SOCI1503 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Sociocultural Evolution, Mechanical And Organic Solidarity, Social Fact

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1 Aug 2016
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Lecture 16
Along with Marx and Weber, French sociologist Emile
Durkheim is considered one of the founders of sociology.
One of Durkheim's primary goals was to analyze how how
modern societies could maintain social integration after
the traditional bonds of family and church were replaced
by modern economic relations.
Durkheim believed that society exerted a powerful force
on individuals.
People's norms, beliefs, and values make up a collective
consciousness, or a shared way of understanding and
behaving in the world.
The collective consciousness binds individuals together
and creates social integration.
For Durkheim, the collective consciousness was crucial in
explaining the existence of society: it produces society
and holds it together.
At the same time, the collective consciousness is
produced by individuals through their actions and
interactions.
Society is a social product created by the actions of
individuals that then exerts a coercive social force back
on those individuals.
Through their collective consciousness, Durkheim argued,
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human beings become aware of one another as social
beings, not just animals.
According to Durkheim, the collective consciousness is
formed through social interactions.
In particular, Durkheim thought of the close-knit
interactions between families and small communities,
groups of people who share a common religion, who may
eat together, work together, and spend leisure time
together.
All around him, Durkheim observed evidence of rapid
social change and the withering away of these groups.
He saw increasing population density and population
growth as key factors in the evolution of society and the
advent of modernity.
As the number of people in a given area increase, he
posited, so does the number of interactions, and the
society becomes more complex.
Population growth creates competition and incentives to
trade and further the division of labor.
As people engage in more economic activity with
neighbors or distant traders, they begin to loosen the
traditional bonds of family, religion, and moral solidarity
that had previously ensured social integration.
Durkheim worried that modernity might herald the
disintegration of society.
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