Monday, 27 June 2011

Émile Durkheim: Division of Labour

Émile Durkheim wrote about a fractionated, unequal world by dividing it along the lines of "human solidarity", its essential moral value is division of labour. In 1893 he published "The Division of Labour in Society", his fundamental statement of the nature of human society and its social development. The Division of Labor in Society is the dissertation of French sociologist Émile Durkheim, written in 1893. It was influential in advancing sociological theories and thought, with ideas which in turn were influenced by Auguste Comte. Durkheim described how social order was maintained in societies based on two very different forms of solidarity (mechanical and organic), and the transition from more "primitive" societies to advanced industrial societies.

Durkheim suggested that in a "primitive" society, mechanical solidarity, with people acting and thinking alike and with a collective or common conscience, is what allows social order to be maintained. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that "offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience." Because social ties were relatively homogeneous and weak throughout society, the law had to be repressive and penal, to respond to offences of the common conscience.

In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex division of labor means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly: social inequality reflects natural inequality. Durkheim argued that moral regulation was needed, as well as economic regulation, to maintain order (or organic solidarity) in society with people able to "compose their differences peaceably". In this type of society, law would be more restitory than penal, seeking to restore rather than punish excessively.

He thought that transition of a society from "primitive" to advanced may bring about major disorder, crisis, and anomie. However, once society has reached the "advanced" stage, it becomes much stronger and is done developing. Unlike Karl Marx, Durkheim did not foresee any different society arising out of the industrial capitalist division of labour. He regards conflict, chaos, and disorder as pathological phenomena to modern society, whereas Marx highlights class conflict.

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