Select a macro-level institution [social structure] that changed during
the historical period. Next, using concepts from Marx or Durkheim, identify at least one specific constraint and one set of opportunities, beliefs, or values that changed. Next, again using concepts from one of the theorists, how did the changes define parameters for individual choices and actions? [Stay with these "situational mechanisms" or macro-to-micro links]. Do the mechanisms operate in the same way for all groups or "categories" of people? Do Durkheim and Marx define the situation the same way?
Emile Durkheim lived in Europe - in France - during much the same era as Karl Marx (1818- 1883), though, unlike Marx, his life extended into the twentieth century, to World War I (1914- 1918), in which his only son, André, was killed. Living through a time of social, economic, and political upheaval, unsurprisingly, like Marx, Durkheim focused on social change and industrial society. But unlike Marx, who focused on the structural contradictions in capitalism (e.g., class inequality), Durkheim was preoccupied with the question of social order. Like Saint-Simon, Comte, and Rousseau (see Introduction), he was interested in probing how social order is achieved and maintained amidst social progress (Bellah 1973: xviii). He gave particular attention to how, in the evolution from traditional to modern society, the forms of social organization and social relationships adapt so that society, social life, continues to function effectively. Durkheim conceptualized society as a complex system whose component parts or structures (e.g., economic activity, law, science, family structure, religion, etc.) are all interrelated but whose independent functioning is necessary to the functioning of the whole society. For this reason, his sociology is often referred to as functionalism or structural functionalism. Social structures, Durkheim argues, necessitate "a certain mode of acting" (DL 272- 273), a particular way of being and of organizing social life whose effects, in turn, function to maintain society, and which make other modes of being "almost impossible" (DL 273, 276). 1 Durkheim, therefore, offers a very different perspective on the organization of society and social relations than does Marx. In fact, among the theorists discussed in this book, the Emile Durkheim lived in Europe - in France - during much the same era as Karl Marx (1818- 1883), though, unlike Marx, his life extended into the twentieth century, to World War I (1914- 1918), in which his only son, André, was killed. Living through a time of social, economic, and political upheaval, unsurprisingly, like Marx, Durkheim focused on social change and industrial society. But unlike Marx, who focused on the structural contradictions in capitalism (e.g., class inequality), Durkheim was preoccupied with the question of social order. Like Saint-Simon, Comte, and Rousseau (see Introduction), he was interested in probing how social order is achieved and maintained amidst social progress (Bellah 1973: xviii). He gave particular attention to how, in the evolution from traditional to modern society, the forms of social organization and social relationships adapt so that society, social life, continues to function effectively. Durkheim conceptualized society as a complex system whose component parts or structures (e.g., economic activity, law, science, family structure, religion, etc.) are all interrelated but whose independent functioning is necessary to the functioning of the whole society. For this reason, his sociology is often referred to as functionalism or structural functionalism. Social structures, Durkheim argues, necessitate "a certain mode of acting" (DL 272- 273), a particular way of being and of organizing social life whose effects, in turn, function to maintain society, and which make other modes of being "almost impossible" (DL 273, 276). 1 Durkheim, therefore, offers a very different perspective on the organization of society and social relations than does Marx. In fact, among the theorists discussed in this book, the greatest theoretical divide is between Marx and Durkheim. Durkheim's contributions to sociology are both methodological and substantive, and although these intertwine in his writings, in this chapter I first discuss his methodology and then focus on his more substantively driven questions. DURKHEIM'S METHODOLOGICAL RULES SCIENTIFIC SOCIOLOGY: THE STUDY OF SOCIAL FACTS Although Durkheim is less popularly known than Marx, his enduring influence on the everyday practice of sociology is probably greater. This is particularly true of American sociology. Although many sociologists today might not acknowledge any debt to Durkheim, the dominant way sociologists go about studying the world owes much to his methodological approach. He outlined a scientific sociological methodology in The Rules of Sociological Method , first published in 1895, and in a pioneering study of suicide rates in nineteenth-century Europe (published in Suicide , 1897) demonstrated the scientific method that has influenced what sociologists do when they conduct quantitative research. This includes the definition and measurement of social variables and the statistical study of the relations between independent and dependent variables.Following the view of sociology as science elaborated by Saint-Simon, Comte, and Martineau (see Introduction), for Durkheim, sociology was the "science of civilization" (HN 149). He thus embarked on the analysis of what he called social facts, that is, all those external and collective ways in which society shapes, structures, and constrains our behavior. Durkheim states: "A social fact is any way of acting ... [that is] capable of exerting over the individual an external constraint; or which is general over the whole of a given society, whilst having an existence of its own, independent of its individual manifestations" (RSM 59). Social facts - "the beliefs, tendencies, and practices of the group taken collectively" (RSM 54) - are what sociologists study (and not individual psychological facts or physical or biological facts, though these may impinge on social facts). For Durkheim, society is not simply a collection of individuals but is a collectivity with features and characteristics of its own. Society is more than the sum of the individuals that comprise it; it includes social relationships (e.g., family, friends, community), social patterns (e.g., demographic trends), and forms of social organization (e.g., occupational divisions, bureaucracy, marriage, church), and these collective forces independently regulate individual and group behavior. Although marriage, for example, is contracted by two individuals, marriage as a social fact predates and outlives the lifetime of any couple, and the propensity of individuals to marry is itself constrained not alone by romantic attraction (itself a social fact), but by many other social facts including, for example, the state of the economy, church expectations and prohibitions, divorce legislation, and cultural expectations (e.g., of age of marriage/cohabitation, etc.). Thus, Durkheim argues, society has its own reality, what he calls a sui generis reality, that is, a collective reality that exerts its own force independent of individuals ( genus is the Latin for group; s ui generis translates to mean "of the group in and of itself "). Society, therefore, through its various social structures and everyday customs and norms, constrains how we think, feel, and act. These external constraints exist outside of the self; they have an independent existence in society and cannot be willed out of existence by the individual. A 19-year-old man who doesn't go to college does not internalize society's expectations of how college students should act, and a college graduate may forget these expectations soon after she leaves college and has a full-time job - but these expectations still exist nonetheless in society. As social facts, they have an objective, external existence independent of