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Durkheim’s Organic and Mechanical Solidarity Essay

Emile Durkheim’s concept of the division of labor in the society focuses on the notion of the organic solidarity. Organic solidarity gave rise to division of labor because of the idea that individuals cannot entirely depend on themselves. As the individual state of independence is dissolved and as people cannot provide all the things they need for themselves, it became apparent that people would have to arrive at a form of dependency on one another. People grew more and more dependent on the employment specialties of each person thus resulting to a large scale social interaction defined by specific social roles.

Organic solidarity is observable in modern societies where reliance on the specialties of people to fulfill the larger needs of the society leads to the distinction between the individual consciousness and the collective consciousness. While organic solidarity is founded on the division of labor, mechanical solidarity on the other hand is founded on the homogeneity of the people. The latter type of solidarity essentially operates in relatively smaller societies in contrast to organic solidarity.

In small societies with mechanical solidarity, individuals gain interconnection through the similar nature of their work as well as their lifestyle and trainings in both religious and educational aspects. Durkheim further differentiates the two by positing that societies with mechanical solidarity have rules with repressive sanctions while societies with organic solidarity have rules with sanctions of compensation for injury or for loss. Hence, mechanical solidarity results to the dominance of penal laws while organic solidarity results to the prevalence of cooperative laws.

Durkheim’s notion of interdependence in the modern society is based on the presumption that the progression of the society leads to a more complex society. Within the progressing society, the variations in work take place as the demand for the provision of the basic needs of the individuals increase. The increasing demands of the society would require the specialization of certain types of work which translates to a refinement in the skills of people. People would no longer have the necessity to provide all the things they need for themselves for several advantages.

Apart from being able to lessen the complex number of tasks of living in a large society, the individual is able to focus on one work thereby resulting to more efficiency on that type of work. As a result, the society becomes composed of individuals with specialties in terms of work. An individual would no longer have to take the effort of doing numerous types of work in order to provide all of the basic needs. Rather, the individual becomes focused on the specialty of his or her work.

All of these things result to the situation where people can no longer live by themselves, isolated from others precisely because they would have to acquire the services of other people in order to acquire the needs they were not able to provide for themselves. People then enter into a form of interdependency in order to survive in a complex and large society. Interdependence and solidarity inevitably become intertwined in the context of Durkheim’s modern society. The integration and its various degrees shown by a particular society depend upon a number of things.

For the most part, the social bonds in a modern society are roughly the results of social interaction. The interaction of people in a group or in a society is the fruit of the existing individual needs. Since people have basic needs that must be fulfilled and sustained consistently, it must be the case that these people would have to find ways of fulfilling these needs. Work or labor is one way of fulfilling these needs. In more modern societies, the types of labor or work greatly vary, and these variations are the results of the inability of individuals to provide for themselves all the basic things they need in a complex and large society.

Hence, people would have to depend on one another, especially in terms of the specializations in labor of people. Social interdependence becomes the result of the method of dividing labor among people in the society. Apparently, interdependence is only one thing, solidarity is another. In order for the society to remain working harmoniously as a single large unit defined by internal interdependencies, there should be solidarity.

For example, “A Crowded Family Enters the Space Age”, featured in the November 8 issue of the New York Times, conveys the story of Eric Alan, a father wanting to provide a larger house for his growing family with the aid of Architect Neil Denari. In return, Denari’s expertise and skills acquire a ‘living experience’ thus proving to be another feat not only in his career as an architect but also in the discipline of architecture. Denari’s case provides a real life example of how the units of the society interact together harmoniously in order to continue with survival.

Another case is that of the attempts of LinkedIn to acquire the aid of IT professionals in further developing the content of their website in line with the increasing competition between LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook in the interactive online world. By using the specialized skills of several IT professionals and web developers, LinkedIn is expecting to expand its network of contacts through the number of registered members using the site. The case of LinkedIn obviously portrays the contemporary example of Durkheim’s thought that the modern society is filled with interdependencies based on the division of labor.

It can hardly be doubted that there are other numerous examples to support the claims of Durkheim. As the contemporary society is yet to progress a step further, it is most likely the case that social interdependency will continue to take hold of individuals. References Kirk, J. (2007, December 10). LinkedIn Opens Site to Developers. New York Times. Ritzer, G. (2002). Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics. McGraw-Hill. Webb, M. (2007, November 8). A Crowded Family Enters the Space Age. New York Times.


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