Durkheim Paper - Intro Shiiiiiittt Solidarity is influenced by the common consciousness present in a society and the common consciousness influences the

Durkheim Paper - Intro Shiiiiiittt Solidarity is influenced...

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Intro Shiiiiiittt Solidarity is influenced by the common consciousness present in a society, and the com- mon consciousness influences the law. Common consciousness is, “The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average members of the same society” (Durkheim 1985:30). Since it is the body of shared beliefs and practices that are unchanged by time or place, the common con- sciousness contributes to solidarity in a society (Durkheim 1985:29). Crime is anything that goes against the common consciousness (Durkheim 1985:30). Durkheim explains that acts do not pos- sess any inherent criminality, but their opposition to the common consciousness is what makes them criminal (1985:30). The law serves to protect a group against crime, defined here as any- thing opposing the common consciousness. Therefore, the function of the law is to “create re- spect for collective beliefs...to defend the common consciousness against all enemies...” by op- posing crime, and supporting the common consciousness (Durkheim 1985:32). In “The Division of Labor” Durkheim explains that to examine solidarity, one must look at its effects to determine the cause of this social fact (1985:26). Because sociology involves things that could be viewed as “completely moral phenomenon,” Durkheim believes that more concrete evidence must be used (1985:25). Non-material social facts, like solidarity, can’t be studied scientifically, but a material demonstration can (sal johnston). Human action can’t be studied empirically if one is just speculating about morals or intentions. Thus, Durkheim strives to “substitute for this elusive, internal fact, an external index which symbolizes it” (1985:25). The law, is the chosen “index” by which Durkheim strives to explain solidarity (1985:32, 27). He says that, “Indeed, wherever social life has a durable existence, it inevitably tends to assume a precise form and to be organized, and the law is nothing other than this organization in its most stable, most precise form” (Durkheim 1985:25). Not only does the law provide evidence for soli-
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darity in general, different varieties of law and punishment are shown to be the effects of differ- ent types of solidarity (Durkheim 1985:27-28). Durkheim shows how penal, or repressive law, corresponds to mechanical solidarity (1985:35). Mechanical solidarity is the social cohesion that arises out of homogeneity (Durkheim 1985:34). People are drawn to each other because they are similar, and their individual personali- ties pale in comparison to the strength of the common consciousness (Durkheim 1985:37). Penal law is used for this type of solidarity because it shames the individual into falling back into line, it punishes them like a naughty school child who should just do as they’re told (Durkheim 1985:35). More importantly, this type of law is necessary “to maintain social cohesion intact by preserving the vitality of the common consciousness” (Durkheim 1985:35). In a society charac- terized by mechanical solidarity, the cohesion is strongest “when the collective consciousness
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  • Spring '14
  • SalA.Johnston
  • Sociology, common consciousness

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