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Durkheim vs. Marx: Division.

Durkheim vs. Marx: Division.


Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx were both influential sociologists who explored the concept of the division of labour in society, albeit from different perspectives. Let us compare their views and examine the concepts of mechanical and organic solidarity about this idea. We will also discuss potential errors or assumptions in Durkheim’s conception.

Durkheim’s Perspective:

Émile Durkheim, a French sociologist, analyzed the division of labour in his work “The Division of Labor in Society” (1893). Durkheim proposed two types of solidarity that are connected to the division of labour:

  1. Mechanical Solidarity: In traditional and less complex societies, Durkheim argued that mechanical solidarity prevails. In these societies, individuals share similar values, beliefs, and norms, which creates a strong sense of unity. The division of labour is minimal, and people perform similar tasks. Social cohesion is maintained through the similarity of individuals.
  2. Organic Solidarity: In modern and more complex societies, Durkheim suggested that organic solidarity is predominant. Here, the division of labour is extensive, with individuals specializing in various roles and functions. Society functions like an organism, where each part (individual) plays a unique role, and interdependence is necessary for survival. Social cohesion is achieved through the complementarity of individuals.

Marx’s Perspective:

Karl Marx, in his writings, particularly in “Capital” (1867), viewed the division of labour from a critical economic and class-based perspective. For Marx, the division of labour under capitalism results in the following:

  • Class Conflict: Marx argued that the division of labour within capitalist societies leads to the exploitation of the working class (proletariat) by the owning class (bourgeoisie). The bourgeoisie controls the means of production and profits from the labour of the working class.
  • Alienation: Marx believed that as workers become more specialized and alienated from the products of their labour, they experience a loss of autonomy and fulfilment. This alienation leads to social and psychological disconnection.

Errors or Assumptions in Durkheim’s Conception:

While Durkheim’s analysis of the division of labour is insightful, it is not without criticisms:

  1. Overemphasis on Integration: Some critics argue that Durkheim may have overemphasized the positive aspects of integration and solidarity in organic solidarity. They contend that extensive specialization can also lead to social problems, such as anomie (a sense of normlessness and purposelessness) in modern societies.
  2. Neglect of Economic Factors: Durkheim’s analysis focuses more on social and moral integration and less on the economic and class-based dimensions of the division of labour. Critics argue that economic inequalities and class conflicts are integral to understanding modern societies.
  3. Societal Evolution Assumption: Durkheim assumes a linear progression from mechanical to organic solidarity with societal evolution. This perspective might need to be more balanced with the complex dynamics of social change and the coexistence of both forms of solidarity in various societies.

In conclusion, Durkheim and Marx offer distinct perspectives on the division of labour, with Durkheim emphasizing integration and solidarity and Marx focusing on economic exploitation and alienation. Durkheim’s analysis, while valuable, can be critiqued for potential oversimplifications and assumptions about the nature and consequences of the division of labour in society.

Durkheim vs. Marx: Division.



  1. Compare Durkheim’s discussion of the division of labor with that of Marx. Discuss how mechanical and organic solidarity are connected to this concept. Also, explain any errors or assumptions you feel (if any) Durkheim makes in his conception of division of labor.

Textbook ; sociological theory in the classical era any edition

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