Sociology 318

October 11 to 23, 2002

Note: In the notes that follow, where references are to Durkheim’s The Division of Labor in Society, two page references are used. The first reference is to the 1984 edition, with the Lewis Coser "Introduction" and the second to the 1933 edition.

A. Introduction

The second classical sociologist that we will study this semester is Emile Durkheim. These introductory notes on Durkheim summarize his approach, describe his life and introduce his writings on division of labour and solidarity

1. Durkheim's Sociology

Durkheim had an evolutionary approach that considered society to progress through various stages from traditional, with a simple division of labour to modern, with a more complex division of labour. Society is like an organism, is that there are different parts that form part of the structure and have functions. He recognized that society was composed of individuals, but society was also more than the sum of these individuals and their behaviour, actions, and thoughts. That is, society had an existence of its own, apart from the individuals in it. Further, societies influence individuals through norms, social facts, sentiments, and social currents. These emerge from human action, but stand apart from the individual and affect the individual.

Adams and Sydie title their chapter on Durkheim as "Society as sui generis" – that is, society as a thing in itself, something of its own kind, or a thing apart. The view of Durkheim that society has an existence of its own, apart from the individuals in it, and is thus a proper object of study. Adams and Sydie note that for Durkheim this means social facts or the "facts of social existence, sui generis" (p. 91) – the facts that cannot be reduced to individual acts, for example, social obligations, social currents such as broad social moods of pessimism or optimism. As Tucker notes, "society is greater than the sum of its parts, for it has a unique reality" (p. 124).

At the same time, Durkheim was concerned with the individual and individual freedom in the face of changes in the social world. He notes:

there is in the consciousness of each one of us two consciousnesses: one that we share in common with our group in its entirety , which is consequently not ourselves, but society living and acting within us; the other that, on the contrary, represents us alone in what is personal and distinctive about us, what makes us an individual. (Division, p. 84/129-30)

That is, Durkheim addressed the issue of how to maintain and enhance the autonomy of the individual and the manner in which individuals could be autonomous within the social order, where "regulation and discipline … was required to maintain social order in modern differentiated types of societies" (Division, p. xiii). Coser notes that "such autonomy could only be attained upon secure foundations in conditions of social solidarity firmly binding its members to each other" (p. xiii). Further, Durkheim argues that "liberty itself is the product of regulation. Far from being a type of antagonist to social action, it is the resultant" (Division, p. 320/386). Further

Yet nothing is more false than the antimony that people have too often wished to establish between the authority of rules and the freedom of the individual. On the contrary, liberty … is itself the product of a set of rules. I can be free only in so far as the other person is prevented from turning to his own benefit that superiority, whether physical, economic or of any other kind, which he possesses, in order to fetter my liberty. (Division, p., xxxiii/3).

The focus of Durkheim’s early analysis was on the question of social order, how does modern society hold together given the individualism and autonomy of each person. Tucker notes that Durkheim attempted to "discover how different societies provide meaning for their members" (p. 124) at the same time as there is social cohesion and solidarity. His book The Division of Labour in Society was an exploration and explanation of these issues, and he finds the answer in the concepts of morality, social solidarity, common consciousness, and systems of law. Because such forces are not always effective at producing solidarity and because of social changes, there can be disruptions in the solidarity and consciousness. Durkheim connects these to what he calls the forced division of labour (eg. slavery) and to periods of confusion, what he calls anomie. In Suicide, the latter is also connected to his analysis of suicide, an exploration of different suicide rates at different places and times in Europe, and an attempt to explain why they differ. While Durkheim’s analysis is generally optimistic, that problems of disruption, conflict, and anomie would be solved through social progress, he did look on the European society of his time as "in crisis" and "experiencing a malaise" (Tucker, p. 123) and was "convinced ot the pathology of present-day acquisitive society" (Division, p. xxii).

Durkheim helped define and establish the field of sociology as an academic discipline. He distinguished sociology from philosophy, psychology, economics, and other social science disciplines by arguing that sociologists should study particular features of collective or group life. This is the study of social facts, things which are external to, and coercive of, individuals. These social facts are features of the group, and cannot be studied apart from the collective, nor can they be derived from the study of individuals. Some examples are religion, urban structures, legal systems, and moral values such as family values. Durkheim argued that these are "features of collective existence … which are not reducible to features of the atoms, individuals, which make it up" (Hadden, p. 87).

Throughout his writings, Durkheim always attempts to find a social or sociological explanation for collective and individual human action and social structures. He shows how the economic feature of the division of labour creates new forms of social solidarity and social relationships. In Suicide, he shows how suicide rates are related to social regulation and integration, and are a result of more than psychological, natural, or religious factors. He argues that economic and legal contracts become acceptable and workable because of social order having been established – "the contract is not sufficient by itself, but is only possible because of the regulation of contracts, which is of social origin" (Division, p. 162/215). In this, Durkheim is a model sociologist, always looking for sociological explanations for features of the social world and digging below the surface to find these.

In conducting sociological analysis, Durkheim argued that it was important to separate analysis from moral values. In the "Preface to the First Edition" he notes that morality is not scientific but it is possible to have a "science of morality" since "moral facts are phenomena like any others." This "it should be possible to observe, describe and classify them, as well as to seek out the laws that explain them." (Division, xxv/32) That is, a science of society is possible, just like the natural sciences – the data can be objectively gathered and studied (Tucker, p. 125), yielding an analysis that can help the sociologist understand society and can be useful in social reform and bettering of society.

Durkheim considers the beliefs, practices, and consciousness of the collective to be coercive on individuals as actors. In this sense, Durkheim has a structuralist approach, considering the social structures to exert a strong influence on social action. Of course, it is individuals who act, but they do not act on a purely individual basis. Rather, they have obligations and duties, and generally act in ways that are strongly influenced by the structures of which they are part. Sociology can be distinguished from psychology in this way – noting that psychologists study individuals and their mental processes, whereas sociologists are concerned with the structures that influence action.

Much of Durkheim’s early analysis appears quite materialist. The progress of society is measured by the division of labour and this division produces new social relationships. That is, different individuals in the division of labour need the work and contributions of others, thus creating obligations and social relationships among parts of society with different experiences and interests. Out of this, systems of morality and social solidarity develop. Coser notes that "different economic infrastructures produced different forms of superstructures" (p. xviii). Coser also notes that in his later works, Durkheim moved in a "somewhat more ‘idealistic’ direction by granting more autonomy to such ideational phenomena as religion" (p. xviii) but much of his early analysis is quite materialist in method.

There are many problems with Durkheim’s approach – views on women and marriage, emphasis on the morality he considered acceptable, overemphasis on structural features, insufficient concern with how the individual relates to these, and an overly optimistic view of the division of labour. However, there is lots to learn from Durkheim – his careful analysis of the social aspects underlying observed human relationships, the emphasis on social order, and the importance of solidarity.

