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A member is a constitutive member ( natural or legal person ) of a collegiate body .


“Constitutive” here means that this association of persons could not exist without members, because the existence of an association of persons is only guaranteed by its members. Depending on the type of voluntariness, there are voluntary members or compulsory membership by force of law or public statutes . While voluntary members join the collegiate body by their own decision , this happens with compulsory members because they have certain characteristics that force them to become a member. Anyone who possesses these characteristics is automatically a compulsory member.

In addition to “ordinary members”, there may be members with lower rights (“extraordinary members”), referred to as “supporting members”, “members with an advisory vote” or “corresponding members”, as well as candidates and postulants . If membership is free for certain members, one speaks of honorary members .

In a broader sense, people are counted as members of a group on the basis of their behavior , appearance or attitude .


Membership is the legal relationship between members and an association of persons. This legal relationship arises through a (written) declaration of membership and approval of membership by the association of persons (cf. § 15 GenG ). It is a recording contract. Membership also arises through admission (sometimes with certain symbolic acts and rituals ), ex officio or through birth . It is associated with certain rights , for example participation in activities specially planned for members , as well as obligations , such as paying fixed membership fees or taking on certain functions that serve to organize the respective association of persons, such as secretary , press or treasurer / auditor . It ends, for example, when the member is voted out, expelled, resigned, resigned , died or the association was dissolved .

Some memberships with commercial "clubs" (such as book clubs ) impose further obligations on the members and require the regular purchase of products, such as books or sound carriers. However, these are not clubs in the traditional sense, but sales systems that offer a subscription . For such memberships, it is advisable to study the fine print beforehand , especially the notice period .

According to Niklas Luhmann , membership is sociologically closely linked to the role in a system. So you first have to be a member of an organization in order to be able to take on other differentiated roles in the organization. The membership issue also creates a very clear separation between the system and the environment. In general, it can be said that entry and exit opportunities legitimize the organization's expectations of its members, which is not possible in other social systems, such as families. It is only through the formulation of entry and exit options that it is possible to formulate membership conditions.

When deciding whether to join an organization, the most varied of motives on the part of those involved can play a role. By deciding to join, however, the person is choosing to accept the rules, structures, purposes, and expectations set by the organization - they accept the membership terms. So the motivation for joining is neutralized with the decision, so that the joined members can pursue the same interests in the interests of the organization, or they can be prosecuted if they do not (no longer) adhere to the membership conditions.

Luhmann also emphasizes that a key difference lies in whether members are members of an organization by compulsion or voluntary. If individuals decide to voluntarily belong to an organization, this makes it much easier for the organization to access the individual. The threat of being kicked out of the organization if the membership conditions are not complied with is one of the sanction options offered by voluntary membership. Precisely because the members of an organization are interchangeable, they can be threatened with replacement. Against the background of this threat, the organization can exercise more power over individuals in a more efficient manner than can a coercive organization such as the military.


Memberships are mainly in the following areas:

Organically organized organizations charge levies , the other organizations stipulate a contribution obligation in their statutes or are free of charge (board members). In private-law companies there are no members, but partners or shareholders .



Academies are learned societies for the advancement of science, art and culture, as well as their research. They are not teaching institutes , although they are usually organized into classes according to different subject areas. Their work takes place in joint meetings of their members, during which the research results are presented, which in turn are published in meeting reports or papers . The number of its living members is usually limited, which is maintained through by -election and new appointments.

Political parties

According to Art. 9 GG everyone has the right to belong to a political party . In practice, however, party membership is tied to certain conditions (age, payment of a membership fee, no membership of another political party). In principle, neither party is obliged to comply with the applicant's application for membership. An existing party membership can be terminated by both the member and the party, but the party cannot exclude anyone for no reason (exclusion from the party ).


Members of the German Bundestag and the regional parliaments of the federal states are members of parliament ( Section 1 AbgG ). You use the abbreviation MdB or MdL for member of the federal / state parliament on official letters .

In Austria , the state representatives are not directly elected in the Bundesrat and are therefore referred to as members of the Bundesrat.

Religious communities

According to Art. 4 GG [freedom of belief, conscience and confession] the undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed in Germany. The association system was largely transferred to the Christian communities (churches), which often have the external form of an association, but are religious societies under public law . A member of a Christian church is one usually through the baptism , often already as a small child . However, since an infant does not make a conscious choice at baptism, this form of membership is involuntary. It can only be revoked by the member if he has reached the so-called religious age , d. H. is at least 14 years old. Otherwise this must be done by their legal guardian . Membership is usually not associated with any costs for the unemployed ; those in employment pay church tax , which is automatically deducted from their salary.

