DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 2 Emile Durkheim (1858—1917)

DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 2 Emile Durkheim (1858—1917)

Question 1.
Critically examine Emile Durkheim’s methodology.
Emile Durkheim adopted scientific approach to the study of social problems. He was systematic in his approach and advocated objective study of social facts. Durkheim, believed, that, ‘the traditional sources of morality upon which the social order Was built, especially religion, where no longer viable or valid without serious and rational attentions. The new source of moral integration, so necessary for the establishment and stability of society, would be found in the discipline designed to scientifically analyse social order, stability, and continuity, viz^ that of sociology.

It was felt by Durkheim that even Comte did not arrive at his conclusions after keeping social facts into consideration. He wanted to give sociology a place wherein study is based on very objective and around facts available

Formation of Scientific Sociology. Durkheim stressed that while studying a social problem the researcher should be careful observation and experimentation. The subjectivity i.e personal likes and dislikes and other elements should not influence the study. All personal considerations of sentiments should be discarded and along with personal equations Durkheim emphasised particularly the concomitant variations which must show logical as well as statistical reasons for the relationship before casual connections can be assumed. Every study of a social phenomena should be based on objectivity and facts and be free from correlations and conjectisure. Social facts are dynamic, and these should be collected together and put to objectives observation.

Durkheim stressed that sociology studies social facts and not sentiments and thus he laid stress on facts. Sociology, he felt, ‘was study of groups and society as a whole and not of any particular individual. If an individual is going to be studied, then we shall „ not know what is going to happen in a group. In social phenomena, social events and social characteristics ought to be studied and attempt should be made to identify the factors that determine and influence social facts’. For him constraints and exteriority were two important social standards which helped in objective study of social k facts’; Social facts which influence an individual and form part of the total environment were constructed as constraints by Durkheim. He further said, ‘These are not produced by the individual and can not be influenced by the wishes of the individuals as well. The individual however, continues to be influenced by social events.’ Durkheim held ‘that society is separate from the individual and has independent reality. It gives birth to new reality and.every new Teality is based On thoughts and interaction of various individuals, Reality puts certain constraints on individuals.’ This was how he sought to handle the menace of exteriority.

Durkheim formulated that a social action should form part of social facts and for this empirical observation should be used for studying social action objectively. Standard statistics were employed to explain internal differences. As Taloott Persons has put it. “Durkheiin never theorised in the air, never indulged in the speculations but was always seeking the solution of critically important empirical problem.”

(1) Essentials of Durkheim’s Methodology. Durkheim ‘Was a positivist and he wanted to make whole study positive and free from sentiments. His attempt was to study facts in a scientific and objective manner. In the words of Elwood, “The modem objective movement in sociology has its real father, Prof. Emile Durkheim.”

(2) Durkheim sought to make the empirical facts at the basis of his study and thus he wanted to study sociology like natural sciences and to assign social facts the same approach as natural sciences. He wanted to separate social facts from individual facts in order to achieve objectivity.

(3) He put forward a distinction between collective conscious- oess and individual consciousness and suggested that the former should be studied. He put emphasis on social events and group mind. According to hun ‘the group influences, feels and acts quite differently from the way in which its members would, were they isolated. For him all social acts were outcome of collective consciousness and should be interpreted keeping this basic fact into consideration. Group mind was above individual mind.’ In his own words, “The ultimate origin of all social processes of importance must be sought in the situation of internal social milieu.” Society was the source of all social events.

(4) He wanted to study all social facts In the same manner as natural facts. He stressed, all social events should be studied on the basis of cause and effect relationship and ‘determining cause’ of a social fact must besought from among the antecedent social facts. Social events are consequences certain objects and this fact should be carefully considered.

(5) Durkheim was against the exclusive use of historical method for the study of-either sociology of social events rather Comparative Method should be employed. He pointed out that ‘there should by proper comparison of events, facts, situation and resultant effects’.

Evaluation of Durkheim’s Methodology. Durkheim’s wanted to give scienticism to every social fact and event and desired that social phenomena should be studied as any other natural phenomena and this methodology suffers from certain defects.

(1) He frequently used some terms like objects, phenomenon and things, etc. yet he has failed to clarify.

(2) It was also wrong on the part of Durkheim to treat social facts as events and objects because there is basic difference in the nature and character of the terms.

(3) Its methodology is full of contradictious, further he failed to realise that social events are interlinked with each other and can not be studied without taking reasoning into consideration. It has been said that his method of interpretation means the reintroduction of some kind of guesses by way of the back stairs’. That is yet another vital cdntradiction when Durkheim assigns sufficient impor- icnce to prevailing traditions and customs in his theory of collective representation and in the same breath he talks of social facts devoid a both beliefs and traditions.