2. Durkheim's Life

Emile Durkheim (1858-1916) was born in Epinal, Lorraine in eastern France, near the border with Germany. He was a contemporary of Weber (1864-1920), but probably never met Weber. Durkheim came from a Jewish background, with his father the last of eight generations of rabbis. He was a superior student at school and University and after several attempts, was able to attend the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. He received an appointment to a position in philosophy at the University of Bordeaux in 1887. He taught education students classes in moral education and began to teach the first course in social science at a French university. In 1902 he was appointed to a professorship at the Sorbonne, where he remained until he died. Durkheim married in 1887 and had a fairly conventional marriage, with two children. His one child, Andre, became a sociologist and formed a group of students who worked with Durkheim and spread his ideas. But World War I broke out in 1914 and Andre and other students were killed in the war. Soon after this, Durkheim became grief stricken and depressed, and he died in 1917.

Durkheim's most famous works are The Division of Labor in Society (1893), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), Suicide (1897) and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). In addition, Durkheim published hundreds of articles and was an influential professor in Paris.

Durkheim is often considered a conservative within the field of sociology, being concerned primarily with order, consensus and solidarity. This approach helped provide a basis for structural functional models of society, and the roots of this can be seen in The Division of Labour. While Durkheim was not a Marxist and looked at the positive side of the division of labour, there is also a radical Durkheim – he was a social reformer, considered conflict important, became involved politically in the Dreyfus affair, and condemned French racism and anti-Semitism. Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French army and, in 1894, was accused of treason by reactionary and anti-semitic elements in the French military. The Dreyfus affair became an important political event in France, with Emile Zola and socialist parties taking up the defense of Dreyfus. Durkheim make speeches and wrote articles on this matter. Eventually Dreyfus was reinstated and the result was to reduce the military influence and separate church from state.

Durkheim might more properly be considered a political liberal, in that he advocated individual freedom, and opposed impediments to the free operation of the division of labour. In contemporary terms, he might be considered a social democrat, in that while he opposed the development of a socialist society, he favoured social reforms. However, Durkheim was not generally involved in politics, and can be considered a more academic sociologist than either Weber or Marx.

In his theoretical model, he advocated the development of "professional groupings" or "occupational groups" as the means by which the interests of special groups could be promoted and furthered. For Durkheim, these would promote more than just their own interests, the general interests of the society as a whole, creating solidarity in a society that had developed a complex division of labour. In advocating this, he comes close to some versions of pluralism. "Preface to the Second Edition" of Division contains an extended discussion of these groups.

In terms of the development of the field of sociology, Durkheim is especially important. He was the first to offer courses in sociology in French universities, at a time when sociology was not well known or favoured. His writings are important within the field of sociology, in that several of them are basic works that sociology students today are expected to read and understand. Much of the manner in which sociology as an academic discipline is carried on follows Durkheim's suggestions and approach. French sociology, in particular, follows Durkheim, and some of Durkheim's books are likely to serve as texts in French sociology. Much American sociology is also heavily influenced by Durkheim. In recent years, there has again been much attention paid to his writings.

B. The Division of Labor in Society

In The Division of Labor in Society Durkheim attempts to determine what the basis of social solidarity is in society and how this has changed over time. This was Durkheim’s first major work – a byproduct of his doctoral dissertation – so it does not address all the issues that might be considered important. However, it presents Durkheim's basic views and methodological approach. While this book may seem incomplete or inadequate today, it forms a major part of Durkheim’s sociology and demonstrates how a social explanation helps understand the way that social structure and organization is connected to an economic feature such as the division of labour.

Durkheim’s basic argument is that there are two types of social solidarity, mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. The former characterizes traditional societies with a limited division of labour. The latter characterizes societies with a highly developed division of labour, and it is this division of labour itself which creates organic solidarity. In both types of societies, individuals for the most part "interact in accordance with their obligations to others and to society as a whole. In doing so, each person also receives some recognition of his or her own rights and contributions within the collectivity. Social morality in this sense is ‘strictly necessary’ for solidarity between people to occur; without morality, ‘societies cannot exist.’" (Grabb, p. 79).

According to Giddens (p. 73), the main substantive problem for Durkheim stems from "an apparent moral ambiguity concerning the relationship between the individual and society in the contemporary world." On the one hand, with specialization and the highly developed division of labour, individuals develop their own consciousness, and are encouraged in this specialization. On the other hand, there are also moral ideas encouraging people to be well rounded, of service to society as a whole. These two seem contradictory, and Durkheim is concerned with finding the historical and sociological roots of each of these, along with how these two seemingly contradictory moral guidelines are reconciled in modern society.

This book can also be read with a view to illuminating Durkheim's methods. In the first chapter, he outlines his method, and the theory which could be falsified. By looking at morality, he is not pursuing a philosophical course, mainly in the realm of ideas. Durkheim is critical of "moral philosophers [who] begin either from some a priori postulate about the essential characteristics of human nature, or from propositions taken from psychology, and thence proceed by deduction to work out a scheme of ethics." (Giddens, p. 72). Durkheim notes that certain theories

are scientific in name only. In fact they erect a structure, but fail to observe. They see in morality not a set of acquired facts which must be studied, but a kind of legislation … Morality as really practiced by men is then considered as a mere bundle of habits and prejudices which ar of value only if they confrom with the doctrine being put forward. (Division, xxviii/35)

Rather, Durkheim attempts to determine the roots of morality by studying society, and changes in society. These forms of morality are social facts, data about these can be obtained, and causes discovered from these social facts. The data used by Durkheim are observable, empirical forms of data in the form of laws, institutions (legal and other), norms and behaviour. In Divison, Durkheim adopts a non-quantitative approach, but in Suicide his approach is more quantitative.

Durkheim provides some historical analysis, to show how the division of labour developed as population grew and became more dense. From this, he examines the connections between the expansion in the division of labour and how this forms the basis for a new form of solidarity. He is generally optimistic concerning the development of organic solidarity as a new system of morality for a society with a highly developed division of labour. But at the conclusion of Division, he argues that there are several abnormal forms for the division of labour, primarily the anomic and forced division of labour.

The following notes contain a summary and discussion of Durkheim’s arguments along with various issues raised in Division.

1. Methodological issues

a. Division of labour

Division of labour is a concept that has been used in many ways in different contexts. In its most general form it refers to the different types of work and labour performed by individuals. These are the activities and tasks that differ among people as they exercise their labour in producing useful goods and services for themselves or others. The concept of division of labour means that different labourers regularly perform different tasks – if all people did the same work, there would not be a division of labour. Sociologists have often referred to these different types of work activity as tasks, roles, specializations, or occupations. Weber notes the importance of the calling to a particular type of work or occupation as a characteristic of Protestantism, and considers this a crucial aspect of the emergence of a capitalistic spirit.