any given individual; moreover, the collective existence of a social phenomenon can vary from its expression in any given individual's life. The collective incidence of something in society - of divorce (or immigration, or economic inequality, etc.), for example - is separate from any one individual's experience of divorce, though at the same time, that individual's divorce contributes to the collective (social) phenomenon of divorce. By the same token, the incidence of divorce, how prevalent it is in a particular community, and public opinion about divorce are all social facts external to the individual. And as such, these social facts shape individual attitudes toward divorce in general and individuals' decisions about marriage and divorce (RSM 55). Social facts, then, should not be equated with "statistical facts," such as the percentages of girls and boys who go to college, or the divorce or birth rates, though all of these facts too are social facts because they shape social behavior: they structure social policies, cultural expectations, and individuals' decisions about various things. But social facts encompass much more than statistical facts; they include all the ways in which social structures and social norms and collective expectations constrain social behavior. STUDYING SOCIAL FACTS AS THINGS Topic 2.1 Born on the Bayou and barely feeling any urge to roam The constraining power of society - specifically of the social facts of population mobility patterns, immigration history, the occupational structure, family and gender structures, and collective expectations of everyday food, leisure, and gender roles - on individual and group behavior is evident in Vacherie, Louisiana. Vacherie is one of the most settled places in the US. Almost all (98 percent) of Vacherie's residents were born in Louisiana, compared to an average of 60 percent for other American states. In this bayou town on the Mississippi River less than 30 miles west of New Orleans, families stay put over several generations and there are strong cultural and family expectations that they will do so. In the Reulet family, for example, whose descendants settled in Vacherie from France in the 1820s, all eight adult children live within a five-mile radius of their parents' home; middle-aged sons drop by for coffee and hot chocolate at the start of the work-day before heading to nearby manufacturing plants and oil refineries; and Sunday brings the obligatory extended-family dinner of Cajun pork and potatoes prepared every week by the Reulet adult daughters. Alongside Cajun food and culture, fishing and hunting are the main leisure activities in Vacherie, not surfing the internet (see Harden 2002a). 2 How, as sociologists, should we scientifically study social facts? According to Durkheim, "the first and most basic rule is to consider social facts as things" (RSM 60) - as things that objectively exist in society and which can be studied (as Comte too believed) with objectivity. The command to investigate "social facts as things" is not as straightforward as it may seem. We cannot, for example, simply look around and automatically see friendship or social ties - we cannot put them under a microscope in the same way that biologists study cells or microbes. And yet, social relationships are a core part of social life. Durkheim acknowledges the difficulty in measuring social phenomena - the fact that in and of themselves they are "not amenable to exact observation and especially not to measurement" (DL 24). What then are we to do? How can we be scientists of social life if we cannot measure what constitutes social life? The answer, Durkheim states, is that while we cannot observe social processes directly we can study them scientifically by defining (or operationalizing) the things we study in terms of directly observable manifestations or indicators of the phenomenon in question: "We must ... substitute for [a particular social phenomenon] ... an external [measure] which symbolizes it, and then study the former through the latter" (DL 24). Definition is critical, because otherwise we don't know what we are looking for, or how to categorize and differentiate among things; "moreover, since this initial definition determines the subject matter itself ... that subject matter will either consist of a thing or not, according to how this definition is formulated" (RSM 75). This is precisely what sociologists do. If you look in the "Methods" section of any quantitative research article you will see that sociologists discuss how they define and measure the particular variables of interest. Thus, for example, a recent article that studied older adults' social connectedness defined social connectedness as interpersonal ties and community participation. They measured the respondents' interpersonal social ties by the frequency of their interaction with, and subjective emotional closeness to, individuals in their circle (or network); and they measured the respondents' community participation (or integration) by the frequency of their neighborly socializing, religious participation, volunteering, and organized group involvement (Cornwell et al. 2008). 83 Sociological objectivity Importantly, for Durkheim, by considering social facts as things that objectively exist outside of us and which can be objectively measured using various indicators, we can study social phenomena irrespective of our own views of, or feelings toward, the particular phenomenon. Consider religion. Religion is about a lot of unknowns. Does God exist? Does God answer prayers? Is there an after-life? These are questions that no researcher, and not even the most devout faith believer, can verify empirically. Nonetheless, many sociologists, following Durkheim, study religion as a social fact, as an objective thing in society - using indicators of its thing-ness, such as how often individuals attend church. These sociologists then investigate how frequency of church attendance constrains and is constrained by other forms of social behavior, such as volunteering in the community, alcohol consumption, voting. Sociologists similarly study crime, homelessness, friendship, divorce, income inequality, etc. These are all social facts that have an external, independent existence in society. Moreover, all of these "social phenomena ... must be considered in themselves detached from the conscious beings who form their own mental representations of them" (RSM 70). Therefore, although "man cannot live among things without forming ideas about them according to which he regulates his behavior" (RSM 60), as social scientists, we must leave aside our preconceived ideas about society and how it works - ideas that necessarily derive from our own immersion in society - and instead focus on what comprises the (objective) social reality (social facts). As such, sociologists' empirical findings and conclusions about religion, crime, or any social fact are independent of their own personal beliefs about God, crime, etc. Further, since, as Durkheim argues, all social facts are produced by other social facts, we should see all social facts in terms of their social context - thus, for example, we should study the social conditions and circumstances that give rise to crime and to particular types of crime - rather than psychologically, in terms of a particular criminal's individual psyche (RSM 134). Data-centered sociology The relationship between the sociologist and the things we study is more complicated than Durkheim acknowledged. SOCIAL FACTS AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS An emphasis on social facts as objective things also means that crime, homelessness, and other things we might consider "social problems" are in fact sociologically "normal." They are things that exist in society, that are part of the collectivity. As such, we can measure and compare the occurrence and prevalence of these things (social facts), and their relation to other things (social facts) across different cities or countries that share a similar level of socio-economic