The Division of Labor in Society
The Division of Labor in Society is widely regarded as the classic book in the field of sociology. In this work, Durkheim analyzed the development of the contemporary individual’s relationship with society and how it came to be. In particular, Durkheim sought to utilize the newly emerging field of sociology to investigate what many people living during his day saw as the contemporary crisis of morality.
When Durkheim was alive, there was a widespread sense that France was going through a moral crisis. Stress on the individual’s rights, which often manifested as an assault on conventional authority and religious beliefs, was one of the legacies that the French Revolution left behind. Even after the overthrow of the revolutionary government, this pattern remained unchanged.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, many people had the impression that the social order was in danger because individuals were primarily concerned with themselves and not with society as a whole. France went through three monarchies, two empires, and three republics in the fewer than one hundred years that passed between the beginning of the French Revolution and when Durkheim reached adulthood. These governments were responsible for the creation of fourteen constitutions. The humiliating victory that Prussia achieved over France in 1870, which resulted in the annexation of Durkheim’s birthplace by Prussia, was the event that precipitated the sensation of being in the midst of a moral crisis. After this, a bloody revolution known as the Paris Commune swept across the city, but it didn’t last long. The unrestrained individualism was the root cause of both the loss and the ensuing uprising.
Comte contended that many of these occurrences might be attributed to the expanding division of labor. People in more direct civilizations do the same activity, such as farming, and as a result, they have similar experiences and values. In contrast, everyone has a unique duty to do in today’s contemporary society. When diverse individuals are tasked with various specialized activities, such individuals no longer have experiences in common. Because of this variety, the commonly held moral ideas essential for a society’s smooth operation are being eroded.
Consequently, individuals are unwilling to make sacrifices in times of societal hardship. Comte proposed that sociology should invent a new pseudo-religion to restore social cohesiveness. To a significant extent, Durkheim’s Division of Labor in Society may be seen as a challenge to Comte’s theoretical framework. According to Durkheim’s theory, the division of labor does not signal the end of social morality so much as it signals the emergence of a different sort of social morality.
The central argument of “The Division of Labor” is that the commonalities that individuals share in their day-to-day activities do not contribute to the cohesiveness of contemporary society. Instead, the division of labor brings people closer together since it compels them to rely on one another. The division of labor is an unavoidable aspect of modern economics that undermines the sense of solidarity it fosters. However, Durkheim maintained that the economic benefits it may deliver are unimportant compared to its moral impact and that its fundamental job is to build a sense of solidarity between two or more individuals. He believed that this was its actual function.
He proposes two forms of solidarities, mechanical and organic solidarity, respectively. It is possible to recognize it via the many forms of law and systems inside the various social structures.