Posts Tagged ‘Theories of society’

Polanyi, The Great Transformation

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Society defends itself against the folly of the liberal ideal of the self regulating market which is a utopia, incompatible with human history, human nature, and internally illogical. This folly led to the World Wars, double entendre is society defending itself against international market liberalism.

Imperialism results from international economic situation not human nature,

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December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Intro by someone awesome:

(X) Durkheim comes in a line of writers grappling to understand the changing functional divisions in society. Starting inthe 16th century the division of labor changes, scholars and writers used to divide society between urban/rural or military/religious/laymen. But now this did not seem to capture the divisions anymore. So Smith, Marx, Durkheim all tried to grapple with this change.

(Xiii) Unlike Smith who looked into productive gains of division of labour and Marx who looked into the ills of  the division of labour, Durkheim looks into the stress that this division places on social cohesion and solidarity in societies.

He is a positivist and uses it to prepare the grounds for societal intervention. He definitely liked progress and believed in it, but he was concerned with the “conditions that made social order possible”

(xiv)  The “cult of the individual” is in a dialectic with social solidarity. Mechanical versus organic solidarity. If premodern society was held by common norms, values etc… What holds modern society together in which each individual is supposedly different and unique?

The answer is not contracts! Contracts presuppose social order “although society is nothing without individuals, each one of them is more a product of society than he is the author” (288)

N( Did sociology allow the West to overcome dualism? This is a very monist logic way beyond theology)

(xvi) Modern society is based on an increase in interaction due to population density that requires specialization, thus a move from mechanical to organic solidarity takes place.

To tell if a society is mechanical (premodern) we can examine its laws. If the laws are mostly repressive or penal, meaning they punish variation from the norm, the society is mechanical. Modern societies have positive laws that promote conformity, but also more important laws for the harmonization of specialization.

*(xviii) “Causal inquiries have to be carried out separately from functional analyses”  The origin of an institution tells us nothing about the way it functions. (good response to Agambin)

Early Durkheim = structuralist, close to Marx. Ideas originate in economic and functional necessity. Later Durkheim = Ideas provide cohesion, religion gives values. Parsons imported Durkheim against Marx, only in his later sense and with an emphasis on ideas.

(xx) Language of pathologies violating harmony of society that the social scientist must cure pathology. Normal periods of society have critical periods that propel them forward. These are necessarily turbulent but contain some good. (Like Kuhn but suffers from fallacy of stable and unstable states without continuous change).

(xxii) Second Preface: Nee to introduce corporatism to labour actions. Employer and employee both present in meetings. Durkheim was a radical because he saw the ills of society, he was a conservative because he didn’t see these ills as stemming from capitalism, and a liberal because he believed in the possibility of improving the existing system.

*(liv) “A society made up of an extremely large mass of unorganized individuals which an overgrown state attempts to limit and restrain, constitutes a veritable sociological monstrosity” (But what of the STATE, without social cohesion there can be no state, why isn’t the state a sociological form of cohesion (separation of state from society) The reason is because it is an impossibility for such a state would create cohesion. The risk is mass unorganized without state as sociological monstrosity.)

(xxiii) Flaws in Durkheim: Moral=ideal morally. Even if something was widespread, if it wasn’t ideal it was still abnormal.

Preface to first edition

(xxv) method:  Like the natural sciences. Not morality of science, but science of morality (on sociology). There are rules in social life, we can discern them by observation, description, and classification, and constitute laws that explain them.

* paradox of human freedom and the existence of laws: If it were true that freedom negates determinate laws, even physics would be impossible. We know physics work, so we want the same for the social sciences. (I guess what he is saying here is that not everything is subject to freedom)

(xxvi) Morality is a reflection of conditions in which men live. Just because we study reality doesn’t mean we can’t improve it.

Empiricism is the observation of reality. “rule emerges from facts themselves” Science eliminates abnormalities not in harmony with the norm.

(xxix) Science of morality improves society. We must be objective, freedom of the mind. He is a dualist, refers to Descartes. (In France Social science and pedagogy were taught for the first time by Durkheim. It was linked to the humanities at first and made its way outside of them)

(xxx) “how does it come about that the individual, whilst becoming more autonomous, depends ever more closely on society”

Preface to Second Edition:

(xxxiii) Anarchy ie. no rules to regulate society, is unhealthy, especially in the realm of labour laws and capital. Liberty is produced by laws, freedom is absence of the logic that might is right. This logic is becoming worse because of the increasing importance of economics in life. Because economics employs most all individuals in society, it dominates life. Society has no control over the economic sphere (Polanyi), the lack of economic discipline (or discipline over economy) spills over into society and threatens it with anarchy.

