from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The nuclear family is the smallest human community (2012)
Indigenous village community in a Shuar communidad in Ecuador (2011)

Community (from " common , common ground") describes in sociology and ethnology (ethnology) a manageable social group (for example a family , community , horde of hunters , a clan or group of friends ), whose members are characterized by a strong "we-feeling" ( Group cohesion ) are closely linked - often over generations . The community is considered the most original form of coexistence and a basic element of society (see also primitive society ).

The legal system understands community as a legal community or contract community. In addition to regions, the political structure of Belgium also recognizes three linguistic “ communities ” (Flemish, French, German) as member states of the federal state .


Communities are demarcated by their members from outsiders without them having to recognize it. In the case of small communities ( core families , friends or also working groups ) it becomes clear that communities can have voluntary and involuntary members. Example: A couple formally voluntarily marries, but their children become involuntary members.

In addition to the extremes of free will decision and being forced into it, there are in practice many communities in which free will decision is so restricted that it is barely noticeable without being born into it. Examples of this are class communities in schools or work collectives in companies and other institutions. Also common destiny among the communities, such as first foreign people , by reason of a side crash z. B. help each other in a lifeboat for a long time.

Community self-interest

A community develops a self-interest, which is measured by the everyday goals of the lifestyle of the members and is accordingly interwoven in many ways. This is reinforced by a clear dividing line between “us” and “the others”. Not infrequently, therefore, leaving the community is not easy, is also hindered or morally discredited (“ unfaithfulness ”), because they do not have a single purpose that can be argued. Political coercive associations are often declared as "communities" in order to bind their members morally to them, most sustainably in totalitarian dictatorships .

Limits of communalization

Human individuals (social actors ) can only form “communities” to a limited extent. It is practically impossible for them to pursue common goals in all their social relationships at all times or to carry out any actions jointly. In the theoretically strict sense, it is never entirely possible for them, although they may perceive it differently. The term “community” is therefore often an abused fiction. The term mostly implies that the human being, in the sense of organized collectives or individual charismatic leaders, is urged to act expediently for communities that are supposedly expensive or vital to him (compare ideology ). The National Socialists propagated the term “ Volksgemeinschaft ” in order to win people over to their goals and to exclude undesirables.

Sociological theory in the narrower sense

A special study of the fundamental difference between community and society comes from the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies in Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft from 1887. In it Tönnies developed the approach that “community” and “society” both constitute the object of the (by him in Germany ) “Sociology”. Both are forms of social consent for him, whereby the will to see oneself as part of a collective (oneself as a means if necessary, the collective as an end - or the will of an essence ) constitutes “communities” - while the will to see oneself as a collective as a means to to serve one's own benefit (the will to choose ) , constitute “societies”. In the pure sociology of concepts, the concepts “community” and “society” are mutually exclusive (he calls such concepts normal types ); in the empirical world, the field of applied sociology, however, according to Tönnies, they always appear mixed. As special forms, Tönnies then differentiates between the "communities of the blood" (" relatives "), "of the place" (" neighborhood ") and "of the spirit" (" friendship ").

In his late work, Geist der Neuzeit , Tönnies used these terms and concluded that in the (European) Middle Ages the "community" was the predominant way of looking at things, in which one understood collectives, but that this had changed with the modern era in favor of perception to understand all collectives as “society”.

The French sociologist Émile Durkheim made the distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity , which is widespread in specialist circles . According to him, “mechanical solidarity” is based on the equality of the competencies of the members , “organic solidarity” on their differences. With “mechanical solidarity” the differentiation becomes clearer to the outside world (“We workers”, “We Germans”, “We women”), while in organic solidarity the mutual complementation ( division of labor ) becomes clear (man and woman in the Family, various specialists in the division of labor economics). Enduring communities have both mechanical and organic elements.

The German sociologist Max Weber , based on Tönnies, discusses “Vergemeinschaftung” and “Vergesellschaftung” as basic sociological terms in the economy and society (Part One, Chapter 1, Section 9). The philosopher Helmuth Plessner analyzes in his anthropological considerations on "social and community" forms of existence the boundaries of the community and differentiates between "blood communities" and "factual communities".

