NOTES ON DURKHEIM READINGS
In their writings, Marx, Durkheim, and Weber were trying to make sense of the
social transformation that was occurring during the nineteenth century. All have a sense
of society moving from a simple traditional society to a more complex industrial society.
Each is writing about his understanding of this process.
Emile Durkheim is, as Professor Bacharach indicated a consensus theorist.
Indeed, where Marx is all about conflict, Durkheim is all about a consensual social order.
As you read the excerpt from Coser, look for the following
“Collective Conscience” is a term that Durkheim uses to talk about the common
values, beliefs and norms that hold a group together. Collectively, we all believe, for
example, in the American dream and that by working hard and doing all the right things
we can all be successful. Today, we would refer to this as “culture”.
Durkheim argues that in earlier times, people are held together by their
similarities. In hunter gathering communities, for example, the social structure is very
simple; individuals basically interact with one another, do similar activities, and share the
same beliefs and norms. Durkheim uses the term “mechanical solidarity” to refer this
type of social arrangement.
In contrast, industrial society is characterized by its extensive
division of labor. Here, Durkheim argues that people are held together by their mutual
dependence upon one another. Durkheim refers to this type of social arrangement as
“organic solidarity”. In contrast to Marx, Durkheim is saying, for example, labor and
management are mutually dependent upon one another. If each performs its role in the
social system, everyone will do well. In contrast to economists, Durkheim argues that the
basic mechanism for ensuring this cooperation is not economic self interest. Rather, it is