Tuesday, 12 October 2004

From "The Division of Labour in Society"

By Emile Durkheim.

[…] in the industrial societies that Spencer speaks of […] social harmony comes essentially from the division of labour. (Principles of Sociology, 3, pages 332 following). It is characterised by a cooperation which is automatically produced through the pursuit by each individual of his own interests. It suffices that each individual consecrate himself to a special function in order, by the force of events, to make himself solidarity with others.


Since it is spontaneous, it does not require any coercive force either to produce or to maintain it. Society does not have to intervene to assure the harmony which is self established […] The sphere of social action would thus grow narrower and narrower, for it would have no other object than that of keeping individuals […] from disturbing and harming one another […]

The hypothesis of a social contract is irreconcilable with the notion of the division of labour […] For in order for such a contract to be possible, it is necessary that, at a given moment, all individual wills direct themselves toward the common bases of the social organisation, and, consequently, that each particular conscience pose the political problem for itself in all its generality […]

Nothing, however, less resembles the spontaneous automatic solidarity which, according to Spencer, distinguishes industrial societies, for he sees, on the contrary, in this conscious pursuit of social ends the characteristic of military societies.

Such a contract supposes that all individuals are able to represent in themselves the general conditions of the collective life in order to make a choice with knowledge.

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