Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gemeinschaft returning over Gesellschaft

You will find a lot of people complaining how "deteriorated" modern society has become and how bad the consequences are. Although most people think they (people who complain) are nothing more than a bunch of pessimists who love the "good old world" and reject progress, the fact is totally different.

In my days of growth from childhood to adulthood I found many such people. They complained and rejected the "growth" of society which was more and more inclined to physical luxury and getting rid of community feeling. One uncle was particularly angry the way more and more individuals were turning into "selfish, not-caring-for-community" kind of people. I had different understanding of what he said at different age slots of my life. When I was a child I did not understand a word he used to say. When I was a teenager I thought he had some mental problem and laughed at him. When I matured I had a very different feel for his concern. I started to learn what he meant - his concern was not that much odd at all and there was a case for deep thinking on the issue. Then one fine day I sat and pondered on his main points -

He complained how the modern individual cared about himself, the height of selfishness, according to him. He gave an example of power outage problem, people buy backup power inverters in their houses to counter the problem instead of finding a solution for their entire community. Then there were other examples of the kind.

Unlike my peers who shrugged off these things, I thought about them at every incident that struck my radar. There was a real "crisis" and it was only getting worse. Later, when I learned about the concepts of German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies who gave the idea of two social systems: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, the root of the issue became clear. It was economical betterment of society that led to the downgrade of Gemeinschaft.

Gemeinschaft ("community") refers to a small, rural, low-technology, face-to-face community that is relatively poor and based on informal education at home.

Gesellschaft ("society") refers to a large, urban, heterogeneous, high-technology society that relies on electronic communication and formal, school-based education.

The economic boom in past decades has benefited Gesellschaft to the limits. The recessions in these times could not show a case for "community" centered approach but this ongoing Depression has turned things, at least it seems. The Global Economic Meltdown is changing course of the social behaviour and Gemeinschaft is in vogue again! Many of those who have lost jobs or those who have suffered because of this ongoing crisis, have become community centered and are more involved in community work. If this Global Depression has one big positive, then this is it.