(xxxiv) Social rule is an obligatory way of acting, it can be imported on economics but it needs society’s authority which is lacking. Community also decides and arbitrates new rules, but politics can no longer cover economics because of specialization (too difficult) (like wall street). The only community capable of regulating the specific economic realm is the professional group, Those working in the same industry, both employer and employed. This is to be a permanent body, not merely a conference. Like unions but inclusive and unitary by profession. A modern form of the corporation is needed, one which is not linked to the state as the Roman corporation was.

(xxxix) “What we particularly see in the professional grouping is a moral force capable of curbing individual egoism, nurturing among workers a more invigorated feeling of their common solidarity, and preventing the law of the strongest from being applied too brutally in industrial and commercial relationships”

(xli) “subordination of private utility to a common utility, whatever that may be, has a moral character”

Society, the individual, and these groups all benefit by their existence and restriction of anarchy. (any rule is better than no rule)

(xlvi) How to demonstrate that corporation is not just an institution for the past.

(xlix) Medieval corporation failed to handle the expansion beyond towns (and to handle state intervention). Roman corporation failed because society was divided between agrarian and urban, no room for traders.

Is Capitalism without any corporations in 1870? (well unions I guess)

(li) What is needed is an expansion from towns to cover all functional groups as national units. Whole country as a unit (still within polity, why not international?)

(liii) Corporation has become foundation of new political organization. (shouldn’t corporations become the basic political unit under the state?) System of national corporations. This would solve a serious problem for modern states (are US interests groups the solution to that modern  state?) Corporations must exist in society and state.

(lv) It is not a panacea though, other reforms are needed too. (proposing wholesale change of society)


(2) Problem is divisions in society. Not just economic sphere others as well. Agriculture couldn’t resist this division as had been hoped. Even in academia Newton was the last mathematicist and astrologer. This is progress however. As a biological phenomena there is a tendency to specialize.

(3) The moral question is: is it better to be whole and self sufficient as an individual or a separated part. No matter the answer it is a fact that the latter dominates.

(4) Modern Moral imperative is: Equip yourself to be useful in a specific function.

(Who is specializing today? Surely not the waiters and mcdonalds sellers. If liberal education is increasing, it is about whole and well rounded individuals not about specialization. So while it is true that the advanced science and finance is more specialized, how much of society is employed in specialized skills, versus how many are not. Perhaps Durkheim is mistaken here.)

(6) Whether specialization is  desirable is not our aim, but rather our study simply shows its function in society,the conditions on which it depends, and the abnormalities of its forms.

Book1: Ch1-3

(11)  Function: The relationship between systems of living movements meeting certain needs for an organism. No sense of end goal or aim since that would presuppose a given moral order.

(13) It is in great industrial centers that crime and suicide are most frequent. Measure of immorality as crime and suicide (fucked up). Only science of all the aspects of civilziation assumes a moral character.

(15) Civilization is morally neutral, as is division of labour. What confers value on civilization or other systems is that ir meets certain needs.

(17) Division of labour is not moral but economic. Achieves heretofore impossible economic output.

(18-21) Misogyny. Men have larger brains in civilized society. In primitive society, the sexes have equal brain sizes, they have equal functional roles. There are parallels between the progress of an individual (as he ages) and that of the species as a whole.

(23) Division of labour not just like division of sexes, but it creates solidarity and unity based on familiarity and likeness. It promotes order, harmony, and social solidarity and in that it is moral. Extending it to society may be beneficial. Solidarity is only good if it contributes to the integration of society. The more closely knit are members of  society, the more solidarity they have.

(26) How do we measure solidarity? “In science we can know causes only through the effects that they produce” We can measure laws and customs still we know it is imperfect. Solidarity can only be measured socially. That is why there is a need for sociology beyond psychology.

(28) “Since law reproduces the main forms of social solidarity, we have only to classify the different types of law in order to be able to investigate which types of social solidarity correspond to them.” there are two kinds of laws, penal which are repressive and inflict punishment and civil, commercial, and procedural/administrative laws which organize and prescribe without punishment.


(31) All crime is similar in that it is punishable under penal law.

(34) No man is ignorant of the law is true because “law” is an aggregate of the commonly held values of what is normal in society. Thus violators or those ignorant of the law are an abnormality  in society. Law then translates common sentiment of obligations and penalties of society required to keep it functioning.

