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Émile Durkheim, (born April 15, 1858, Épinal, France—died November 15, 1917, Paris), French social scientist who developed a vigorous methodology combining empirical research with sociological theory. He is widely regarded as the founder of the French school of sociology.

What is the Division of Labor?

  • The Division of Labor is the specialization of cooperating individuals who perform specific tasks and roles.
  • The Separation of different trades and employments from one another……. occasions, in every art, an increase of the production powers of labor.
  • In modern terminology, we can say that ‘’SPECIALIZATION’’
  • Division of labor occurs where production is broken down into many separate tasks
  • It can raise output per person as people become proficient through constant repetition of a task
  • This is called ‘’ learning by doing ‘’
  • This gain in productivity helps to lower the supply costs per unit
  • Its breakdown the production of a commodity into a series of tasks performed by different workers
  • Specialization and division of labor increase output for three reasons:-
    • Specialization permits individuals to take advantage of their existing skills
    • Specialized workers become more skilled with time
    • Division of labor allows for the adoption of mass-production technology
  • Durkheim says that It is a social concept
  • In a modern society where heterogeneity, complexity, and differentiation are found.
  • The ‘Division of Labor in Society’ is a book written, originally in French, by Emile Durkheim in 1893.
  • It has been called sociology’s first classic.
  • In this work, Durkheim traced the development of modern relations between individuals and society.
  • In this book, he discusses how the division of labor is beneficial for society because it increases the reproductive capacity, the skill of the workman, and it creates a feeling of solidarity between people.
  • By the phrase ‘Division of labor,’ we mean the splitting up of an activity into a number of parts or smaller processes.
  • These smaller processes are undertaken by different persons or groups of persons, thereby speeding up the performance of the activity.
  • It is the separation of a task in any stream so that participants may specialize.
  • Different workers perform different parts of production on the basis of their specialization.
  • The specialization of works is called the division of labor.
  • The division of labor is everywhere.
  • Examples:

  1. Cricket team: batsman, bowlers, the wicketkeeper, etc.
  2. Government: PM, Home minister, Defense minister etc.
  3. Coaching classes: Optional faculty, GS faculty, watchman, etc.
  4. Factory: worker, supervisor, manager, etc.
  5. Human body: Brain, Liver, Heart, Kidney, etc.
  6. Computer: Monitor, CPU, RAM, Keyboard, Mouse, etc.

 Adam Smith’s Economic Division of labor:

  • According to him, as soon as people divide their labor to perform various tasks and operations, the quantity of what they produce increases dramatically and that the process of dividing labor tends to accelerate the rate of production.
  • The rise of industrial society was seen as a consequence of technological advancement which itself was regarded as a natural concomitant of increasing division of labor or specialization.

 Emile Durkheim’s Social Division of labor:

  • According to him, the Social Division of labor is a social fact and is different from Adam smith’s Economic Division of Labor.
  • The term ‘Social Division of Labor’ was thus used by Durkheim to describe the social links and bonds which develop during the process that takes in societies when many individuals enter into cooperation for purposes of carrying out joint economic and domestic tasks.

         Thus, Adam smith’s Economic Division of Labor is concerned with the increased rate of production.

        While Durkheim’s Social Division of Labor is concerned with Cohesion and bonding In society.

  • Durkheim was concerned with the overall unity of society.
  • He referred to this unity as SOCIAL SOLIDARITY.
  • Solidarity is unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on unities of interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies.
  • It refers to the ties in a society that bind people together as one.
  • He argued that what holds a society together is the cohesiveness or solidarity among its parts.
  • Hence, in this study of the social division of labor, Durkheim probes the relationship between the division of labor and the Manner in which solidarity comes about in a given society.
  • The thesis of the division of labor is that modern society is not held together by the similarities between people who do basically similar things.
  • Instead, it is the division of labor itself that pulls people together by forcing them to be dependent on each other.
  • Due to specialization. Different parts of society can’t do everything. Thus they need other parts and become interdependent on each other.
  • Modern society works like the human body where different parts perform specialized functions and are interdependent on each other for a successful continuation of the life of the organism.


There are two types of social solidarity:

Mechanical Solidarity Organic Solidarity
Primitive and simple societies Modern and complex societies

  • Durkheim has classified solidarity in primitive and modern societies on the basis of similarities and specializations.
  • According to him, primitive and simple societies have mechanical solidarity whereas modern and complex societies have organic solidarity.

    • Found in primitive and simple societies.
    • All people are a generalist. No or very little specialization.
    • The bond among people is that they are all engaged in similar activities and have similar responsibilities.
    • People may be similar in housing, occupation, food, tool, customs.
    • Experience the same emotions, needs, ideas and hold similar moral and religious attitudes.
    • The more primitive society, the more similarities, and stronger Mechanical solidarity.
    • More severe punishments for violation of collective conscience.

