Community - a Classic Revisited
The aim of this paper is to reconsider the notion of community as presented in Ferdinand Tönnies’s seminal argument from 1887 — his famous Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft (community/society) dichotomy. As is often the case with classical statements, Tönnies’s text has not been read in its entirety, as an analytical and historical statement that strikes at the heart of modern life, for quite a while. The paper seeks a way of updating Tönnies’s classical take in a way that could renew or at least re-direct our sense and definition of a community as type of ‘ready-made’ space of inclusion or exclusion. Tönnies’s classical statement, as I argue, holds the promise of a model that can break through the standard inclusion-exclusion understanding of how communities are bound and defined. That promise is based on the notion of ‘enfoldment’ and entwinement of modern individuals in each other’s fates. The crucial shift occurs by replacing responsibility at the level of traditional community, with public opinion/responsiveness that defines mass society. The fundamental question here, one that we need to consider anew, is the nature of the social bond at the core of contemporary life.