Durkheim – Notes on the Division of Labor by pptfiles


									                               Durkheim – Division of Labor

Main thesis: “a modern society is not held together by the similarities between people
who do basically similar things. Instead it is the division of labor itself that pulls people
together by forcing them to be dependent on each other.” (Riesman, p. 170).

Durkheim invokes a central metaphor from the natural sciences to structure his study of
society. He views the social body as an organism with it‟s various functions analogous to
the specialties of organs. He says society has evolved and become more complex just as
life has evolved and become more complex.

Social complexity increases the specialization of social roles and functions. This prompts
a question: Does specialization increase or decrease the social integration of the “social
body”? (D suspects that it actually increases integration).

D claims that primitive societies have a stronger collective consciousness because they all
do similar things and therefore have more shared understandings, norms, and beliefs.
This primitive form of social organization he calls mechanical solidarity. The increasing
division of labor weakens common social experiences and therefore weakens this
mechanical solidarity (or strong collective consciousness). In its place, modern societies
are held together by the recognition that they need the functions performed by diverse
others. This is a form of collective consciousness, albeit a more abstract and weaker one.
It tends to elevate the individual‟s rights and interests to the central common social value
(i.e., modern capitalist democracies). These societies are characterized by organic

Why doesn‟t an individualistic society spin apart? D believes that “the rise of the division
of labor allows people to complement rather than conflict with one another. Also, the
increased division of labor makes for greater efficiency, with the result that resources
increase, making the competition over them more peaceful.” (Riesman, p. 171). [Note
D‟s implicit economic theory – capitalism will create an expanding pie which will buffer
against destructive class conflict].

Different forms of social integration can be studied by their social “traces” – the “social
fact” known as “the law.” D views the law and moral codes as “social facts” that can be
systematically examined and compared. [Methodological note: D employs his process of
defining social facts by considering all the alternative explanations, eliminating them, and
settling on the remaining „logical‟ answer. He uses counterfactuals to eliminate
alternative hypotheses].

Primitive, mechanical societies develop “repressive laws”, in which the individual is
likely to be punished severely for transgressions – which are taken to be a violation
hurting everyone and in need of punishment to discourage others who might also threaten
the social fabric. More complex, organic societies are characterized by restitutive law,
where offenders must make individual restitution for their crimes to their victims.
Although some repressive laws continue in organic societies in extreme cases, restitutive
law is the norm for most offenses.

Note: D also posits that because crime is found in every society, it is a normal, not a
pathological feature of society.

D explains that “the form of moral solidarity has changed in modern society, not
disappeared. We have a new form of solidarity that allows for more interdependence and
closer, less competitive relations and that produces a new form of law based on
restitituion. “ (Riesman 172).

In DOL, D also uses criticizes potential “abnormal” forms the division of labor can take
in modern societies. He saw three of them:
    1) the anomic division of labor - which is when society celebrates isolated
       individuality too much and refrains from telling people what they should do. In
       these situations, people can more easily become alienated and cut off from one
       another. Rather than alienation, he called it anomie.
    2) the forced division of labor - which is the opposite – when one group, class, or
       race of people are forced into a certain kind of labor and denied the opportunity to
       join other parts of society (see Marx- oppression and exploitation) ; and
    3) the poorly coordinated division of labor - which is when different specializations
       don‟t result in increased interdependence, but rather in segmentation. I this case,
       you continue to have alienated and sometimes conflicting sets of groups within

These abnormal forms of the DOL explained the various crises and tensions that modern
societies of his day were experiencing. D concluded that “modern societies are no longer
held together by shared experiences and common beliefs.” Instead they are held together
by their differences. This system works as long as those differences are allowed to
develop in a way that promotes interdependence. The key to ensuring true social
interdependence is to cultivate a sense of social justice that allows all citizens to have the
opportunity to achieve their highest potential and their most appropriate social function.
(Riesman 174).

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