Social Solidarity and Evolution of Contracts

As the author of this musing mentioned previously, Durkheim was mostly concerned with the idea of social solidarity, a concept of how society was held together. Besides having crimes to assist in structuring the moral guidelines of societies, he went on to elaborate the idea of social solidarity through contracts. Usually a contract was considered as a valid agreement between two consenting free individuals and if the consent was not given voluntarily, the contract could be nulled. (Pavlich, 2011) Durkheim believed that “a contract is not sufficient by itself, but is only possible because of the regulation of contracts, which is of social origin.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.81) Durkheim believed that the formation of contract laws was linked to the evolution of societies. “Contract law emerges at a time in history when modern society requires a way to facilitate the reliable acquisition and transfer of property.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.82) Durkheim demonstrated the evolution of contract law from status-based contracts such as blood covenants, “sealed through the sharing of blood” (Pavlich, 2011, p.82), that were used in primitive societies to the contemporary contracts that were more familiar to us.

A “solemn contract is expressed in words and guaranteed through sacred references to a divine authority that, say, a party possesses a particular thing.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.82) Durkheim believed that in modern society, the links to divine had weakened, but without a solemn ritual, he believed that there was no contract. Durkheim also made an interesting suggestion saying that just because an institution was needed it would appear out of thin air. “It was not enough for the consensual contract to be demanded by the advance of economic life; the public mind, too, had to be ready to conceive it as possible…a change had to be made in the region of ideas, that would allow of the having a different start.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.83) This reminded the author of this muse so many failed business strategies he had heard before. An example from the laughable Pepsi strategy twenty somewhat years ago, of thinking that if they could get one Chinese to purchase a drink, and also considering the population in China, they would have sold billions of drinks. The strategy failed miserably back then because the Chinese population seemed to see drinking soft drinks was unnecessary. And so, most soft drink companies began to promote to a younger generation.


Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.


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