development (RSM 92). Durkheim argues, for example, that "crime [defined as any action that is punished] is normal because it is completely impossible for any society entirely free of it to exist" (RSM 99). Further, he notes that the criminal "plays a normal role in social life" (RSM 102), alongside judges, laws, prisons, etc. All "social problems" raise important political and policy-making questions. But for the Durkheimian-inspired sociologist, they are first and foremost social facts worthy of investigation; social facts whose investigation will show how they vary in different social contexts, and variously relate to other social facts (e.g., unemployment). A normal social phenomenon (e.g., unemployment, drug addiction) becomes problematic - or for Durkheim, "pathological" - only when its incidence becomes abnormally high compared to its regular incidence in society or in other similarly developed countries. In the US, for example, a 4 percent unemployment rate is considered normal in times of economic prosperity, but an 8 percent unemployment rate is an indicator of recession, i.e., of an abnormality in the economy/society. Politicians and policy-makers thus make great efforts to dampen the negative effects of recession (e.g., factory and bank closures, home foreclosures); they want to limit its disruptive impact on the normal functioning and cohesiveness of particular communities and of society as a whole. The maintenance of social cohesion was Durkheim's core preoccupation, and it is this substantive focus to which we now turn. THE NATURE OF SOCIETY Durkheim emphasized the uniquely specific and collective nature of social life - i.e., social facts have an external existence independent of any individual and they constrain social behavior. Yet it is individuals who live in society. How then do individuals whose individual nature is different from the collective nature of society manage to live in society? This for Durkheim is the core task of sociology: analyzing social morality (Bellah 1973: xv). While the word "morality" is typically used to refer to the moral distinction between right and wrong, Durkheim gives it a different and broader meaning. For Durkheim, morality is the formal and informal social rules that permeate and regulate individuals' behavior vis-à-vis one another in society. It is a morality that is not derived from a religious or a philosophical belief system but from socially prescribed or structured "rules of conduct" that reflect and reinforce the reciprocal nature of social life. The individual does not exist alone in society; we coexist with and live among other individuals and this social coexistence is contingent on our individual and collective ability to regulate our individual desires vis-à-vis each other and to recognize our mutual, reciprocal dependence. Social solidarity emerges from social rules and other social structures (social institutions) because these structures bind individuals to other individuals and to the larger society; thus "morality consists in solidarity with the group, and varies according to that solidarity" (DL 331). Durkheim argues that society could not exist - it could not hold together in a relatively ordered and cohesive fashion - if each individual were to simply pursue his or her own individual, sensationseeking ends, physical impulses, and appetites to eat, drink, etc. We certainly act on those impulses, but we do so while simultaneously orienting ourselves to, cooperating with, and being regulated by, others, by society. Durkheim explains: Our sensory appetites are necessarily egoistic: they have our individuality and it alone as their object. When we satisfy our hunger, our thirst and so on, without bringing any other tendency into play, it is ourselves, and ourselves alone that we satisfy ... moral activity ... on the contrary, [is] distinguished by the fact the rules of conduct to which they conform can be universalized [beyond the individual]. Morality begins with [individual] disinterest, with attachment to something other than ourselves [i.e., to the group, society]. (HN 151) In other words, humans have certain basic biological drives that, according to Durkheim, are necessarily selfish. But as a social species we need to take account of other individuals and this requires a learned capacity to transcend self-centered appetites so that, as Durkheim argues, we are able to cooperate with others and become attached to "something other than ourselves" (HN 151) - the external society of our family, neighborhood, school, sports team, nation, etc. The functioning of all of these groups and of society as a whole is contingent on our socially learned ability to conform (more or less) to the respective norms and expectations within each of these multiple communities. This is why socialization is so important; from early infancy, we are taught how to interact and behave as social beings; to sacrifice a certain amount of self-interest to the interest of the collectivity - the family, community, or society - that is external to us but of which we are a part. Socialization consists of a continual effort to impose upon the child ways of seeing, thinking and acting which he himself would not have arrived at spontaneously. From his earliest years we oblige him to eat, drink and sleep at regular hours, and to observe cleanliness, calm and obedience; later we force him to learn how to be mindful of others, to respect customs and conventions, and to work, etc. If this constraint in time ceases to be felt it is because it gradually gives rise to habits, to inner tendencies which render it superfluous; but they supplant the constraint only because they are derived from it. (RSM 53- 54) COOPERATION AS THE KEY TO SOCIAL LIFE Through socialization, therefore, we learn to maintain society by cooperatively co-existing as friends, family members, work-mates, house-mates, team-mates, citizens - collectively bound by our recognition that social life rests on reciprocity, consideration of and engagement with others, rather than the competitive assertion of my specific individual needs over, or at the expense of, others' needs. The relation of the individual to society is one which necessitates regulation and constraint precisely because of the collective ( sui generis ) nature of society. As Durkheim states, society has its own nature, and consequently, its requirements are quite different from those of our nature as individuals: the interests of the whole are not necessarily those of the part. Therefore, society cannot be formed or maintained without our being required to make perpetual and costly sacrifices. Because society surpasses us, it obliges us to surpass ourselves; and to surpass itself, a being must, to some degree, depart from its nature - a departure that does not take place without causing more or less painful tensions ... we must ... do violence to certain of our strongest inclinations. (HN 163) You and your room-mates probably know well what Durkheim means about tension emanating from competing inclinations - when the nature of community/society and the impulses of individuals are at odds. Your dorm or apartment mimics the tension that confronts society as a whole. This tension may be especially pronounced when you first come to college and share a room with someone you had not previously known. One likes to go to sleep relatively early and another likes to socialize late into the night with friends over to your room. The resolution of these conflicting impulses necessitates reciprocal compromising whereby both room-mates rein in their individual desires in order to preserve the effective functioning of your specific dorm room relationship as well as of college society, i.e., dorm cohabitation. And this scene wherein different individuals and groups must necessarily curb their selfish or self-oriented impulses occurs daily across diverse locales - in families, at work, in the supermarket, and in the conduct of national and global politics. Reciprocity is central to social life and hence to all forms of social interaction; it is, as Durkheim's contemporary, the German social theorist Georg Simmel (1858- 1918), would say, a "sociologically oriented ... feeling" (1908/1950: 384). 