Durkheim

Durkheim states that the visible social facts that mark social solidarity and the collective conscience of society is law. Law reproduces the “principal forms of social solidarity, we have only to classify the different types of law to find therefrom the different types of social solidarity which correspond to it”  (Class notes; Mike Larsen). From social solidarity the collective conscience (consciousness) is produced which then creates a division of labor, seen by Durkheim as functional.

Since law is essentially the glue in which holds society together and pieces the community together to continuously progress ourselves in this world, Pavlich questions Durkheim’s explanation of law and examines if law functions in ways that stifle, rather than promotes collective solidarity.

My take on Pavlich’s question is yes; law does stifle collective solidarity rather than promoting it at times. Law according to Durkheim functions to promote collective solidarity, which refers to “the unity, integration, and cohesiveness of a group, class, or society” (Class notes; Mike Larsen). This collective conscience is composed of beliefs and sentiments pertaining to the average members of a society, in other words the norms or moral ethics of society, but this collective conscience can be corrupt and lead society to have mistaken beliefs, that instead of letting society flourish suppresses the people, in turn leading to a collective suppression by a certain group on another group, this could very well fall into the division of labor. These inequalities are represented by Durkheim as natural and functional for society to unify and flourish, because the sense of “othering” and belonging are functional characteristics.

“Durkheim argues that a given act is criminal because it offends [the collective] consciousness. We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it” (Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society). If there is a sense of “othering” by society and a division of labor is created, leading to certain individuals to be more influential than others, therefore leaving these individuals to carry more power than the average person, and if these people in power want to maintain power they will cater to the majority public in a way that serves them but more importantly will serve themselves and like people so they remain more powerful and in control of society. This can become the norm over time as people become more accustom to the idea of having a few leaders that represent the public, and begin to have their views guided to a similar direction and interests as those in power.

When members of society refrain from the typical norms they are portrayed as a threat by the government. We have let the government regulate our lives and given them tremendous powers, they have the power to find out every single detail of your life, and it has become a norm that this is not as surprising to an individual as it should be, privacy should be fought for. As the government begins to grow with the trust of society by convincing members with amenities such as courts, lawyer, and even welfare cheque’s on the surface supporting each individual, but more importantly collecting support from more individuals within society.

One law in specific that I think sets certain individuals in society for failure and also continuous scrutiny by majority of society is the law on welfare support, which carries a stigma over for the welfare recipient that they are lazy, underserving, and cheaters of the system. Support from the government is praised by the middle class society, but welfare recipients are looked down upon which essentially creates a division of labor but also shapes social construction on these recipients. We live in a world that is seen as a shadow of the United States and our collective conscience has been shaped to the ideology of the government, to the extend where many of us refrain from demanding free education, free health care, and the need for everyone to live comfortably. The norm that I speak up that has been created is what I’d like to label the “western norm.”

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2 responses to “Durkheim

  1. This is an interesting post. It reads like a discussion of Durkheim that is informed by elements of Marxist theory.

    I think that there is a lot going on in this post (which is good!), but I would like to invite you to clarify your central argument.

    As I understand it, you are saying that the laws governing welfare support function to stifle collective solidarity. Could you explain how this works?

    I wonder if someone working from the functionalist tradition might argue that the stigmatization of people on social assistance is natural (in a capitalist society) and functional (because it re-affirms neoliberal values of independence and self-sufficiency)?

    Best,

    – Mike

    • To clarify my central argument of the state’s governing of welfare support and how it stifles collective solidarity, the system creates one thing and that is debt. Welfare is implemented to provide support but instead of helping it has become cyclical, creating a never ending cycle of debt, dependent people and poverty. A metaphor for this is giving an old dying dog that is on a day-to-day basis some medicine to suppress his pain being endured but the medicine wont heal or save the dog it will provide a temporary antidote. The dog is going to die anyways but we decide to give him medicine to keep him content and provide him food because it seems to be the most humanistic thing to do.
      The government programs states they provide the minimum requirement’s for life to welfare recipients, but it has been proven that it is near impossible to survive on $500-$700 for two weeks, not to mention the difficulties negative stigmas attached contribute to emotionally. Instead the government makes recipients dependent on their assistance and provide no way to get them out of this hole they are stuck in. Another important effect is what the media, it over represents these public services and picks at a couple of people who have cheated the welfare policy and changed the public perception by influencing societies collective consciousness and stating the we should be more strict on these recipients and put more funding than necessary to maintain protection from the very few who deviate. In turn leading to funds being wasted and marginalized people being further scrutinized.
      If stigmatization is natural in a capitalist society from the point of view of a functionalist than my thought would be, who does the capitalist society really benefit, the marginalized and middle class or the few upper class. Majority should benefit, and few should suffer, not the other way around.