Ferdinand tonnies: Utopian visionary

Sociological Theory 13 (1):58-65 (1995)


Among the founders of classical German sociology, Ferdinand Tonnies is still relatively neglected. Many reasons are given, but the most widespread and the most damning is that Tonnies is a pessimist who wished, in the face of modernity, to return to the supposed Golden Age of rural Germany, when the community, ruled by patriarchs, gathered on the land. This interpretation is fundamentally flawed: although Tonnies wanted to describe the rootless, ruthless, calculating individuals of modern society, he wished to recall the past primarily in order to develop a blueprint for the future, in which the so-called feminine traits of conscience, empathy, and care would govern the community. Rather than yearning for the past, Tonnies was a utopian who had a vision of the future and tried to make it a reality

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