Durkheim’s Theory Used in Social Solidarity

Subject: Sociology
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Durkheim was a French-born philosopher who contributed to the social solidarity theory, which is part of social solidarity. Durkheim’s theory states that the life of groups and social organizations cannot be broken down and equated to the psychology of the individuals. Social solidarity emphasizes the independence between individuals in a society (Simmel, 1858-1918). It provides people with the freedom of action in that they can enhance the lives of others in society. This essay will emphasize how Durkheim’s theory is used in social solidarity and how it is illustrated in various societies based on their application of varying tenets of this ideology.

Social Facts

Durkheim describes social facts as being outside an individual’s influence but are very important in shaping and developing their life. Social facts in social solidarity are defined as both material and non-material (Gofman, 2019). The first type of social facts that elicit interest as part of Durkheim’s theory on social solidarity adaptation in different societies are material social facts. As the name suggests, material social facts are visible items such as buildings.

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In contrast, non-material social facts are not visible, but the members of society know and acknowledge their existence. Every society in the world has its unique social facts: cultures, norms, and customs. According to Durkheim, research is required to develop and gather social facts in societies (Follert, 2020). Durkheim illustrated a tendency to focus more on non-material social facts, deeming them more significant when developing his theory than material social factors.

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

There were two types of societies that Durkheim theorized about when developing his theory. They are based on two distinct types of solidarity. According to Durkheim, mechanical solidarity is based on a society that believes in the collective consciousness, people who also have common beliefs and practices. Individuals in the community show their strong sense of belonging through several things which act as their identifying factors. This type of solidarity is seen in areas like small towns or small areas where individuals have distinct work, religion, and lifestyles.

According to Durkheim, some societies evidence organic solidarity. Individuals exhibiting such a connection depend on each other in more advanced ways. The society in this type of solidarity is more progressive than one that illustrates mechanical solidarity. It is also a modern society in which individuals do not necessarily have common beliefs and norms. The diversity of people in this type of community makes their interdependence easier as they have greater access to each other. Such a society also exhibits characteristics such as specialization as different people may perform varying roles in the community, working in distinct sectors based on their specialization.

Division of labor in society increases effectiveness and productivity in the activities that community members engage. The two social solidarities mentioned above illustrate different ways and procedures on the division of labor. Societies that utilize mechanical solidarity are unified and identified by the type of work. These individuals engage in similar activities; therefore, division of labor involves assigning a portion of the whole task to every individual in society (Simmel, 1858-1918). This separation of common tasks into individual components for every member of society to participate brings about a feeling of togetherness and unites the people as they work together to achieve a common goal. Specialization is not a feature in this type of society as it focuses on ensuring that the work is done efficiently.

Organic solidarity is found in modern societies with different norms, beliefs, and practices. People in modern communities aim to achieve some goals that one person cannot accomplish most of the time. For this reason, organic solidarity is associated with the division of labor through specialization (Simmel, 1858-1918). The concept of specialization states that people in a community engage in activities or produce things best. The diversity in organic solidarity is the backbone of the society as the unity or commonness in mechanical solidarity is the strength. These two solidarities play vital roles in the definition and description of societies in mechanical, a more unified society, and organic solidarity, which is more diverse.

Social Theories and Collective Conscience

Social theories try to explain why and how things are and came to be in the world today. It is important to consider social solidarity in terms of the collective conscience and social theories such as division of labor and anomie. Emile Durkheim developed a social theory involving conflict that is referred to as anomie. People living together in society will sometimes disagree and differ in their opinions and ideas. The existence of conflict could have contributed to social solidarity in society. This is because solidarity focuses on the links that identify a specific community and set it apart from others (Simmel, 1858-1918). It also explains the reason for adopting unique roles and responsibilities in their societies and the origin of the morals and norms they observe in those societies.

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Social solidarity can also be a group of people who identify with common interests and objectives. The collective conscience is the common and shared sentiments that mainly act as an identifying factor for a particular society in the world. Anomie explains a form of social solidarity that deviates from mechanical solidarity as people do not illustrate a collective conscience. In contrast, these individuals are likely to have independent thoughts and do not adhere to any common notions due to an increased division of labor. They are also prompted to such action due to lesser constraints and a modern style of conducting activities. As more roles are created in society, their collective conscience grows weaker.

Anomic Division of Labor

Finally, since people have different characters, which makes them adapt differently, and some cannot adapt to specialized areas where there is a division of labor, this essay will explain the anomic division of labor. Specialization and division of labor is majorly a characteristic of societies with organic solidarity. Anomic division of labor in this context refers to the situation where individuals in the society do not abide by the set aside rules for the division of labor (Ritzer, 2011). This type of labor provides for a way that the society has no significant say on the division of labor and that the society can create rules to govern individuals in the society.

Anomie division of labor, also referred to as egoistic, is critical in ensuring social harmony even though people in the community are diverse. Individuals can freely show their interests and desires without being bound by community or society rules. They prioritize activities limited to their deposition or abilities. Anomie division of labor is a provision in the society that contributes to peaceful coexistence despite the differences that members of the society have, especially in organic solidarity.

Emile Durkheim posits a contemporary view of social solidarity that illustrates both traditional and modern notions of society. Individuals in a system that focuses on mechanical solidarity have greater cohesiveness and divide roles based on a common task. As communities progress, there is an increased division of labor and a weaker collective conscience. This shift leads to anomie solidarity, construed as a form of conflict social theory as people do not conform to established norms. Durkheim’s take on social solidarity offers a glimpse of varying societies, indicating the issues that varying people consider important in propagation of their collective needs.


Follert, M. (2020). Contractual thought and Durkheim’s theory of the social: A reappraisal. Journal of Classical Sociology, 20(3), 167-190.

Gofman, A. (2019). Tradition, morality and solidarity in Durkheim’s theory. İstanbul University Journal of Sociology, 39(1), 25-39.

Ritzer, G. (2011). Classical Sociology Theory, (6th Ed). Boston: McGraw Hill

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Simmel, G. (1858-1918). Edited by David Frisby; translated by Tom Bottomore and David Frisby from the first draft by Kaethe Mengelberg. (2004). London Routledge.