Sunday, May 6, 2012


Solidarity: The glue that holds people together in social institutions

Emile Durkheim (1893-1933) was a sociologist interested in how societies managed to unify their members with shared values and other bonds. He called this unity social integration, the degree to which members of a group or society feel united.

 For small units he proposed an answer in mechanical solidarity, a shared consciousness that people feel as a result of performing the same or similar tasks. This kind of solidarity can only take place in small and relatively undeveloped communities. There is usually little difference between members of the society and they share many ideals and engage in similar behaviors.

As social groups grow, they specialize divisions of labor. The industrial revolution was the driving force for most of today's divisions in labor, and as a result, people no longer depend on each other for similar values and ideas. Rather, persons are dependent on each other to fill the specific role in society they do. Durkheim called this new form of solidarity organic solidarity.

Ferdinand Tonnies used the terms Gemeinshaft and Gesellshaft to describe this fundamental shift in working relationships. Gemeinshaft communities, such as the Amish, focus on personal ties, kinship connections and lifelong friendships. These have been mostly crowded out today by the short-term, individualistic and self-interested associations which characterize Gesellshaft communities.

Solidarity is fostered through interdependence, whether the interdependence of shared ideals and values in a pre-Industrial revolution society or the material interdependence of roles people experience in an impersonal, industrial society.

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