Philosophical Ranting of an Engineer

Tonnies book introduces the idea of community vs. society. That they are not equivalent. I would like to redescribe them in my own words. Both offer a feeling of familiarity, the difference is whether this familiarity is personal. You are familiar with those in your community and you know their name, or you share enough in common that you consider yourself a group or a community. In a society, you share a familiarity with others in the society, but they don’t necessarily know your name and there is nothing betweeen any two individduals that justifies further intimacy.

While one might bowl frequently and be part of the community at this bowling alley, when on a trip if he were to visit another bowling alley, he would be familiar with the culture of the society, he would feel no community with the people at this bowling alley.

“The Great Good Place” doesn’t really go into details of community vs. society, it does emphasize the importance of community through a third plane, that which is not work or home. People need to have a place, or a community, they can be a part of. This I agree with and I can see this in my own life. But either because the author doesn’t see the importance, or it’s simply not the topic, he doesn’t discuss the importance of relationships outside of the third place. One thing that is very important about the relationships at this third place is you don’t have great intimacy. Two people might meet every day at this third place and not know the other’s age or the names of their wives.

People are spending more time in their home and to combat loneliness spend more time on their phones and on the internet. But what of the person who only has relationships in this third place? What of the person who has no one he can invite over to dinner? Perhaps not as widespread a problem, but the lack of personal relationships a third place cannot offer could be just as destructive.

Citations: “Community and Civil Society” – Tönnies “The Great Good Place” – Ray Oldenburg “Bowling Alone” – Robert D. Putnam

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