Sociology 250

Fall 2002

Quotes from Durkheim

1. Consensus. All these practical problems arise from a multitude of detail, coming from thousands of particular circumstances which only those very close to the problems know about. Thus, we cannot adjust these functions to one another and make them concur harmoniously if they do not concur of themselves. If, then, the division of labour has the dispersive effects that are attributed to it, they ought to develop in this region of society, since there is nothing to hold them together. What g ives unity to organized societies, however, as to all organisms, is the spontaneous consensus of parts. Such is the internal solidarity which not only is indispensable as the regulative action of higher centres, but which also is their necessary condition ... . (Division, p. 360).

2. Social and Natural Inequalities. It supposes, not only that individuals are not relegated to determinate functions by force, but also that no obstacle, of whatever nature, prevents them from occupying the place in the social framework which is compatible with their faculties. In short, labour is divided spontaneously only if society is constituted in such a way that social inequalities exactly express natural inequalities. (Division, p. 377).

3. Social Facts. When I fulfil my obligations as brother, husband, or citizen, when I execute my contracts, I perform duties which are defined, externally to myself and my acts, in law and in custom. Even if they conform to my own sentiments and I feel their reality subjectively, such reality is still objective, for I did not create them; I merely inherited them through my education. ... These types of conduct or thought are not only external to the individual but are, moreover, endowed with coe rcive power, by virtue of which they impose themselves upon him, independent of his individual will. ( pp. 1-2) A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; ... every way of acting whi ch is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations. (Rules, p. 13)

4. Individual and Society. Spencer in one place compares the work of the sociologist to the calculation of a mathematician who, from the form of a certain number of balls, deduces the manner in which they must be combined in order to keep them i n equilibrium. The comparison is inexact and does not apply to social facts. Here, instead, it is rather the form of all which determines that of the parts. Society does not find the bases on which it rests fully laid out in consciences; it puts them ther e itself. (Division, p. 350)

5. Collective Consciousness. the only common characteristic of all crimes is that they consist ... in acts universally disapproved of by members of each society. (p. 73). The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the s ame society forms a determinate system which has its own life; one may call it the collective or common conscience. (p. 79) An act is criminal when it offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience. (p. 80) We must not say th at an action shocks the common conscience because it is criminal, but rather that it is criminal because it shocks the common conscience. We do not reprove it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we reprove it. (p. 81). (Division)

6. Mechanical Solidarity. 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. (p. 103). 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 becaus e 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. (p. 105). (Div ision)

7. Organic Solidarity. There are in each of us, ... two consciences: one which is common to our group in its entirety, which, consequently, is not ourself, but society living and acting within us; the other, on the contrary, represents that in u s which is personal and distinct, that which makes us an individual. Solidarity which comes from likeness is at its maximum when the collective conscience completely envelops our whole conscience and coincides in all points with it. (pp. 129-30). It is qu ite otherwise with the solidarity which the division of labour produces. Whereas the previous type implies that individuals resemble each other, this type presumes their difference. The first is possible only in so far as the individual personality is abs orbed into the collective personality; the second is possible only if each one has a sphere of action which is peculiar to him; that is, a personality. ... In effect, on the one hand, each one depends as much more strictly on society as labor is more divi ded; and, on the other, the activity of each is as much more personal as it is more specialized. ... Society becomes more capable of collective movement, at the same time that each of its elements has more freedom of movement. The solidarity resembles tha t which we observe among the higher animals. Each organ, in effect, has its special physiognomy, it autonomy. And moreover, the unity of the organism is as great as the individuation of the parts is more marked. Because of this analogy, we propose to call the solidarity which is due to the division of labour, organic. (Division, p. 131).

8. Social Structure. They are constituted, not by a repetition of similar, homogeneous segments, but by a system of different organs each of which has a special role, and which are themselves formed of differentiated parts. Not only are social e lements not of the same nature, but they are not arranged in the same manner. They are not juxtaposed linearly ... but entwined one with another, but co-ordinated and subordinated one to another around the same central organ which exercises a moderating a ction over the rest of the organism. (p. 181) ... In the same city, different occupations can co-exist without being obliged mutually to destroy one another, for they pursue different objects. ... Each of them can attain his end without preventing the oth ers from attaining theirs. ... The closer functions come to one another, however, the more points of contact they have; the more, consequently, are they exposed to conflict. ... The judge never is in competition with the business man, but the brewer and t he wine-grower ... often try to supplant each other. As for those who have exactly the same function, they can forge ahead only to the detriment of others. (p. 267) ... Instead of entering into or remaining in competition, two similar enterprises establis h equilibrium by sharing their common task. Instead of one being subordinate to the other, they co-ordinate. But, in all cases, new specialties appear. (p. 270) (Division)

