Stephen Smoliar was relentless in his insistence that I read Ferdinand Tonnies. And he was right to insist. I am now on my second, slow read of Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Community and Society), as I strive to understand how he differentiated between the two and why. I will write more about what he says when I have assimilated it all, something that will take me a while. But I’m working on it.
I’m reading the Charles Loomis translation in the Dover Edition, and second time round, I spent a little more time on reading the Introduction. There, in a reference to Tonnies’ sister work to Community and Society (called Geist der Neuzeit: The Spirit of Modern Times) Loomis quotes Tonnies as follows:
In the Middle Ages there was unity, now there is atomization: then the hierarchy of authority was solicitous paternalism, now it is compulsory exploitation; then there was relative peace, now wars are wholesale slaughter; then there were sympathetic relationships amongst kinsfolk and old acquaintances, now there are strangers and aliens everywhere; then society was chiefly made up of home- and land-loving peasants, now the attitude of the businessman prevails; the man’s simple needs were met by home production and barter, now we have world trade and capitalistic production; then there was permanency of abode, now great mobility; then there were folk arts, music and handicrafts, now there is science — and the scientific method applied, as in the case of the cool calculations of the businessman, leads to the point of view which deprives one’s fellow men and one’s society of their personality, leaving only a framework of dead symbols and generalizations.Â
Now there are strangers and aliens everywhere.
Leaving only a framework of dead symbols and generalizations.
I will continue to read this guy. Of that I am sure. I have to thank Stephen for his insistence, there is much I can learn about community from Tonnies, and much I can learn about things communal.