Monday, March 9, 2009

The abnormal forms

Durkheim, Emile. Division of Labor in Society
Book 3 Chp2 and 3

In Book 3, Durkheim discusses the abnormal forms. In chapter 2, Durkheim discusses the abnormal form of division of labor – forced division of labor. According to Durkheim, assigning the lower class roles that are not according to their will and not satisfied with creates conflicts. This therefore requires change social order so that one does something agreeable to him. He argues that for the division of labor to create social solidarity, it is not enough that everyone have a task but the task must be agreeable to him. If the division of labor produces unrest, it is because the distribution of social functions does not correspond to the distribution of natural abilities. Constraint binds people to their functions, and only a troubled form of solidarity can exist (311). From my perspective, Durkheim assumes that people have no capacity to act on their external environment. People make choices and constraints alone cannot confine people to their undesired functions. People can influence the environment to obtain a desired situation although the external environment can also directly impact of them, which could be constraining.

He goes further to assert that normally, labor is divided according to the distribution of aptitude in society. The division of labor produces social solidarity when it arises spontaneously (312). Perfect Spontaneity corresponds to absolute equality in the external conditions of struggle for a position in the division of labor. Constraint occurs when this struggle becomes impossible (313). Perfect spontaneity cannot exist in any society. Inequalities build up through time. For instance, the hereditary transmission of wealth makes the external conditions of the 'struggle' very unequal. The 'higher' the society, the less these inequalities exist (313-4). I disagree with Durkheim’s statement that the higher the society, the less these inequalities exist. In industrialized society, inequalities still exist due to unequal access to means of production. I totally disagree that wealth is hereditary. Even those born by poor families learn better ways to survive in society. Later in the books he argues that injustice causes birth of the poor and rich but this does not solely explain cause of social inequalities. Social structures are contributing factors.

Durkheim assets that in an organic society, the sentiments held in common do not possess a great deal of strength to keep the individual bound to the group. Subversive tendencies emerge more readily than in mechanical societies. Hence, in organized societies it is indispensable that the division of labor attains the goal of spontaneity. These societies should attempt to eliminate all external inequalities. They cannot sustain solidarity unless their constituent parts are solidly linked (315-6). Equality in the external conditions of the struggle is needed to secure each individual to his function and to link these functions with each other (316). This argument draws Durkheim into a discussion on the importance of equality in contracts. He states that contracts necessarily develop with the division of labor. There is a consensus of a certain kind that is expressed in contracts and represents an important factor of collective thought in higher societies. He goes ahead to state that contracts are a regulatory system and can enhance solidarity only if there is justice among parities in exchange.

Durkheim also contends that 'there can be no rich or poor by birth without there being unjust contracts' (319). These injustices are found less often in less advanced societies, where contractual relations are less developed. Yet as labor becomes more divided up and the social doctrine weakens, these injustices become more unbearable and people start creating contracts to make relationships fairer. Therefore contracts regulate social life so that people do not take advantage of each other. Regulation generates liberty and equality.

In chapter 3 of book 3, Durkheim discusses the last abnormal form in industrial society, which is wastage. This occurs when there is lack of coordination of functions, leading to disorder. The ‘organs’ of the system do not function smoothly and continuously together to furnish efficient production of social solidarity. Although the division of labor might be highly developed, it is very poorly integrated. This does not always occur because there is a lack of a regulatory organ, but because the regulator does not distribute work in such a way that each individual is kept sufficiently busy to increase the functional activity of every worker (324).

Every increase in functional activity can create an increase in social solidarity. When functions of each organism become more active, they become more continuous. When all functions of the organisms become even more active, continuity of each one of them increases even more, creating solid ties and thus increasing solidarity. He states: As actions are more solidly linked to one another, they become more dependent on one another (326). The more individuals work in a society, the more each individual will specialize. At the same time, each worker must increase his activity to meet the needed amount of product. Hence, a second reason for why the division of labor fosters social cohesion: 'It fosters the unity of the organization by the very fact that it adds to its life (328).'


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