4 THE CONSTRAINT OF SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS The multiple expectations associated with being a friend or daughter or student, and the rules of neighborhood and workplace culture, are institutionalized and exert an external constraint on our behavior. These are not our rules but society's rules, most of which were in place long before we were born and will still matter long after we have died. Moreover, even when we create what we think are our own individualized rules and norms for certain things, these too come from society. And even though we may not subjectively feel any social pressure to conform to being a certain kind of friend, daughter, etc., and even when it seems natural for us to behave in certain ways toward others, that behavior is, nonetheless, socially inherited; it is externally given to us from society and it exists independent of us. Durkheim elaborates: When I perform my duties as a brother, a husband or a citizen and carry out the commitments I have entered into, I fulfill obligations which are defined in law and custom and which are external to myself and my actions. Even when they conform to my own sentiments and when I feel their reality within me, that reality does not cease to be objective, for it is not I who have prescribed these duties; I have received them through education [socialization]. Moreover, how often does it happen that we are ignorant of the details of the obligations that we must assume, and that, to know them, we must consult the legal code and its authorized interpreters! Similarly, the [religious] believer has discovered from birth, ready fashioned, the beliefs and practices of his religious life; if they existed before he did, it follows that they exist outside him. The system of signs that I employ to express my thoughts, the monetary system I use to pay my debts, the credit instruments I utilize in my commercial relationships, the practices I follow in my profession, etc. all function independently of the use I make of them ... Thus there are ways of acting, thinking and feeling which possess the remarkable property of existing outside the consciousness of the individual. Not only are these types of behavior and thinking external to the individual, but they are endued with a compelling and coercive power by virtue of which, whether he wishes it or not, they impose themselves upon him. Undoubtedly, when I conform to them of my own free will, this coercion is not felt or felt hardly at all, since it is unnecessary. None the less, it is intrinsically a characteristic of these facts; the proof of this is that it asserts itself as soon as I try to resist. If I attempt to violate the rules of law they react against me so as to forestall my action, if there is still time ... If I do not conform to ordinary conventions, if in my mode of dress I pay no heed to what is customary in my country and in my social class, the laughter I provoke, the social distance at which I am kept, produce, although in a more mitigated form, the same results as any real [legal] penalty. In other cases, although it may be indirect, constraint is no less effective. I am not forced to speak French with my compatriots, nor to use the legal currency, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise. If I try to escape the necessity, my attempt would fail miserably. (RSM 50- 51) .
AN ARMY OF ONE Some of you, understandably, may be surprised by Durkheim's emphasis on the necessarily constraining force of society. His view may seem especially jarring in America, which has an accentuated emphasis on individualism and individual rights, and where socialization emphasizes self-reliance and the uniqueness of individual habits and aspirations (e.g., Bellah et al. 1985). This ethos is deeply present. Recruitment advertisements for the American army, an institution that necessarily demands cooperative teamwork and a strong sense of group bonding, advertises itself as "An army of one," as if the lone individual soldier is equal to the entire army - as if the parts are greater than the whole, rather than the inverse. Or perhaps, it means the inverse: that the army is so disciplined and so tightly bonded that all its members act in unison as one collective unit. In emphasizing the external and constraining force that society exerts on the individual, Durkheim is not discounting the role of individual reason and free will in a person's actions. Nor is he dismissing the unique nuances of personality in how individuals may respond to social customs and conventions (RSM 52). He is simply highlighting that society exists independent of the individual, and that it necessarily constrains individual and group behavior. Durkheim argues that rather than being diminished by the awareness that we are not dependent on ourselves alone, we are in fact enriched by our social dependence; "it is indisputable today that most of our ideas and tendencies are not developed by ourselves, but come to us from outside, they can only penetrate us by imposing themselves upon us" (RSM 52). And they impose themselves through society, through socialization and social interaction. Durkheim's core thesis is that individuals are socially interdependent. Social cohesion comes from individuals' ties to others; our sense of social belonging comes from our ties to other people and to the groups of which we are a part. CHANGE AND RESISTANCE Although Durkheim's emphasis on society's existence prior to and beyond individual existence might seem to imply that social change never occurs, this, of course, is not the case. Social change happens, as Durkheim was well aware. Political and social upheaval was normal in France immediately prior to and during his early years: France had seen "three monarchies, two empires, and two republics in the period between 1789 and 1870" (Bellah 1973: xvi). But social change, whether large-scale (e.g., same-sex marriage) or local (e.g., change in the structure of the campus cafeteria), does not occur without a struggle; most change is initially resisted as a result of the collective force of existing social facts. The patterns and structures already in place cast a long shadow on people's expectations of what is "normal," or of what functions effectively. As things external to us, social facts are "principally recognizable by virtue of not being capable of modification through a mere act of the will. This is not because it is intractable to all modification. But to effect change the will is not sufficient; it needs a degree of arduous effort because of the strength of the resistance it offers, which even then cannot always be overcome" (RSM 70). Just think for a moment of marriage. It is a social fact that constrains collective expectations, as well as the actuality, of who can marry whom, and it dims our ability to recognize alternative possibilities. It was only in 1967, for example, that the US Supreme Court struck down state laws banning inter-racial marriage. Similarly, today, same-sex couples can marry in many European and South American countries and in several US states (e.g., Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Washington, Maryland) but not in all states. And as highlighted in the movie Meet the Parents (starring Ben Stiller), although it is not against the law, there is still a strong cultural expectation that women should marry men who have traditional male occupations - that women, not men, are nurses, though more men today are entering nursing and other service occupations that have traditionally been dominated by women. It is hard to escape the constraining power of society. Although social change occurs, it is not simply willed by individuals. It has to be accomplished collectively and in tune with collective forces (e.g., public opinion at large, economic transformation). Durkheim comments: "As an