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""In its traditional (Gemeinschaft) form, community itself had a sacred quality. As To¨nnies (1887) argued, Gemeinschaft had a hierarchical structure, in which individuals and subunits are related in clear chains of subordination to the superordinate leader whose authority derives from tradition or charisma (per Weber). The core values are therefore those of loyalty and deference.

In such a social structure, horizontal relations, such as the relations of husband and wife, of doctor and patient, even of merchant and client, are defined indirectly, in terms of status obligations and their ‘fit’ within the larger system rather than through direct interaction or negotiation. In effect, the proper relationship between two parties can be read directly from their respective social roles. Challenges to status or violations of obligations of deference are a deeply feared threat to order. Those who are honorable, in other words, are trustworthy. A large system of sanctions, especially the force of reputation in the community, centers on the performance of these obligations.

This form of community is necessarily closed and particularistic, and this closure is reflected in the nature of social identities. Identities under Gemeinschaft typically trace a sharp differentiation between insiders and outsiders. They are conformist, because conformity defines insider status. They have hierarchy built in. Friendships and romantic relationships do exist in traditional societies, but if they cross the boundaries of the status system they are seen as grave threats to order.

Clearly such a form of community leaves little room for modern markets, let alone systematic innovation. Under Gemeinschaft conditions, these processes must be organized informally and in the interstices of the system." (


Essay: Paul S. Adler and Charles Heckscher. Towards Collaborative Community / (Book: The Corporation as a Collaborative Community)


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