As Coser notes (Division, pp. ix-x), most societies have had some form of division of labour. In early societies, this may have been a division only by age, and a division of labour by sex also appears to have developed in many societies at very early stages. Societies such as Egyptian, Roman, or Greek developed more complex forms of division of labour, both mental and manual. However, it was with the transition from medieval or feudal society to capitalist, industrial society that the division of labour began to expand in a more systematic fashion. New types of work, forms of industrial production, forms of trade, finance and marketing all developed, with a continued development of the division of labour occurring.

Earlier writers made note of some aspects of the division of labour, but it was Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, who developed a theory of the division of labour and its importance in creating wealth. For Smith, labour could be more productive if specialization occurred, so that each worker performed a specific task. Smith argued that an expansion of markets and trade created the possibilities for more production and as production could expand through development of the division of labour. The example he used was a pin factory and the pin reappears in Division, although this time negatively in a comment of Jean-Baptiste Say who notes that specialization "demeans the dignity of his nature" (Division, p. 5/43). While Smith was also concerned with the moral foundations of society, his primary concern was to explain the economic advantages that could accrue to society by developing the division of labour.

In addition to the division of tasks in jobs, Durkheim notes that "the division of labour is not peculiar to economic life" (Division, p. 2/40). Here he notes that the arts, science, politics, administration, education, and academic life have all "become fragmented into a host of special disciplines, each having its purpose, method and ethos" (Division, p. 2/40). From this, Durkheim asks how this affects the moral constitution of individuals and society. That is, should people become specialized or well rounded and what is the relationship of the division of labour to social order (Division, p. 3/41).

On p. 5/43, Durkheim notes some criticisms of the division of labour, although he does not mention the Marxian critique that alienation and dehumanization is associated with this development. He does mention de Tocqueville and others who view some of the developments of the division of labour as demeaning to artisans. But Durkheim argues that before making judgments of this sort, it is necessary to examine the facts, the morality associated with these, and the way that these relate to society as a whole. For Durkheim this is a scientific approach.

From this, he sets the stage for the book, noting that there are three purposes (Division, p. 6/45):

Note on the division of labour in Marxian analysis

One key to the different forms of social organization is the division of labour that is characteristic of each time and place. Broadly speaking, Marx defines

the social division of labour as 'the totality of heterogeneous forms of useful labour, which differ in order, genus, species and variety.' (Bottomore, Dictionary, p. 131).

All the different types of useful labour, and the way this useful labour is exercised constitute the social division of labour. Related to this, there are two forms of the division of labour. (These notes are based on Bottomore, Dictionary, p. 132).

i. Social division of labour. The social division of labour refers to the many different types of work that are carried out in different societies, places, and forms of organization. For example, sheep farming in one area, grain production in another, and industry in a third. Each of these may also be organized quite differently. This form of the division of labour could also include different occupations such as shopkeepers, artisans, farmers, etc. as long as each maintains a certain degree of control over the whole process of production and the manner in which it is carried out. Another way in which the social division of labour develops is by age and sex. The social division of labour implies some sort of redistribution of produce, but it does not necessarily imply exchange in a market sense. While exchange may develop, it need not dominate the social division of labour. That is, there could be an extensive social division which is regulated by religion, tradition, etc. rather than by strictly economic and market considerations. The caste system of India is a highly developed division of labour that is governed by tradition, religion, politics and patriarchy.

ii. Detail division of labour. A detail division of labour develops within capitalism that divides among workers the various tasks necessary to produce objects. Each worker performs one small part of the whole production process, with the operations being carried out at the same time or consecutively. These may be done in different locations, with transportation between locations, or they may be carried out in one location such as a factory. Mental and manual labour are usually separated in such systems, and control over the process is concentrated in the hands of managers or capitalists, with workers having little control over the production process or over what products are produced. The labour of different workers becomes interchangeable and alienation of labour develops.

The different forms of the division of labour affect or determine the relations of individuals to each other with reference to the materials used, the instruments used (tools, equipment, buildings, etc.) and the products of labour. (Giddens, p. 24) With only the social division, people may meet as equal producers or unequal producers with inequality embedded in tradition (caste system), but exchange relationships would not necessarily dominate these. With the detail division of labour, the social relationships become those of dominated and dominant, managers and managed, mental and manual workers, etc. and all of these relationships tend to become dominated by market relationships. While alienation of labour can occur with the social division, it is in the detail division of labour that leads to the developments Marx describes in the Manuscripts.

Developments in the division of labour occur as a result of trade, technological change, new discoveries, class struggles, etc. As capitalism develops out of the feudal mode of production, both divisions of labour expand and are associated with the growth of alienation, private property, exchange and money.

For the most part, Durkheim does not distinguish clearly between these two forms of the division of labour but includes both in his analysis.

b. Function

In Chapter I, Durkheim addresses the issue of function. Since he is concerned with determining the function of the division of labour and the social needs associated with it, he considers it necessary to clarify what he means by function. This issue is of some importance in sociology since functionalism as a theoretical approach became widely adopted by later sociologists. At the same time, the functionalist approach has been subject to severe criticism from critical, interpretive, and feminist sociologists.

A functionalist analysis generally considers society or system as a whole, examining how different parts of the society or system contribute to the operation of the whole. The tendency is to look at parts as each having a function that is required for maintaining or operating the system. For the most part, sociologists who adopt a functional approach consider the parts to be complementary and necessary, each doing the tasks required of them, so the system is in a normal or equilibrium state. For example, when institutions and structures such as the economy and markets, government, education, health, and law each operate smoothly and in tandem with each other, each carrying out their function, this is functional for the society as a whole. Within a middle class family, so long as each member carries out their tasks and operates within the values and rules of that family, so that the family maintains its position and avoids severe conflicts, all of the parts are functional for the family.

Apart from a generally conservative approach that tends to be non-critical of society or system, there appear to be two major problems for a functionalist approach. (See Turner, chapter 2).

One is the problem of tautology, where the function is attributed to the part by definition. That is, if a functionalist considers some part of a system to be necessary or functional for the system, and this need is being met, and one part of the system performs these activities, then the part may be considered functional for the system. But what is the criterion for deciding whether the part and its activity is really necessary? The analyst may be attributing system need to the actual role that the part performs when, in fact, there may not be such a need. This problem can be dealt with if there is an independent criterion and procedure for determining what the needs of the system are and how they might be met. In practice, it may be difficult to develop an independent method to determine needs, so that observed activities of the parts of the system are viewed as functional for that system.

For example, functionalist stratification theorists sometimes consider stratification as a necessary feature of societies. In this approach, stratification into upper, middle, and lower status or class can serve purposes such as motivation and reward, thus maintaining and developing the society. One of the arguments for the necessarity of stratification is that all or most societies have stratification, so it is a necessary feature for societies to survive and develop. But this makes stratification true by definition – there is no independent criterion about what is necessary for the society to maintain itself and the existing classes or status groups are considered to be meeting system needs.

While Durkheim does not address this specific issue, as you read Division consider whether he does in fact slip into a tautological explanation for organic solidarity. There are several examples of places where Durkheim mentions this, for example on p. 24/64 he argues that it is "a self-evident truth" that social solidarity and the division of labour are connected.

