Difference Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Most of you people out there might have come across these two terms before maybe in your sociological studies. Yes, these two terms are sociological terms and were introduced by the famous sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies.

These words are German terms and these words were mainly used to refer to a particular community. These concepts were developed in order to understand the difference between urban and rural life.

Gemeinschaft vs Gesellschaft

The main difference between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft is that Gemeinschaft primarily focuses on the social bonds whereas Gesellschaft obtains the status by working and through education.

Gemeinschaft vs Gesellschaft

The term gemeinschaft is found in families and it is said that in families we find the purest form of gemeinschaft. But, other than that one of the classical example of gemeinschaft would be the religious institutions.

These two terms were described as the two types in the human association back in the year 1887. There are differences between these two terms because these terms have got the difference in their meaning and it is much easier to understand if you know the meaning of it.

Comparison Table Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

Parameters of ComparisonGemeinschaftGesellschaft
Definition and meaningThis term means social relations between two or more individuals which is based on family ties or some personalThis term, on the other hand, means social relation that is based on impersonal ties.
Referred toRural communityUrban community
Based withIt is kin-basedThis is stranger-based
ChangeThe social change is limitedSocial change is quite evident
PrivacyPrivacy is not that much valuedPrivacy is kept in mind and is valued.

What is Gemeinschaft?

‘Gemeinschaft’ is a German term which can also be called ‘community’. The term was first introduced by a sociologist named Ferdinand Tonnies. His main intention was to refer this term to the individuals of society those who all are bound together with some similar or common norms.

Here the individuals are said to have believed in good behaviour and also keeping their responsibilities instead of just focussing on their own needs and interests. The term is quite hard to spell but it has got a very simple meaning to it.

For example: in a gemeinschaft association, the status can be obtained by either the ownership of the creator. Ferdinand Tonnies brought out this word because in this community the personal relationships are tied. Much importance is given to personal relationships and to families too.

Gemeinschaft is a small-scale society but these societies have got a strong bond and have got great shared values, and benefits to it. Most small cities will have this kind of societies where we can see that the singles or the individual of society focus more on their self- interest.

What is Gesellschaft?

The term ‘Gesellschaft’ is a term that is related to the social relations that are based on the impersonal ties, just like a duty to an organisation or to a particular society. In other words, this term means a civil society where the needs of an individual are kept in mind and are given utmost importance.

Well, in this type of organization/society there are fewer or no shared mores concepts because the bigger organizations are not given that much importance here. In this type of society, the individuals work for achieving their own interest and they act according to it.

Some of the examples of Gesellschaft people are managers, workers, business owners, and modern businesses too. The association of Gesellschaft is obtained through the achievement of work or the work.

The organization of Gesellschaft or the Gesellschaft society can be categorised by a large division of labor and maybe this is the reason why these organizations can be huge. This is also the reason why many large cities witness this kind of society where the people are very self-centric.

This group of people thinks that social ties are meaningless and thus they are not tied with them. They also do not focus on the group values because the individual needs are given the most significance.

Main Differences Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

  1. Gemeinschaft is related to mainly the informal relationships among people whereas Gesellschaft is related to formal or contractual relationships in the society.
  2. The Gemeinschaft society is focused on social bonds whereas Gesellschaft society aims at secondary relationships.
  3. The status is acquired by birth in the gemeinschaft society whereas the status is acquired by work and education in the gesellschaft society.
  4. Gemeinschaft is mostly seen in small cities whereas gesellschaft is mostly seen in bigger cities.
  5. Some examples where Gemeinschaft can be seen are among families whereas some examples of gesellschaft are managers, businessmen, and workers.


In the end, the difference between these two terms makes everything clear because people often get confused between the two terms. Both the terms have different meanings and this is why it is necessary to know the meaning of each.

Nowadays these terms are rarely used and has been replaced. The replacement of these terms have been done mainly because of the growth of industrialization, urbanisation, population growth, and many more. The society of tradition has been now replaced with the society of contract.

In the recent society, there has been a lot of difference between ‘now’ and ‘then’ because these days the individual interests, the personal duties, traditional rights are not given that much of significance. Everything has changed the mindsets of the people nowadays.

But, to respect the introduction of these terms it is important for people as why these terms were introduced in the first place. The term Gemeinschaft focuses on the personal relationships and the relationships among families. The term Gesellschaft stresses more on the secondary relationships of the society.


  1. https://academic.oup.com/sf/article-abstract/63/1/160/1897986
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1526/0036011053294637
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/003231876501700101
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