Durkheim on division of labor

Durkheim in The Division of Labor in Society writes about “the forced division of labor” as an “abnormal form.” He writes (p. 312-3):“We may therefore state that the division of labor only produces solidarity if it is spontaneous, and to the degree that it is spontaneous. But spontaneity must mean not simply the absence of any deliberate, formal type of violence, but of anything that may hamper, even indirectly, the free unfolding of the social force each individual contains within himself. It not only supposes that individuals are not consigned forcibly to performing certain determined functions, but that no obstacle whatsoever prevents them from occupying within the ranks of society a position commensurate to their abilities. In short, labor only divides up spontaneously if society is constituted in such a way that social inequalities express precisely natural inequalities. It is a necessary and sufficient condition for these inequalities neither to be emphasized nor played down through some external cause. In this essay, first explain the meaning of this passage: what does Durkheim mean by social inequality (i.e., how is it different from natural inequality?)? Why does social inequality compromise organic solidarity? What is the relation of spontaneity to organic solidarity? Why is solving the problem of externally caused inequality necessary for the achievement of organic solidarity? Second, consider the implications of Durkheim describing non-spontaneous inequality as an expression of “the forced division of labor,” as an “abnormal form” of the division of labor. Is all inequality, for him, incompatible with organic solidarity, or only a certain kind of inequality? Stated differently, for Durkheim, is organic solidarity possible with social inequalities? Finally, contrast Durkheim’s understanding of inequality (or inequalities) with Marx’s. Of what consequence is it that Durkheim emphasizes the problem of solidarity to describe modern society while Marx emphasizes class struggle? Both Marx and Durkheim are critical of contemporary capitalism and the inequalities that characterize modern society. Are they, therefore, in agreement concerning the possibility of social and political stability and/or political and social reform in modern society? Explain your answer, using quotes from the text for both Durkheim and Marx, where appropriate.


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