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Emile Durkheim's View of Society

Emile Durkheim followed Auguste Comte in viewing society as a reality in its own right and in identifying patterns to the experiences of individuals which exist independently (Hess, Markson, & Stein, 1989). Durkheim theorized that segmentary societies are held together by mechanical solidarity in which repressive laws are created, tolerated, and essentially derived from necessity (Durkheim, 1964). The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society forms a determinant system which has its own life and can be, according to Durkheim (1964), a collective or common conscience. It is this common conscious, maintained by punishment and by strictures against proscribed behaviors in both the public and the private sectors, which creates mechanical solidarity. Mechanical solidarity is achieved via repressive law which integrates society to a degree which is dependent upon the greater or lesser extent of the social life which the common conscience embraces or regulates (Durkheim, 1964). The process can be transformed into modern as opposed to segmentary societies that are held together by organic solidarity.

In essence, Durkheim (1964) departs from Marx by arguing that organic solidarity in modern society is due in large measure to the division of labor. He states that "while repressive law tends to remain diffuse within society, restitutive law creates organs which are more and more specialized" (Durkheim, 1964, p. 113). Organic solidarity moves beyond linking things to persons to linking persons among themselves. Real as opposed to ephemeral rights form a definite system which creates a kind of equilibrium that works to the benefit of all members of society. Durkheim (1964, p. 124) states: "the relations governed by co-operative law with restitutive sanctions and the solidarity which they express, result from the division of social labor."

Marx, in contrast, insists that labor itself is th...

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