(4) Durkheim has not been able to point out correct methods of data collection, and this is a serious drawback and can make any methodology defective and undependable.
These criticisms ean not undermine Durkheim’s attempt to study social problems on dependable lines and in a very scientific manner. He assigned scientific outlook to the social phenomena ; his valuable contribution to the study of social problems.

Question 2.
Examine Darkhelm’s idea of social facts.
What are social facts ? What is their role in the study of social phenomena, according to Durkheim ?
The concept of social facts is a notable contribution of Durkheim. He, from The very beginning revealed his inclination that the study of society required that economic and psychological reductionism be eschewed in difference to the sin generis quality of social facts, collective ways Of acting, thinking and falling that present here noteworthy property of existing outside the individual consciousness”.

Durkheim required social facts, as not merely manifestations of economic values analysing using marketing graphs and tables, hot are they merely characteristic manifestations of psychological Realities which must be analysed by studying individual personalities. Social facts are foremost “things” which are social in nature. Durkheim further clarified that social facts, of which institutions are constituted must be treated as “things” as empirical phenomena, not as concepts. “Things” include all objects of knowledge that can not be conceived by purely mental activity, those that require for their conception data from outside the mind, from observations and experiments, those which are built up from the more external and immediately accessible characteristics to the less visible and more profound”.

Characteristics of Social Facts. According to Durkheim, following are the four major characteristics of social facts :

  1. They have distinctive social characteristics and determi-nants which are not amenable to explanation on either the biological or psychological level
  2. They are external to the individual
  3. They endure through time outlisting any set or group of individuals; and
  4. They are endowed with coercive power, by virtue of which they impose themselves upon him, independent of his individual will”.

Durkheim has also distinguished social facts front purely psychological phenomenon and has thus, introduced the concepts of ‘constraints’ and ‘exteriority’. Exteriority implies that social facts exist outside (or exterior) to individual consciousness and as the social time these have constraining influence over the individual mind while remaining exterior to it. He classified social facts as normal and pathological facts. Normal social facts worked towards integrating the solidarity of social life, whereas pathological social facts worked against normal social facts. He argued that facts can be gathered by observing external and immediately visible phenomenon.

Durkheim stated that social facts emerged from collective consciousness, which was far superior than the individual consciousness and further more social facts always promoted welfare of the individuals. ‘These facts have moral basis of each individual its expected to perform certain moral duties, which are considered essential for collective welfare of the society. Social facts must be interpreted in the light of social phenomenon’.

Postulates of Durkheim s Social Facts. Durkheim has pointed out following postulates to differentiate between social facts and individual facts :

(1) ‘That individual mind was different from group mind and that individual’s behaviour is bound to be quite different from group behaviour. According to him best example was individual’s behaviour in cases of national calamity. Usually an individual was selfish but in case of national emergencies every individual was bound to forget his selfish interests and behaved in a selfless manner with broad mindedness. He said that an individual acted differently when he was in the group and when he was outside the group; It is because on account of his association with others that new facts are bom, new situations arise and new patterns of behaviour are bound to emerge, and ;

(2) That some of the social statistics are quite constant, hut this cannot be the case with individuals. It is because individual emotions, thoughts and sentiments go on changing., constantly Individual may have similar pattern of behaviour but it is no way wise to explain the behaviour of group on the basis of the behaviour of the individuals.”

Discussing the role of social facts, Durkheim explains that these ‘become effective guides and controls of conduct, only to the extent that they become internalised in the consciousness of individuals, while continuing to exist independently of individuals cOntraint, Durkheim says, is a moral obligation to obey a rule— society is “something beyond us and something in ourselves.”

In the opinion of Durkheim, in one way ‘sociology is funda-mentally the study of facial facts, such as public morality, family and religious observances, and rules of professional behaviour. These realities are what Durkheim thought of as social facts and the study of these in the proper domain of sociology.’ Thus Durkheim was diametrically opposed to Herbest Spencer’s “radical individualism and nomination, Durkheim supported an equally radical sociological nation in which the ultimate social reality is found in the group, not in the individual ”

Criticism of Durkheim’s theory of social facts. Durkheim’s idea of social facts has been criticised on the following grounds :

(1) Durkheim has wrongly laid maximum stress on group but not on individual, whereas in reality individual is an integral part of jhe group, there can be no group without individuals and thus it is impossible to understand and exclude individual and still to study group.