(38) In lower forms of society, law is only penal. Religious law is also repressive (so found in lower forms of society, but what if religious law stopped being repressive, can it be modern?) “The totality of belief and sentiments common to the overage members of society forms a determinate system with a life of its own” This system is called collective consciousness. held communally but not linked to any one individual.

(39) “An act is criminal when it offends the strong well defines states of the collective consciousness” This is what is called mechanical solidarity (primitive society, whole, little differentiation) Defines crime by punishment by authority. Most laws are penal.

(46) The origin of punishment is in vengeance, this is not its modern function but its origin. The origin of a mechanism may be different to its present functional purpose.

(48) Punishment is conducted by society as a whole since only the government can evoke it. The individual can punish but it is not law. Society punished when its interests are violated.

(53) Crime is the disturbing of the strong state of consciousness.

(61) Two consciousness, individual and communal. Together they are on

(62) Historical contingency means tat not everything has a function, there can be redundant or even useless forms in society.

(63) the purpose of punishment is not as warning or to prevent future crime, but to heal the wounds inflicted on society because of its roots in vengeance.

Chapter 3:

(70) Mechanical solidarity in society is enforced by strict penal law. Organic solidarity among functional groups is enforced by flexible civil  law. Society intervenes only in as much as it is affected but in general agreement within the functional group takes place with society merely as a backdrop. (It is organic because they have a natural commonality of function and therefore similar. Society as a whole has no such commonality and therefore that solidarity is mechanical)

(74) Negative relationships bring forth  no cooperation, it is the relationship between thing and person. Negative solidarity entails not rendering a service but avoiding harm to others. Real rights and their rules function to detach society from one another, it is “negative solidarity” because no social bond is created. This is only possible if true solidarity already exists. So when solidarity exists, negative slidarity functions to keep the parts in harmony, stops them from clashing.

(76)* “men need peace only in so far as they are already united by some bond of sociability” On intl society, International agreements are based solely on negative solidarity between non-interacting communities. In Europe they have a better record because there is a European society.

(77)  Positive solidarity is reflected by a system that includes domestic, contractual, commercial, procedural, administrative, and constitutional law … “They express a positive contribution, a cooperation deriving essentially from the division of labour”

(82) The relationships regulated by cooperative law result from the social division of labour. Infringement of these laws are not treated like penal law, it is less strict and more flexible. It is not imperative that it always be applied strictly, but that it function regularly.

(83)  Two types of positive solidarity: 1.Links individual directly to society. 2.  Individual depends on society only in as far as he depends on some part that constitutes it (through a group).

first sense society sees itself as collective, composed of beliefs, sentiments. In second sense it is a system of different and special functions united by definite relationships. These two solidarities are two facets of one society, both exist.

First type strengthens in homogeneous society, can only increase inversely to personality. Each person is part society and part indvidual. The first type requires less individual in the person and more society.

(84) It is called mechanical solidarity because no individuality exists, society can only cohere in one manner, no individual movement (individuals like cogs in a machine), unlike the human body the individual has no leeway he is a cog “The individual consciousness … is simply a dependency of the collective type and follows all its motions, just as the object possessed follows those which its owner imposes on it” The individual is a disposable thing at the expense of society. (Humans are constituted by society but they also constitute it, but it is larger than parts) (In mechanical society any group can branch off and create a replica society because they contain all the parts of society within them, figure of hollow man coloured almost to brim with society)

(85)  Organic solidarity comes out of the division of labour, it is made of individuals who are different. These individuals despite their increasing difference depend even more on one another because they are specialized while remaining individuals of their own. To know which type of society we are in look at the laws. (Ibn Khaldun would argue taht human beings from their very start are organic and specialized for survival)

Chapter 5:

(102)  France, ties are mostly organic, can tell because most laws are not repressive, Penal law as primitive. (Arab countries are repressive in their laws, as function of modernity however. Could it be that laws represent something else?)

Cohesiveness is measured by number and strength of ties. Division of labour creates less ties, but those that exist are strong. The strength of a tie is measured by how easily they may be broken (it would be hard to break a tie in division because everyone is so dependent on one another, even if there is one tie to the wax maker, it is one that you cant give up or you die from lack of wax I guess). Strength of ties are linked to economic interdependece (103) In division of labour foreign conquest is less profitable if it is violent, therefore divided labour helps peace.