industrialist, nothing prevents me from working with the processes and methods of the previous century, but if I do I will most certainly ruin myself. Even when, in fact, I can struggle free from these rules or successfully break them, it is never without being forced to fight against them" (RSM 51). Similar challenges confront any individual or group who tries to defy any social convention. SOCIETAL TRANSFORMATION AND SOCIAL COHESION Emile Durkheim Today, there is a lot of talk about the immensity of the social changes occurring due to economic and cultural globalization (see chapters 14 and 15). There was also a lot of economic, social, and technological change happening in the latter part of the nineteenth century when Durkheim and Marx (and Max Weber) were writing. Like Marx, Durkheim was preoccupied with the changes around him: industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and population growth - changes that sociologists typically see as differentiating modern from traditional societies. From the 1840s to the end of the nineteenth century, the US, for example, experienced a massive amount of immigration (e.g., Fischer and Hout 2006: 23- 56). Thousands of Irish, Italians, Germans, Swedes, and Poles, among others, made their way to America and found jobs in its rapidly expanding manufacturing industries. In Great Britain, first, and then America, the invention of the power loom moved textile production from a household-based craft to cloth-making by a highly specialized workforce producing standardized output in highly regulated factories in newly expanding urban areas (Smelser 1959; Williams 1990: 94- 95). The convergence of these changes transformed society, speeding its transition from traditional to modern forms of social organization. This transformative process was highlighted during the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics - one scene showed Britain's transition from lush green pastures full of grazing sheep to dark industrial factories whose large chimneys dominated the urban skyline. Durkheim was particularly interested in how such large-scale social change impacts social relations and the overall order and cohesion of society. In times of societal change and upheaval, what holds society together? Can we assume that society will more or less gel together regardless of the changes it undergoes? These are the very same questions percolating in public discussion in several countries today as people grapple with the globalizing impact of economic change and of new migration trends that change the ethnic and racial composition of countries that previously were relatively homogenized. Following Ferdinand Tonnies (1855- 1936), who distinguished between small-scale local community ( Gemeinschaft ) and large-scale, urban society where impersonal associations are more common ( Gesellschaft ), Durkheim makes a clear analytical distinction between traditional and modern societies. He does so to elaborate how differences in social structure produce different mechanisms that function to create social cohesion or solidarity. 89 TRADITIONAL SOCIETY Traditional (pre-industrial or agricultural) societies and communities tend to be characterized by sameness , by the similarities that exist among people. Anyone who has lived in a rural community knows this. In farming communities today, for example in rural Nebraska or Iowa, farmers do a similar kind of farming (e.g., wheat and cattle) using similar methods and tools (e.g., same-brand tractors, combine harvesters, pickup trucks, etc.), and each one is able to do the breadth of farm-related chores (e.g., harvesting, fixing tractors, butchering cattle for beef for the family freezer) required on any neighboring farm, as occurs when farmers help one another in emergencies. Thus, rather than specializing in one very specific aspect of one very specific farm chore (the specialization seen in the division of labor in modern factory production; see chapter 1), these farmers have a breadth of competence, and one farmer's breadth of competence is similar to that of the next. Each farmer lives, moreover, in a relatively homogeneous community comprised of more or less similar-looking farms, farmers, and farmfamilies. This is the sort of sameness that captures the social organization seen in traditional societies and communities. In traditional societies, social ties and relaAuthor. tionships - bonds of social solidarity - are relatively easy to maintain because people share a lot in common. In the absence of the geographical and occupational mobility required by industrialization, the same individuals and families tend to live in the same place and engage in similar occupations over several generations. And similarly, there is a sameness of ethnicity, of religious and political beliefs, and of culture. The organization and structure of everyday life in traditional communities are such that people meet each other in all kinds of overlapping contexts over the course of their daily or weekly routines; they meet at the same one or two churches, the same diner, the same post office, the same stores, and their children go to the same school, play on the same football team, etc. It's the type of society or community in which everyone basically knows everyone else; and even if they do not know them personally they know who they are, who their mother or brother is. Family, school, work, and leisure are all intersecting domains of activity and of social ties. In traditional communities characterized by overlapping ties, the maintenance of social solidarity does not require much effort, because as Durkheim states: "The more closely knit the members of a society, the more they maintain various relationships either with one another or with the group collectively. For if they met together rarely, they would not be mutually dependent, except sporadically and somewhat weakly" (DL 25). There are many places in the US, the UK, and in other modern societies where overlapping social ties are the norm. This is especially true of rural locales but tight-knit communities exist within cities and in large metropolitan areas too. Small towns and rural communities have different characteristics, different constraints, and different types of social relations than those found in urban or metropolitan areas. Source: THE SOCIETAL ABSORPTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL We expect small towns and rural communities to have a robust collective conscience. Durkheim uses this term (translated from the French conscience collective ) to refer to a society's or community's collectively shared feelings, values, and ideals (DL 43).
The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or common consciousness [conscience] ... By definition it is diffused over society as a whole ... it is independent of the particular conditions in which individuals find themselves. Individuals pass on, but it abides ... [and] links successive generations to one another. (DL 38- 39) Although Durkheim gives a lot of emphasis in his writings to the strong hold of the collective conscience and of society's "collective feelings" (RSM 99; DL 39) on a community's beliefs and practices, we should note, as feminist theorists like Dorothy Smith would point out, the allegedly objective "collective feeling" frequently excludes those who are not part of the dominant (white male) group in society (see chapter 10). The collective conscience, nevertheless, exerts a strong authority over the whole community, maintaining social order and cohesiveness by tightly regulating the expectations and behavior of individuals. In Vacherie, Louisiana, for example, it would be hard for a woman to defy the expectation of helping to prepare the extended family's Sunday dinner (see Topic 2.1). In traditional communities there is little individualism, little personal freedom and anonymity - the individual, rather, "is absorbed into the collective" (DL 242). This brings a strong feeling of social belonging but it also means that the individual has little freedom to stray from the norms and authority of the community. Anyone who has grown up in a small town knows this feeling well; it's hard to escape your neighbor's watchful eyes, and particularly as you move through your teenage years looking for excitement, you might find the community's "social horizon" (DL 242) too limiting, too constraining and overpowering of your individual desires. Nonetheless, the authority of the collective conscience is keenly felt if you don't toe the line; and the repressive, punishing power of gossip, shame, and ostracism is felt not only by the individual deviant, but by his or her whole family and friends too in the loss of honor imposed on them (DL 47). 