Emile Durkheim, Uncategorized

Durkheim Reading Response

Initially going through this reading on my own I interpreted the Durkheim reading to be about two different types of unity in our society. However to me I understood it as mechanical solidarity being that of something an individual has no choice over having. An example would be people feeling connected through work, education, or lifestyles. The organic type I understood it to be the interdependence that rises from specializing work. Now after the discussion we had in class I more or less saw things more clearly on parts where I might have been a bit off. We see how mechanical solidarity becomes a more organized mentality where the function of group unity is ideally most important. So I see it as more of a routine behavior. While organic solidarity is based on the differences that each person has, therefore all becoming something collective as an end product.

Shifting away from Marx’s ideas, Durkheim was more focused on how things occur in our lives through natural means. It is amazing to see just how influential the division of labor is in society. It is a moving force for the two types of solidarity defined. The example used in class with the shifting of mechanical and organic solidarity was very enlightening. Seeing as how both sides are merely inversed, it helps to view it in a light of individuality not having any positive or negative aspects to it. Instead it is merely only a natural process which occurs.

Trying to decipher the idea of objectivity and how problematic it can be has me a bit stumped. Durkheim talked about how civilization can become an object of desire, in other words, becoming an ideal. The problem when something becomes ideal is that it turns into to something almost always unattainable because nothing is perfect. Another issue I can possibly see occurring is that when too much emphasis is put on a symbolic object the idea of what that thing really is loses value. Not sure if I deviated away from the main point but hopefully it’ll be clearer after seeing everyone else’s idea on the matter.


4 thoughts on “Durkheim Reading Response

  1. Molly says:

    I find Durkheim’s mapping of society as an organism to be the most interesting part of “The Division of Labor,” and you have both made points that really resonate with my reading of this text. I think you are correct, Sam, in your observations about Durkheim’s opinion about the relationship between organic solidarity and a “civilized” society. Like you brought up and as we discussed in class, however, organic solidarity has been most prominent in western society up to this point in history, so the bias of Durkheim’s claims regarding the “civilized” are rightfully up for debate. My understanding of this reading also feels a bit limited, but (with the second exam question in mind) I have been trying my best to mentally juxtapose Durkheim and Marx since, like you, Sam, I found Marx far easier to understand and have found that the best way for me to get a reading of Durkheim’s ideas is to compare and contrast them with Marx’s. For me, it has been quite easy to find points of contrast between the two of them, but I find bringing the two together far more difficult. While Marx’s favoring communism seems to ally his thinking with Durkheim’s definition of mechanical solidarity, many of Durkheim’s theories bring up the other side of the coin. Additionally, while Durkheim initially claims that a synthesis of organic and mechanical solidarity exists, which would give him something in common with Marx, he seems to me to be arguing against his own claim throughout the rest of the text with his aforementioned arguments about organic solidarity and “civilization.” I’m feeling really shaky about my reading of this, but I’m wondering: Are Durkheim and Marx really as oppositional as I think they are?

  2. Yes I feel this reading has a lot more to take in also maybe if it’s a first time absorbing this info. Sam you also make a great point in questioning whether or not all societies are originally mechanical later then evolving into a different kind. Durkheim did not necessarily specify on any origins of which solidarity came first, from what I understood. It is as if both exist in society as a synthesis where one cannot exist without the other. Well at least that’s how I interpreted it from our class discussion. I also thought of the organs/ organism concept only being applied to the organic solidarity. Since it had that of a hierarchy and people all serving different functions while acting collectively as a whole. Not sure if how I worded it is helpful or not. Also, Molly you are definitely not the only one! I too think that there are way more points in how Marx and Durkheim are different than in how they are similar. I think you make a great point in comparing the two. I initially did not think of it in that way. It is true that mechanical solidarity can be applied to Marx’s ideas on communism. The only way I might see how both are similar are in terms of how nothing is actually fixed for either theory. There is always a constant shift or change in both.

  3. farhanauddin221 says:

    I had a hard time shifting from Marx to Durkheim. I remember reading some of Durkheim’s other works in my other classes. When I read our class reading, I was overwhelmed because I was trying take pick apart and I thought I didn’t understand it. On the margin of my reading I was able to note down some of the ideas when I initially read it. I noticed some ideas we discussed in class were some of the things I had wrote on my margins. Also I like the fact that we get to read and interpret the text together in class. I think reading aloud in class allows you to see certain facts that get misses or even confirm your interpretation of the text.

    I think I understood the text. Emile Durkheim describes two types of cohesion in our society. One is the mechanical and the other is the organic/ In the Mechanical we are born into society with a certain role. This is also were individuals are not concerned about individuality but rather collective character. Organic on the other hand, is more dealing with division of labor, individuality and much more (different parts coming together to make a whole.)

    Katina, I was also stuck as to why objectivity can be a problem. I was wondering how Durkheim is defining objectivity. Is it the ideas of looking at existing things without involving human emotions, prejudice, impression, etc… I guess in Durkheim’s reading he tries to speak of civilization in an objective way. But in fact civilization is a human interpretation of what a functional society should look like. In the west Civilization can in fact be looked at as something that does not resemble our society or manners. So in that case civilization cannot be actual observed objectively because it’s foundation is built on human interpretation of what is right and wrong. This already putting a predisposition on what can be considered “civil”.

  4. vpa0001 says:

    Durkheim’s writing is a lot harder to comprehend than Marx’s writing. After reviewing Marx’s work in class, I understood it much easily, but after reviewing Durkheim’s writing in class, I’m still not so sure if I understand him completely.
    I understand that Durkheim talks about having two kinds of solidarity, which is mechanical or organic. Both mechanical and organic which are types of societies, the individuals within the society interact with their responsibilities to other individuals and of course the society as a whole. At the end the individuals receive some kind of identification of their own rights. In the mechanical solidarity, people are likely to have similar task in and also similar life situations and experiences.
    The organic solidarity on the other hand differs from mechanical solidarity. In the organic society the individuals tend to have different tasks, which leads to having different kinds of experience.
    I kind of do believe that Marx and Durkheim might be similar (tell me if I’m wrong) because they believe that if a society tends to get larger than division of labor will also increase. Therefore an organization, which is so complex, labor is necessary for the manufacture of the things we need for our everyday needs (material life).
    Farhanna, I do agree with you on the part about objectivity. I guess when we discuss this in class today it will be much more clear and will be more understood.

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