Durkheim's Division of Labour

Social Change

The transition from the old to the new forms of society happens through a change of social bounds. 

This is relevant because:

  • Describes the normal basis of modern social order 
  • Prescribes the "pathological" conditions of our societies (e.g. class conflict, social disintegration and deregulation - "anomie") 
  • Explains "abnormal" or deviant behaviours - suicide and crime.  
1 of 11

Example of Social Change

Changes in divorce laws: Radical change in Canadian divorce law - Does the change correspond to a healthy and normal condition of life in our society or is it pathological and abnormal?

  • Before 1968 - adultery was the only ground for divorce; 1968 - No fault ground. Divorce is allowed by joint consent; three years of separation; by one person's request; five years of separation; 1985 - "the marital breakdown" defined in terms of - lived apart for one year 
  • This reflects the change in ways family members are linked in Canada

Changing family institution in Canada

  • 2 decades ago, married couples made up to 80% of families - 2006: 68.6% 
  • Couples living together outside the legal confines of marriage account for 15.5% of all families in Canada - 20 years ago: 7.2% 
  • More single parents - 20 years ago single parent headed up 12.7% of families; 15.9% now 
  • More families without children - 2006 consensus showed there were more families comprised of couples without children (42.7%) than with children (41.4%
2 of 11

Repressive and Reistitutive Law

Old divorce law - perceived as an act committed against the core beliegs of society. It was sanctioned in order to protect these laws. New divorce law: marriage is a contract between two consenting individuals; the divorce must be allowed based on their consent. 

These two laws present Durkheim's repressive and restitutive laws. 

  • Repressive - consists in inflicting physical harm or depriving the offender of social honour/freedom. 
    • Perception of crime - the offence is perceived as made against community (religion, core values_
    • The act offends the core beliefs and common norms of society (e.g. divorce & break up of marriage) 
    • Punishment is harsh - a passionate reaction. It retaliates in order to reinforce the common norms and beliefs of society. 
3 of 11

Repressive and Restitutive Law (2)

Restitutive law:

  • The term is derived from "restitution" meaning - the return of something to the condition it was in before it was changed. 
  • The return of something to its rightful owner 
  • Compensation for loss/damage. 
  • Example - you borrow a book from me, and you are expected to return it. If you don't, the law obliges you to either return it or pay the damage. Thus the intention is to restore things to their previous state. It also restores the principle of exchange or contract which is damaged. 
  • Punishment is lenient - the perception of damage is not to society but to the individual. 
    • The act not the intention is punished 

The function of law: "The law regulates contractual obligations, by prescribing expectations rather than sentences." 

  • Laws are external signs of social solidarity - laws correspond to and exhibit social bounds 
4 of 11

Mechanical Solidarity

  • A strong social bond between the segments based on common beliefs or based on "collective conscience." The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same collective 
  • Crime 
    • "An act is socially bad because society disproves it"
    • "If the corresponding sentiments are abolished, the most harmful act to society will not only be tolerated, but even honoured and proposed as an example."
  • No individuality - in societies where this type of solidarity is highly developed, the individual does not appear. "The individual is dependent upon the collective type and follows all of its movements." 
  • Mechanical because social molecules have no actions of their own, as the molecules of inorganic bodies. 
  • Examples of no individuality - marriage is arranged by the family; the roles in the family are predefined (based on gender); the divorce is not allowed just because the individuals consent to break up their marriage. 
5 of 11

Organic Solidarity & Division of Labour

  • Established contractual relationships among individuals 
  • Example - marriage today is considered to be a contract. It is a result of the development of the division of labour in society. 

Extensions of the Division of Labour 

  • A result of the increase population, and of the individuals' contract and interaction 
  • People need to find more effective ways of production of goods, requiring the extension of labour 

Dynamic or Moral Density 

  • First (growth of cities) - distance between members of a society reduced spatially 
  • Second (the total numbers of its members) - the increase of population 
  • Third, the number and rapidty of ways of communication and transportation 
6 of 11

Division of Labour

Consequences of Division of Labour 

  • Differentiation - the individuals are placed in increasingly more different functions 
    • Social roles - ideally, everyone can play a role of their own choice and every one's identity and personality is determined by their social role 
  • Meritocracy - the individuals attain social role and status, based on their functions 
  • Individuation - the individuals become more independent 
    • Who one is does not depend on socially defined and enforced categories such as the family, class, gender etc. 
    • One's function in society is not predetermined by one's social status. 
  • "Organic solidarity" - individuals become more interdepent. 
    • Because people depend more on each other for that they need, such as housing, food, healthcare, education etc. 
    • "This solidarity resembles that which we observe among the higher animals." // each part has its own independent and different function. 
7 of 11

Law and Organic Solidarity

  • Even in organic solidarity the law is not merely based on the consent and self-interest of the individuals. 
  • E.g. marriage law - "although marriage is a contract, the married persons can neither form it nnor break it at their pleasure." 
  • Rule of law - "the judge examines a request for divorce is not concerned with knowing whether this separation is truly desirable for the married parties, but rather whether the causes come under the law." 
    • "If the contract has the power to bind, it is society which gives this power."

Function of Law 

  • Advanced societies - "to make social relations always more equitable, so as to assure the free development of all our socially useful forces." // "there cannot be rich and poor at birth without there being unjust contracts." 
8 of 11

Forced Division of Labour and First Cause of Anomi

  • Not every kind of social regulation is good, rather sometimes bad rules are the source of evil in society.
  • Unjust distribution of functions (when people get education and thus good jobs because they can pay for it) make lower classes unhappy and give rise to class conflicts and crime. 
  • Anomie - derives from anomie which means lack of norms // when social norms are weak/inadequate 

First Cause of Anomie 

  • Sudden and rapid change 
    • In economy and as time passes the division of labour will attains its normal form 
    • In the edition of the DOL Durkheim insisted that this is the major cause of anomie and thus socities, as they evolve, will restore a normal DOL 
    • In the preface to the 2nd edition of DOL, Durkheim argues that his predicition was wrong because anomie is more deeply involved in the moral fabric of modern societies 
9 of 11

Cause of Anomie in Modern Times

Weaknesses of moral commitments to norms 

  • The assumption - "The adherence to laws and justice, requires a degree of sacrifice, a restriction upon individuals self interest." 
  • Rule of self interest vs. the rule of law - but today "we are supposed to follow no other rule than that of our well understood interests." 
  • The need for a moral authority - "there must be a superior authority (collective) in order to impose sacrifices in the name of the public interest." 
    • Modern moral authority - "today the greatest number of citizens pass their lives in the industrial and commercial world." 
10 of 11

Durkheim's Dilemma

By showing that there is a "non-contractual element" (rule of law) in contract (the rule of self-interest) "Durkheim had created a dilemma for himself."

E.g. marriage and the law

  • If marriage is only based on two individuals consent (i.e. on contract) how can we expect them at the same time to allow the law (or the core values of society) to dictate to them when and how they can break their marriage?
  •  In fact, after the Canadian divorce law of 1968 people in order not wait for 3 years of separation used to fake adultery! 
  • Where does the "non-contractual element" derive from if the progress of organic solidarity, entails the disapparence of collective values?
11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Social Theory resources »