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Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Society (1887). Preface to the 2nd edition (1912)

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I have never failed to realize that a number of such analogies are in fact justified. They are grounded in the general and common manifestations of life as a unity of diversity, of the reciprocal interaction of parts with one another and thus with the whole, whose component parts they form, in tendencies that we recognize and label now as the differentiation of organs and functions, now (also in physiology) as the division of labor.

By contrast, I myself was not able to discern any good sense in the claim that the state, the community, or any kind of human association “is” an organism, even though Gierke, in particular, always maintained as much with the full force of his idealism – as late as 1902 in his lovely lecture about "the nature of human associations." He argued that both external and internal experience prompted the assumption that there are effective association entities [Verbandseinheiten]. A part of the impulses that determine our actions supposedly emanate from the communities [Gemeinschaften] that pervade us, and the certainty of the reality of our selfhood, he maintained, extends also to the fact that we are component entities of higher living entities, even if we do not find them in our consciousness and can infer indirectly from the effects of the community within us that the social wholes are corporeal-spiritual in nature. Thus, according to Gierke, the law of association [Verbandsrecht] constitutes a life order for social beings, and a great branch of this law is social law with the legal concepts of constitution, membership, legal person, organ, the act of free will, which calls an association person [Verbandsperson] into being and is not a contract, but a creative overall act.

I myself, by contrast, draw a more stringent distinction between natural associations, whose importance to social life is, of course, outstanding, and cultural or artificial entities, even though the latter can grow out of the former.

To be sure, the former also exist in our “consciousness” [Bewusstsein] and for our consciousness, but not substantially through our consciousness, as is the case for the real and genuine social conditions and associations [Verbindungen]. For I assert the following as the fundamental sociological insight: apart from the possibly real entities and interconnections of people there are also those that are substantially created and conditioned by their own will, that is, they are essentially imaginary [ideell] in nature. They must be understood as created or made by humans, even if they have in fact acquired an objective power over individuals, a power that always amounts to the power of connected wills over individual wills.

I found the great meaning of rational natural law in the fact that it undertook to understand anthropologically the entities that had until then been conceived of largely theologically, to explain the seemingly transcendent forms [Gestalten] as constructs of human thought and will.

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