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Mechanical vs. Organic Solidarity

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  • 0:03 Emile Durkheim
  • 0:58 Mechanical Solidarity
  • 2:14 Organic Solidarity
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll talk about the sociologist Emile Durkheim's concepts of mechanical and organic solidarity. We'll go over the difference between these two forms of social integration that hold different types of societies together.

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim is widely considered one of the founders of modern sociology, and his ideas have been extremely influential. He was interested in a number of different things, but in this lesson we'll focus on his interests in different types of civilizations. In particular, we'll talk about his interests in what binds people together a little bit. But before we get to that, let's give a bit more background on some of Durkheim's main ideas.

Durkheim comes from a perspective of social theory known as functionalism. This perspective considers how society functions as different parts that make up a whole. In this perspective, society functions like a biological organism. We need order and consensus to maintain this system.

For Durkheim, a key component to this is solidarity. Now, let's get on to Durkheim's types of solidarity, which might be a little different than what we typically think about when we think of the word 'solidarity'.

Mechanical Solidarity

Durkheim was interested in the organization of society, and he believed that different types of societies were characterized by different types of solidarity. Another way to think about solidarity is as a kind of social integration. How are we bound together in society?

According to Durkheim, small, early societies are characterized by mechanical solidarity because there is very little division of labor (meaning, there aren't too many different jobs), people rely on kinship networks, and most people kind of do the same job. In other words, these societies are not very complex. Mechanical solidarity holds these societies together, and we are bound by our sameness.

These societies tended to be small, rural villages. We didn't see much division of labor between the sexes, either. Durkheim also sees us as sharing the same belief system in simpler societies. Durkheim refers to this as our collective consciousness, and it's very strong in simpler societies. Durkheim felt this was necessary to the overall functioning of society, and, in fact, a disruption to shared common values was punished very swiftly and strictly in these societies.

But, what happens when society gets more complicated? Durkheim believed that at that point, it was characterized by a different kind of solidarity.

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