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May 24, 2008

Ferdinand Toennies

Ferdinand Toennies

Bust of Ferdinand Toennies

I, VollwertBIT, the copyright holder of this work, has published or hereby publishes it under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5

Toennies is best known for his concepts of Gemeinschaft & Gesellschaft.

Gemeinschaft is associated with close-knit communities which are more feudal or semi-feudal in their social relationships. They are in other words pre-industrial.

Gesellschaft by comparison can be associated with the more distanced social relationships between people in a city despite their physical closeness to each other. 

The trailer below is from the Italian film Rocco and His Brothers by Luchino Visconti. Several of Visconti's films explored the tensions developing within Italy as it modernised after the Second World War. Peasant families from the mezzogiorno (deep south) migrated to the rapidly growing industrial cities of Milma and Turin. Visconti's film follows the trials and tribulations of just such a peasant family from the deep south. The film opens with the train arriving in Milan where they expect to meet the eldest brother who has gone on ahead. The family can no longer make a living from the land and they must find work and shelter. 

Simone takes up boxing a fairly typical thing  to do, and as he becomes more dissolute Rocco takes over being a boxer to pay off Simone's debts.   Another brother goes to night school and eventually becomes a skilled worker in the Alfa Romeo factory. His understanding is that hard work and social solidarity in the unions is the way to survive this new environment. The plot gets complicated as firstly Simone has a relationship with Nadia who is also an immigrant and makes a living through prostitution. As simone goes downhill Nadia leaves him. A couple of years later Rocco who had to do national srvice takes up with her: they are both very much in love, yet ultimately Rocco betrays her because he cannot throw over the patriarchal ifeology that the family must be protected at all costs. This is in spite of Simone raping Nadia in front of his brother who is being restrained by Simone's friends. Eventually Nadia is murdered by Simone and it is another brother who recognises that the rule of law is above family and calls the police. Gesellschaft has triumphed over Gemeinscaft which is shown up as being regpressive and regressive.

There are many features of the change to modernity which are effectively tackled in this film and representations of class and the growing industrial city are all involved. This film shows very well the effects of the growth of industrialism creating flows of labour into the city and the problems immigrants have in adapting. For a range of contemporary British films that have been representing some of thes concerns in today's Britain check out my page on this: Representing the World Locally also check out the page Globalisation and Cinema.

Toennies was more concerned with the loss of Gemeinschaft Visconti on the other hand is rather more critical of these older forms of organisation. 

When it comes to the books in DD 201 I would suggest that you revise the work on Family and Kinship in East London from Wilmot and Young. This shows how the stereotype of people being isolated in the city was never really the case.  There were extending families living in Bethnal Green and  according to Wilmot and Young's research and lots of community activities and support. When these families were moved into more modern accommadation their social networks became more extended. The change effected women the most as they didn't usually have a full-time job. 

For more on the work of Wilmot and Young go to Book 1 page 234 and also the reading on page 256 for Bethnal Green and 259 for Greenleigh.  

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