Evaluate Durkheim's theories relating to Chapter 12 of The Division of Labor in Society.Chapter 12, "The division of Labor in Society" pp. 158-180

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main claim that Durkheim is making in this chapter is that the division of labor should lead to civilization and to a stable society.  It will not always do so because there are "sicknesses" in societies just as there are in biological organisms.  However, if all goes well, division of labor should lead to stability.

Durkheim argues that the division of labor leads to a higher level of civilization basically through competition.  People can only survive if they work hard and if they really hone their faculties.  When the are forced to do so, they will naturally come to a higher level of culture.

To evaluate this, then, we must ask if we really believe that the division of labor causes us to move towards a higher level of civilization.  I would argue that it does do this so long as we are speaking of material culture, but not necessarily when we are speaking of moral culture.  Our competitive society with its division of labor has undoubtedly increased our standard of living and the amount of "culture" that we enjoy compared to people in past societies.  However, it has brought with it its own pathologies such as excessive greed and crime.

Of course, this does not negate Durkheim's argument.  He argues that societies will get "sick" and will need sociologists to step in and help to heal them.  However, I am not at all sure that sociology is an exact enough science to allow sociologists to accurately diagnose what is wrong with our society, let alone to create a cure.

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