Soc Marx vs Weber

Topics: Sociology of religion, Totem, Clan Pages: 5 (1747 words) Published: January 13, 2013
Theoretical Foundation of Sociology

In today's life, we live in a constructed world where symbols determine many actions performed by human beings. Through symbols, we are able to communicate with each other without having any face-to-face interaction. Moreover, some interactions we encounter help us build collective memories of ourselves. In 'Elementary Forms of Religious Life,' Durkheim lays emphasis on totem, whereas in 'Madness and its Civilization,' Foucault talks about the house of confinement. Both of these topics mention how physical manifestations can be transformed into a value of collectivity. According to Durkheim, totem is a representation of a symbol. However, it is not merely a symbol because totem is described as" a representation above all of a symbol; which is tangible expression of something else" (Durkheim 1995 p208). Different societies and clans can assign different meaning to a totem. "Totemism is not the religion of a certain animals, certain men, or certain images; it is the religion of a kind of anonymous and impersonal force that is identifiable in each of these beings but identical to none of them"(Durkheim 1995 p191). Durkheim explains that totem is formed as a result of “evoking the consciousness of the faithful and can be derived only from a principle that is shared by all alike" (Durkheim 1995 p190). ). This shows that totem plays an important role in every society because each individual in that particular clan looks up to a totem if and only if everyone else assigns the same value to that totem. For Foucault, the house of confinement is also a representation of a symbol. In the 17th century, the French government imposed a law to confine the poor, the unemployed, the insane and the prisoners all under one roof (Foucault 1988 p39). These establishments formed a society that was linked to madness and the members of this society were labelled as abnormal people. The house of confinement represents a physical manifestation from higher authorities who have the power to exercise authority everyone else to those who live under their reign. Directors who were given this authority "exercised their powers not only in the within confinement building but throughout the city of Paris" (Foucault 1988 p40). Hence, the Hospital General represents the start of confinement. Besides that, totem and house of confinement are both representations of an organized society. Each individual is perpetually dependent on totem. The totem in each society functions as a uniting factor for it brings together all members of the society under one sacred symbol. Durkheim explains that totem is "the totemic principle or god since it is the flag of clan" (Durkheim 1995 p208). "It is the sign which each clan is distinguished from the other, the visible mark of its distinctiveness, and a mark that is borne by everything that in any way belongs to the clan" (Durkheim p208). For example, to the Hindu society, cows represent life and the sustenance of life. Thus, the Hindu community does not eat beef because they consider cow as a holy animal. In this case, the cow serves as a totem in the Hindu society and thus is held in high honour within the Hindu community. Similarly, Foucault's houses of confinement in one way, manages to organize a society in its own distinctive way. Foucault explains, "At first glance, this is merely a reform-little more than an administrative reorganization" (Foucault 1988 p 39). In the house of confinement, since the government generates a new unit of society that is from within the building, the house of confinement actually creates new social space within the society. Inside the confinement, each abnormal person is" grouped under a single administration" (Foucault 1988 p39). As an illustration, "the Salpètrière, rebuilt under the preceding reign to house an arsenal; Bicètre which Louis XIII had wanted to give to the Commandery of Saint Louis as a as a rest house for the military invalid" (Foucault...
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