Lecture 4

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29 Sep 2011
Comte: order and progress
Source of social order
1. Language – a container, medium used to communicate but it doesn’t have
content or direction on how to think
2. Religion – How is religion a source of social order? Basic, underlying common
beliefs and values that a community share. Source of order because a
religion connects you to others and goes beyond ones personal needs. It
legitimizes order. It gets people to accept what the government says.
“religion consecrates laws”
3. Division of labour – it generates interdependence (we focus on one jobs so we
have to get things from other people). It makes individual talents publicly
beneficial. Everyone’s talents can be brought to light to better all people. It
reduces the likelihood of alienation because everyone contributes.
For example. Greed, speculation, competition, risk taking are not always bad
things (ex. Banking investments)
Ideas of Comte’s DOL vs Smith’s ideas:
- Comte has an emphasis on how the DOL contributes to social solidarity. For
Smith, the DOL and its contribution to economic activity.
- Comte focuses on the DOLs conflict with solidarity
- You focus on one task, and you only mix with people in your occupation.
Therefore your solidarity will be more attached to that one group rather than
the rest of society as a whole. (ex. Lawyers care about lawyers).
- Smith’s solution to his problem was education. Comte focuses on society not
the individual. Comte’s solution to this problem is that it provides a special
social function to the government. Gov’t is the one institution that keeps
society as a whole (national solidarity – festivals)
Progress doesn’t focus on structure of society, but the movement. Society is
1. Rate of progress – why do some societies change faster than others?
Mortality/birth rates – less deaths cause slow movement. Older people do
not like change. If there are more young people, it will change frequently.
Comte thought the ideal rate is in between. Too many young people are less
Density – a lot of people in a small area. The DOL: high population density
increases DOL which increases rate of development. It encourages
competition. It creates a critical mass of special talents. In high density
places, these rare people get together.
Boredom - boredom causes more changes. One looks for new and
innovative things. Comte thinks that boredom is unique to humans only.
Sometimes we have skills that cannot be developed because we are couch
potatoes (can’t cultivate our skills).
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