5 More generally, a community's informal sanctions and conventions function to affirm the collective conscience by elaborating particular expectations as well as variously punishing those who offend against strongly held collective feelings. "Punishment constitutes an emotional reaction" (DL 44) aimed at avenging and pouring scorn on the deviant act - the violation of the collective conscience - and defending the community against further challenges to the authority of its collective beliefs (DL 44). Through punishment, therefore, we "stir up [and reaffirm] the social sentiments that have been offended" (DL 47- 48); punishment functions to repress the threat to societal cohesion that the deviance represents. 91 MECHANICAL SOLIDARITY The structural and cultural sameness that characterizes the beliefs and social relationships in traditional societies produces what Durkheim calls mechanical solidarity; the creation and maintenance of social ties are fairly mechanical, i.e., they are built into the very structure of the community. When people in a community have relatively similar occupations, family histories, experiences, and beliefs, and overlapping social relationships, these similarities make it relatively easy to produce social cohesion. The similarity in what people do (e.g., farming, mill work, etc.), and in who and what they know, means that no one individual or family is necessary to the functioning of the whole community; e.g., in Iowa farming communities, each individual/family basically replicates the next (like segments in an orange). Hence the absence of any one individual/family from the community (due to death or ostracism, for example) does not impact the overall functioning of the community. We see a parallel in the mechanical working of a car engine: only four cylinders are necessary for a car to work, to function; thus cars with six or eight cylinder engines basically have cylinders that replicate rather than add to the functioning of the other four (notwithstanding the fact that an eight-cylinder engine may function to enhance acceleration power and the car owner's social status). Vacherie, Louisiana, the most rooted town in the most rooted state in America, is a good illustration of the mechanical solidarity that Durkheim attributes to traditional communities (see Topic 2.1). Its tightly bounded and overlapping family and neighborhood relationships, the force of its collective expectations on social habits (e.g., Sunday dinner with the extended family), and long-established shared occupational histories and leisure routines ensure a fairly mechanical maintenance of the community's social ties, order, and cohesion. MODERN SOCIETY Even in Vacherie, however, there are some emerging threats to the maintenance of tight social solidarity. Well-paid blue-collar work is on the decline, thus pushing Vacherie's young people to continue education beyond high school. Those who leave Vacherie to go away to college are less likely to return and settle there, and with more young people availing themselves of the college and post-college economic opportunities outside of Vacherie, this trend may weaken the strong family and community bonds that have characterized Vacherie for several generations. Such mobility (a social fact) is precisely one of the defining characteristics of modern society. Is it possible then for solidarity (social cohesion) to characterize modern societies that, by definition, do not have the structured overlapping social relationships seen in traditional societies? Box 2.1 Georg Simmel: Urbanism as a way of life Georg Simmel (1858- 1918) also emphasized the contrasting ways of life in urban and rural society. Like Durkheim, he recognized "functional specialization" as the hallmark of urban society and how it forges interdependence among individuals. "This specialization makes one individual incomparable to another, and each of them indispensable ... However, this specialization makes each man the more directly dependent upon the supplementary activities of all others" (1903/1950: 409). This interdependence is more cool-headed than the emotional investment found in rural society, and Simmel suggests it is in fact a necessary accommodation to the constantnervous stimulation of the city. The diversity and intensity of the urban metropolis, Simmel wrote, produces an "intensification of nervous stimulation ... With each crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life, the city sets up a deep contrast with small town and rural life ... [where] the rhythm of life ... flows more slowly, more habitually, and more evenly" (1903/1950: 410). Amid such stimulation, it is easier to maintain psychological equilibrium by reacting with one's "head instead of [one's] heart," and maintaining a "matter-of-fact attitude" (1903/1950: 410, 411). This more rational and impersonal response is also required, Simmel argues, by the dominance of the money economy in the metropolis, which for Simmel, as we saw (see Box 1.1), requires a calculating attitude, an attitude that penetrates the whole structure and culture of urbanism as a way of life. "Through the calculative nature of money a new precision, a certainty in the definition of identities and differences, an unambiguousness in agreements and arrangements has been brought about in the relations of life-elements - just as externally this precision has been effected by the universal diffusion of pocket watches. However, the conditions of metropolitan life are at once cause and effect of this trait. The relationships and affairs of the typical metropolitan are usually so varied and complex that without the strictest punctuality in promises and services the whole structure would break down into an inextricable chaos. Above all, this necessity is brought about by the aggregation of so many people with such differentiated interests, who must integrate their relations and activities into a highly complex organism. If all clocks and watches in Berlin would suddenly go wrong in different ways, even if only by one hour, all economic life and communication of the city would be disrupted for a long time ... Thus, the technique of metropolitan life is unimaginable without the most punctual integration of all activities and mutual relations into a stable and impersonal time schedule ... Punctuality, calculability, exactness are forced upon life by the complexity and extension of metropolitan existence ... these traits must color the contents of life and favor the exclusion of ... irrational impulses" (Simmel 1903/1950: 412- 413). Modern societies, after all, look almost exactly the opposite of traditional societies. They are characterized by population density, urbanization, geographical and social mobility, and a diversity of occupational, religious, political, ethnic, and cultural groups. Diversity brings a lot of personal freedom, anonymity, and impersonality; individual difference rather than sameness is the norm (see Box 2.2). If we think of any densely populated city, such as Chicago, Toronto, Birmingham, or Mumbai (Bombay), we have a snapshot of modern society. In modern, urban societies, unlike in traditional societies, Durkheim argues, the collective conscience is less forceful and is less encompassing and less controlling of the individual: As society spreads out and becomes denser, it envelops the individual less