Critically examine the analysis by Durkheim of the threats to social solidarity posed by industrialisation Essay

Many social thinkers have tried to understand the nature of the changes that have transformed the modern world. Industrialisation, indeed, as the focus and there has been a long time of debates of whether the industrialisation brought benefits to the society or do more harm than good. We actually are all living in a world where industry dominates our lives. We all touched by it and experiencing its consequences. When you read ‘industrialisation’, what would you associate with it?Several sociologists analysed it and drawn up to their own conclusions. Durkheim is one of them. In Durkheim’s views, the social solidarity-maintained when individuals are successfully integrated into social groups and regulated by a set of shared values and customs1-has changed and caused threats to the society since industrialisation stepped on the ‘stage’. Where did social solidarity change? How did this change affect the society? What kind of threats did industrialisation gave to us?People used to live in a society which was based on agriculture and small towns, therefore, people had their common ideas toward a common goal and gradually the whole society in which the basic conditions of its members’ lives are homogeneous.

The social order of this traditional society was mechanical solidarity. ‘Solidarity which comes from likenesses is at its maximum when the collective conscience completely envelops our whole conscience and coincides in all points with it. ‘(Durkheim 1947)2 People within it did the same kind of work, had a common set of beliefs and they practices same customs and rituals.There was a simple division of labour governed individuals’ behaviour, almost no social differences enabled a common life style among public and little individuality existed. For instance, in a tribal society, which is a small community, people work together to achieve a same goal, they have the same job to do and share the goods they got. ‘Rules, norms and values of the society are regulated and have been repeated from one generation to another’ (Lecture 3 notes). 3 For such a society, all the things are seemed on the right track.

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When this solidarity exercises its forces, personality vanishes. Its symbol is conscience collective, which emphasising that mechanical solidarity was both a moral and a rational outlook. It formed a strongly defined moral consensus through church and religion, as it talks about shared values and beliefs that are common to all. From Durkheim’s ideas, it was described as ‘the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society form a determinate system which has its own life; one may call it collective or common conscience’ (Durkheim, 1947)4However, there were potential threats underlying this kind of solidarity. Try to imagine what a thirteen years old pregnant girl who is living in a catholic society where abortion is forbidden could do, does she has to have her baby? What will happen if she do not conform herself in that society and choose to take the abortion? A lack of law-a formal social control-unable to put down the conflicts between individuals when they cannot agree with each other or with the society they are living in.

The society therefore is not perfectly and efficiency enough to meet people’s wants, a change must take place. The industry revolution, usually traced to Britain in the late eighteenth century, which caused a rapid economic change, catalysed the change from traditional society to industrial society. The previous type– mechanical solidarity– implies that individuals resemble each other, whereas this type presumes their difference, there is possibility only if each one has a sphere of action which his peculiar to him; that is, a personality.There are various kind of jobs offered to the public, but each one depends as much more strictly on society as labour is more divided and as much more personal as it is more specialised. We propose to call the solidarity which is due to the division of labour, organic. ‘The lose of a part from a mechanically solidarity has little or no implication for the other parts, but the loss of one part from a whole made up of internally differentiated, functionally interrelated parts can have great consequences for the others.

( Hughes p171)It is a system of different and special functions united by definite relationships, an increased complexity of division of labour leading to a specialisation in occupations in which individuals are now depend on each other to carry out functions which they as themselves cannot perform. Mechanical Solidarity Likenesses Interaction Moral rules powerful Integration similarities concrete collective conscience repressive law Organic Solidarity Mutually Complementary Interaction Moral rules weaker Integration Differences (D of L) more abstract collectiveConscience restitute law Difference between mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity (Red box in library)6 As can be seen from the illustrations above, it clearly points out that there is a limited collective consciousness in organic solidarity. Such a rapid and big change posed by industrialisation cannot avoid making problems to the society, where people need to adjust considerably. Industrial society had made the economy dominant over other social institutions, accelerated social fragmentation and weakened the social bonds tying the individual to society.By consequences, anomie resulted from a lack of clear norms and a lack of moral regulation. Durkheim defined the term of anomie as a condition where social and moral norms are confused, unclear or simply not present. Community in the society became slacken, social integration was threatened, egoism taken place. An acquisitive thirst– everyone has a dream, but they cannot achieve it.

The society therefore said cannot play a role to guide people; it led to deviant behaviour. Suicide-Durkheim’s most famous work– a result from anomie and egoism in the modern world. Too much or too little of integration and regulation caused suicide.To put the matter differently, when the restraints of structural integration in the operation of organic solidarity fail to operate, men become prone to egoistic suicide; when the collective conscience weakens, men fall victim to anomic suicide which his posed by industrialisation. Since industry developed gradually, less integration is required to get more efficient in manufactory, a mass produce led to more division of labour.

Thus, people prone to suicide, because when there was a weaken in social control, desires outstrip attainment, leaving people frustrated and unhappy, the whole society is in a unsettled situation.There are four types of suicide, apart from egotism and anomie, Durkheim also referred to altruistic and fatalistic suicide, which are not posed by industrialisation, but accounted for by overly strong regulation of individuals, such as windows commit ritual suicide of their husband in Hindu normative. In modernity, anomie–a lack of meaning of life and excessive individualism–caused by unfettered market system and unregulated competition is a threat to the solidarity of society.What should people do to limited the harm and therefore have a further develop? The possible solutions suggested by Durkheim are draw up a set of laws; stressed in improving the education system, those agencies will promote moral orders and permeate a sense of mutual social independence to the society. Law is the most important tool to regulate the behaviour of the public, especially in the west countries, where class conflicts are seriously deferred the social development, abolishing inheritance to ensure a fair inequality of reward is necessary.

Another new effective collective consciousness to bear in mind is education. As the secondary socialisational agency, it has a overwhelmingly position, by inculcating a sense of individuality in new members, while simultaneously imparting the knowledge, skills and values which are necessary for participation in modernity,7 gradually, people will hold the same values and customs, regulations are drew up. Last but not the least, occupational associations and professional morality.

They all can help to integrate the society and resolve problems which posed by industrialisation. To sum up, there are a few reasons and suggestions on the subject of the threat Durkheim analysed which were brought by industrialisation. The taken place of old society based on agriculture and simple division of labour by the modern society based on large cities disorders the society for a while. Along with the praise Durkheim received for his work on suicide, he also received much criticisms.

For example: can suicide really be a combination of anomic and egoistic? Christie Davies believes that Durkheim’s theory is approached too simply and Halbwachs(1930) argues that several of the factors that Durkheim isolates as being associated with high rate of suicide are in fact combined in the conditions of modern urban life. 8 As things happened and developed, it can be only analysed, drew up to a theory according to the social facts, and sociologists try their best to predict then leave a guide to the society.It is hard to distinguish which one is right due to there are many other areas of debates and the limited human capability. But we could not deny the contribution of the sociologists and the work they provided which are significant and influencing people’s behaviour a lot. Solutions to the problems of industrial life style are changing following the change of the social facts; therefore there will never have a perfect way to resolve the threats at one time.


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