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Division of Labor in Society

Division of Labor in Society is one of the earliest works by Emile Durkheim and is not as put together his later work. In this book, he presents the thesis that society’s solidarity is divided into two forms; mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Mechanical solidarity represents the older or more traditional societies in which the division of labor is limited. In such societies, an individual wore many hats and performed various tasks relating to their field. Contrary to this; organic solidarity represented modern society and individuals who specialized in a specific task were appreciated (Mcintosh, 1997).

Anthony Giddens studied Durkheim’s work and recorded his observations in his book “Capitalism and Modern Social Theory”. He appreciated Durkheim’s work as it was non-political and did not push any propaganda. He noted that Durkheim wrote purely from an academic’s point of view (Giddens, 1971). His observations lead to logical conclusions thus making his ideas conservative. He advocated cohesion, order and authority rather than conflict, change and freedom. He considered the individuals as units of the society and believed that they needed to perform their assigned duties so that the society may function properly (Giddens, 1971, pg.71). He elaborated upon this concept in “Division of Labor” stating that organic solidarity will help in structuring a more stable society. He declared his book to be “an attempt to treat the facts of moral life according to the method of positive sciences” (Giddens, 1971, Pg.72). This meant that Durkheim approached this concept without the influence of ethical dilemmas.

Durkheim is considered to be conservative in the field of sociology and his works provide the basis for understanding the relatively conservative models of societies. Division of labor is one of his important works but he elaborated his ideas more clearly in his later works. His work was based on his observation of culture and as such it makes his work deeply relevant to modern sociologists today.


Giddens, A. (1971). Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber. Cambridge University Press.

Mcintosh, I. (1997). Classical Sociological Theory: A Reader. NYU Press.



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