Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

Topics: Solidarity

The Division of Labor in Society was written by a French sociologist named Emile Durkheim in 1893. Durkheim focused on is the idea of cohesion, which helps understand what unifies individuals. This was a particular area of interest as France had undergone many changes in government, politics and religion in individual’s lives. Unlike Auguste Comte, who believed that there would be a natural progression out of capitalism initiated by revolutions, Durkheim believed capitalism was viable. He also believe that relationships would be created and strengthened through the new organization of labor.

Durkheim believed that there were two types of solidarity: mechanical and organic. During feudal times, society was organized by mechanical solidarity. This meant that individuals are connected by mutual beliefs, goals, and ideals called the collective consciousness. There was room for independent thought and opinions, but for the most part the views about the roles of individuals and their purpose was unified. Religion was one part of this unification. The collective consciousness dictated how society was organized and how laws were created.

Organic solidarity replaced mechanical solidarity with the decline of feudalism. In this type of society, individuals have designated roles (i.e., teacher, butcher, etc.). Since jobs are specialized, individuals rely on each other to survive. Durkheim uses biology as an analogy throughout the book to demonstrate the relationship between individuals (organs) and society (the body). As long as each individual continues their assigned role, society will survive; however, if an organ stops, society would experience negative implications. Though there is a web of interdependence, Durkheim views organic society as a good thing.

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People are more efficient as their jobs become more specialized. Second, it helps increase mechanical and organic solidarity between workers. Since there is an absence of a collective consciousness within organic solidarity, organizations and laws are important to regulation of society.

To date, the U.S. is still working within the context of an organic society. One example of an “organ” stopping is the city of Flint, Michigan. Prior to the 1980s, the city was booming due to the number of car manufacturing plants that were in the city. People were flocking to the city for employment. Towards the end of the 1900s, several economic factors caused a decrease in car sales, which forced many of the plants to shut down. This resulted in the loss of many jobs and a rise in unemployment and crime. The company depended on the workers for production, and the workers depended on the companies for income. This example ties to functionalism. Each person has a defined role and the goal is to maintain equilibrium. It also demonstrates that the shift to an organic society caused greater interdependence which can negatively impact society if one organ fails to maintain equilibrium.

Laws and punishments are perceived differently within the two types of solidarity. Durkheim states that “All written law serves a dual purpose: to prescribe certain obligations, and to define the sanctions attached to them” (p. 60). Durkheim stated that there are two main categories of law. The first is repressive law, which is a characteristic of mechanical solidarity and often occurs in societies that are less advanced. Individuals in less advanced societies are more likely to have a shared view of how of how society should function. When a member of society commits a transgression, it is condemned and justice is sought in the form of punishment with the goal being to seek justice. Durkheim stated that the flaw with repressive law is that “punishment is above all intended to have its effect upon honest people” (p. 83). Though repressive law is more typical of non-industrial societies, variations of this still exist within organic societies.

Restitutive law is regulated through legal code, courts, and lawyers. The goal of this type of law is to try restore relationships back to their normal state. This can be done through positive or negative solidarity. Durkheim spends a considerable part of the book addressing law as he believes law’s primary function is to help regulate the organisms so that the body can function together.

One point that Durkheim made was that “The state’s attributions become ever more numerous and diverse as one approaches the higher types of society” (p. 173). On a personal level, when I entered education 13 years ago, I had to have yearly training (mandated by Texas Education Code) on ethics and FERPA only that took about one hour total. Thirteen years later, the state mandates that educators complete yearly training in Acceptable Use Policies, Bullying, Dating Violence, Sexual Harassment, Safety and Health, Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse, Diabetes/Epi-Pen trainings, Suicide Prevention, Student Data Privacy, FERPA Regulation and Ethics training. As a district and as a nation, the government is forced to implement more intricate and complex policies to deal with the ever changing times.

Another example of increasing government roles as society becomes more sophisticated is in the area of the internet. S.B. 179 allowed schools to intervene in respect to bullying and cyberbullying and allowed schools to be supported by the local police departments if necessary. Due to the changes in technology, society is constantly experiencing cultural lag, in which many times, errors are made and legal changes soon follow.

In the second chapter, Durkheim exams the idea of moral density. As industrialization increases, cities grow and jobs become more specialized which also changes the moral density of a community. This means that the collective view of ideas, morals, etc. are not as strong since there is a larger group with different backgrounds coming together. Durkheim recognized that there would no longer be a “collective consciousness,” therefore, the sense of solidarity would come from the reliance on each individual and growth of organic solidarity.

The last chapter discusses why societies may experience issues in regard to their cohesion. The first reason is when an individual starts operating on his/her own behalf and loses his sense of working towards a common purpose. The function of society relies heavily on individuals understanding of their important role as contributing to the whole.

The second reason that may cause disruption of equilibrium is if a person is mismatched with their job. Comte argued that with specialized roles, people lose their sense of purpose. Durkheim somewhat agreed with this but believed that individual must recognized this and find the correct role in order to maintain solidarity. In addition, each person must have an occupation which matches his/her abilities. If that criteria is not met, there will not be unity.

The last reason for an unbalance is when it is not properly regulated. This means that on some level, the work is not being properly assigned to match each person’s position, in regard to time.

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Mechanical and Organic Solidarity. (2022, Jun 30). Retrieved from

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