Durkheim and Social Solidarity

Food for thought: Durkheim

Durkheim was one of the very first theorists to conclude that there was no society that did not have crime but instead every society has crime and is normal. When looking at Durkheim’s sociology of law that proposes that crime is normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable, we must look at Durkheim’s definition of social solidarity and social facts. Durkheim’s definition of crime is an individual diverging from the collective norms and may exhibit a criminal character (Pavlich, 2011). Durkheim viewed crime as a collective function which was important for reinforcing social norms and increasing consensus (Pavlich, 2011). He also suggested social solidarity is seen as the focus on how society is held together and must be independent from the people it shapes (Pavlich, 2011). Unlike other theorist, Durkheim examined social facts such as ways of acting, thinking and feeling that are collective and not individual (Pavlich, 2011). Durkheim believed that society serves as a function and leads us to higher states of law and morality and establishes shared norms and vales. Crime is a normal part of society because without crime, there can be no sense of what is normal and what is not (Pavlich, 2011). In addition, it is a “visible symbol” of social solidarity and the embodiment of morals and norms (Pavlich, 2011).

Durkheim was also one of the first theorists to look at suicide and what social indicators made people want to kill themselves. This was very influential in his time because before Durkheim key thinkers such as Lombroso looked at the “born criminal” and believed crime was in a person and they needed to be fixed (Simpson, 2000). He looked at such social indicators that included relationship status, where the person lived and their economic status. I believe Durkheim’s theory is correct because the outcome of the study showed that individuals fail to be integrated into society and into the collective norm and gave theorists a new method to how crime can happen through social matters (Simpson, 2000). Durkheim also supported his theory by looking at the divisions of labour. In his book, The Division of Labour in Society, he pointed out contradictions in society which firstly try to increase individualism and secondly value efforts collectivity to follow the same ideals (Pavlich, 2011).

If Durkheim was to look at our society today, would he call it an organic solidarity? According to Durkheim, organic solidarity are forms of restitutive law and are common in advanced societies and point out social cohesion (Pavlich, 2011). Criminal law is no longer seen as a punishable crime, but instead are here to restore the status quo by using administrative agents (Pavlich, 2011). This can be seen in our society today with restorative justice and community reintegration playing a big role when offenders are released from prisons. However, an opposite direction to this approach for example can be shown in the criminalization and charges of cyber bullying in Canada. Recently in the news we have seen the horrific tragedy of a young girl, Amanda Todd, who committed suicide due to bullying. This is not the first suicide due to bullying and has been an ongoing issue since the first big case in 1997 of the Reena Virk Murder. If you were to ask anyone in society, society’s collective view on bullying is that it needs to be stopped and why is it still occurring with programs and education about bullying implemented in schools. Furthermore, recently on the cbc news website, an article on bullying involved 8 Ontario girls being arrested for cyber bullying. I believe societies collective view on bullying is that it is negative, harmful and needs to be stopped; however paying fines is simply not enough. Thus, increasing laws regarding cyber bullying. The question then becomes is youth imprisonment for cyber bullying going to stop this social phenomenon?

References

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press.

Simpson, S. (2000). Of crime and criminality: The use of theory in everyday life. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Cbc News Article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/10/19/london-bullying-arrests-girls-cyber.html

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Durkheim and Social Solidarity

  1. You provide an effective overview of Durkheim’s ideas about crime.

    Regarding your analysis of contemporary social solidarity, it is important to avoid conceptualizing penal and restitutive law as categorically incompatible ways of responding to the violation of norms. As you note, late modern society is characterized by both penal and restitutive law. Later in the course, we will examine Ericson’s theory of counter-law, which proposes that we are increasingly seeing administrative (restitutive) forms of law used to achieve the functions of penal law.

    Questions: Would Durkheim view bullying as a normal feature of late modern society? Would he regard it – and our response to it – as fulfilling a necessary social function, and if so, what would that be?

  2. sonipooni

    Yes, I believe Durkheim would view bullying as a normal feature of late modern society because bullying has been around for many years and only recently has come into the public eye. Many forms of bullying have been seen in various places such as schools, work, and within social networks. It can be regarded as fulfilling a necessary social function by building social hierarchy in schools and work places. For example, a kid who is being bullied at school may be labeled as a “loser” in which other kids see him or her as someone who is easily targeted and a bully may be labeled as someone with power.