(2) His ideas about constraints is confusing. He has confused everything about constraints.

(3) Durkheim has failed to distinguished which social fact is more important than the other.

(4) There are sociologists Who believe that his ideas about social facts are extremely narrow, Durkheim has also failed to recognize the importance of free relations, co-operation, sympathy, love etc. which always give use to various social relations and thus occupy a very significant place but Durkheim has overlooked this aspect of social relations.

Despite these criticisms Durkheim’s theory important for studying social facts. It is pointed out that there is sufficient similarity between his ideas about social facts and Maclver’s ideas about social institutions because both are objective and abstract. Both are also responsible for studying the behaviour of individuals in a group. But Dtirkheim’s social faets are broader as compared with Maclver’s social institutions.

Question 3.
What is collective representation ? How does it differ from collective consciousness.?
Durkheim has given his ideas about collective representation and while discussing this concept Durkheim writes, ‘‘Society is not at all the illogical or the logical incoherent or fantastic being which it has too often been considered.” The collective consciousness is the highest form of psychic life, because it is the core of consciousness, and throughout the discussion he maintained that the society always saw further and better than the individual and social consciousness was superior.

Every society comprises all those ideas and feelings which its members express and, these have been called collective representation. Thus collective representation is the product of actions and reactions which individual consciousness exercises on one another. ‘It can” also be said that collective representation is the interplay of individual minds which give birth to symbol products, which in turn are proclaimed and give birth to different phases of social life.’ Durkheim pointed out that ‘religious books or a national flag are religious and political representations of collective feelings of the people in general whether a collective representation is collective or not can be decided with the help of two criterion ; firstly whether these are spread in the society as a whole or in a particular section of society and secondly over what number of individuals do they exercise constraints.’

Thus the concept of social representation hap been Comprehensively dealt with. Because of then collective creation, these have the power of coercion and can impose themselves over the individuals, no matter whether such a coercion is resented or cherished by the members or not. For Durkheim the reality of social mind is distinct from that of the individual mind and in like manner, social psychology is always different from individual psychology ‘social group has always much higher spiritual and moral qualities than the individual. Collective consciousness, according to him is always born as a result of actions and reactions dr interplay of individual mind upon one another.’ This is why he ‘assigned insignificant place to individual in the scientific study of social phenomena.

Characteristics of Collective Representation

(1) These exist some common traits, despite the fact that the individuals differ in many respects from each other, and these traits alone are responsible for collective representation, and states that without such common traits there would have been no collective representation.

(2) Usually these (common) feelings find expression in theory of ‘symbols’ and then represent group mind and with the passage of time, these symbols also get social recognition and after that they also enjoy the support of whole social group. Since collective representation is the with of the group, therefore, it is accepted even by the highest authority. Not only this the collective representation also controls the life of the individuals.

Durkheim, clearly points out the difference between collective representation and individual Tepresefitation. He explains that ‘such views which are connected with’ social environments and influence both social relations and, social behaviour are called collective representation. On the other hand, views and ideas which are. free from social environments are called individual representation.’ According to Talcott Parsons, Durkheim believed that, “individual representation makes up the actor’s knowledge of his external world which are independent of the existence of social relationship in the analytical terms of the present study of heredity and environment. Collective representation on the other hand is his ideas concerning the social environment, that is those elements in his external world which are attributable to the face of association of human beings in society.”

Distinction between Social Consciousness and Collective Representation. Emile Durkheim opines that social consciousness emerges as a result of thoughts of the people, in other words interaction of the people give rise to such consciousness which ultimately recoinciles as social representation. In the group life, i.e. social life, group ‘guides’ and ‘controls’ the people and moulds human thought and behaviour. Such behaviour of individual which is not acceptable to the group is termed as uncalled for or unwanted and is decided by the society and standards of good -and bad are also finally decided by it and not by the individuals. Thus for social events it is not the individual but society which is responsible.

Emile Durkheim considered it essential that social consciousness and collective representation must go together complementarily.

Utility of Gallecfive Representation. According to Durkheim the concept of collective representation :

  1. Can help in ending social conflict and promoting social harmony and solidarity.
  2. Its role is valuable in the process of socialisation for instance every parent wants to educate add see his children gowing because they feel that collective representation so demands,
  3. It underlines the fact that for prosperity and development individuals must respond to collective representation.
    Durkheim through this theory has tried to bridge the gap between the group and society.