A second possible problem for the functionalist, and one that Durkheim addresses at the beginning of chapter 1 of Division, is the issue of teleology. This is the problem of saying that a specific outcome called forth an activity that caused that outcome. In philosophy, this is the doctrine that "all of nature, or at least intentional agents, are goal-oriented or functionally organized" (Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, p. 791). The problem is that the observed function performed by an institution may be regarded as also being the cause of that institution. For example, we frequently say that one function of a specific family structure is that it assists in maintaining social order. That may be one aspect of what this specific family structure does, but whether that is the cause of these family structures and values is another issue. In order to avoid teleological reasoning, it is necessary to trace through the manner in which the need for social order leads to particular family structures. In fact, it appears that there is a wide variety of family and household arrangements, each of which is consistent with social order, so it would be difficult to claim that a particular set of family structures or values are required for social order. Again, consider whether Durkheim avoids this teleological trap.

Durkheim begins chapter 1 of Division by noting that there are two different senses for the the word function (p. 11/ 49). These are as follows:

Thus Durkheim investigates the division of labour to see what needs it meets within society. In the next paragraph though, he takes care to avoid the teleological problem. He argues that cause must be distinguished from function, that is, the cause of the division of labour may not be the same as the need it meets or the function it takes on, once established. For this reason, he rejects the idea of aim, purpose, or goal for the division of labour, "because that would suppose that the division of labour exists for the sake of results that we shall determine" (p. 11/49). Rather, he prefers to talk of role or function for the division of labour, recognizing that this function may not have been any part of the cause of its emergence. He notes that it is possible that it was intended but it is just as possible that the function emerged "from some adjustment after the event" (p. 11/49). By clearly separating the cause and the function of the division of labour, Durkheim hopes to be able to conduct a scientific analysis. This will both trace the origins of the division of labour through historical analysis (book two), and show the functions accomplished by the division of labour (book one). He finds the origins in the volume and density of population and social relationships. He argues that the function is to create social integration through organic solidarity.

c. Other methodological issues

In chapter 1, Durkheim raises other methodological considerations. While he later wrote a whole book on methodology, his methodological approach was well organized and developed at the time he wrote Division. A good introduction to Durkheim’s methodology can thus be obtained by examining the methods he used in this book.

i. Scientific. Durkheim always attempts to conduct a scientific analysis. He notes that while some say that science, society, and art assume a moral character (Division, p. 12/52), and while they each "have a reason for their existence" (Division, p. 12/53), they "lie outside the real of ethics" (Division, p. 13/53). In his analysis, Durkheim attempts to avoid this by adopting a more objective analysis of social facts.

Later in this chapter though, Durkheim accepts some of the biological theories of Dr. Lebon (Division, p. 21/60) which purported to show that "the average size of those of female Parisians places them among the smallest skulls observed." Here he accepts bogus scientific findings based on biology, demonstrating that his sociological imagination often failed him when it came to analyzing male/female relationships and issues (Sydie).

ii. Comparison. Durkheim notes that it is self evident that the division of labour is associated with social solidarity (Division, p. 24/64), thus suggesting that it would be tautological to claim this. What is necessary is to show the degree to which the solidarity it produces contributes to the integration of society" (Division, p. 24/64) and whether it is necessary for this cohesion or is y a minor contributor. The method he uses is to examine solidarity in different societies, classify the different types of solidarity, and examine the connection of the division of labour to each type. In using this comparative approach, he appears to have found a way to show that the relationship between division of labour and solidarity can differ in different societies, possibly avoiding the teleological problem.

iii. Visible effects. One other methodological issue Durkheim addresses is whether to study observed effects or penetrate to the "inner state from which solidarity derives" (Division, p. 26/66). Durkheim argues that science must work from observed effects and, from those and changes in those and connections with other effects, obtain results. For the most part it is the quantitative aspects of these that are observed. He argues that the study of social solidarity should adopt the same approach. Rather than delve into a study of deep structures that may underly observed phenomena, Durkheim argues that social science should study the most objective and quantifiable aspects of what is observed. This suggests a positivist method – examining quantifiable, observable effects and building an explanation on these – rather than building an exploration of underlying structures and their effects. While a Marxist would attempt the latter, the proof of the value of any approach is in the outcome, and Durkheim’s arguments and analysis in Division provide a convincing explanation of some aspects of the modern social world.

2. Difference and solidarity

In chapter 1, Durkheim addresses the issue of the function of the division of labour. In section I he discusses what he means by function and distinguishes cause and function. He argues that the effects of the division of labour are well known and clear in that "it increases the productive capacity and skill of the workman, it is the necessary condition for the intellectual and material development of societies" and in fact "the source of civilisation" (Division, 12/50). But this tends to be primarily an economic effect and Durkheim asks whether the division of labour has other functions. He rejects the view that it has a moral or ethical function, arguing that science, industry, art, and civilization are outside the moral sphere – they may be necessary or desirable but are not in themselves moral or ethical.

In section II of chapter I, Durkheim examines issues of likeness and difference, arguing that "dissimilarity, just like resemblance, can be a cause of mutual attraction" (Division, 16/55). He examines friendships and argues that there is a moral effect produced by the division of labour in that "its true function is to create between two or more people a feeling of solidarity" (Division, 17/56). He constructs a similar argument with respect to marital relations, where he gets sidetracked into a discussion of changes in activities and functions of male and female. He concludes that there is conjugal solidarity beyond sexual relationships constituting "the establishment of a social and moral order … instead of developing separately, they concert their efforts" (Division, 21/61).

From this he generalizes the effects of difference and the division of labour and argues that while exchange implies mutual dependence between incomplete bodies, this "is only the superficial expression of an internal and deeper condition" (Division, 22/61). Exchange is discontinuous and sporadic but mutual dependence and images of this dependence are continuous and inseparable and become "an integral, permanent part of our consciousness to such a degree that we can no longer do without it" (Division, 22/61-2). These images of others are united with our own but, in the case of the division of labour "they remain outside each other and are linked only because they are distinct (Division, 22/62).

Note that Durkheim considers small groups and social interaction in these two examples. While his approach is primarily at the structural and large group or societal level, here he discusses small group interaction in a manner similar to that of Simmel (small group) and Mead (images of others and representations of that). On the other hand, he does not expand on this form of analysis, using the small group analysis primarily as a means of building and illustrating his argument.

Durkheim then considers the possibility that such differences and their effects could be crucial in society as a whole, providing a condition for creating wealth but also for "the cohesion of societies (Division, 23/63). While the discussion in this section is suggestive of the importance of the division of labour, Durkheim considers it necessary to provide more proof. In order to do this, he argues that he has to find a means of measuring solidarity – even though it is a social fact, it is not directly observable or quantifiable. This leads him to section III of chapter I, where he argues that law constitutes an observable index of forms and strength of solidarity.

