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Social Stratification: Through the eyes of Tönnies and Park Essay

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In any study of urban sociology one is bound to encounter few scholars that have contributed as greatly to our current understanding of the structure and evolution of society as have Ferdinand Tönnies and Robert Park. Both born in the late nineteenth century and living well into the first part of the 20th century, affording each an opportunity to experience radical industrial growth, political and economic upheaval, and the first great international war. Despite these similarities, each theorist offered unique perspectives on the sociological changes they saw around them. In this paper, I will attempt to explore these theories’ similarities and differences as well as apply each to the issue of social stratification and inequality in contemporary society.
Ferdinand Tönnies is best known for his publication Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, originally published in 1887 and was considered his greatest work (Samples, 1987). In this book, he introduced two new terms into the sociologist’s lexicon - Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Having done so, he established the concepts of “community” and “society” and examined them in terms of their opposition to the each other (Samples, 1987). According to Inglis, Gemeinschaft is a term that identifies a social structure defined by “tightly-bound, affectively-based groups” while Gesellschaft is represents a society where “rationally-calculating, selfish individuals occupied center stage” (2009, p. 817). Tönnies’ primary area of research was in the movement of societies from societies based upon strong community to those that were (as he saw it) simply extensions of individual’s wills over others. Adair-Toteff states that Tönnies’ work “convinced [Tönnies] that the natural and organic Gemeinscha...


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Helmes-Hayes, R. C. (1987). "A dualistic vision": Robert ezra park and the classical ecological theory of social inequality. The Sociological Quarterly, 28(3, Conceptions of Temporality in Sociological Theory), 387-409.
Inglis, D. (2009). Cosmopolitan sociology and the classical canon: Ferdinand tönnies and the emergence of global gesellschaft. British Journal of Sociology, 60(4), 813-832. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4446.2009.01276.x
Tönnies, F. (1957). Community and society (C. Loomis, Trans.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul (Original work published 1887)
Samples, J. (1987). Ferdinand toennies: Dark times for a liberal intellectual. Society, 24(6), 65-68.
Smith, A. (1776). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations [electronic resource]. Dublin: printed for Messrs. Whitestone, Chamberlaine, W. Watson, Potts, S. Watson and 15 others in Dublin.


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