Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Emile Durkheim - Division of Labor in Society - summary and review

Emile Durkheim's "Division of Labor in Society" is considered to be one of his most influential works regarding the structure of society and makings of social solidarity. In "Division of Labor in Society" Durkheim attempts to show how formations of labor division serve to facilitate social interdependence and a sense of solidarity in society. In a sense, Durkheim argues that the division of labor influences and in fact creates the experience of being a part of society.

According to Durkheim the fact that different people engage in different tasks and function creates a situation in which no one is self-sustainable and therefore each and everyone in society is dependent on other people.

Durkheim is especially concerned with the manner in which the division of labor changes over time and across societies, changing also the manner in which people feel they are a part of their group and their view of society as a whole. For Durkheim societies in which the division of labor is small (meaning everybody engages in similar activities) are characterized as having "mechanical solidarity" which is relatively strong. Societies with high division of labor (modern societie) are referred to by Durkheim as having "organic solidarity" which has a weakening effect on collective conscience. These different types of societies are characterized by different types of laws, with mechanical solidarity enforced by repressive law while organic solidarity being dependant on restitutive sanctions.

Although Durkheim's thesis in "Division of Labor in Society" might seem to be economic in orientation, following the lines of previous thought into the matter of the division of labor (like Adam Smith or Karl Marx), or as a theory of social structure, it is in fact a theory of empathy. According to Durkheim being engaged in similar tasks makes you feel more connected with people and more able to have a sense of a shared fate. modernity, which brings about a higher division of labor makes more indifferent to other people that turn into functions rather than human counterparts. 

see also a more detailed summary and analysis of "Division of Labor in Society" by Durkheim and Durkheim's Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity Explained

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