Emile Durkheim

Durkheim’s major question is how, or what held societies and social groups together.  All of his work and studies explore the nature of the bonds that tie social groups and/or the individual to society.  He was interested in social facts and social conditions which shape the surroundings for individuals.  Collective consciousness is Durkheim’s interest in the collective level of society; he is explaining beliefs and sentiments as a whole compared to the common average citizens of the same society, and this forms a determinate system which has its own life.  Durkheim explains how the division of labour characteristics of modern societies affect individuals as society as a whole.  He argued that an extensive division of labour could exist without necessarily jeopardizing the moral cohesion of a society or opportunity for individuals to realize their interests.  In Durkheim’s view, there are many different types of societies in which one can live in; a variety of them will be explained throughout this paragraph.  Solidarity is a form of social organization or bonding which dominates within a particular society and which is functional for that society’s overall structure.  There are two different types of solidarity which are mechanical and organic.  Mechanical solidarity are segmented societies which are societies based on a social structure in which the same basic clan unit is reiterated.  It is one society attached to another; they are connected, look the same, they are based on traditions, act like mechanisms, and do everything together.  A metaphor of mechanical solidarity would be the earth. 

 Organic solidarity is a compound society, which are complex societies that have broken from the traditional, segmented form.  It acts like the human body; there are many different parts, however they all work together as a whole.  Even though they all have different functions, they all work together and produce an order.  A paraphrase that demonstrates this is: “There is in the consciousness of each one of us two consciousnesses: one that we share in common with our group in its entirety, which is consequently not ourselves, but society living and acting within us; the other that, on the contrary, represents us alone in what is personal and distinctive about us, that makes us an individual”.  In this paraphrase, Durkheim is stating that even though we act as individuals and think as individuals, we also act and think as a whole in the society.  The society which one lives in definitely has a major impact on how he thinks and acts as an individual.  There are two important social pathologies which are anomie and egoism.  In an anomie society, there is lack of regulation; when a society is over or under regulated, their members become suicidal.  It is used to describe the pathological consequences of an overly specialized division of labour.  In an egoism society, there is lack of integration; disconnection and isolation from their society, and too much attachment can also lead to suicide.  Durkheim argued that in its extreme force, the type of social isolation found in modern societies can be literally fatal.  People living in either an anomie society or an egoism society will feel pressure from the media and the norms of their society.  Society is the soul of religion, and it is because religion is the reason for everything essential in society.  Society is not the illogical or a-logical, collective consciousness is the consciousness in which helps see things in their permanent and essential aspects, but also beyond at every moment of time. 

 Max Weber

Weber is a classical theorist who captured rationalization, Protestantism, and capitalism in his work.  Weber’s theory of the rationalization includes an ongoing process in which social interaction and institutions become increasingly governed by methodical procedures and calculable rules.  The way Weber observed the process of rationalization comes from the loss of meaning which is connected to the growing dominance of a scientific and instrumental orientation of life.  Weber believed that rationalization took a root which does not increase knowledge of conditions we live under, however they offer ultimate meaning.  An additional paraphrase that stands out is: “For Weber, the master key of Western society was rationalization, the spread through law, economy, accounting, technology, and the entire conduct of life of a spirit of functional efficiency and measurement, of an ‘economizing’ attitude (maximization, optimization, least cost) towards not only material resources but all life. With the inevitability of rationalization, administration takes over and the complete bureaucratization of all social institutions is inescapable”.  This paraphrase explains Weber’s theory of rationalization of modern society, how he believes that rationalization is the main cause of efficiency and economizing, how rationalization controls bureaucratization.  He preceded that rationalizing transformed modern society into an ‘iron cage’, meaning that the individual has very little power to escape.  Rationalization refers to the disenchantment of the world, and the increasingly power that than lies in institutions, not the individual.  This gives bureaucracies the power, which can be referred to as efficiency maximization vehicles; they maximize wealth and power, centralize production as much as possible, put little emphasis on the quality and minimize human creativity.  It is the Protestant ethic which revealed the process of rationalization.  The definition of Protestant ethic is a value orientation essential to the protestant sects (Lutheranism, Methodism, Pietism and Calvinism) that emphasizes asceticism, thrift, seriousness, hard work, and moral righteousness.  It is a very influential sociology book that best describes Weber’s intellectual activities, which include the rationalizing tendencies so prevalent in Western society, and the role of ideas in shaping them. 

 Weber believes that a religious belief system was the reason that this materialistic world was created and also, he saw in the religious beliefs an explanation of the existing suffering and evil in the world; the impact on individuals affects their actions and social order.  Material goods have increasingly gained power and hold it over the lives of men.  Weber maintained that the attitude that characterized Protestant asceticism was integral to the rise and eventual dominance of Western capitalism, this theory is counter to Marx’s emphasis on property relations and the process of production.  A main idea of this book would be that Weber redefined the nature of the relationship between man and God.  It was insisted that individuals had to methodically endeavor to realize a moral and righteous life every day, always devoted to the glorification of God.  The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was against historical materialism, explaining the value-orientations of modern capitalism and is essentially about correlating Protestantism and capitalism, understanding their origins and tracing the influence.  The spirit of capitalism is the value-orientation of modern capitalism that emphasizes return on investment, labour as a vocation and a rational, calculating approach to economic life.  It is said that economists argue endlessly the reasons for prosperity in nations.