Emile Durkheim was interested in the transformation of society; he tried to understand and explain social change Essay

Emile Durkheim was interested in the transformation of society; he tried to understand and explain social change. Within Durkeims first book Division of Labour in society 1893 he conceived the divisions of labour within society as the most basic presedenting fact, and that rapid changes within the division of Labour would lead to a disruption of “Social Solidarity”. He argued that changes in the division of Labour would result in the decline of beliefs and values, and changes would occur from tridional stable communities to a more complexed society with different needs and goals.

Despite he concerns he remind optimistic and for this reason was labeled a positive. It could be argued that Durkeims experience of living in France and experiencing the changes within industries and the French revolution enabled him to witness what he perceived to be the breakdown of tridional instions and the decline of systems of authority and morality***. Therefore creating a loss of security for members of the community.

New ideas of indridualms, socialism, democracy and “humanism came to the surface.This could have promoted Durkheim to adopt a collectivist approach to characterize and understand social change. Within Division of Labour Durkeim referred to Social Solidarity as a bond between indriduals within society (Division of Labour 1893).

Within his first work he considered social cohesion in Pre industrial societies he referred to this as “Mechanical Solidarity”. Due to likeness and similarities among indriduals in pre industrial societies they are largely dependent common rituals and routines.Displine is maintained via the family and the small communities and traditions dominate there collective views. Religion within the “Mechanical” society is central in defining morality, and there is a clear notion of what is right and wrong. Within this “Mechanical” society law is repressive; divancance and individualism is perceived as a threat to the communities and must be punished. If one person dies and is not replaced, the society would not be at a loss due all members of “mechanical” society carrying on doing the exact same jobs as before the member died.

The collective conscience of a “Mechanical” society is the same they have the same goals and want the same out come. Durkheim explained that “in societies where this type of mechanical is highly developed the indri dual is not his master… solidarity is literally something which society posses.

” (1972 p139 except from the division of labour in society) Durkiems main interest was what happened as societies began to modernize and become industrial and the labour has to become specialized due to a variety of task needing to be performed.Durkeim referred to this as a “New” form of solidarity he called it “Organic” solidarity resulting from industries expanding and completion for resources and diversity of labour. Individuals no longer have to do the same maindain jobs nor do they have to have the same interest or same out looks and beliefs on life. There is a scope for indepence and for indri dualism and choices. Durkeim believed that with in an “Organic” society indriduals have access to more freedom.

Social cohesion is maintained by the state and by law and there is a decline of religion.The state is ultimately repressive and the law is restitutive. Durkeim explains though that this new found freedom among members of society will not neccarly result in the breakdown or fall of society. This being due to “Organic” solidarity being like organs as in the human body. According to Durkeims view, “Organics solidarity is a system of different organs each of which has a special role and which are themselves formed of differentiated parts” ( Division of Labour 1933 pg 181) He is suggesting here that humans are like organs in the human body and have a key role and function to play within society.Society can not therefore perform to its best ability unless all the “organs” (people) are working in harmony and supporting each other. Indriduals become reliant upon each other therefore are collective conscience in modern “organic” society is collective and increased towards achieving goals. A new form of cohesion has occurred, and the collective conscience which in mechanical is based only on similarities between indri duals and shared morals.

In “organic” society increased to more of a “moral code” a set of complicated beliefs with “moral awareness” a sense of “fairness” “justices” and “responsibilities” to one another.The above being the key elements to the collective conscience steaming from the organic solidarity. Durkeim perceived this as being a complicated set of “moral” exchanges which would take place.

Perhaps it is this positive view that leads him to be critized for being a positivist. It could be argued that “organic” society has problems with the increase division of labour, the increasingness of individualism and following self interest. Creating stress upon “personal freedoms” thus threatens cohesion and the moral unity is declining.Religion in Durkeims eyes offered no answers and the “state” can only provide a temporary answer which many might find frustrating. According to Durkheim industrialization in particular would be the key factor in placing restraints on humans. Durkheim suggested that traditional societies successful used religion to teach indriduals how to control there dreams and goals.

In contrast to modern societies which do not have religion to offer, with a great impact as in pre industrial societies.Therefore a modern society separate people and weakens social bonds as a result of the complexity and the division of labour within the workforce. Durkheim indicated that organic solidarity may dangerously offer encouragement of the indridual and self-interest thus threatening culturism, self-sacrifice and lack of concerns for other members of society. The collective conciseness for organic solidarity may cause confusion and uncertainty among members of society; especial when economic changes are fast and indriduals find themselves not being able to keep up.In turn resulting in indridual death (suicide) as members of society may feel alone and confused. This can be seen in the history the coal industry when the mines where shut down and many indriduals found themselves isolated and alone. In more modern day the same could be said for farmers who could have found themselves alone through the BSE crisis and foot and mouth out break thus resulting in the occupation farming as having the third highest rate of suicide ( Samaritans web page). In addition Crime could become socially acceptably and thus increase.

Family break down may occur more frequently due to no “back up” or support being offered to families, due to members of society seeking and seeing to there own needs first and full most and not the common good. Durkheims concern some might say are evident in the work industry to day. With technology expanding every day indriduals are divided by computer technology, the rapid fast growth of technology, the increasing beaurocracy, and the diversity of skills required in the work force in order to produce goods. It could be said that Members of western society are exposed to more risk of anomie then ever before, dueTo the weakening of social bonds and religion being able to other no answer. The solutions for Durkheim was not reinstating religion and not the state taking more control as dictatorship as that only offers a short term “fix”. The state however could still offer an important part in preventing anomie from occurring.

Through the use of education (hidden national curriculum) indriduals could without knowing be taught ethics and morals; the notions of right and wrong, and the importance of cultural history enabling them to have a feeling of belonging to a society and how to act moral within society.Although we know in mordon society cases such as the James Bulger case where the “socialation” of two boys with in the hidden education system. In essence did not happened and the consequence that Durkeheim feared (the increase of crime did occur.

) with the murder of James Bluger committed by the two boys. Thus suggesting that education can not sole be responsible for making sure anomie (breakdown of common values, norms, and ethics) does not occur. Durkheim offered further solutions other then education, he offered the resurrection of occupational guilds and extension of professional associations which would be self regulated.He proposed that indriduals should be responsibility for there needs and their co-workers by Trade unions. In addition having standards of work, working methods, working materials. BY having the above with a general code of conduct and offering indriduals responsibilities within work place.

The economy would be able to offer its workers a professional code which would protect its members but set standards. Hence forming a greater unity and community and therefore deterring anomie from occurring.


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