In his discussion, Durkheim uses various terms such as solidarity, cohesion, and integration. At times he uses them interchangeably, but on p. 24/64 he appears to distinguish these by saying

we must determine the degree to which the solidarity it produces contributes generally to the integration of society. Only then shall we learn to what extent it is necessary, whether it is an essential factor in social cohesion, or whether, on the contrary, it is only an ancillary and secondary condition for it. (Division, 24/64)

Part of the problem may be in the word "solidarity" which in French (solidarité) appears to mean mutual dependence or interdependence, whereas in English it may imply more of a unity. Perhaps Durkheim means not so much a unity as a form of social organization and mutual dependence that exists in any society that maintains itself over time and in which conflict and disorganization is not too great. He appears to be arguing something like this when he states that the division of labour and social solidarity exist together and it is "self-evident … [that] the division of labour … engenders solidarity" (Division, 24/64). Integration and cohesion appear to represent somewhat different concepts, perhaps implying a more active and stronger force, whereas solidarity is more a state of mutual dependence and social organization.

Also note in the above quote that Durkheim considers it necessary to prove that the division of labour produces cohesion and integration. While he states as a tautology that solidarity is one function of the division of labour, it is not necessarily the case that this is a prime or important function of the division of labour. That is, a proof of this is required.

Regardless of meaning, Durkheim investigates the basis for and patterns of social solidarity. These are structural, at the level of the large group or society, and impose constraints and regulation on human social action, although they also provide the possibility of freedom and individuality in the case of organic solidarity. These involve "moral obligations on the individual, toward a wider society" with this morality "not so much an inner personal commitment; rather, an externally generated force" (Holton, p. 32).


3. Systems of law as index to solidarity

In the final section of chapter 1, Durkheim outlines the reason that he looks at systems of law as a means of conducting his analysis. Since solidarity "is a moral phenomenon which by itself is not amenable to exact observation and especially not to measurement" a visible index or symbol must be found, and he finds this in systems of law (Division, p. 24/64). Solidarity can manifest itself in different indexes, eg. "ensures frequent contacts between them, and multiplies the opportunities available to them to enter into mutual relationships" (Division, p. 24-25/64) and it might be worthwhile to consider developing other indexes. What would some of these be?

The advantage of law is that it is a clear expression of solidarity, one that has a definite form to it, its effects and procedures can be observed, has a stability across society and time, and is generally consistent with custom. While it might become out of phase with custom, conflicts occur and either custom or law adjusts. As a result,

Since law reproduces the main forms of social solidarity, we have only to classify the different types of law in order to investigate which types of social solidarity correspond. to them. (Division, p. 28/68)

On the last page of chapter 1, Durkheim outlines the two main systems of law that he finds, repressive and restorative. The first is associated with penal law and repressive sanctions and the latter is associated with "civil law, commercial law, procedural law, administrative and constitutional law" which are concerned with "restoring the previous state of affairs" (Division, p. 29/69).

4. Mechanical solidarity

a. Similarity or likeness

Early societies tended to be small scale and relatively simple, with little division of labour or only a simple division of labour by age and sex. In this type of society, people were very similar to each other, and Durkheim titles chapter II "Mechanical solidarity, Solidarity by Similarities." In this type of society, each person carried out similar types of tasks and were engaged in common activities. Work and goods produced may have been shared and where there was a division of labour, it might have been by age only. Durkheim argues that these societies were characterized by likeness and similarity, in which the members of the society share the same values, based on common tasks, life situations, and experiences.

Durkheim appears to take this situation of likeness for granted, and does not describe this in great detail in chapter II, concentrating on common consciousness and penal law. In chapter IV, he notes that "the more primitive societies are, the more resemblances there are between the individuals from which they have been formed" (Division, 88/133). Here he refers to physical similarities among members of such societies, but then extends this to social similarities and differences. In chapter VI, Durkheim discusses ideal types of societies with similarities and differences. He is aware of individual variation but argues that there were primordial societies where resemblances dominated. As an example of this he uses the Iroquois of North America, where there was equality between males and females and all adults, and all were linked in some form of kinship (Division, 127/175). He refers to these early forms as horde and clan, with the clan being united by some form of common ancestry, a factor in keeping them united with each other. In the latter cases, the form of society was segmentary, in that there were a number of clans, different from each other, but with members of any one clan being similar to other members of that clan. This produced "collective revenge, collective responsibility and, as soon as individual property made an appearance, mutual heredity" (Division, 127/175).

b. Common or collective consciousness

Durkheim argues that within societies characterized by likeness there is a common consciousness which is general through the society and characterizes the consciousness of each member of society. In this form of society there are common sentiments (i) "shared by most average individuals in the same society" (Division, 34/74), (ii) they are deeply written on the consciousness of everyone (Division, 37/77), (iii) they are fairly clear, precise, and determinate (Division, 38/79), and (iv) "reactions are very definite and in consequence very uniform" (Division, 59/103). He argues that in these societies there is a form of social cohesion whereby each individual consciousness conforms to a common type and "society insists upon its citizens displaying all these basic resemblances because it is a condition for its own cohesion" (Division, 61/105-6). Further, members of such a society are attracted by resemblances but "they are also linked to what is the condition of their existence of this collective type, that is, to the society that they form by coming together" (Division, 60/105). In this society the collective and individual consciousnesses are linked solidly together, with motives and actions closely connected, so the same effects are produced everywhere, because they have the same origin and basis. "All wills spontaneously move as one in the same direction" (Division, 61/106).

The definition Durkheim gives for collective or common consciousness is:

The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or common consciousness. … it is diffused over society as a whole, but nonetheless possesses specific characteristics that make it a distinctive reality. … Individuals pass on but it abides. (Division, 38-9/79)

This common consciousness is widespread in these societies and links people to each other, is passed on from one generation to another, and links together members of successive generations. Although it appears in individuals, it is not individual consciousness and is something separate from it.

In later chapters, Durkheim argues that this common consciousness declines, although he does not say it completely disappears. Rather, it becomes less important as there is greater development and proponderance of individual consciousness. In modern society "it is the division of labour that is increasingly fulfilling the role that once fell to the common consciousness" (Division, 123/173).

c. Penal or repressive law

Durkheim argues that in such societies, the system or practice of law and sanctions are repressive or penal. If there is a crime in this society, then this crime stands as an offense against all, because it is an offense to the common morality, the shared system of values that exists. Most people feel the offense, and regardless of how serious it is, severe punishment is likely to be meted out for it. Following the definition of common consciousness above, Durkheim notes that in such a society "an act is criminal when it offends the strong, well-defined states of the collective consciousness" (Division, 39/80). That is, an act that offends the feelings and sentiments of the members of such a society is regarded as a threat to the common consciousness and solidarity of this society, and thus is considered by members of that society to be criminal.

We should not say that an act offends the common consciousness because it is criminal, but that it is criminal because it offends that consciousness. We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it" (Division, 40/81).

