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Collective (from the Latin colligere “to seek out, to read together”) denotes social structures whose members are indefinitely grouped together according to very different points of view - that can be a people , a religion , a state , a company or a social class . On the other hand, there are special action-oriented collectives whose members cooperate as a group , team or team in a specific and targeted manner in specific action communities.

The term in sociology

In sociology , a distinction is made between unorganized and organized collectives.

Disorganized collectives

The term collective is named in sociology after Robert King Merton (1910–2003) a. a. generally a plurality of people who develop feelings of togetherness due to a system of common norms, values and actions . According to this definition, collectives do not fall under terms such as social category , which assigns people demographically, or milieu groups , whose members, in contrast to the collective, interact loosely and indifferently with one another due to their shared social status . Comparable defined Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) the term Samtschaft indefinitely, unorganized social collectives and stressed the feature of the missing organizational cohesion. According to Tönnies, joint decisions of will and joint actions only come about under special conditions.

As abstract collectives called Leopold von Wiese social structures such as religious communities or entire nations receive due to "permanent values" a "through personal character".

Organized collectives

A political collective is a social structure with common political goals, the members of which organize themselves voluntarily, essentially make decisions according to the principles of equality and equality - often according to the principle of consensus - and work together for their practical implementation.

People who are collectively active in work and action systems form collectives in the sense of special action communities , whereby the work done has a social impact. People also organize themselves in collectives for cultural and sporting activities, for example in order to achieve success together as an ensemble , team or team.

Based on the concept of the Soviet Republic , Anton Semjonowitsch Makarenko (1888–1939) developed the principle of a “ communist collective” in education .

The term in cultural studies

The term collective, introduced in cultural studies , is broader and more open to features than that of sociology . Collective is understood to mean any agreement or view of people who have one or more similarities.

In 2009, the cultural scientist Klaus P. Hansen laid the theoretical foundations for a collective science in his work Culture, Collective, Nation and, among other things, coined the term “ multicollectivity ”.

Collectives in the Alternative Economy

In the alternative economy , collective refers to a self-managed or hierarchical company or a corresponding project. Since the late 1970s, a large number of these collectives emerged in the alternative movement in Western Europe and North America, in which the decision-making structure and remuneration are often based on the following principles:

  • Consensus principle: The consensus principle means that decisions are made in a joint process, the end of which leads to the satisfaction of all participants.
  • Principle of mutual help: " Mutual help " is a term used by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin , which opposes the principle of competition and is based on solidarity . The exchange rings are an example of mutual help.
  • Principle of the common economy based on solidarity: “ Common economy ” means that there is no hierarchy-related or performance-related income, but that everyone receives the same income or they take what they think they need from a “common fund” . Specifically, it also refers to the living or working group in which the group tasks are tackled collectively and which has the goods "at hand" (see also common benefit ).
  • Council principle: collectives do not see themselves as being in competition with one another, but strive for a network that works according to the principle of council democracy , which essentially means that no decision-making authority is delegated "upwards", but rather to remain with the collectives have.

Particular forms of this type of collectivity are the municipalities , in which people also live together, which is then understood as an additional principle of living and working together . Since the legal forms in Germany are not explicitly tailored to these collectives and their principles, legal problems often arise.

In the countries of the south (“ Third World ”) the collective movement was often the hope of self-liberation in the sense of political and social emancipation. In many cases it was possible to tie in with forms of the traditional - collective - economy, as in the case of the ejidos in Ecuador or the ujamaa in Tanzania.

One form of collective that is considered successful is the kibbuze in Israel . Here three collectively promoting factors work together:

  1. common religion or religious ideology
  2. economic success
  3. Outside threat (common outside enemy)

The collective as an economic form is based on the idea of ​​the "homo collectivus" which - unlike the " homo oeconomicus " - consciously puts its individual interests aside in favor of common interests.

Collectives in socialism

Painting “Discussion in the Neuererkollektiv” by Willi Neubert on a GDR postage stamp from 1982
Peace and order - sign of a sales group of the GDR around 1960

In the GDR , the term “collective” roughly corresponded to what becomes “ working group ” in the Federal Republic . In the state- owned enterprises , the agricultural production cooperatives and the production cooperatives of the handicrafts , the collective was referred to as a " brigade ".

In pronouncements and agitprop , large collectives were also “quoted”, such as “the working class”.

In order to promote the collective, the collective (trainer, training group, team doctor, physiotherapist and others) was also emphasized in top-level sporting performances.