Weak societies are easily conquered by foreign intervention. N (Subtext for European dominance is social not economic or military. Is European dominance based solely on military relations?)

Weak societies easily incorporate foreigners as well, entry costs are low. Community in which there is no individuality makes it easy for individual to leave because he has community within him so it is easier to break off as a group and reproduce society. if one guy can fish, build, hunt he can break off.

(106) Teleology of strong mechanical society to weak mechanical while weak organic to strong organic solidarity. (What is nationalism? There is an increase in mechanical solidarity while evolution from modernism and specialization. how does he explain that?)

(119) Religion as social and that is where it gets its power, from individual. God is a figment. Another form of secularization theory (the first?) teleology of weakening religion. Proverbs disappearing is also a sign of weakening common consciousness. God is present in every social relationship has progressively drawn out.

(121-122) Linear progress of civilization and rationality only seen if we take different societies at same stages (at their zentih). So greeks, roman empire, christian empire at their height we see there is progress overall. Every society is like a person, birth peak death. It is not useful to compare the modern society in its child stage with roman society at its zenith, we will find the former to be superior “the more we evolve the more societies develop a profound feeling of themselves and their unity. Thus there must be some other social link to bring about this result” This link is the division of labour.


(172) Social life derives of individual similarity and division of labour. (173) Society destined to be harmonious, individual develops to see himself as belonging to a whole which enables self sacrifice and abnegation even. Society comes to see parts not as subjects, but as constituent members.



(200) The cause of division of labour is found in variations in social environment. The disappearance of the segmentary structure of society induces the development of division of labour. This happens due to increase in density of society, formation of groups in society leads to end of segmentary structure (growth of population and density) (Segmented society refers to the hierarchical social division of mechanical society in which tribal leaders or kings can lord it up)

Three factors decrease segmentation and increase societal communication. increase in density, formation of towns. Communication advances. Society becomes more immediate for all individuals.

(204) Growth in volum=/= growth  in density. Can be populous like China but still segmented.

(205) Societies must become more dense and voluminous. There needs to be enough people to occupy the division of labour, it becomes necessary.

(208) It is necessary because struggle for existence becomes more strenuous.

(209)* Law of nature, when 2 species are similar they compete  because they need same sustenance. However one tree can host dozens if not hundreds of different species which can coexist because they feed off different things. Had the 200 species all fed on the leaves surely most would have died out. In society a similar mechanism results in the division of labour as a necessity to sustain the increasing density and volume of people. So not everyone is the same. (This explain why academia specialized see Whitley)

(213) In times of emergency the brain takes all the resources from other organs. Likewise in society. In famine times some functions of society take priority over others.

(215) The development of new functions is an automatic process in society. There is no need to have someone organize and meet the demand for new needs because society will by itself supply these needs and their satisfaction.  As the brain develops it needs more intellectual stimulation, so do the sciences come to become more complex. because of exercise not because of necessity. (so other part, functons emerge naturally and organizally, brain simply harmonizes doesnt direct that would be forced division)

(216) Not all divisions are rational, some come out of habit, by experience. Give a child a taste for sugar and it becomes a necessity. There are therefore local differences in the division of labour. Difference between sociology and economics becomes apparent here.

(286) * The individual is a result of society, not vice versa. Family and social structure gives individuals their feelings (reflexive) likewise in society interests and attitude are determined by social structure.

Book 3: (Anomic, forced, other abnormal forms)

Abnormal forms of division of labour do not produce social solidarity, so it doesn’t fulfill its function. There are three types of abnormal division. Crises and shocks and conflict between labor and capital, loss of contact between specializations. Industrial specialization in which the worker is hostile to the master starts in the 18th century. This is because the division of labour depends on a different cause than a natural one (forced). Similarly the specialization of the sciences where the parts stop caring about the whole is also bad.

(294) The disintegration from this division comes because the specialist is no longer connected to the whole, he is isolated from those who labour beside him, he has no idea what the common task is. This leads to abnormality (both worker and employer)

(296) Role of GOVERNMENT is to avoid the destructive tendencies of isolation by linking all parts to the whole vision. “not the brain that creates the unity of the organism” Brain only sets the seal, the parts have to inherently value social unity.

(301) Not philosophy nor government can unite the sciences of different divisions. Philosophy captures the common, the collective, but it cannot resolve the particularities of each science.

Organic solidarity requires that the way the organs interact be specified, otherwise a struggle to determine the relationship between the parts occurs every time.