Evaluation of the Concept of Social Representation. The theory suffers from some serious defects

  1. It is wrong on the part of Durkheim to lay maximum stress on society but minimum on individual. No society can exist without individual.
  2. Pritim Sorokin has suggested that it should be rejected because it is nothing but unjustified mysticism.
  3. In Durkheims theory phenomena of compulsion will be social phenomena and free co-operation are all to be excluded from field of social facts, which of course is undesirable and unwanted.

Question 4.
Critically evaluate Durkheim s views about social solidarity.
Durkheim’s developed the concept of social solidarity in his first book De-La-Division De-Travial-Sociale (The Division of labour in society 1893) earlier Plato, Aristotle, Adam Smith, A Comte Spencer, and J.S. Mill, had expressed their ideas about social solidarity Durkheim’s comes very close to Simmel in his idea social solidarity hut it has not host originality because his items are more rich analytical, factual and statistical.

Durkheim began with the division of labour while discussing his concept of social solidarity further analysing its effects upon other social phenomena laying down stress on moral rather than economic aspects He feels that there is gradual change from mechanical to organic solidarity, devision of a labour and social evolution. But he feels that all these aspects are interlinked, through sometimes these are treated as separate units.

Divisionof labour, accordrng to him is responsible both for unity, solidarity bringing the people together and keeping them nearer and closer to each other Here Durkheim, highlights the importance of devision of labour Durkheim, while discussing social solidarity mentioned certain concept in Durkheim’s theory of solidarity is the collective conscience which is the sum-total of beliefs and sentiments common to the average member of society and forming a system in its own right. Durkheim also distinguished between two types of laws repressive and restitutive. The farmer is primitive and severally punishes any breach social rules the latter on the other hand is cooperative and its only aim is to restore things to order where a misdeed has been committed.

Types of Social Solidarity. Durkheim believes that solidarity is of two types : mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity.

Mechanical Solidarity. ‘Mechanical solidarity of resemblance and it prevails in a society where group is more important than the individual. ’It recognises psychological, social and moral similarity. In such a society there is thinking in terms of similar ways of living, wants and life. Aboriginal societies were such types of societies. As the society grows such a type of society is bound deliberate-efforts are made to preserve that then pressive that than repressive sometimes become” unavoidable. In such a society, such actions which go against the will of the society area punished’. According to Durkheim a society having mechanical solidarity-possesses strong collective conscience.

Organic Solidarity. This type’ of solidarity develops out of differences dis-similarities. In such a society‘there is division of labour with the result that it becomes possible to take advantage of the labour of the others. There is specialisation with the result that importance of individual very much increases. Solidarity is needed to meet wants and needs of the people and social relations are determined by mutual dependence. In this society different organs perform different functions. As the population grows with that division of labour becomes unavoidable’. Law here becomes restitutive and not repressive and becomes most crucial of all social facts. And as explained earlier when there is, an increase in mental and moral aptitude and capabilities, there is a decrease corollary in the collective conscience .

Characteristics of Social Solidarity. One basic feature of Durkheitn’s concept of social solidarity was rhat he emphasised that social integrity and solidarity could be ‘achieved through morality and as such the whole concept is moral phenomenon. Accordingly social solidarity can neither be concrete nor physical. It is a situation and thus abstract in nature. Then its another characteristic is that if is manifestation of collective consciousness. It is also linked with emotional attachment. Not only this, but it is not static and varies with changes in population on the one hand and extent of division of labour achieved on the other. Since it is not something concrete, it is, therefore, difficult to assess the extent to which it has been achieved. It manifests itself at appropriate times, when it becomes possible to find out whether it has or has not been achieved.

To Durkheim ‘social differentiation begins with the disintegration of mechanical solidarity and of segmental structure and mechanical solidarity societies come first in time. As he writes in his. The Division of Labour in society, ‘it is an historical law that mechanical solidarity which first stands alone, or nearly.: so, progressively loses ground and that organic solidarity becomes little by little, preponderant. But when the way in which solidarity of new becomes modified, the structure of societies can not but change. The form of a body is necessarily transferred when the molecular affinities are no longer the same.

Question 5.
Discuss Dutkheim’s ideas of the Division of Labour.
What are the social effects of Division of Labour accordding to Dorkheim ?
Durkheim does not agree with the economists in his explanation of the concept of Division of Labour, ‘Economists explain the divisional of labour as a rational device continued by him to increase the output of the collectivity. Durkheim rejects this explanation as reversal of the true order. To Durkheim modem society is defined first and foremost by the phenomena of social differentiation, of which contradiction is the result and expression’. He asserted that, since division of labour is a social phenomena, the principle of homogeneity of cause and effect, demands an essentially social explanation’.