Collective consciousness

Collective consciousness ( French conscience collective ou commune ) is a sociological term of the Durkheim school for the intellectual properties and values ​​of a society that is a. express themselves in systems such as morality , law , habits , language , conscience , knowledge . It is the "totality of beliefs and feelings that are common to all members of the same society". In general, there is also talk of the people's soul, collective soul, collective mentality, group soul and other totalities of spiritual properties of a social structure. The collective consciousness expresses the "objectivity of social events" in relation to the individual motivations of people. The aforementioned intellectual properties, familiar to civilized people, were also described in a similar way by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl , who compared them with the “mystical collective ideas” (représentations collectives) of primitives (see also participation mystique ), as well as by Carl Gustav Jung , who wrote the Concept of a collective unconscious developed (compare also archetype (psychology) ).

According to Alfred Vierkandt , the affairs of a social group form the collective content of consciousness that the collective subject formulates in the form of the “we” in relation to the individual “I”.


Criticism of collective forms of organization

The model of the “ tragedy of the commons ” suggests that collective property leads to an increased exploitation of resources, for example through free rider behavior of the individual members. However, this is controversial (see tragedy of the anti-commons ).

Conceptual criticism

Critics of the formation of “collectives” assume that the consciousness of the individual is displaced by the consciousness of the group as a whole (or, more sharply, that the “consciousness of the group” is an ideological fiction for kneading the individual). In place of personal responsibility , there is group responsibility (see also collectivism and sociology ).

See also


  • Gabriel Kuhn : Beyond the state and the individual. Individuality and Autonomous Politics. Unrast, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-89771-457-1 .
  • Klaus P. Hansen : Culture, Collective, Nation. Series of publications by the Research Center for Fundamentals of Cultural Studies, Volume 1. Karl Stutz, Passau 2009, ISBN 978-3-88849-181-8 .
  • Jörg Scheffer (Ed.): Us, them or all? Collectives as mediators of a complex cultural reality (= Interculture Journal. Volume 1). Proceedings of the Research Center for Basics of Cultural Studies Passau, September 2009 ( PDF: 1.4 MB, 88 pages on ).

Collectives in the alternative economy:

  • Johannes Berger (Ed.): Self-managed companies in the market economy. AJZ, Bielefeld 1986, ISBN 3-921680-60-3 .
  • Wolfgang Beywl : Companies in self-administration: An empirical study in North Rhine-Westphalia. Publishing house for scientific publications, Darmstadt 1990.
  • Jürgen Daviter, Volkmar Gessner , Armin Höland : Self-administration economy: Against economy and law? AJZ, Bielefeld 1987.
  • Ulrich Burnautzki u. a .: Among vultures: A guide for working in self-managed projects. Stattbuch, Berlin 1984.
  • Working group on project advice (ed.): The treasure in the Silbersee: A financing guide for self-managed companies and projects. Stattbuch, Berlin 1984.
  • Roland Spliesgart: Agricultural collectives as an alternative? A case study in land reform settlements in Brazil. Lit, Münster / Hamburg 1995.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert K. Merton : This Week's Citation Classic. In: CC. No. 21, May 26, 1980, p. 285 (English; review of his own quote from his book Social Theory and Social Structure 1949; PDF, 100 kB, 1 page on ).
  2. ^ Anton Semjonowitsch Makarenko : The way into life. An educational poem. Structure, Berlin 1971 ( Russian version online at - original: Педагогическая поэма).
  3. Harald Deerberg: You get along so well ... Legal problems in and with collectives. In: Contraste - monthly newspaper for self-organization. April 18, 2005 ( online at ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive )).
  4. ^ Franziska Becker u. a. (Ed.): "I am collectively": Utopia and everyday life in the GDR. Böhlau, Cologne a. a. 2000, ISBN 3-412-13900-9 , pp. ?? (Book accompanying the exhibition).
  5. ^ Klaus Huhn : Gustav-Adolf Schur: the star and the collective. In: Arnd Krüger , Swantje Scharenberg : Times for Heroes: Times for Celebrities in Sports (= series of publications by the Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History. Volume 22). Lit, Münster 2014, ISBN 978-3-643-12498-2 , pp. ??.
  6. ^ Émile Durkheim : De la division du travail social. 7th edition. 1893. Paris 1960, p. ?? (German: About the social division of labor . 3rd edition. 1988).
  7. Lexicon entry: collective consciousness. In: Karl-Heinz Hillmann : Dictionary of Sociology (= Kröner's pocket edition. Volume 410). 4th, revised and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-41004-4 , p. 421.
  8. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl : Les fonctions mentales dans les sociétés inférieures. 9th edition. 1910. Les Presses universitaires de France, Paris 1951, p. 27 ( online at ).