Historical Growth of Cities: Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft, Gentrification & the Concentric Zone Model

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Population Growth: Demographic Transition and Malthusian Theories

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:06 Social Change
  • 0:40 Gemeinschaft
  • 1:40 Gesellschaft
  • 2:42 Gentrification
  • 4:08 Concentric Zone Model
  • 6:52 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Valerie Houghton, Ph.D.

Valerie holds a Ph.D. in Health Psychology.

In this lesson, we will discuss the contributions to classifying social change of two social scientists: Ferdinand Tonnies and Ernest W. Burgess. We will study concepts that include gemeinschaft, gesellschaft and gentrification.

Social Change

At the turn of the 20th century, many countries, including the United States, were evolving from predominately rural societies to predominately urban societies. This shift in social organization made many people sit up and take notice of all of the changes that were happening in their world. More importantly, in hopes of understanding the changing times, they attempted to classify the changes. In this lesson, we will focus on the classification of these changes by Ferdinand Tönnies and Ernest W. Burgess.


Tonnies coined the classifications of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft.
Ferdinand Tonnies

Imagine that you live in a pre-industrial community where everyone shares common morals and are bound together by kinship and tradition. But not only that, people also take responsibility for their actions and behaviors because they have a collective sense of loyalty and strive to be the best that they can for their community. For example, in a society where everyone grows crops together, you wouldn't find someone avoiding their duty by taking a nap on a bale of hay. Primarily, this is because shirking responsibility would go against what they feel is right, and secondly, it would not be beneficial for their community.

A German sociologist named Ferdinand Tönnies classified this type of community as gemeinschaft. Gemeinschaft means 'intimate community,' and prior to the industrial revolution, this is how most rural communities were constructed. They shared a sense of togetherness, a feeling of belonging, and a mutual sense of family.


Now imagine that you live in a modern-day, post-industrial society where everyone works to earn a living in hopes of obtaining prosperity. In this society, people also take responsibility for their actions and behaviors, but they do so because it benefits themselves. For example, an employee diligently comes to work every day because it serves their individual purpose of having a salary and benefits. The employees care about the company to the extent that if the company fails, they will be out of a job. So, collectively, all of the employees maintain a work ethic so that they can keep their salary and benefits.

Tönnies classified this type of society as gesellschaft. Gesellschaft means 'society' and refers to groups that are together because of a common goal, such as the employees at a company. According to Tönnies, people in this society have feelings of isolation, being an individual, and relying upon the city to meet all of their needs.


Have you ever heard of a rent-controlled building? This is where an individual rents an apartment, and the landlord is prohibited by law to increase the rent. Rent control laws came into effect because people were migrating to the cities for work, and when they found an apartment that they could afford, the landlord ended up raising their rent. If they couldn't afford their new rent, they were forced to move and look for work elsewhere. When a lot of people are displaced from an area because they can no longer afford to live there, it is known as gentrification. Gentrification is when an influx of higher income residents displaces the lower income residents.

Sociologist Ernest W. Burgess, PhD
Ernest W Burgess

Although New York was one of the first states to have rent control, it is also one of the prime examples of gentrification. Buildings that are not rent controlled have increasingly charged more rent. For example, in 2003, 225,000 New York renters were displaced from their apartments because they could not afford the increase in rent. Not all rent-controlled apartment buildings lack modernization; however, with the increase in rent, improvements to the buildings, such as upgraded security systems and new appliances, can be made. So, unless the landlord is willing to pay for building improvements out of their own pockets, rents will continue to be raised and New York will continue to experience gentrification.

Concentric Zone Model

During the course of the Industrial Revolution, people moved to where the jobs were. In most cases, this meant that people moved from their farms to a city. However, where people lived often depended upon what job they could get, and the income to afford housing came with what job they got. Since the city offered a wide variety of jobs, a wide variety of people came to fill those jobs. Thus, within the cities, social divisions sprang up, some of which were due to economic reasons and others were due to cultural reasons.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account