Monday, November 24, 2014

The Value of a Shared Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 17th, 2014

At the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, social theorists of an evolutionary bent were seeking to describe the development of societies from the simpler to the more complex. Émile Durkheim, for example, contrasted two major ways in which societies could be held together: either by mechanical solidarity (the likeness among component members) or by organic solidarity (a division of labor that makes component members dependent upon one another).
Ferdinand Tönnies drew a distinction that has had a more nuanced history in the field of sociology, that between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Like "mechanical solidarity," the concept of Gemeinschaft points to what members of a society share, expressing it in a more positive way. Gesellschaft refers to the more differentiated networks and interactions that characterize a complex society. Tönnies suggested that a healthy society needs both forms of connection to hold it together.
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft help illuminate today’s college experience. To what extent are undergraduates moving through overlapping though largely differentiated networks, and to what extent do they share experiences, priorities, and goals?

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