The Division of Labor in Society by Emile DurkheimOriginally published in 1893 and never out of print, Emile Durkheim’s groundbreaking work remains one of the cornerstone texts of the sociological canon—now updated and re-translated in this new edition.As the Industrial Revolution was changing the landscape of society, Durkheim presented a new vision of the social structures at the root of capitalism, and the issues he grappled with still resound today. If pre-industrial societies were held together by common values, sentiments, and norms, equally shared by all, what holds modern societies, with their complex division of labor and non-cohesive social structure, together? What did this new social order mean for the autonomy of the individual? Durkheim argued that class conflict is not inherent in a capitalist society, as Marx contended, but that the unfettered growth of state power would lead to the extinction of individuality. Only in a free society that promotes voluntary bonds between its members, Durkheim suggested, can individuality prosper.
In this new edition, the first since 1984, world-renowned Durkheim scholar Steven Lukes revisits and revises the original translation to enhance clarity, accuracy, and fluency for the contemporary reader. Lukes also highlights Durkheim’s arguments by putting them into historical context with a timeline of important information. For students and scholars, this edition of The Division of Labor is essential reading and key to understanding the relevance of Durkheim’s ideas today.
The Division of Labor in Society
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French philosopher Emile Durkheim's book "The Division of Labor in Society" (or "De la Division du Travail Social") debuted in
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Sociological Forum. The source of social life, according to Durkheim, is the similitude of consciousnesses and the division of labor.
It was influential in advancing sociological theories and thought, with ideas which in turn were influenced by Auguste Comte. Durkheim described how social order was maintained in societies based on two very different forms of solidarity — mechanical and organic — and the transition from more "primitive" societies to advanced industrial societies. Durkheim suggested that in a "primitive" society, mechanical solidarity , with people acting and thinking alike and with a shared collective conscience , is what allows social order to be maintained. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that "offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience" though he viewed crime as a normal social fact. In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex system of division of labour means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly: social inequality reflects natural inequality, at least in the case that there is complete equity in the society. Durkheim argued that moral regulation was needed, as well as economic regulation , to maintain order or organic solidarity in society. In fact this regulation forms naturally in response to the division of labor, allowing people to "compose their differences peaceably".