Durkheim and the Relevance of His Theories in Modern Society

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“Treat social facts as things” is an expression that epitomises the works of Emile Durkheim. This essay focuses on four main sociological concepts proposed by the functionalist Emile Durkheim; the division of labour; mechanical and organic solidarity; anomie and suicide, and examines their relevance in contemporary society. Along with Marx and Weber, Durkheim is considered one of the founding members of modern sociology. He is also credited with making sociology a science through his application of scientific and empirical research. Durkheim believed that sociology should be seen as a science separate from other sciences such as psychology, by studying “social facts” objectively as things. (Kiviston, 2011) Through his four major works: The Division of Labour in Society (1893); The Rules of Sociological Method (1895); Suicide (1897) and The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), Durkheim’s key theories of division of labour, mechanical and organic solidarity, anomie, suicide and religion emerged. (Hughes et al, 1995) According to Durkheim, division of labour focuses on social solidarity i.e. what bonds people to each other. Division of labour can be described as breaking large jobs into smaller and more specific areas of expertise i.e. someone with a specific skill set is responsible for doing a particular job. Take the example of a building project; for a successful build there is need for an architect, a building contractor, a bricklayer, a plasterer, an electrician, a plumber, a solicitor etc. He split social solidarity into two distinct groups; mechanical and organic. Mechanical solidarity refers to traditional societies where people’s lives are homogeneous i.e. they are connected through similar morals and beliefs. (McDonald, 2009) Durkheim claimed that laws governing a society where mechanical solidarity was prevalent would be repressive in nature due to the uniformity of the people within it. Consequently, anyone who challenged this...
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