Durkheim 's Theory Of The Division Of Labor

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In book one of The Division of Labour, Durkheim sets out to determine the role of the division of labor, something universal that he prefaces as seemingly straightforward to identify. Moving forward, however, in contrast with the groundwork laid out by Adam Smith, Durkheim shows that it is not as simple as one would suspect. Adam Smith assigns the division of labor the function of bearing the fruits of civilization. This, Durkheim notes, renders the division of labor neutrally moral, since there would be the absence of necessity for it to impose rules of behavior. He observes that is surely not this way, with the risings cases of suicides and crimes being called into question. Furthermore, he develops his counterpoint by highlighting that civilization itself - the product of the division of labor in the framework he critiques - can hardly be given the credit for the immorality in society, as he attributes “the number of such morbid phenomena seems to increase as the arts, science and industry progress…if civilization exerts any positive and favorable influence upon moral life, that influence is somewhat weak.” (42) Durkheim is thus driven to deriving an alternative function, “We are therefore led to consider the division of labour in a new light. In this case, indeed, the economic services that it can render are insignificant compared with the moral effect that it produces, and its true function is to create between two or more people a feeling of solidarity.” (46)
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