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The Division of Labor in Society

The title of Durkheim’s seminal work, The Division of Labor in Society, doesn’t quite do it justice. It is about so much more than the specialization of tasks or Adam Smith’s pin-makers. It is about how the fabric of society is woven into something greater than the sum of its parts. After reading the excerpt, respond to the following questions.


1. Durkheim argues that the division of labor produces a particular kind of social solidarity. In your words, describe this process and how this form of solidarity differs from what Durkheim refers to as mechanical solidarity.

2. In the last section of the reading, Durkheim describes two pathological forms of the division of labor, one of which is anomic. What is anomie, and how can it result from the division of labor?

3. In your own words, what do you think Durkheim means by “collective consciousness”? Give a concrete example of a contemporary version of collective consciousness that exerts control over us as individuals.

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