Durkheim’s Social Facts, Division of Labor, and Anomie

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 2
Words: 547
Reading time:
2 min

Durkheim defined several essential social notions, including social facts, division of labor, and anomie. Thus, social facts are one of the core concepts of functionalism that considers the influence of external factors on human beings. They consist of “manners of acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual, which is invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him.” Social facts can be viewed as institutions, norms, and values that constrain people. Traditionally, they are produced by collectives and exist above the level of individuals. Durkheim claimed that social facts were not limited to ways of functioning but included such aspects as the nature of society, the geographical distribution of population, and communication network. Thus, the structural features of a society are consolidated social functions.

Division of labor is another critical concept from the functionalist perspective. It can be defined as the separation and specialization of work among people. The broader meaning of the term is the visible and hierarchical gradation of occupation. In this concept, all work is divided into smaller tasks, with each of them assigned to a group or an individual. Durkheim noted that social harmony stems from the division of labor. From this point of view, harmony is characterized by the cooperation of individuals, with these interactions being the result of the pursuit of each of their personal interests. Thus, to achieve their goal, a person must work with other members of the community who are simultaneously trying to achieve their own objectives. The concept states that separation of labor is necessary as it leads to more efficient specialization and, consequently, a more prosperous society.

Another vital concept in functionalism is anomie, which Durkheim believed to be a central feature of modern societies. Anomie can be described as “normlessness, disorganization, exploitation and class conflict, and the political responses to these, including revolutionary syndicalism and socialism.” This notion can be viewed as the result of the destruction or breakdown of standards and values and can be caused by the lack of common ideas in the community. Anomie can also be understood as crime or a general form of social instability that leads to crime. From this point of view, crime is not a social pathology as the breach of the norm shows the validity of the standards to all members of society and empowers stability.

Social facts, division of labor, and anomie are interconnected and correlated. Thus, it can be argued that social facts determine the development of social groups and influence their career opportunities. For example, such facts as population distribution, status, and urbanization can impact what work and roles are available to different individuals. Similarly, the division of work influences social facts, as one’s status can change substantially due to a promotion or a transfer. Additionally, anomie can stem from the division of labor and social facts, as some persons may be disenfranchised due to their social status. As anomie is the result of the crisis, it is a deviation from society’s natural build. Overall, the three concepts are interrelated, as social facts and division and specialization of labor influence each other, with the anomie being the result of the divergence from the facts.