The Division of Labor in Society is the dissertation of French sociologist Émile Durkheim, written in 1893. It was influential in advancing sociological theories and thought, with ideas which in turn were influenced by Auguste Comte. Durkheim described how social order was maintained in societies based on two very different forms of solidarity (mechanical and organic), and the transition from more "primitive" societies to advanced industrial societies.
Durkheim suggested that in a "primitive" society, mechanical solidarity, with people acting and thinking alike and with a collective or common conscience, is what allows social order to be maintained. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that ""offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience."" Because social ties were relatively homogeneous and weak throughout society, the law had to be repressive and penal, to respond to offences of the common conscience.
In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex division of labor means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly: social inequality reflects natural inequality. Durkheim argued that moral regulation was needed, as well as economic regulation, to maintain order (or organic solidarity) in society with people able to "compose their differences peaceably". In this type of society, law would be more restitution than penal, seeking to restore rather than punish excessively.
He thought that transition of a society from "primitive" to advanced may bring about major disorder, crisis, and anomie. However, once society has reached the "advanced" stage, it becomes much stronger and is done developing. Unlike Karl Marx, Durkheim did not foresee any different society arising out of the industrial capitalist division of labour. He regards conflict, chaos, and disorder as pathological phenomena to modern society, whereas Marx highlights class conflict.
THE PROGRESS OF THE DIVISION OF LABOR
AND OF HAPPINESS
What causes have brought about the progress of the division
To be sure, this cannot be a question of finding a unique formula which takes into account all the possible modalities of the division of labor. Such a formula does not exist. Each particular circumstance depends upon particular causes that can only be determined by special examination. The problem we are raising is less vast. If one takes away the various forms the division of labor assumes according to conditions of time and place, there remains the fact that it advances regularly in history. This fact certainly depends upon equally constant causes which we are going to seek.
These causes cannot consist in an anticipated idea of the effects the division of labor produces in its contribution towards maintaining societies in equilibrium. That is a repercussion too remote to be understood by everyone. Most are unaware of it. In any case, it could only have become evident when the division of labor was already greatly advanced.
According to the most widely disseminated theory, it has its origin in man's unceasing desire to increase his happiness. It is known, indeed, that the more work is specialized, the higher the yield. The resources put at our disposal are more abundant and also of better quality. Science is perfected and more expeditious; works of art are more numerous and refined; industry produces more, and its products are nearer perfect.
David Émile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology.
Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in modernity; an era in which traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, and in which new social institutions have come into being. His first major sociological work was The Division of Labor in Society (1893). In 1895, he published his Rules of the Sociological Method and set up the first European department of sociology, becoming France's first professor of sociology. In 1898, he established the journal L'Année Sociologique. Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide (1897), a study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), presented a theory of religion, comparing the social and cultural lives of aboriginal and modern societies.
Durkheim was also deeply preoccupied with the acceptance of sociology as a legitimate science. He refined the positivism originally set forth by Auguste Comte, promoting what could be considered as a form of epistemological realism, as well as the use of the hypothetico-deductive model in social science. For him, sociology was the science of institutions, its aim being to discover structural social facts. Durkheim was a major proponent of structural functionalism, a foundational perspective in both sociology and anthropology. In his view, social science should be purely holistic; that is, sociology should study phenomena attributed to society at large, rather than being limited to the specific actions of individuals.
He remained a dominant force in French intellectual life until his death in 1917, presenting numerous lectures and published works on a variety of topics, including the sociology of knowledge, morality, social stratification, religion, law, education, and deviance. Durkheimian terms such as "collective consciousness" have since entered the popular lexicon.
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