tightly, and in consequence can restrain less efficiently the diverging tendencies that appear ... in large towns the individual is much more liberated from the yoke of the collectivity ... the pressure of opinion is felt with less force in large population centers. It is because the attention of each individual is distracted.in too many different directions. Moreover we do not know one another so well. Even neighbors and members of the same family are in contact less often and less regularly, separated as they are at every moment by a host of matters and other people who come between them. (DL 238- 239) Thus the solidarity that derives from shared experiences, beliefs, and sentiments is harder to find in modern societies, notwithstanding the existence of many relatively homogenized, traditional communities within the urban metropolis (e.g., Boston's Italian North End, Brixton's "Little Jamaica" in London) and within modern societies more generally (e.g., Vacherie, Louisiana). SPECIALIZED DIVISION OF LABOR Yet, despite the individual freedom and the mobility, diversity, and weaker collective feelings that characterize modern society, there is still social cohesion. How is this possible? The reason, Durkheim argues, lies in the highly specialized division of labor that characterizes modern societies. The crucial variable differentiating modern from traditional societies is the extent to which there is specialization across and within various sectors of society. Durkheim wrote about these processes in a book of this very title, The Division of Labor in Society (DL). Sounding a lot like Karl Marx (see chapter 1, pp. 52- 53), Durkheim emphasized the structural importance of an increasingly specialized division of labor that coincides with the expansion of modern industrialization. It involves increasingly powerful mechanisms, large-scale groupings of power and capital, and consequently an extreme division of labor. Inside factories, not only are jobs demarcated, becoming extremely specialized, but each product is itself a specialty entailing the existence of others ... the division of labor is not peculiar to economic life. We can observe its increasing influence in the most diverse sectors of society. Functions, whether political, administrative, or judicial, are becoming more and more specialized. The same is true in the arts and sciences. (DL 1- 2) Modern societies, in short, are characterized by specialization. There is a division of labor not only in the economy (e.g., factory production) and in the functions of government but also in the responsibility for child socialization, for example, whereby socialization functions are dispersed across institutions - with the family, the church, and the education system all having discrete and specific institutional roles. And within the university, for example, education is divided across specialized colleges and schools (of business, law, liberal arts) and further spec ialized departments and disciplines (sociology, economics, history, English, etc.). Similarly, the government has its specialized divisions and departments, as does the judicial system. Traditional societies, by contrast, have a limited division of labor (as we discussed; see pp. 89- 90). SOCIAL INTERDEPENDENCE Population growth and concentration necessitate a division of labor. Durkheim states, "The division of labour varies in direct proportion to the volume and density of societies and if it progresses in a continuous manner over the course of social development it is because societies. become regularly more dense and generally more voluminous" (DL 205). The increasingly specialized division of labor that characterizes modern society, Durkheim argues, affects "profoundly our moral constitution" (DL 3) - it heightens our reciprocal dependence on and ties to one another. Thus Durkheim, unlike Marx, did not see the division of labor as producing alienation (cf. chapter 1), but as reinforcing social interdependence. This is because occupational specialization requires individual specialization, and each individual's specialty contributes to the functioning of the whole. Thus the division of labor produces "a moral effect" (DL 17): cooperation among individuals. "The division of labor can only occur within the framework of an already existing society. By this we do not just simply mean that individuals must cling materially to one another, but moral ties must also exist between them" (DL 218). Accordingly, for Durkheim, individual interdependence creates and regulates social solidarity because of the socialmoral ties that underlie interdependence, ties which exist outside of, but which are also encompassed in, the division of labor (DL 219); the division of labor "creates between men a whole system of rights and duties joining them in a lasting way to one another" (DL 337- 338). Thus, contrary to Marx (cf. chapter 1), Durkheim argues that there is "nothing antisocial" or alienating about the division of labor. It is not antisocial "because it is a product of society" (DL 221), and it organically connects and integrates individuals. Moreover, the division of labor - contrary to the utilitarian view of unregulated individual self-interest advocated by Adam Smith and John Locke (see Introduction) - enables and requires reciprocity and cooperation among individuals in modern society; thus "moral life permeates all the relationships that go to make up co-operation" (DL 220- 221). For Durkheim, therefore, the division of labor produces interdependence and social cohesion; it is a functional accommodation to the increase in population growth and the concentrated population density (urbanization) associated with the development of modern societies. He explains: "the number of social relationships increases generally with the number of individuals ... [who] must be in fairly intimate contact so as to act and react upon one another"; they cannot be separated by "mutually impenetrable" environments (DL 205). With more and more people moving within an increasingly concentrated or dense space, there is, by default, increased social interaction and dependence. The division of labor not only makes it possible for, but requires, increasing numbers of individuals to act and interact with one another - "for functions to specialize even more, there must be additional cooperating elements, which must be grouped close enough together to be able to co-operate" (DL 205). THE DENSITY OF SOCIAL INTERACTION We generally do not have the same regularity of contact with family and relatives as would occur in a traditional society, but we are in contact with the many others who literally cross our path every day. As we go about our daily business (getting coffee; at work, school or the gym; attending a ball game), many of the people we meet are different from us in some way - a different family background, different ethnicity, different occupational aspirations, different political and religious beliefs, etc. These many individuals comprise and contribute to the physical density of our environment; literally, the number of people we encounter during the day. (Census reports use population density , i.e., the number of people per specified area, to differentiate among places; cities have high, and rural areas low, population density.) What is significant about physical density for Durkheim is the social or moral density that it gives rise to; the more people we meet, the more social interacting we have to do, however fleetingly, and therefore the more densely we are constrained by social-moral norms of reciprocity and cooperation (walking down a busy city street or in a busy mall we have to continuously monitor and adjust our path to make sure that we do not bump into others, and most others too act in a similarly considerate manner). The division of specialized labor brings us into contact with more and more people not like us (occupationally, economically, culturally, etc.) and makes us dependent on one another: "Each one of us depends more intimately upon society the more labour