Durkheim, Émile. ‘The Anomic Division of
Labour’ The Division of Labour in Society The Macmillan Co. (1933)
Question:Write a report on the term “Anomie” described by Durkheim covering
its all aspects. (400 words) Is it a concept that is useful today? Explain (100
1. You need to draw the term in way that
shows the relevance of Durkheim’s main concern.*****
2. You need to provide strong references (Both
in text and bibliography) to support your answer.****
3.You will need to be concise and get straight
to the point and you need to raise the central issue under your discussion. ****
4.Provide your answer in essay format and
##Go through the link
provided below and the lecture summary to get relevant ideas though you need to
search more about the topic to grasp all the ideas.
Lecture summary :
Anomie is described by Durkheim as a
pathology which affects all aspects of modern life: it is that process whereby
the dynamism of the economy ( bent towards increased productivity) becomes the sole motivation unchecked by any
regulating norms and rules. In this condition of anomic economic life,
unfettered competition and egoism, acquisitiveness recognise no constraining
norms and regulating forces. Religion, governmental power over the economy and
occupational groups have lost their moral force. Thus appetites have ‘become
freed from any limiting authority ‘ and from top to bottom of the ladder greed
is roused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold.’ This situation of
unfettered competition and aggression is a crisis which threatens the
reproduction of the system as a whole- the reproduction of complex societies
requires a recognition of the relations of functional interdependence set up by
the division of labour . Without a spirit of co-operation and agreed upon rules
for regulating and co-ordinating interests, anomie threatens to become a
Anomie is not simply a pathology of the
society, threatening its very capacity to reproduce itself, but a pathological
condition for individuals as well. Anomie refers to an experience of isolation
between individuals who are unable to recognise any form of rules and norms
regulating the conduct of social life. For the anomic individual, life in
modern society is an aggressive war of all against each.
Durkheim pointed to greed, competitiveness,
status-seeking , the sense of having rights without duties , the concentration
on consumption and pleasure, the lack of a sense of community with others , the
experience of fulfilling a useful function and serving a purpose higher than
one’s own interests- he attributed all this to the failure of modern societies
to properly articulate a new principle of social solidarity adequate to the
conditions of a complex modern division of labour.
The anomic individual does not experience the
absence of constraints, release from regulating moral norms, as freedom. The
anomic individual is not free because they are chained to their inexhaustable
desires. For Durkheim, we experience freedom only when we are able to subject
our immediate desires to some sort of consciously assumed and endorse constrain
or limit. To be free is not to do what one pleases; it is to be master of
Why does Durkheim
describe anomie ( absence of regulating norms and limits in the society as a
whole and for the individual) as a pathological condition?
The main point here is that Durkheim is not
arguing that what is healthy an beneficial is a conformity to, acceptance
of socialideas and anomie is an absenceof social ideas which
has pathological consequences. His point is that anomie (the pursuit of
unbridled, self-regarding gratifications, the sense of aloneness, lack of
community and sympathetic intercourse with our fellows) this itself a
social condition and set of attitudes – the pathological product of a
particular society – a society which has made a cult of the individual. It is a
pathological condition in that it threatens the reproduction of the very
conditions which gave rise to it and of which it is a reflection.
How does Durkheim
attempt to respond to Anomie?
Durkheim’s response to the crisis of anomie
in contemporary modernity was to try and find the conditions within modern
society that would allow us to recapture an experience of solidarity. This must
be an understanding in which sociality/solidarity is not seen to be a principle
which competes with the principle of individuality and difference but rather
builds upon that idea of solidarity which is dormant in the idea of
What kinds of responses
will Durkheim not accept?
Any form of solidarity imposed from above and
which represses the principle of individuality -doomed from the start.
Religion, to the extent that suppresses
individuality and free thinking can have no real purchase.
The family – modern nuclear family – not
suited to combat egoism- a weak , conflictual institution.
His Positive Response:
Note: Unlike Marx who wanted a total social
revolution capable of overcoming alienation, Durkheim looked to a program of
social reform capable of redressing the problem of anomie.
Unlike Comte- Durkheim does not see the
complex modern division of labour as a necessary enemy to the idea of social
solidarity but rather the basis for a new kind of solidarity. The complex
division of labour does not simply divide us but potentially unites us in
distinctive ways. Durkheim advocates the resurrection of corporations or
professional guilds that could provide an alternative form of solidarity.
This strengthening of professional
associations would not only supply the individual with a sense of purpose &
direction but would foster a perspective on the social whole by articulating
the ‘nodal points’ at which the interests and concerns of a specific group
connected up with the concerns of other occupational groupings. The occupational
groupings would then form a primary social unity – acting as an alternative to
the modern family- and acting as a bulwark against the development of an
authoritarian state. The occupational associations would form active political
units which would utilise the state as a platform in which to hammer out
questions of national interest.
The group must be sensitive to the spirit of
individual autonomy, recognising the various needs and desires of individuals .
Yet it also provides a moral home, a source of affection and discipline that
rescues individuals from egoism.
Emphasised the need to entrench liberal
collective representations as deeply as possible. Durkheim wanted to see the
‘cult of the individual’ cease to appear in its anomic form as the assertion of
a self- regarding egoism which recognised no necessary ties with others and
appear instead as the assertion of a particular form of sociality: a sociality
premised on the idea of respect for and tolerance of the autonomy and
individuality of others.
There is a need, then, for a specific kind of
moral education – one which promotes the liberal democratic virtues of a
responsibility for and respect for the individuality, the autonomy of others.