Emile Durkheim’s Sociology and Social Solidarity

Durkheim Emile is among the prominent French philosophers whose works in academia and research have shaped the perspective in social sciences, especially sociology and philosophy. For Durkheim, the dynamics within a given society triggered his theoretical works. They guided his framework of thought on the interrelationships between people and the elements of their society, such as labor and community activities (Prus, 2019).

Fundamentally, Durkheim’s groundbreaking research work on the concepts of division of labor and social solidarity has been impactful to the world of scholarly discourse across the globe (Ritzer, 2011). This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of Durkheim’s social solidary thesis, the relationship between social solidarity forms and labor division, a description of collective conscience, as well as an elucidation of the anomic labor division.

Durkheim’s Portrayal of Social Solidarity to Societies

According to Durkheim’s conceptualization of solidarity with regard to different types of societies, communities in the world shift from a mechanical form of social solidarity to an organic one through labor division dynamics. In the ancient era, individuals began to move towards the cities and towns, searching for a decent life and the quest for resources (Leap & Thompson, 2018). As a result, the physical density increased, and pressure for the available resources begun to mount.

Drawing from Durkheim’s postulation on social solidarity, his crucial focus was on the foundation of the element that holds or keeps society in unison or together. Durkheim admits that society comprises of persons who serve in varied capacities and unique specializations. In his analysis of society with mechanical solidarity, Durkheim posits that it is characterized by a small (limited) size and a robust religious adherence level (Belvedere, 2019).

Furthermore, a society with a mechanical orientation has persons who hold familiar (similar) jobs and economic engagements, which are indicators of a low-level labor division. In essence, society’s mechanical solidarity form is less complicated and displays a high sense of shared responsibilities and sentiments.

On the other hand, Durkheim describes an organization with organic solidarity as highly individualistic and secular based on specialization in tasks and labor (Prus, 2019). Furthermore, Durkheim postulates that an organic solidarity form of society is mainly complex and demonstrates a heightened labor division.

Social Solidarity and Division of Labor

Durkheim presents the conceptualization of labor division based on the distinct forms of social solidarity. In his research work, he argues that there are two strategic forms of social solidarity: organic and mechanical models (Leap & Thompson, 2018). Essentially, the solidarity frameworks arise from the patterns, characteristics, and belief systems that operate within a given society framework (Leap, & Thompson, 2018). In the description of the labor division theory, Durkheim postulates that task specialization carried out by people enhances the productive capacity and the skill set of the laborers. It also creates a sense of solidarity among the individuals who subscribe to a common job-code.

The philosopher opines that labor division can only be executed among persons who are members of an existing and constituted society. Therefore, Durkheim’s presentation of the division-of-labor is directly proportional to the dynamic and moral density of a particular society (Schamaus, 2016). In this case, the concentration of persons, coupled with the extent of socialization levels and specialization given labor, is paramount (Ritzer, 2011).

The social concept of mechanical solidarity links to a type of society whereby the specialization level is significantly low. Durkheim posits that in a society with an orientation of mechanical solidarity, the individuals are interconnected without an intermediary.

As such, people are organized in a collective manner whereby the entire community’s membership has subscribed to the same task or job; hence, a low-level of the division of labor or specialization. As displayed by Durkheim, collective-consciousness refers to the element of a shared (standard) system of beliefs (Leap & Thompson, 2018).

In contrast, organic solidarity exhibits in a predominantly complex society whereby each person bears a different task and responsibility, thus, demonstrating a high level of labor division. Besides, the members of the society uphold their unique personalities, which are devoid of shared consciousness.

Social Solidarity and Collective Consciousness

From Durkheim’s presentation, social solidarity appears as the collection of elements that hold or maintain unity or togetherness in society. During the Industrial Age 19th century, individuals found solace in developing a sense of belonging from the responsibilities and tasks that they held within the society (Prus, 2019).

Durkheim acknowledges that individuals developed a sense of solidarity through working together. This, in turn, triggered the development of a common approach to beliefs, behaviors, and morals, thereby achieving functional-oriented societies and communities. This phenomenon explains the foundation of mechanical solidarity as established by Durkheim.

The concept of social solidarity helps in the development of the framework of collective consciousness. In this regard, collective consciousness is a compelling sociological concept that alludes to a set or collection of attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and ideas that are descriptive of a given society’s commonality or social setting. In operation, collective consciousness communicates about people’s sense of identity, behavior, and belonging (Belvedere, 2019).

Being a sociologist of high repute, Durkheim developed the framework of collective conscience as an explanatory model of how unique persons are brought together into organized and collective settings such as societies and social groups.

Anomic Division of Labor

Fundamentally, the phenomenon of anomic division of labor resulted from the extensive research works in sociology by Durkheim. The researcher discovered that some individuals failed to adapt effectively to the intensely specialized divisions in the labor sector, characterized by an organic-solidarity form of society. The anomic labor-division approach arose from the Industrial Revolution era when the pace of innovations and specializations in production and labor were robust (Simmel, 2004).

Therefore, the development and industrialization rate within European societies rose steadily, and some skills set of particular laborers were faced out. The fast-growing complexities in labor demands led to the development of the theoretical concept of anomic division of labor (Ritzer, 2011). Precisely, the emergence of the idea created a bridge between mechanical and organic forms of social solidarity.


From the analysis, the in-depth review of Durkheim’s theoretical frameworks on social solidarity and labor division has been compelling. The author postulates that there are two strategic types of social solidarity: organic and mechanical models. In the discussion, Durkheim presents that societies in the world shift from a mechanical form of social solidarity to an organic one through the dynamics of labor division.

Admittedly, the terminology of collective consciousness, as displayed by Durkheim, refers to the element of a shared (standard) system of beliefs. Considering operation, Durkheim argues that individuals’ failure to adapt well to the largest specialized divisions in the labor sector led to the emergence of anomic-division of labor.


Leap, B., & Thompson, D. (2018). Social solidarity, collective identity, resilient communities: two case studies from the rural US and Uruguay. Social Sciences, 7(12), 1–19. Web.

Prus, R. (2019). Redefining the sociological paradigm: Emile Durkheim and the scientific study of morality. Qualitative Sociology Review, 15(1), 6–34. Web.

Ritzer, G. (2011). Classical sociological theory (6th ed.). McGraw Hill.

Schamaus, W. (2016). Durkheim and the methods of scientific sociology. In L. McIntyre & A., Rosenberg (Eds.), The Routledge companion to philosophy of social science (pp. 18–28). Routledge.

Simmel, G. (2004). The philosophy of money (3rd ed.). (D. Frisby, Ed., T. Bottomore & D. Frisby, Trans.). Routledge.

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