Commenting on this part of Durkheim’s analysis, Zeitlin notes that

Anything that offends the common conscience threatens the solidarity – the very existence of society. An offense left unpunished weakens to that degree the social unity. Punishment therefore serves the important function of restoring and reconstituting social unity. (p. 264)

This form of penal law is concerned with sanctions only, and there is no mention of obligations. Punishment is severe, perhaps death or dismemberment, and may extend to members of the family of the person being punished. Moral obligation and duty is not stated in the punishment, because this is generally understood. Rather the punishment is given, and that is the completion of the penalty – the offense against society has been expiated or completed and through the punishment meted out, members of the society can again feel whole and are assured that there is solidarity and unity in social organization.

Crime. Durkheim begins by examining the meaning of repressive or penal law and, more specifically, the meaning of crime. He argues that penal law is invoked and practiced when there is a crime – that is, some offense that leads the perpetrator to be punished. This could be any offense – murder, theft, breaking a taboo, eating the wrong type of meat, or not following the correct ritual – any violation of rules that lead members of society punish the violator. Durkheim notes that there is a wide variation to such crimes, they differ across societies, punishment may not be in proportion to the seeming severity of the offense, and punishment may extend "well beyond the guilty person and strikes even the innocent – his wife, children, or neighbours, etc." (Division, 44/86). What characterizes all of these acts as crimes is that "they comprise acts universally condemned by the members of each society" (Division, 33-4/73) and "an act is criminal when it offends the strong, well-defined states of the collective consciousness" (Division, 39/80). This is a consciousness common to all, so the offense is an offense against all members of society; since it is felt by all, it is a crime against society.

Characteristics. Penal law has a number of characteristics, some of which become important when contrasting with restorative law:

Collectivity. Repressive law is an "embodiment of the collectivity" (Division, 43/84) and as a result is a strong form of law. That is, it derives its power from its general acceptance by all and the participation of all in it. Where government or some powerful authority exercises forms of punishment, these authorities have this power on behalf of the members of society, and "it is from these latter sentiments that it receives the whole power allowing it to create crimes and offences" and "the scope of the action that governmental authority exerts … depend on the power it possesses" (Division, 43/84).

Another aspect of this is that the sentiments about repression of crime are of collective origin, whether exercised by individuals, groups, or government. These sentiments are strong because of their universality, permanence over times, strength, and intensity (Division, 56/100). Vengeance results not so much because the individual is offended but because the society as a whole is. As a result, punishment is integrative for members of society, so that members are drawn together – common indignation and concentrated feelings result.

d. Mechanical solidarity

For Durkheim, the reaction of members of such a society demonstrates the existence of a form of social solidarity that he calls mechanical solidarity. He defines this as follows.

This gives rise to a solidarity sui generis which, deriving from resemblances, binds the individual directly to society. … It does not consist merely in a general, indeterminate attachment of the individual to the group, but is also one that concerts their detailed action. … they produce everywhere the same effects. Consequently, whenever they are brought into play all wills spontaneously move as one in the same direction. (Division, 61/106).

While there are two forms of consciousness in each member of society, the common or collective consciousness tends to dominate in these societies, and especially when collective ends are pursued. In particular, common responses to offenses against rules, leading to punishment and sanctions, demonstrate this form of solidarity and provide proof of it. For the collective body, punishment is positive in that it heals wounds to the body and provides for expiation, that is, it must play itself out until the offense is removed from the collective consciousness.

Durkheim explains his rationale for selecting the term "mechanical solidarity" in chapter III. He does not mean this to be artificial or machine like in a sense of being manufactured and technological. Rather, he adopts this term because it is similar to the inorganic, like parts or molecules in inorganic matter, which cannot move of their own accord. For Durkheim, individual consciousness in this form is dependent on collective or common consciousness so that the individual "does not belong to himself; he is literally a thing at the disposal of society" (Division, 84-5/130).

While there may be variation in all these, and weaker or other forces at work in society, where there is similarity, this is associated with common or collective consciousness, and repressive or penal law as an expression of and means of maintaining mechanical social solidarity in such a society.

Some of the following quotes from The Division of Labor in Society show the nature of Durkheim's argument: In the quotes, note that the act is criminal because the act offends the collective conscience. For Durkheim, the collective consciousness reaches all parts of society, has a distinct reality and is independent of individual conditions, and is passed on from one generation to the next. In this, it differs from particular or individual consciences.

the only feature common to all crimes is that … they comprise acts universally condemned by members of each society. (Division, p. 33-4/73).

Referring to repressive or penal forms of punishment in early society, Durkheim notes that it may extend to:

even the innocent – his wife, children or neighbours, etc. This is because the passionate that lies at the heart of punishment dies only when it is spent. Thus if, after having destroyed the one who was its most immediate cause, some stength of feeling still remains, quite automatically it reaches out further. (Division, p. 44/86).

In contrast, modern legal codes are quite different, with punishment being less important. Instead, society is concerned with restoration of the original situation, rather than exacting revenge on the offender. "Nowadays, however, it is said that punishment has changed in nature. Society no longer punishes to avenge, but to defend itself." (Division, p. 44/86).

This distinction between different types of legal codes and punishment may provide a means of noting what mechanical solidarity means.

They must re-enforce themselves by mutual assurances that they are always agreed. The only means for this is action in common. In short, since it is the common conscience which is attacked, it must be that which resists, and accordingly the resistance must be collective. (Division, p. 103).

(Thus, the analysis of punishment confirms our definition of crime. We began by establishing inductively that crime consisted essentially in an act contrary to strong and defined states of the common conscience. We have just seen that all the qualities of punishment ultimately derive from this nature of crime. That is because the rules that it sanctions express the most essential social likeness.)

Thus we see what type of solidarity penal law symbolizes. ... not only are all the members of the group individually attracted to one another because they resemble one another, but also because they are joined to what is the condition of existence of this collective type. ... They will as they will themselves, hold to it durably and for prosperity, because, without it, a great part of their psychic lives would function poorly. (Division, p. 105).

These quotes generally show how the collective consciousness works in societies without a highly developed division of labour. The primary function of punishment, therefore, is to protect and reaffirm the conscience collective in the face of acts which question its sanctity. In order to carry this out, such societies develop forms of repressive or penal law.

While the common values in these societies can change over time, this process of change is generally quite slow, so that these values are generally appropriate for the historical period in question. At other times, the laws may be inappropriate, and might be maintained only through force. However, Durkheim generally considers this to be an exceptional circumstance, and one that is overcome.

e. Religion – see pages 49, 56, 119, 130

Durkheim refers to religion in several places when describing mechanical solidary and penal law. He argues that the origin of penal law is in religion and sentiments of collective origin have a religious overtone.