(302)  Role of solidarity to moderate not abolish competition. In normal state the rules emerge automatically.

(304) “In all these cases (labour vs capital, science) if the division o labour doesn’t produce solidarity it is because the relationship between the organs are  not regulated; it is because they are in a state of anomie” Need for consistent rules of interaction, when you have labour confront capital there are no rules so new ones are hammered out everytime, this is abnormal.

(306) Because market is so large, industry cannot be in contact with all of it, so no rules develop. because labour was so quick to form and employer rarely in contact with him, no rules form. Time will fix this. naturally the employer will be linked to the whole as long as nothing forces him not to. (what about the export and outsourcing of jobs)

Chapter 2:

Rules themselves can be the cause of evil and dislocation if they force the division of labour. People don’t like to work certain jobs, you can’t force them to do so. Division of labour will be harmonious if it is spontaneous not forced. Society as self regulating machine.

(311) Equality between all is the trend, democratize all spheres, citizens are equal, help those born poor to be equal, leveling process involved in division of labour.

(317) Free division of labour is without threat of direct or indirect violence, voluntary association. (what  if density increases and division doesn’t happen, it will be a fucking survival disaster, 300 ants on one little stem, you so cruel durki)

(319) No one part of the division must be dispensable to society. All functions should be indispensable otherwise one will be superior  to others.

(320) “liberty itself is the product of regulation” not all regulation is liberty however, only if it promotes equality.

(322) Final abnormal form in which division exists that is wasteful, without function.

(325) Functions become more active only if they become more continuous (attrition like muscles) A sporadic or irregular function is a drain on society. all functions must increase simultaneously for society to grow as a whole. If one part grows disproportionately there is something wrong. Frequent interaction gives rise to solidarity.

(328) Free time in them iddle ages increased.


Lower societies strive for homogeneity (stratified), a divided society by necessity strives for individuality and equality,.

(331) Morality consists of solidarity with the group

(334) Push specialization, not as far as possible, as far as necessary.

(337) On world society of harmony “Societies of the same species should come together” European society. Final goal one human society.

Class notes:

What is the physiological base of humans that we can point to uncontroversilly? “The human paradigm” See Dorothy Roberts, Terrance Deacon, Bell curve book?

Normal Forms: Mechanical and Organic

Abnormal forms: Anomic, Forced

3 Durkheims:

1. Book 1,2: Social cohesion normal state of society transhistorically but basis of cohesion changes over time.

2. book 3 as exception: Written in 1893, period of intense social conflict. he already said initially that normal state is peaceful. book 3 admits that oh shit abnormal forms are far more predominant. Makes projection that anomic  division of labour is tmeporary, leading to reestablishment of organic solidarity. Lag between social cohesion and conflict.

3. Forget about book 1 and 2: It’s all book 3, conflict is not temporary.

(You can write on liberal internationalism and peace through interdependence) on society of states in Europe.

* He wasn’t the first to write on the secularization thesis. But he was the first to discuss liberal interdependence in this way, and absolutely first to discuss that society is defined by strength and number of ties.

Preface to 2nd edition: Focus not only on change to law, but change in institutions. New institutions as another measure of progress.

As division of labour progresses there is a moment of anomie when institutions fail to catch up, this creates anomic DOL.

If you are forward thinking then you would foresee effects of DOL increasing including technological change and go past anomic moment which fails to produce organic solidarity.

Religion reflects his economic model reflects sense of times, but atmosphere of time which he makes his own (on secularization) Historically the religious decline has not panned out as planned. (role of religion in a complex society). we might find a way to explain it in book 3. Interdependance was also a sentiment of the age that it produced peace, but it was a huge shock when WW1 broke out to many scholars, that it happened again requires explanation. He was the first to define society as larger than sum of parts, and strength and number of ties between individuals.

Charles Tilly “useless Durkheim” There is no state of peace it is all conflict but we only see conflict  when protestors have resources to protest.

Resource mobilization theory of 1950 vs breakdown theory which argued that something is wrong when people protest that we couldnt see. We can fix it and everyone can benefit from capitalism.

Durkheim avoids power, this is in stark contrast to Weber, all harmony and love. He is more structuralist than Marx, no coercion or exploitation in the system.

Overview on Weber

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Weber is the second big name in the sociological traditions. He was a racist against the chinese especially. Wants to create an encyclopedia of perfectable concepts to be applied to any social situation.

Weber is pronounced Vaybir

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Some thoughts on Marx

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Some thoughts on Marx

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