Durkheim opined that division oi ianour was an important factor responsible for many other social events, and even we at farther to suggest that division of labour can help in studying culture and civilization but warned that it should not be studied “Only in economic terms but should have broad based social approach, He disagreed with the prevailing idea that division of labour was, essential for higher productivity and to enjoy a higher living standard, and asserted that it was needed because the people wanted to preserve those joys which they got from their ancestors and also to have high standards of life and morality. Division of labour is unavoidable on account of growth of population and since it becomes solidarity and specialisation it cannot be avoided.

Durkheim explained that in a low populated society there is no need for specialisation there is no heed for the division of labour, because then the group or family is self-sufficient. But when the group grows in size and services of the group are needed then division of labour becomes inescapable. In a growing society variety of interest groups originate resulting in social and industrial conflicts. In such a society there is no place for mechanical unity’.

Durkheim insists, therefore, that division of labour, a social phenomenon, can only be explained in terms of three social factors –  ‘The volume, the material density and’the moral density of the society’. The volume of a society refers to the size of population and materia! density refers to the number of individuals on a given ground surface. Moral density means the intensity of communication between individuals. The growth and condensation of societies and the resultant intensity of social intercourse necessitate a greater division of labour. Durkheim warns, ‘The division of labour varies in direct ratio with the volume and density of societies and, if it progresses in a continuous manner in the course of. social development, it is because societies become regularly denser and generally more voluminous’

Effects of Division of Labour. Durkheim pointed out that with the help of Division of labour society becomes more efficient, and attains social progress. Progress give rise to many new vocations and consequently a healthy competition starts. These are then new inventions conducive for social development. Since there is division of labour and specialisation, therefore, every one does only a limited job with the result that there is inter-dependence on others who are specialised in their own field. No person then becomes exclusive and self-sufficient’.

An individual is dependent on othem, therefore, there is a spirit for co-operation. The division of labour, discards of contradictions or non-cooperation. In a society where there is division of labour, mechanical solidarity, is replaced by social solidarity. : When individuals learn to adopt different occupations, the chances of conflict diminish. Each man is no longer in competition with all, each man is in competition with only a few of his fellows Who pursue the same object or vocation.’

Division of labour leads to emergence of new groups and interests, new classes are even born. Importance of individuals, his job, attitude and interests develop in new directions. Thus the very status of individual in the society changes. But a cording to him “The relation governed by co-operative law with a restitutive sanctions and solidarity which they express result fr the division Of labour”.

It was visualised by Durkheim that on account of division of labour the importance of individual will rise but those who will try to violate social discipline will face moral and social pressures and also subjected to collective social will. Division of labour motivate the people to be self-disciplined, and co-operative leading to social integration.

Distinction between division of labour and disintegration.
Durkheim pointed out clear distinction between division of labour and disintegration. ‘State can be said to be disintegrating where there is serious law and order problem, the number of crimes in-creases, number of suicides goes up, there is challenge to. social integrity and so on. On the other hand, division of labour is definite and deliberate attempt to divide the work according to interest, specialisation and social needs’. The division of labour thus struggle for existence.

Division of labour was viewed as a dynamic concept in the sense that social progress takes place. But no division of labour should be accepted as dynamic which results in social disorganisation or sharp division of society into employers and employees.’
Critical Evaluation of. Theory of Division of Labour.

  1. His theory considers only population and nothing else and thus discards other social factors.
  2. According to Barnes ‘concept is obviously biological ‘rather than sociological and gives biological rather than sociological explanation of need of division of labour’.

Question 6.
Critically examine Durkheim”s idea about Suicide.
What are different types of suicide according to Dur-kheim ?
Durkheim’s theory of suicide is discussed in his Suicide (1897j which has been held as a major theory social constraints relating to collective conscience in which conceptual theory and impirical research are brought together.’ In order to explain Various aspects the theory of suicides fie used statistical analysis for two ‘primary reasons’.

  1. to refute theories based on psychology, biology, genetics climati c and geographical factors ; and
  2. To support with empirical evidence his own sociological explanation of suicide’.

In the analysis of this theory, Durkheim displayed ‘ an extreme form of social realism. He held that suicide was not an individual but social act, and found that suicide rate among the persons living in a state of abnormal marital status was very high on the other hand where there is wellknit family system, the chances of committing suicide are reduced to the minimum because the family checks such tendencies. Such a family is well knit social group and inmates have cohesive character.