The discussion on communitarianism , based on the USA, uses comparable conceptions of community without having received any noteworthy reception of the “community” discussion in European sociology.

Ethnological community term

In terms of ethnological research, the American ethnologist Robert Redfield defined four distinguishing features for communities:

  1. Distinguishability: clear demarcation from other groups
  2. Smallness: manageable number of members in which everyone knows everyone
  3. Homogeneity: very large agreement in the world views of the members
  4. Self-sufficiency: economically and socially largely self-sufficient

The American anthropologists George P. Murdock and Suzanne F. Wilson have redefined the term local group , which comes from the older ethnology (“face-to-face community”, regular interactions of relatives, sense of belonging), so that it is now synonymous with the ethnological Community term can be used. An example of a very original type of local group is the horde of hunters .

In this context there is also the fixed term “ local communities ”, which describes traditionally living local groups with a potentially subsistence-oriented way of life. This is often spoken of in connection with human rights .

Legal forms of community

In German civil law , community is the generic term for the general community and the community of co-owners .

Other forms of community

Religious communities , especially religious orders, are strongly “communal” in their self-image in the Tonnesian sense; the individual sacrifices himself to the collective up to the point of martyrdom . But sooner or later they “socialize” (see Max Weber'ssocialization ”).

In Christianity the community of all believers is also called the community of saints . This means the spiritual community of all the baptized as members of the church and part of the mystical body of Christ . In the 19th century the pietistic community movement emerged in the Protestant churches , which promoted an inner renewal of the church and in particular community care. Such regional church communities still exist today.

All kinds of living communities are designed for the entire duration of life. In addition to marriage and civil partnerships , these include, for example, religious orders, also "life covenants " (compare covenant ), fraternities , corps , singers' associations , gymnastics associations, etc. a. Fraternity students .

The national community was invoked at the beginning of the First World War as a catchphrase for the cohesion of the nation . In the Weimar Republic, the parties argued over the term. In 1933 Otto Wels spoke in his famous speech against the Enabling Act that the SPD wanted the “real national community”.

From the youth movement , National Socialism took over the early medieval designation “followers” ​​for groups who saw or had to see their common ground in the person of their leader . Allegiance was and allegiance provided not only a group organized in a structure or subdivision of the NSDAP , but also the workforce of a company, the members of a profession and other communities united in a professional student body .

Economic communities such as the "Association for the insulation industry" predominantly only have the word in their name and are then pure representations of interests. At least when it was founded, the idea played a role that one could create a sense of community and solidarity among members from similar activities.

The insured community of legal “ mutual insurance associations” is a community based on solidarity in which the majority of the insured compensates the losses of the injured party through their contributions.

Emancipatory Communities

In connection with the criticism of alienation , emancipatory communities emerged and emerged again and again , which sociologically, in part, are identical with the communal mass mentioned above . Their activity was already evident in the 19th century (for example in the cooperative movement ) and currently in concepts of eco-settlement , community, Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and others. Such community concepts aim - occasionally referring to the “organic solidarity” of Durkheim - to a conscious integration of the social bond and the individuality of an autarkic subject into a conscious social individual (see below: sociological theory ). In this way, a tension should be made productive in an emancipatory way on the basis of the diversity of individuals for the evolution of individual and social consciousness . The subject is reflected in the community ( self-knowledge , self-discovery ) and the community is reflected in the subject ( Jacques Lacan , mirror theorem ). In addition to overcoming individual and social alienation, the goals of such “emancipatory communities” today are mostly peace (internally and externally), a home or happiness, together with a sustainable, undestroyed environment.

