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David Emile Durkheim

Major Works
Solidarity and the Division of Labor
Collective Representations
Learning Tools
Site Creators


 Wow, did Durkheim start the ball rolling on this concept.  In fact, he was the sole, major creator of the idea of Functionalism. 
But what exactly IS functionalism, you may be asking yourself?
Well, when Durkheim became interested in looking at society, he decided not to take Karl Marx's ideas of conflict, classes and capitalism, and instead created the idea that society functions as a whole.  Not only this, but society, according to Durkheim, tends to gravitate towards consensus and order as reached by smooth functioning.
He looked at all the different institutions that we have, such as: marriage, family, business and division of labor, culture, education and many others, and saw how they all worked together to create what we call society.  He took this idea very far, but always seemes to focus on the large or Macro side of social theory.
What about when things are not getting along?  Society isn't always in concensus, is it?
No, and Durkheim realized this, and he used the word ANOMIE to describe these times.  When society is in a state of anomie, it means that there is a lack of regulation.  This could be during a time of change, when society is shifting from one way of being to another.  In fact the society that Durkheim was born into was in an anomic state, with the french revolution and the industrial revolution both occuring at once.  Anomie is simply a state inbetween different societal set-ups.
An exmaple of anomie can be seen when we look at one of Durkheim's other famous concepts, that of Solidarity.  Emile theorized two different kinds of solidarity, both of which he experienced in his own life.  The first is called Mechanical Solidarity and the second called Organic Solidarity.
Mechanical Solidarity
This type of solidarity occurs in cultures that are small and less developed.  It is the type of solidarity that happens naturally in small communities on account of their shared customs and living space.  These things add up to what we call a collective consciousness, and it binds people together. 
Organic Solidarity
This type of solidarity occurs in more developed societies after there is division of labor.  The divisions penetrate deep into the society, ending mechanical solicarity and thus in need of a different type.  The result is organic solidarity in which people are held together by their interdependence on one another.  In these more advanced societies, people depend on each other more for their needs, there is more out-sourcing and therefore more need for others.