Division of Labour, Emile Durkheim Am

Topics: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber Pages: 6 (2126 words) Published: October 8, 2012
QN: compare and contrast the difference between alternative concepts of the division of labour of karl marx and emile durkheim?

Compare and contrast the difference between alternative concepts of the division of labour between Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim?

Division of labour is the specialization of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and like roles. Changing from a feudal society (in which agriculture is the main form of production) to a society in which work tasks become more and more specialised, people are compelled to sell their labour to the owners of big factories in order to survive. People are forced to move into (the rural parts) of town, as that’s where the big factories and new invented machines are. These factories are owned by individuals and no longer state-owned and controlled. In the law of nature everything was primitive but as the society grew into a more complex capitalist society there was also increased division of labour. To Durkheim division of labour was a way of social order that was going to bring solidarity amongst the people as they will all be interdependent on each other and will be specializing in what they are good at, unlike Karl Marx who saw division of labour as a car driving us to different social classes, anomie and individualism. Durkheim is a functionalist who sees a society as an interdependent organ, it cannot function on its own and division of labour brings about permanent feelings of mutual dependence amongst the people in the society and his perspective’s main aim was to support that division of labour is a pillar for social order (Giddens, 1998: 184), however Marx does not embrace it as much, to him division of labour is like cancer that gets into a human body and destroys it entirely, with no committed function of the life-host, and whose decoupled appropriation of its nutrients deprives the life-host of what it requires to sustain its vital functions(Kahn, 1981: 132). Marx acknowledges that division of labour came to exploit, enslave workers and that’s a social reality we can find in factory floors and manufacturing industries where workers are dehumanized (Johnson, 1971: 117), but Durkheim insists with a metaphor that society is like a human body that needs the eye to see, ears to hear and legs to walk, without another part the body will not be functioning properly. Durkheim argues that cooperation necessarily supposes the pre-existence of society for the division of labour to function, groups which apparently perform distinct tasks must actually intermingle and be absorbed into one another, in very simple societies, and members can easily replace each other in tasks. Comte and Spencer would argue that in higher societies, as social organization is perfected, it becomes more and more impossible for members to switch out of roles. However, Durkheim disagrees. He claims that the phenomena of substitution are also observable in even the highest levels of society. A member of society must always be ready to change functions to accommodate a break in social equilibrium. as labor is divided up more in human societies, this elasticity increases. Consequently the function becomes more and more independent of the organ (member of society) which performs it. For instance in higher societies, men performing different social functions are distinguished less and less by physical features The division of labour is a necessary consequence of the growth of volume and density of society as the number of individuals between whom social relations are established increases, men can only maintain their position by specializing more. Men go forward because they must. Civilization is but an after-effect (not a cause) of the division of labour. Furthermore, individuals are more a product of common social life than a determining factor in it. Individuals depend on the diversity of social conditions to differentiate themselves. The more numerous and diverse individuals...

References: Ali Rattansi: Marx and the Division of Labour (Macmillan, 1982)
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844, First Manuscript, in T.B. Bottomore, Karl Marx Early Writings, C.A. Watts and Co. Ltd., London, 1963, p. 72)
Durkheim, Emile, The Division of Labor in Society, New York, The Free Press, 1933. Referred to in notes as Division. HD 51 D9
Giddens, Anthony, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1971. HM19 G53.
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