is divided up ... Society becomes more effective in moving in concert, at the same time as each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own" (DL 85). ORGANIC SOLIDARITY The interdependence that is required by and results from the highly specialized division of labor produces what Durkheim calls organic solidarity. "This solidarity resembles that observed in the higher animals. In fact each organ has its own special characteristics and autonomy, yet the greater the unity of the organism, the more marked the individualization of the parts. Using this analogy, we propose to call 'organic' the solidarity that is due to the division of labor" (DL 85). Thus we recognize that while each organ in the body (e.g., lungs, kidneys, stomach) performs a very specialized function, a healthy body is dependent on the effective simultaneous functioning of each independent (and interdependent) organ. So too with modern society; social cohesion (social health) results from the interdependence of individuals, each with his or her own specialty. Modern society not only affirms but requires individualism, an individualism, however, that produces interindividual dependence rather than individual isolation. Figure 2.2 The specialized division of labor makes individuals dependent on one another; interdependence creates social ties or solidarity. Source: © Joe Howell/AP/Press Association. THE MORAL-SOCIAL BASIS OF CONTRACT Durkheim points out, moreover, that the interdependence in modern society is not determined solely by contractual exchange (even though laws proliferate in modern society). Contract certainly matters; it formally regulates social relationships and behavior in all sorts of ways (e.g., marriage, club membership, housing mortgages and leases, almost all financial t ransactions). And when contracts get broken, modern societies have laws in place that seek to restore the order that the laws were intended to protect (see note 5). But, as Durkheim argues, "if a contract has binding force, it is society which confers that force" (DL 71). Contracts have legitimacy only because they institutionalize (or legalize) the expectations and customs that we in society believe are necessary to maintaining and enforcing the norms of human reciprocity necessary to social life, how we should treat one another in society. Durkheim argues that contracts are an expression not of utilitarian exchange based on individual self-interests (as Adam Smith or John Locke would argue; see Introduction), but of social morality (DL 221). Like all social facts, contracts originate within society and it is society which gives them and all rules of conduct their obligatory (moral) force. They simply represent the inter-individual cooperativeness that society considers moral in the first place; they do not have an existence or a power independent of society. Hence "the contract is not sufficient by itself, but is only possible because of the regulation of contracts, which is of social origin" (DL 162). Contracts emerge to protect social relationships and social order. All contractual relationships thus also have at the same time a pre-contractual, moral (social) element over and above the protection of the individual interests at stake. In this view, contracts are not simply formal legal rules established to restrain individuals' avaricious appetites (cf. Hobbes), or even a social mechanism to protect individual rights (as in Rousseau's s ocial contract ). Rather, for Durkheim, contracts are thoroughly social; they both originate in and function to protect society , i.e., the functioning of society and its various, interdependent social relationships as collective forces that impact the moral (socially constraining) ties among individuals. When we do things that go beyond the requirements stipulated by contract, this vividly demonstrates the moral-social basis of society that Durkheim emphasizes. Volunteering in the community, for example, and the generosity that is observed following natural disasters, when people travel miles to help others whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes - these social facts crystallize the moral force toward cooperation exerted by society: the attachment of individuals to something other than themselves (i.e., to others, to society; see pp. 85- 86 above) - demonstrated by individuals' mutual reciprocity and their tacit awareness of the human interdependence that underlies and builds society. Thus while we have self-interests (and appetites), it is not these interests alone that make us social and that enable us to build solidarity with one another and the collectivity: if mutual interest draws men closer, it is never more than for a few moments. It can only create between them an external bond. In the fact of exchange the various agents involved remain apart from one another, and once the operation is over, each one finds himself again "reassuming his self " in its entirety. The different consciousnesses are only superficially in contact: they neither interpenetrate nor do they cleave closely to one another ... For where interests alone reign, as nothing arises to check the egoisms confronting one another, each self finds itself in relation to the other on a war footing ... Self-interest is, in fact, the least constant thing in the world. Today it is useful for me to unite with you; tomorrow the same reason will make me your enemy. (DL 152). The individualism of modern society, therefore, does not preclude a felt responsibility toward others; it is, for Durkheim, a moral individualism that goes beyond our contractual obligations (while also shaping them). Society is possible only because individuals transcend the self and attach themselves to something other than themselves; they recognize the necessity of cooperative interdependence with others, an interdependence demanded by the ever-increasing complexity in the organization of modern society. Whereas the solidarity in traditional societies derives from the sameness of the community, in modern societies the cooperation required by the specialized division of labor produces a solidarity based on social interdependence. In sum, both traditional and modern societies are socially cohesive, but the source and nature of the solidarity varies due to differences in the social structures and forms of organization in these different types of society. Box 2.2 Contrasts between traditional and modern society Traditional society Pre-industrial/rural society Sameness Strong collective conscience Limited division of labor Repressive, punitive law >Produces mechanical solidarity Modern society Industrialized, urban society Diversity Weaker collective conscience Highly specialized division of labor Contract-type law stipulating reciprocal rights > Produces organic solidarity SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF SUICIDE As part of his focus on the social structures (e.g., the division of labor) that create social solidarity and integrate individuals into society, Durkheim wrote extensively about the social conditions that are conducive to, and weakening of, social integration. He did so primarily in Suicide (1897), a major empirical study of suicide rates in nineteenthcentury Europe (and the first to demonstrate the methodology of scientific sociology that he advocated; see pp. 80- 84 above). Using suicide as the dependent (outcome) variable, he examines how social integration or regulation varies by several independent (predictor) variables to increase the likelihood of suicide. In addition to its methodological importance, Durkheim's Suicide is important theoretically because, first, it further elaborates his core theoretical emphasis on the significance of social inter dependence and how social structures function to attach the individual to society. And second, his highlighting of particular categories or types of suicide allows him to show how different social conditions or circumstances can produce different social consequences.
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