    • Found in modern and complex societies.
    • Very high specialization among people.
    • There is a very high interdependence.
    • All producers are dependent on each other’s products, and thus a complex dependency emerges.
    • They complement one another, participating in a differentiated, coherent system, just as specialized organs function in a living organism (hence the term organic solidarity).
    • Differences create mutual dependency among different people.
    • Thus, modern societies are ‘’ functionally integrated ‘’.
    • Modern society, In Durkheim’s view, is thus held together by the specialization of people and their needs for the services of many others.
    • The collective conscience is very weak.
    • Individual conscience becomes distinct and dominant.
    • Individual autonomy and personal freedom become very important in organic solidarity.
    • Less severe punishments for violation of collective conscience.



Primitive and simple societies Modern and complex societies
Homogeneous Heterogeneous
Very little or no specialization Very high specialization
Solidarity due to similarity Solidarity due to interdependence
Strong collective conscience Weak collective conscience
Severe punishments for violation Mild punishments for violation
Nature of society is pre-industrial Nature of society is industrial

Durkheim (1893):- “The most remarkable effect of the division of labor is not that it increases the output of functions divided, but that renders them solidary. Its role in all these cases is not simply to embellish or ameliorate existing societies, but to render societies possible which, without it, would not exist.”

The four dimensions of the collective conscience:

1. Mechanical Entire society High High Religious
2. Organic Particular group Low Low Moral Individualism

Collective conscience can be differentiated on four parameters:

  1. Volume: Number of people enveloped by the collective conscience.
  1. Intensity: How deeply the individuals feel about it.
  1. Rigidity: How clearly it is defined.
  1. Content: Form that the collective conscience takes society.


1. The culprit is severely punished.


Ex. The death penalty, cutting limbs,

The culprit is required to pay/make restitution for the harm.
2. Mechanical solidarity Organic solidarity
3. Crime is supposed to be committed to the whole society. Crime is committed against a particular individual or a section of society.
4. The crime committed against very strong common morality. The crime committed against weak common morality.
5. Severe punishment due to strong collective conscience Restitution due to weak collective conscience.

Dynamic density:

  • In sociology, dynamic density refers to the combination of two things: population density and the amount of social interaction within that population.
  • Durkheim believed that the cause of the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity was dynamic density.
  • More people mean an increase in the competition for scarce resources.
  • More interaction means a more intense struggle for survival among the basically similar components of society.
  • The problems associated with dynamic density usually are resolved through differentiation and ultimately the emergence of new forms of social organization.
  • The rise of the division of labor allows people to complement rather than conflict with one another.
  • Increased division of labor makes for greater efficiency, with the result that resources increase, making the competition over them more peaceful.
  • In societies with organic solidarity, less competition and more differentiation allow people to cooperate more and to all be supported by the same resource base.

Normal and pathological:

  • Durkheim argued that there is conflict in society because development had not occurred along normal lines.
  • There is an ‘anomaly’ in society.
  • ‘anomaly’ means something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected.
  • This anomaly is due to the ‘pathological’ form of division of labor instead of ‘normal’ form of division of labor.
  • Durkheim identified three pathological forms of division of labor:
  1. Anomic division of labor
  2. Forced division of labor
  3. Poorly coordinated division of labor


  1. Normlessness, lack of regulation in society.
  2. People feel isolated and lack normal constraints.
  3. People do not feel a common bond with each other. There is alienation everywhere.


  1. Traditions, economic power, or status can determine who performs what jobs regardless of talent and qualifications.


  1. Specialization does not result in increased interdependence.
  2. People become isolated and unwanted.


  • Durkheim’s primary objective was to evaluate the social changes related to industrialization and to better understand its ills. But British legal philosopher Michael Clarke argues that Durkheim fell short by lumping a variety of societies into two groups: industrialized and non-industrialized.
  • Durkheim didn’t see or acknowledge the wide range of non-industrialized societies, instead of imagining industrialization as the historical watershed that separated goats from sheep.


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Views of Emile Durkheim What is the division of labor? Meaning Concept Reasons of increase output Specialization Examples Adam smith’s division of labor Emile Durkheim’s social division of labor Social solidarity Type of social solidarity Mechanical solidarity Organic solidarity Concept and Meaning of solidarity Types Of Collective consciousness and its four parameters Repressive and Restitute law Dynamic density Normal and pathological Anomic division of labour Forced division of labour Poorly coordinated division of labour Criticism VIEWS OF EMILE DURKHEIM: DIVISION OF LABOUR



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