Efforts are made to check such factors which result in reckless waste of family life. That according to him is the specific reason as to why those who enjoyed affectionate life or have never enjoyed affectionate life or have never enjoyed such a life are more prone to suicide than the other who once have wholesome unhappy family life’. He wanted to prove that suicide is a social fact and necessitates evaluation of social organisation and structure, if suicide rate goes up and as the suicide is the result of social disintegration the individuals will refrain from it, if the factors responsible for it are removed ‘ by. the society. He writes, “There is, therefore, for each people a collective force Of a definite amount of energy implelling man to self destruction.’’

Durkheim emphasised the need of social control for each individual because that checks emotions and sentiments. Unnecessary competitions ; and endless the people to live in controls. But once this control goes off there is unhapply life leading to selfdestruction.

Durkheim rejected the idea that religious beliefs check suicide Uhd added that ‘if religion checked suicide it.was because religious life animates from and the concentrated expression of the whole collective life. According to Durkheim with the help of traditions and well established practices religion exerts regulatory influences over the individuals and integrates them into one signal moral community. With this integrity of social life’increases when the people are demoralised and disgusted. The chances of suicide will also increase when the church lacks internal solidarity and there are no effective institutional devices to check the members from committing suicides’.

Types of Suicides. According to Durkheim suicides are o three types :

  1. Egoistic,
  2. Altruistic, and
  3. Anomie.

1. Egoistic Suicide. Durkheim mentioned situations when an individual finds himself intensely isolated from the social group in the absence of such of cohesiveness or intensity in social group. Here every individual becomes busy in his own way non-coring for the other and in the process some people get isolated. ‘This is happening more and more in our modern society when self-centerd ness in every individual is increasing and there is more of impesonal rather than personal intimacy. Primary group life is being replaced by secondary group life.’

Durkheim writes. “Suicide varies in inward ratio of the degree of integration of social groups of which the individual is a part”. He continues by stating that, “Suicide is both a concomitant and an index to the relative degree of social disorganisation in our modern society.” In an organised society every member regulates his behaviour through certain rules and procedures which have been accepted by the society and represent collective will of the group. In such a society it becomes difficulty to violate social codes. It is only a disorganised society which Jays the foundations of personal disorganisation, ultimately resulting in suicide’. Thus ‘egoistic suicides are committed by those who become introvert’.

For combating this type of suicide, Durkheim stresses on the well organised large families since they are powerful safeguards against suicide. Durkheim writes, “as collective, force is one of the obstacles best calculated to restrain suicide, its weakening involves a development of suicide. When the society is strongly integrated, it holds individuals under its control, considers them at its service and this forbids them to dispose wilfully of themselves” .

2. Altruistic Suicide. Over-integration of individual into his social group leads to this kind of suicide. As Durkheim writes ; in such type of suicide, the individual seeks to strip himself of his personal being in order to be regardful in something which he regards as his true essence While the egoist is unhappy because he sees nothing real in the world but the individual, the intemperate altruist sadness, on the contrary, springs from the individual’s seeming wholly unreal to him”.

It is argued that individuals life ‘is being taken for a purposes or for the sake of something. Then individual sacrifices his life for the sake of larger social unity. Thus social pressures result in self destruction. In the past we find that women, many a time committed suicide to please the group or to maintain well established traditions. It is thus value oriented suicide.’ According to Parsons, “It is a manifestation of the conscience collective in the sense of the group pressure at the expense of the claims of individuality”.

3. Anomic Suicide. ‘Norrnlessness’ or ‘deregulation’ in the society gives rise to such suicides. These result in sudden social disorganisation and social control is lost. In his own words, “In anomic suicide, society’s influence is lacking in the basically individual passions, thus leaving them without a check therein”. He believes that it is on this account that ‘when there is extreme depression or prosperity, the rate of suicide goes up. He has supported his argument by saying that had it not been so, then there would have been neither suicides among affluent sections of society nor in the economically prosperous countries. According to him suicides occur in such situations because many people are hot in a position to adjust themselves to violent changes in their life system and set up.

Thus, according to Durkheim, ‘any abrupt transitions such as economic disaster, industrial crisis or sudden prosperity can cause a deregulation of normative structure. That is why, Durkheim reasons, anomie is a chronic state of affairs in the modern second-economic system. According to Durkheim poverty protects against suicide because it is a restraint in itself; “the less one has the less he is tempted to extend the range of his needs indefinitely”. Durkheim showed that “there was a high rate of anomic suicide among those who are wealthy as well as among divorced persons”.

