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Monday, September 12, 2011

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity: One in the Same?

Trying to find a flaw in Emile Durkheim’s research was like examining the fracture lines in a geological sample. You know it’s there, but the definitions are a bit skewed, and detours fill your mind with strife and inquiries. Without the help of Krouber, I would have never had a starting point, and he laid the foundation. Krouber believed Durkheim was a positivist and I firmly believe this notion as well.

Durkheim states, “as long as society is essentially segmental [and solidarity is mechanical] towns do not exist”. I vehemently disagree with this statement. Even if individuals work separately on an occasional basis, it doesn’t necessarily mean a town can’t form. Yet, this statement hardly encompasses Durkheim’s complete view, or separation of societies, based on simple characteristics. Durkheim believes that mechanical solidarity leads to, or is the result of, individualism. Members of the society, therefore, don’t need each other for survival.

He then places Native Americans within this classification, which ultimately perplexed and infuriated me. Native Americans may not have lived in an excepted form of a town, however a reservation, which surrounds a central chief, is the very essence of one. Furthermore, Native Americans hunt as a collective and bring back their kills, which is then divided amongst the people. Can’t a mechanical society form around a central organ, characterized by organic solidarity? Can they do this on their own? Of course they could, but they depend on one another to make the hunt a more sacred experience. Durkheim makes the mechanical classification using no ethnographic analysis.

Durkheim further mentions that “we cannot survive without others”, as our lifeline is based upon the production and reliance on others to produce food, perform certain tasks, and provide us material items. This I do agree with, but why separate mechanical solidarity from organic? All people work separately at some point in their life and their results are presented to a central figure or are performed for a certain purpose. In essence, society is a network of capillaries, connecting to a central organ. All those separate parts act on one another and build upon the reactions to make the organ operate. Can the development of mechanical and organic solidarity only be at the expense of the other? Why separate mechanical solidarity from organic, when societies all operate as living organisms? This question brings up the textual jargon, “social organism”, whereby external forces may lead to homeostasis. Yet, this does not account for conflict which leads to social transformation.

Durkheim doesn’t address origin, but function. He doesn’t answer the question as to why, historically, one society differs from the next, but how it functions and in what way it should be classified. He never mentions conflict or cause, rather comparison of a unit instead of its subunits. Conflict leads to transformation, which leads to classification, eventually giving us an historical basis for comparison. Durkheim never addressed these issues.


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