The Division of Labor in Society Background

The Division of Labor in Society Background

The Division of Labor in Society, published in 1893, is the English translation of Sociologist Émile Durkheim's doctoral thesis, De la Division du Travail Social.

In The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim views society through the lens of the structural functional approach, and describes social functioning on the basis of social solidarity. Comparing the primitive and modern societies, he identifies the two types of social solidarity as mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity.

Durkheim gives an account of the solidarity that characterized primitive society as well as the solidarity found in the modern society. In the primitive society, solidarity was that of 'mechanical solidarity', characterized by a strong common sentiment or 'collective consciousness'. As society progresses and becomes more modern, Durkheim stated in his Division of Labor in Society, that the solidarity would transform into an 'organic solidarity', characterized by a weaker collective conscience. Both the types of solidarity were based on the division of labor in the society, marked by a differentiation of work. In the primitive society, Durkheim identified less division of labor, for the people held common jobs and performed similar tasks, such as that of farming. In the modern society, he identified a specialized division of labor, with a wide variety of tasks and jobs.

Durkheim did not only identify the types of solidarity and changes in the division of labor, but he also identified the role of crime, punishment and isolation and anomie in each of the societies. The Division of Labor in Society set the stage for further sociological theories and research, and is regarded as one of the important modern sociological works.

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