Émile Durkheim

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What factors does Durkheim identify in the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity?

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Émile Durkheim believes that the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity is characterized by anomie and disorder. Once a society industrializes to the point of capitalism, however, its development ceases, as it has reached an ideal form of social cohesion to enable it to function effectively as an organism.

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In Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society, mechanical solidarity is deemed to be a condition of primitive societies—of which members, who think largely alike, share a collective conscience (and, according to Durkheim, have weak bonds as a result). In societies characterized by mechanical solidarity, crime is responded to in a punitive manner, as it is considered a violation of mutual norms.

Organic solidarity characterizes societies that function due to an intrinsic division of labor. As a result, organic solidarity is most common in societies that are industrialized, capitalist, individualistic, and meritocratic. Durkheim posits that organic solidarity emphasizes the importance of individual contributions, which naturally results in social inequality, since some members must contribute and be rewarded more than others in order to maintain the health of the society as a whole. In addition, Durkheim believes that moral and economic regulation is necessary to perpetuate organic solidarity and that responses to crime should be rehabilitative to better reintegrate members into the system.

The transition from mechanically organized (primitive) to organically organized (industrialist) societies is defined by anomie and disorder. When mechanically organized societies experience a greater frequency of interaction and a greater reliance on interdependence, they also experience advancements in population densities, urbanization, and technology, ultimately disrupting the nature of their original social structure. The resulting industrialization, division of labor, and individualization forms a society that is socially solidified, at which point the anomie of the social transition ceases.

Capitalism is therefore considered the ideal that all systems strive for, functioning as an organism that all members of society work to uphold. (Durkheim did not believe that a change in class structure would occur in response to capitalism in the way Marx did with his theories about false consciousness.) Durkheim believed that the division of labor was a cause and an effect of successful societies and that its promotion of social solidarity was vital to maintaining them.

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