Durkheim argued that much penal law was religious in origin and, as evidence he cites the examples from India, Judaea, Rome, and Egypt (Division, 49/). One reason for this is that religion is social, something that emerges in a social group or society and is devoted to pursuit of ends that are not entirely individual. In addition, religious ideals and values tend to constrain the individual, or at least suggest or require actions that guide the individual. Since religion is social, and the rules that are part of religion are developed by society as a whole, offence against them affects all members of the society. As a result, religious teachings and sanctions are essentially penal in nature.

Further, even when penal law is no longer strictly religious, its origin and nature is reflective of religious sentiments, that is, the collective origins of this law have a religious overtone. Such sentiments concern "morality or duty" and violation of these "appear as attacks upon something which is transcendent, whether this is a being or concept" (Division, 56/).

Given these arguments, it is no surprise that Durkheim attempts to define religion. While he recognizes that such would require a comparative, scientific approach (Division, 118/), he does provide a preliminary definition as "the set of beliefs and sentiments of every kind concerning men’s links with a being or beings whose nature he regards as superior to his own." Given his concern with systems of morality, conduct, and laws, he immediately recognizes this definition as inadequate since there is a wide variety of teachings concerning conduct associated with religion, some of which have no apparent relationship to a superior being. In his later writings, Durkheim defines religion as a collective thing:

A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them. (Elementary Forms, p. 62).

However, he developed this definition only after many years of further study of the sociology of religious ideas and institutions. The roots of the definition can be seen in Division, since Durkheim argues there that religion is social, involves rules, and is external to the individual. Durkheim notes that "all religious ideas and sentiments … are common to a certain number of individuals living together. Moreover, their average intensity is fairly high" (Division, 119/). Further, when strong sentiments are held by a collectivity, they assume "a religious character" (Division, 119/).

Where there is mechanical solidarity, "religion pervades the whole of social life .. because social life is made up almost entirely of common beliefs and practices that draw from their unanimous acceptance a very special kind of intensity" (Division, 130/). Interestingly, Durkheim associates some of these feelings and actions as communistic, that is collective possession and use of property, sharing and using things in common with other members of the society. This is a result of "that social cohesion that swallows up the individual within the group, the part into the whole" (Division, 130/) where the collective consciousness dominates and there is little or no individual consciousness.

5. Organic Solidarity

a. Introduction

With the development of the division of labour, the collective consciousness begins to decline. Each individual begins to have a separate set of tasks that he or she performs. For each individual, these different situations are associated with different experiences, leading toward individual distinctiveness. Common experiences and situation creating a collective consciousness is disturbed, and individuals develop a personal or individual consciousness.

As the development of the division of labour erodes the collective consciousness, it also creates a new form of solidarity. This is organic solidarity, characterized by dependence of individuals on each other within the division of labour and by a type of cooperation. This creates

functional interdependence in the division of labour. ... Organic solidarity ... presupposes not identity but difference between individuals in their beliefs and actions. The growth of organic solidarity and the expansion of the division of labour are hence associated with increasing individualism. (Giddens, p. 77).

While the common consciousness does not completely disappear, it becomes relatively less important, replaced by individual consciousness and mutual interdependence. The division of labour comes to replace solidarity through likeness as a means of integrating individuals into society. While it did not emerge for this reason, the manner that the division of labour expresses itself in modern society means that it takes on a moral character of creating solidarity and integration. Given the differences associated with the modern division of labour, a new form a law is also necessary, one that is less preoccupied with punishment of specific offenses, and more concerned with the task of regulation and providing general rules of acceptable conduct.

The following notes discuss aspects of Durkheim’s argument in chapters III through VI with respect to this.

b. Difference

For the most part, Durkheim takes difference and division of labour for granted in this section, probably assuming that it is well understood. However, it is worth taking note of some of his comments about difference, since these aspects become part of his explanation of the moral character that the division of labour assumes. Aspects of difference are summarized on p. 85/131 and later. For the individual, some of these are as follows:

For the society as a whole, development of the division of labour produces a number of effects. Some of these are as follows:

The latter two bullets have relevance for issues of multiculturalism, immigration, and globalization. It is often argued that modernization and global influences produce similarity and make everyone the same. Durkheim notes that while different societies may come to have a similar look, within each of these societies there is greater difference. Will Kymlicka, in Multicultural Citizenship, makes a similar argument, using Quebec as an example. He argues that as Quebec has become urban and secular, it has become more like English-speaking Canada in terms of the range of attitudes and personal and political views. This is also associated with greater differences among individuals in Quebec, a process that, he argues, exists across countries. Kymlicka concludes that "the modernization and liberalization of Western Europe has resulted both in fewer commonalities within each of the national cultures, and greater commonalities across these cultures." (Kymlicka, p. 88)

Durkheim concludes that the division of labour works effectively for society as a whole, and that "Society becomes more effective in moving in concert, at the same time as each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own." (Division, p. 85/131).

c. Consciousness

In contrast to the single, common or collective consciousness that pervades societies with mechanical solidarity, modern societies are characterized by a great development of individual consciousness. While the former does not entirely disappear, Durkheim argues that it is the latter that develops most in the modern period. He describes these two consciousnesses as follows:

there is in the consciousness of each one of us two consciousnesses: one that we share in common with our group in its entirety, which is consequently not ourselves, but society living and acting within us; the other that, on the contrary, represents us alone in what is personal and distinctive about us, what makes us an individual. (Division, 84/129-30)

Durkheim procees to argue that when the collective consciousness envelops individuals, individuality does not exist and personality disappears. But with the division of labour, and the solidarity it brings, there is more individual consciousness, thus producing some of the effects concerning difference (noted above in the bullets). In some senses, Durkheim’s arguments here are similar to those of Simmel, with regard to the development of individual personalities.

In chapter V, Durkheim notes that "the common consciousness comprises ever fewer strong and well-defined sentiments" (Division, 117/167). While it does not disappear, it declines in relative importance, as individual consciousness expands. In fact, the only place where Durkheim considers the collective consciousness to have expanded is in matters related to the importance of the individual. He notes "the sole collective sentiments that have gained in intensity are those that relate, not to social matters, but to the individual" (Division, 117/167) and for this to have occurred, the "personal consciousness … must have increased more than the common consciousnes" (Division, 118/167). This is consistent with organic solidarity and restitutive law, which emphasize individual freedoms and provide methods and rules of regulating this – not specific rules of conduct but boundaries for proper conduct and means of exercising individuality.

He later argues that the decline of the common consciousness is like an "iron law" (Division, 122/172) that cuts across history. This is reminiscent of Weber’s approach to rationalization and bureaucracy, but Durkheim’s iron law has quite different content than does Weber’s. This is related to the decline of religion as a force in daily life, since "religion extends over an ever diminishing area of social life" (Division, 119/169) and different functions develop and break free of religious influence – political, economic, and scientific. Parsons undoubtedly was familiar with this argument, since he argued that social development is associated with increasing differentiation of institutions, each with separate and new functions. The result of this iron law is that individual consciousness expands and individuals become a greater source of spontaneous activity.

