Economic Sociology: Emile Durkheim’s Division of Labor in Society

(Emile Durkheim)
In Emile Durkheim’s book, The Division of Labor in Society, he describes the differences between a society where people have similar tasks (mechanical solidarity) and a society where people have different, individual tasks (organic solidarity).

He says that in modern times, society is not gelled together by people’s similarities in tasks and beliefs. Rather, social solidarity is kept together by people’s individualism and specialties because it forces them to rely on one another, as citizens of modern society perform a narrow range of tasks.

However, many people have argued that the division of labor would corrode solidarity, but Durkheim contends that “the economic services that it can render are insignificant compared with the moral effect that it produces and its true function is to create between two or more people a feeling of solidarity.” (The Division of Labor in Society)

This being his first major work, The Division of Labor in Society was criticized for being incomplete and not addressing all of the important issues in this topic.


Two types of social solidarity:

Mechanical Solidarity – People in this type of society are similar to each other and carry out similar daily tasks and have similar responsibilities. As well, they have similar life situations and experiences.

This society’s collective consciousness covers the entire society and it is very intense, extremely rigid, and very religious.

Organic Solidarity – People in this type of society perform specific, individual tasks that develop different sets of experiences and situations for every individual.

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The collective consciousness only affects certain groups of people and is not very intense, not very rigid, and the content is based on individual morals.

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