Question 7.
Briefly discuss Durkkeim’s idea about religion.
Durkheim gave his theory of religion in ‘Elementary Form of Religious Life’wherein he has discussed in details about origin, nature and forms of religion. According to him the view which thinks of religion only in terms of belief in God or in some super natural power is incomplete. He adopted a new approach to the whole problem. Durkheim stated that all things can be divided into profane and sacred and Religion belongs to the later category. But he was opposed to the idea that all things are spiritual or that spiritual things are always sacred, though spirituality and sacredness are closely linked with each other.

The sacredness being based on collective representation, the people often frequently find themselves at an inferior place to that. He, thus wrote “Sacred things are those which the interfictions protect and violate profane things, are those things, to which those interdictions are applied and which must remain at a distance from the first”! The kingdom of profane and sacred is reflected through social beliefs, rituals and ceremonies. According to Durkheim religion is nothing else but a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things which unite into a one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them”.

Religion and Society. Durkheim believed that primitive people found it difficult to distinguish between natural and super natural. He disagreed with Max Muller or Spencer that ‘religion found its origin in such natural objects as ghosts, souls etc.’ He also challenged the theory of naturalism as origin of the religion and pointed out that these theories explained nothing else but indicated that primitive people had no developed mind.

‘He was convinced that religious faith was not such a phenomenon that it could not emerge out of any dream or illusion. It can be based only on solid ground and realities. According to him source of all religion is only society. It is the outcome of collective representation or outcome of group activity. Religion, according to Durkheim is nothing else but group excitement’. He- writes, “The sacred man is but a subjective reflection of the social categorical determinant. Religion as experienced by individual is the symbol of society”.

Totemism and Religion. Durkheim admitted the importance of totemism in religion and held that primitive totemism is The basis of all religions. Totemism contributes to group organisation by ‘linking the members to common ancestors and regulating their behaviour through certain prohibitions. According to him practices of totemism belong to the realm of the sacred, rather than the profane’. Thus a totem is a basic source of division of all things in the arena of religion.

Functions of Religion. Durkheim pointed out four important functions of religion. These are :

  1. To distinguish between good and bad, depending upon the character of the society.
  2. To strike a balance in sentiments and emotions and to connect present with the past group.
  3. To keep the group safe and ensure that group solidarity is maintained. Then it should encourage people to live in group life and that too in a disciplined way.
  4. To provide good life to keep the members away from profane activities.
  5. It should attempt to convert a profane man into sacred one mid already sacred man into higher stages of sacredness.

Thus Durkheim gave a very high place to religion. -The idea of society is soul of religion. Religious forces are, therefore, human and moral forces’.

Thus Durkheim saw religion, ‘not only a social creation, but is in fact society divinised. Durkheim stated that the duties which we worship together are only projections of the power of society. Furthermore, Durkheim ‘reasoned that all that is required for modern but now was to realise directly that dependence on society, which before, they had required only through the medium of religion representation.’ He explained that, “We must discover the rational substitute for these religious motions that for a long time have served as the vehicle for the number of essential moral ideas”.

Criticisms. Durkheim’s theory of religion has been criticised on many grounds. It has .been pointed out that it was wrong on the part of Durkheim to hold that the excitement of crowd is the birth place of religion.

It is a lop-sided view emphasing only the social aspect and forgetting other equally important aspects. Weiser writes that theory “must be regarded as extremely one sided and psychologically in-admissible”.

Question 8.
Point out major contributions of Emile Durkheim to the history of social thought.
Emile Durkheim, a French professor, held that scientific approach and was influenced by the social conditions of the contem-porary Europe and tried to solve the social problems. ETe wrote De La Division du Travail Social, (The Division of Labour in Society) in which he laid stress on the differentiation of jobs and position in the special feature of modern society. Durkheim analysed the > problems of industrial society in his Lesuicide, and in Les formers element airesde lavic Reliqie use (The elementary forms of religious life) he innovated the theory that religionis the creation of society.

‘Durkheimfideas making pioneering contributions may be studied under the following heads.

1. Division of Labour. Durkheim in his Da La division du Travail Social, has discussed the relationship between the individual and the collectivity. The manner in which the multiplicity of individual source the social coherence. According to Purkheim division of labour is the basis of this solidarity, which makes the individual interdependent and promote social integration.

Division of labour was studied by Durkheim as a social institution and discussion on the functional aspect of the individuals from the social point of view.

(a) Forms of Social Solidarity. The solidarity based on limited social differences was called as the mechanical type of social solidarity. Under such a condition the individuals, resemble each other because they feel the same emotions, cherish the same values, and hold the same things s’acred. The society is coherent because he individuals are not yet differentiated. Whereas in a heterogeneous society where there is absence of likeness or sameness the coherent unity of collectivity is reflected by differentiation. This type of society is marked by an advanced level of division of labour winch characterises the organic solidarity.