At the same time, common consciousness does not disappear. Rather it becomes more general, leaving more room for individual movement and freedom. In fact, where the common consciousness becomes stronger is "in its view of the individual … the individual becomes the object of a sort of religion" (Division, 122/172). That is, the type of views earlier associated with religion become transferred to issues related to individuality, freedom, and personal dignity. The result of this is to strengthen society and "the more we evolve, the more societies develop a profound feeling of themselves and their unity" (Division, 122/173). For Durkheim, this has its origins in the division of labour and "it is the division of labour that is increasing fulfilling the role that once fell to the common consciousness" (Division, 123/173).

d. Law and contracts

In the first chapter, Durkheim argues that there are two main types of legal rules, "according to whether they relate to repressive, organized sanctions, or to one that are purely restitutory. The first group covers all penal law; the second, civil law, commercial law, procedural law, administrative and constitutional law" (Division, 28/69). It is the latter that are associated with organic solidarity and, while penal law has not entirely disappeared, the forms or law that have become increasingly dominant in modern society are restorative in type. There are a number of characteristics of this type of law.

Durkheim compares the restorative system of law to the nervous system of the body – the latter "has the task of regulating the various bodily functions in such a way that they work harmoniously together" (Division, 83/128). In chapter VII, he discusses various forms of law and how each deals with regulation of contracts and institutions in society, but does not specify the specific form or type of contract for these – that is up to the individuals involved. At the same time, such regulation has vastly expanded as institutions and contracts have taken on an increasingly public character and are "absorbed into the mass of society" (Division, 158/). This is because people entering such a relationship "have need for one another" (Division, 160/) once the division of labour becomes well developed.

e. Organic solidarity

In modern society, solidarity takes on a form that Durkheim terms organic solidarity. While society heavily regulates activities and social relationships within modern society, there is also great flexibility for individual freedom, movement, and development of personality. The following description outlines Durkheim’s explanation of organic solidarity.

The situation is entirely different in the case of solidarity that brings about the division of labour. Whereas other solidarity implies that individuals resemble one another, the latter assumes that they are different from one another. The former type is only possible in so far as the individual personality is absorbed into the collective personality; the latter is only possible if each one has a sphere of action that is peculiarly our own; and consequently a personality. ... Indeed, on the one hand, each one of us depends more intimately upon society the more the labor is divided up, and on the other, the activity of each one of us is correspondingly more specialized, the more personal it is ... Society becomes more effective in moving in concert, at the same time as each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own. This solidarity resembles that observed in the higher animals. In fact each organ has its own special chaacertistics and autonomy, yet the greater the unity of the organism, the more marked the individualisation of the parts is more marked. Using this analogy, we propose to call ‘organic’ the solidarity that is due to the division of labour. (Division, 85/131).

These mutual dependencies and interdependencies among individuals in modern society create new forms of consciousness. Society still operates through custom, norms, mores, and laws, but these take the form of regulating relationships between individuals with different experiences and interests. Rather than creating social solidarity by making everyone the same, organic solidarity is a way of creating unity through difference.

f. Contracts – see Division, pp. 71, 75-81, 150-161.

At several places, Durkheim discusses how society creates the division of labour and there is a societal basis for contracts and regulation of those contracts – agreed upon understandings of the meaning and power of the contract. He notes "contracts are only possible where a legal form of regulation, and consequently a society, already exists" (Division, 218/). That is, contracts do not develop between separate and independent parties outside of society but only once there is a certain level of understanding of mutual needs and obligations and an agreement among contracting parties to abide by these, backed by society’s moral and legal regulation. Further, "if a society has binding force, it is society that which confers that force" (Division, 71/). Different parties can make private arrangements with each other but it is the assurance that "society is there, quite prepared to enforce respect for any undertakings entered into" (Division, 71/). While Durkheim is strengthening his argument about the importance of society as an entity of its own and systems of law reflecting society’s solidarity, he is also arguing against views that individuals come together to build society. Some economists and Spencer argued that individuals produce society, but Durkheim is instead arguing that the direction of causation is opposite to this and individuals and relationships among them come from society.

Later in the same chapter, Durkheim argues that there is a close connection between the division of labour and contractual law, with the contract being "the supreme legal expression of cooperation" (Division, 79/). The contract is "the symbol of exchange" (Division, 80/) and this presumes some specialization and the division of labour, along with a form of cooperation. Durkheim enumerates a number of types of contracts and argues that contract law is not specific but "law only draws the general contours, the main features of social relationships" (Division, 80/).

In chapter VII, Durkheim tackles Spencer’s argument that industrial solidarity is spontaneous and does not require regulation and Rousseau’s view of the social contract. He argues that the latter would require everyone to "be in agreement regarding the common foundations of the social organisation" (Division, 150/). These forms would be associated with purely economic exchange, "freed from all regulation" (Division, 152/). In contrast, Durkheim argues that such contracts and exchange would be unstable with mutual interests developing only "for a few moments" (Division, 152/) and creating no social bond. But while modern societies demonstrate increased individual spheres of activity and freedom, they also show an increasing development of the division of labour, with increased and more complex legal codes and contracts governing a wider variety of activities. These legal codes demonstrate mutual obligations as they grow in scope and also that societal regulation has become more extensive. Here Durkheim is arguing that society is essential to maintaining contracts and social intervention has not lessened. However, the nature of this differs somewhat in that it is not so much imposing uniform practices but "defining and regulating the special relationship between the different social functions" (Division, 153/).

In the end, different parties agree to contracts because "they have need of one another" (Division, 160/), not just because they have a fleeting mutual interest that each wishes to meet. As a result of this, contracts must be maintained over time and across space. Circumstances associated with these may change and it is not possible to anticipate all of these at the time the contract is signed, so it is necessary to develop a "normal type of rights and duties that the circumstances entail" (Division, 161/). It is these general aspects that characterize legal rules governing contractual relationships.

Durkheim summarizes these arguments on p. 162, noting that "the contract is not sufficient by itself, but is only possible because of the regulation of contract, which is of social origin."



Adams, Bert N. and R. A. Sydie, Sociological Theory, Thousand Oaks, Pine Forge, 2001

Audi, Robert, editor, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Durkheim, Emile, The Division of Labor in Society, New York, The Free Press, 1933.

Durkheim, Emile, The Division of Labor in Society, New York, The Free Press, 1984.

Durkheim, Emile, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, New York, The Free Press, 1965.

Giddens, Anthony, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1971. HM19 G53

Grabb, Edward G., Theories of Social Inequality: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives, second edition, Toronto, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1990. HT609 G72

Kymlicka, Will, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995

Hadden, R. W., Sociological Theory: An Introduction to the Classical Tradition, Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1997.

Tucker, Kenneth H., Jr., Classical Social Theory: A Contemporary Approach, Malden, Massachusetts, Blackwell, 2002.

Turner, Jonathan H., The Structure of Sociological Theory, fifth edition,Belmont, California, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1991

Last edited October 23, 2002

Return to Sociology 318