In early modern times it was customary in some places in Reformed and Lutheran congregations to require travelers and newcomers to provide a church testimony confirming that the owner on whom the name was issued had already been a member of a Protestant congregation. A baptism or marriage certificate could be used for this, but also a written confirmation issued by the pastor of the old community, which was then referred to in the narrower sense as a church testimony.

Membership in a free church usually takes place through voluntary membership, provided that the beliefs of the church can be accepted. Admission occurs through baptism. There is no compulsory membership fee , but it is customary to pay a tenth part of your income.

Religious communities cannot, however, be obliged to comply with the applicant's request. An excommunication is possible if the member lives against the valid beliefs or rejects them.

Criminal law

A criminal or terrorist acting in a group of perpetrators can be punished according to German criminal law as a member of a criminal or terrorist organization in accordance with § 129 , § 129a StGB . Other states are familiar with the criminal offense of membership in a conspiracy in a similar way .


Many people are members of an association and exercise their rights in the general assembly in accordance with Section 32 (1) sentence 1 of the German Civil Code. In this way, the club member shows his environment that he supports "his" club and / or its goals. In return, club members are given the opportunity, for example, at sports or music clubs , to train or rehearse under professional supervision and to play or appear in public. Members of associations with a cultural character want to maintain and / or spread traditions . Social associations and their members want to help others.


Ordinary members

Ordinary members are people who belong to an organ (for example, the board of directors , the supervisory board , the general meeting or the general meeting ) in full and with voting rights . In addition, there may be “members with an advisory vote”, ie without the right to participate in votes or elections . Whether honorary members are counted among the full members is handled differently. In some associations (e.g. fire brigade), ordinary members who have left active service are referred to as passive members for whom their own regulations apply.

Ordinary members in the German Bundestag

The term full member is used, for example, for members of the German Bundestag in relation to the committees, with full members having the right to vote in the individual committees and permanently belonging to it. The alternate members, on the other hand, only belong to the committee if a full member is unable to attend or leaves.

Supporting members

Supporting members are natural or legal persons who, under certain conditions, belong to a body such as an association. There are no fixed definitions for the rights and / or obligations of supporting members, so that these are to be determined by each corporation itself (e.g. in the association's statutes). Typically Supporting members pay mandatory dues, receive, unlike ordinary members but no voice - and / or no voting rights .

Corresponding members

The Academy of Sciences also has "corresponding members". In this case, this means external members.

Ex officio members

An ex officio member is a person who becomes a member of the body solely because he or she has a certain position outside the body.

For example, the members of the German Bundestag are ex officio members of the Federal Assembly that elects the Federal President . In addition, the same number of members of the Federal Assembly are elected by the state representatives.

Ex officio members are sometimes referred to as natural members . That is inaccurate; In some aristocratic associations you can become a member by birth. With the old word nominate (for select ) can be of born and gekorenen members speak.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Gerhard Köbler , Etymological Legal Dictionary , 1995, p. 271
  2. BGHZ 101, 193
  3. ^ Luhmann, Niklas: Functions and consequences of formal organization . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964.
  4. ^ Luhmann, Niklas: Functions and consequences of formal organization . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964.
  5. ^ Niklas Luhmann: Functions and consequences of formal organizations. Duncker & Humblot, 5th edition, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-08341-5 , p. 41 f.
  6. ^ Niklas Luhmann: Functions and consequences of formal organizations. Duncker & Humblot, 5th edition, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-08341-5 , p. 39 ff.
  7. Gunther Schwerdtfeger, Individual and Collective Freedom of Coalition , 1981, p. 54
  8. Thorsten Franz, Introduction to Administrative Science , 2013, p. 47
  9. Most hunting license holders are now organized in the German Hunting Association (DJV). The Reichsjagdgesetz (Reichsjagdgesetz) stipulated in section 56 that the hunting license holders were united in the Reichsbund "Deutsche Jägerschaft".
  10. BVerfGE 97, 271 , 286
  11. Alexander Weichbrodt, Das Semesterticket , 2001, p. 64
  12. Types of membership - ordinary, extraordinary,… - , accessed on July 13, 2013
  13. Member , Duden online , accessed on April 1, 2018.