The number of members of the European emancipatory communities listed in the eurotopia directory has increased more than tenfold since its first edition in 1997 (143 projects, approx. 5,000 people) until the third edition in 2005 (416 projects, approx. 60,000 people). They are organized worldwide in GEN and accredited in the European section via the oldest European community Findhorn (Scotland) at the UN as a non-governmental organization (NGO). Most famous in Germany is the Niederkaufungen municipality . Other larger communities are the ZEGG , the Sieben Linden eco-village and the Likatier tribe . The largest European community is Damanhur in northern Italy (over 1000 residents, own constitution and alternative currency), the possibly most holistic and innovative may be Tamera (Alentejo, Portugal), which operates at a high level (contacts and cooperations: UN, EU, Eurosolar etc.) research on solar energy, field theory, global peace work and alternative forms of socialization. A biotope is more stable inside, the more diverse its life forms are. In this sense, the GEN projects are atheistic / secular / scientific, spiritual / New Age / shamanic or religious. They are integrative and holistic, missionary and ecumenical, often specialized (e.g. in sustainable agriculture, human rights, animal welfare, or self-determination and subculture of left urban communities). Communication techniques such as forum , supervision or non-violent communication (GfK) play an awareness-raising role.

Together with the non-governmental organizations (35 million members worldwide), they see themselves as pieces of the puzzle of an emerging new global culture that should enable our species to survive in the long term.

See also


  • Lars Clausen : The Janus head of the community. In: Lars Clausen, Carsten Schlüter (Ed.): Hundred years of “Community and Society”: Ferdinand Tönnies in the international discussion. Leske Budrich, Opladen 1991, ISBN 3-8100-0750-1 , pp. 67-82.
  • Lars Clausen: Community. In: Günter Endruweit , Gisela Trommsdorff (Hrsg.): Dictionary of Sociology. 2nd, completely revised and enlarged edition. Lucius, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8282-0172-5 , pp. 183-185.
  • Roberto Esposito : Communitas: Origin and Paths of Community. Diaphanes, Zurich / Berlin 2005.
  • Lars Gertenbach: Community versus society: In what forms is the social institution? In: Jörn Lamla , Henning Laux u. a. (Ed.): Handbook of Sociology. UVK / UTB, Konstanz 2014, ISBN 978-3-8252-8601-9 , pp. 129-143.
  • Lars Gertenbach, Henning Laux , David Strecker, Hartmut Rosa : Theories of the community as an introduction. Junius, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-88506-667-5 .
  • Pablo González Casanova: Community. In: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism . Volume 5. Argument, Hamburg 2001, columns 174-189.
  • Alexander Grimme: On the wealth of social relationships: On the relationship between community and social capital. PhD thesis. Tectum, Marburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8288-2007-4 .
  • Michael Opielka : Community in Society: Sociology according to Hegel and Parsons. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-531-14225-9 .
  • Morgan Scott Peck : Community Building, The Path to Authentic Community. Eurotopia, Bandau 2007, ISBN 978-3-940419-01-9 .
  • Peter Ruben : Community and society - considered again. In: Dittmar Schorkovitz (Hrsg.): Ethnohistorischewege and apprenticeship years of a philosopher. Frankfurt 1995.
  • Giovanni Tidona: Communities: Figures of the division of life. Alber, Freiburg 2019.
  • Ferdinand Tönnies : Community and society : Treatise of communism and socialism as empirical forms of culture. Fues, Leipzig 1887 (reissued: Community and society. Basic concepts of pure sociology. 4th unchanged edition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-05180-7 ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Community  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Pfeifer : Etymological Dictionary of German. Dtv, 1997, entry “common” ( online at
  2. ^ Dieter Haller : Dtv-Atlas Ethnologie. 2nd, completely revised and corrected edition. dtv, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-423-03259-9 , p. 175.
  3. ^ Carsten Weerth: Community. In: Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon online. Untitled, accessed on May 21, 2020.
  4. ^ Community and Society , Book I, § 6
  5. Helmuth Plessner: Limits of the community. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-518-29140-8 , pp. ??.
  6. ^ Dieter Haller : Dtv-Atlas Ethnologie. 2nd, completely revised and corrected edition. dtv, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-423-03259-9 , p. 177.
  7. ^ Walter Hirschberg (founder), Wolfgang Müller (editor): Dictionary of Ethnology. New edition, 2nd edition, Reimer, Berlin 2005. pp. 236–237.
  8. BGB , §§ 741 ff.