(b) Nature of Division of Labour. Durkheim visualised society in its real sense, where the division of labour reflects the structure of society. The economic division of labour was symbolised as mere expression of social structure.

Durkheim regarded that the .economic division of labour an equivalent to social structure as a consequence ; reforms with in the division of labour are tentaamount to social reforms and thus beyond the ability to conscious human effort. Thus, there is little need, to discuss tax, welfare, property, contract or labour reforms.

(c) The Method for studying Division of Labour. Durkheim explained that social phenomenon must be studied scientifically, that means objectively that is from outside. According to Durkheim in mechanical societies, whenever, there is violation of similarities, law operates as repressive, not only to expiate the crime but also for the reason that its “true function is to maintain social cohesion intact while maintaining all its vitality in the common conscience “. He further adds, “we must not say- that the action shocks the common conscience because it is criminal, but rather than it is criminal because it shocks the common conscience”.

(d) Division of labour and specialisation. Emile Durkheim favoured specialisation for the benefit of individual. He said, “One who gives himself over to a definition task is at every moment, struck by the sentiment to common solidarity in the thousand duties of occupational morality” and “the deal of human fraternity can be realised only in proportion to the progress of the division of labour”.

According to Durkheim social differentiation facilitates the survival of more individual. As Raymond comments, “Each man ceases to be in competition with all, each man is only in competition with a few of his follows, each man is in position to occupy his place, to play his role, to perform his function. There is no need to eliminate the majority of individual once they are no longer alike but different, each contributing in his own peculiar way ’to the survival of all”.

(e) Division of Labour and Anomie. The abnormality arising out of the division of labour was considered artificial by Durkheim and be introduced the concept of ‘anomie’.

The anomie has three forms :

  1. Separation of management of industry from labour.
  2. Disregard to individual natural talent.
  3. Improper co-ordination of function activities.

2. Social Fact. Durkheim envisaged scientific sociology with’ rationalist approach. Scientific sociology js based on. “The assumption that society is a reality, different in kind from individual realities and that every social fact is the result of another social psychology”. Durkheim conceives sociology as the study of social fact. “The social fact is specific, it is born of the association of individual and it differs in kind from what occurs individuals, individual consciousness. The social facts can be the subject of a social conscience they can be arranged in categories and because social entities are further because classified is general and species”.

3. Religion and Society. Durkheim observed the disintegration suffered by the western society under the challenge of biological science and feels that traditional religion was not able to fullfil the exigencies of scientific spirit and failed, to serve any common purpose. He rejected the moral authority of church as a necessity; to the betterment of common life.

In his “Les Formes Elementairs de la view Religievse”. Durkheim worked on a general theory of religion. He disagreed with the nature worship. He feels that religion would be no more than ” a kind of collective hallucination through the natural spirits worship. Totemism, according to Durkheim, “is the religion not of Certain animals or certain mens or of certain images but a kind of anonymous and impersonal force which is found in each of there beings, without, however, being identified with any one of them.

None possess it entirely and ail participate in it individuals die, generations pass away but this force remain ever present Taking the word in a very broad sense, one might say that it is the God worshipped- by each totemic cult; but it is an impersonal God, Without a nane, without a history abiding in the world diffused in a countless multitude of things”.

According to Durkheim, “A religion is an interdependent SyStem of beliefs and practices. regarding things which are sacred, that is to bring apart, for bidden beliefs and practices which unite all those who follow them in a single moral community called church”. This religion was the traditional religion, with which Purkheim often disagreed. Referring to the high spirits during the French Revolution, (1789), he said “Religion’s interests, are merely the symbolic forms of social and moral interest”.

Challenging the divinity, Durkheim argued “divinity is me y society transfigured and symbolically- conceived”. -He even recommended, “We must choose between God and Society”.

4. Individual and Collectivity. Sinology is concerned with the collectivity. It is held together by norms and values, moraly and religion, and from these the society draws its vital strength.

Durkheim analyses two facets of solidarity i.e. mechanical and organic. In a collectivity having mechanical soudanty members “feel the same emotion, cherish the same value ana n the same things sacred. The society is coherent because the m ivi- duals are not yet differentiated”. Such a solidarity was very commo in the primitive society according to Durkheim.

On the other hand, where there exists organic collectivity it is expressed by differentiation, society and individual function ox in respective areas and the solidarity that exists is organic’.

DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes

Leave a Comment