9. Division of Labour. The division of labour is, then, a result of the struggle for existence, but is a mellowed dénouement. Thanks to it, opponents are not obliged to fight to a finish, but can exist one beside the other. Also, i n proportion to its development, it furnishes the means of maintenance and survival to a greater number of individuals who, in more homogeneous societies, would be condemned to extinction. (p. 271) Work is not divided among independent and already differe ntiated individuals who by uniting and associating bring together their different aptitudes. For it would be a miracle if differences thus born through chance circumstance could unite so perfectly as to form a coherent whole. Far from preceding collective life, they derive from it. They can be produced only in the midst of a society, and under the pressure of social sentiments and social needs. That is what makes them essentially harmonious. ... there are societies whose cohesion is essentially due to a c ommunity of beliefs and sentiments, and it is from these societies that those whose unity is assured by the division of labour have emerged. (p. 277). (Division)

10. Anomie ... the state of anomy is impossible when solidary organs are sufficiently in contact or sufficiently prolonged. ... if some opaque environment is interposed, then only stimuli of a certain intensity can be communicated from on e organ to another. Relations, being rare, are not repeated enough to be determined; ... (Division, pp. 368-9).

11. Forced Division of Labour. We may say that the division of labour produces solidarity only if it is spontaneous and in proportion as it is spontaneous. ... In short, labor is divided spontaneously only if society is constituted in such a way that social inequalities exactly express natural inequalities. ... It consists, not in a state of anarchy which would permit men freely to satisfy all their good or bad tendencies, but in a subtle organization in which each social value, being neither ov erestimated nor underestimated by anything foreign to it, would be judged at its worth. (Division, p. 376).

12. Suicide Rates as Social Facts. At each moment of its history, therefore, each society has a definite aptitude for suicide. The relative intensity of this aptitude is measured by taking the proportion between the total number of voluntary dea ths and the population of every age and sex. We will call this numerical datum the rate of mortality through suicide, characteristic of the society under consideration. ... The suicide-rate is therefore a factual order, unified and definite, as is shown by both its permanence and its variability. For this permanence would be inexplicable if it were not the result of a group of distinct characteristics, solidary with one another, and simultaneously effective in spite of different attendant circumsta nces; and this variability proves the concrete and individual quality of these same characteristics, since they vary with the individual character of society itself. In short, these statistical data express the suicidal tendency with which each society is collectively afflicted. ... Each society is predisposed to contribute a definite quota of voluntary deaths. This predisposition may therefore be the subject of a special study belonging to sociology. (Suicide, pp. 48, 51).

13. Social Explanation. If voluntary deaths increase from January to July, it is not because heat disturbs the organism, but because social life is more intense. To be sure, this greater intensity derives from the greater ease of development of social life in the Summer than in the Winter, owing to the sun's position ..., the state of the atmosphere, etc. But the physical environment does not stimulate it directly; above all, it has no effect on the progression of suicide. The latter depends on social conditions. (Suicide, pp. 121-122).

14. Sociological Explanation. The conclusion from all these facts is that the social suicide-rate can be explained only sociologically. At any given moment the moral constitution of society established the contingent of voluntary deaths. There i s, therefore, for each people a collective force of a definite amount of energy, impelling men to self-destruction. The victim's acts which at first seem to express only his personal temperament are really the supplement and prolongation of a social condi tion which they express externally. ... Each social group really has a collective inclination for the act, quite its own, and the source of all individual inclination, rather than the result. It is made up of the currents of egoism, altruism or anomy runn ing through the society under consideration with the tendencies to languorous melancholy, active renunciation or exasperated weariness derivative from these currents. These tendencies of the whole social body, by affecting individuals, cause them to commi t suicide. The private experiences usually thought to be the proximate causes of suicide have only the influence borrowed from the victim's moral predisposition, itself and echo of the moral state of society. (Suicide, pp. 299-300)


Durkheim, Emile, The Division of Labor in Society, New York, The Free Press, 1933. Referred to as Division. HD 51 D98

Durkheim, Emile, The Rules of Sociological Method, New York, The Free Press, 1938. Referred to as Rules. HM 24 D962

Durkheim, Emile, Suicide: A Study in Sociology, New York, The Free Press, 1951. Referred to in notes as Suicide. HV 6545 D812

Last edited September 20, 2002

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