesellschaft, it is the complete reversal of the situation. The emphasis is mainly on the individual.

Another difference that one can highlight is when it comes to social relationships or social ties. In villages, the ties among the people are stronger than in the cities. Instead of social bonds, people concentrate more on material wealth. This is why Louis Wirth, an urban sociologist highlights the fact that people are calculative. This idea of Gesellschaft can be compared to the concept of organic solidarity of Durkheim. He also highlights that these social organizations can mainly be witnesses in industrial societies where the individual is given prominence over collectivity.

In the modern world, what we can observe is mainly the Gesellschaft organization. The social organization is very much formal, and people work towards the attainment of goals. This is why one can notice a lot of competition among people to promote their self-interests. Cooperation and collective effort are hardly seen in such societies. The intimacy and social obligation towards fellow individuals are also fading away.

 Key Difference Between Gemeinschaft vs Gesellschaft

What is the difference between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft?

Definitions of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft:

Gemeinschaft: Gemeinschaft refers to communities such as villages or pre-industrialized societies such as hunter-gathering societies where collectivity was more important rather than the individual.

Gesellschaft: Gesellschaft refers to communities such as cities where the individual is given prominence.

Characteristics of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft:


Gemeinschaft: In Gemeinschaft, the emphasis is on collectivity.

Gesellschaft: In Gesellschaft, the emphasis is on the individual.

Social Ties:

Gemeinschaft: In Gemeinschaft, the social ties are stronger as people have a moral obligation towards the community.

Gesellschaft: In Gesellschaft, the social ties are not very strong as people try to promote their self-interest.


Gemeinschaft: There is not much competition in the social organization of Gemeinschaft .

Gesellschaft: There is high competition in the social organization of Gesellschaft .


Gemeinschaft: In here, there is a lot of homogeneity among people.

Gesellschaft: In here, there is a lot of heterogeneity among the people.


Image Courtesy:
1. “Lewes Bonfire, Martyrs Crosses“. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
2. “Bigdayout crowd2“. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons