Mechanical Solidarity through Likeness

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Belarus State Economic University


"Mechanical Solidarity through Likeness"

Minsk 2008

Тhe only common characteristic of all crimes is that they consist – except some apparent exceptions with which we shall deal later – in acts universally disapproved of by all members of society.

Сrime shocks sentiments which for a given social system are found in all healthy consciences.

It is not possible otherwise to determine the nature of these sentiments to define them in terms of the function of their particular objects for these objects have infinitely varied and can still very. Today there are altruistic sentiments which present this character most markedly; but there was a time not far distant from ours when religious domestic and a thousand other traditional sentiments had exactly the same effects.

But we have not defined crime when we say that it consists in an offense to collective sentiments for there are some among these which can be offended without there being a crime... The collective sentiments to which crime corresponds must therefore singularize themselves from others by some distinctive; property; they must have a certain average intensity. Not only are they engraved in all consciences but they are strongly engraved.

They are not hesitant and superficial desires but emotions and tendencies which are strongly ingrained in us. The proof of this is the extreme slowness with which penal law evolves. Not only is it modified more slowly than custom but it is the part of positive most refractory to change. Observe for example what has been accomplished in legislation since the beginning of the nineteenth century in the different spheres of juridical life; the innovations in the matter of penal law are extremely rare and restricted compared to the multitude of new dispositions introduced into the civil law commercial law administrative law and constitutional law.

It is not sufficient... that the sentiments be strong; they must be precise. In effect each of them is relatively to a very definite practice. This practice can be simple or complex positive or negative... but it is always determined. It is a question of doing or not doing this or that of not killing not wounding of pronouncing such a formula of going through such a rite etc. On the contrary sentiments such as filial love or charity are vague aspirations towards very general objects. So penal laws are remarkable for their neatness and precision while purely moral rules are generally somewhat nebulous.

We are now in a position to come to a conclusion. The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society forms a determinate system which has its own life; one may call it the collective or common conscience. No doubt it has not a specific organ as a substratum; it is by definition diffuse in every reach of society. Nevertheless it has specific characteristics which make it a distinct reality. It is in effect independent of the particular conditions in which individuals are placed; they pass on and it remains. Moreover it does not change with each generation but on the contrary it connects successive generations with one another. It is thus an entirely different thing from particular consciences although it can be realised only through them.


Organic Solidarity Due to the Division of Labour

Everybody knows that there is a social cohesion whose cause lies in a certain conformity of all particular consciences to a common type which is none other than the psychic type of society.

There are in us two consciences: one contains states which are personal to each of us and which characterise us while the states which comprehend the other are common to all society. To simplify the exposition we hold that the individual appears only in one society. In fact we take part in several groups and there are several collective consciences in us; but this complication changes nothing with regard to the relation that we are now establishing.

This law definitely plays a role in society analogous to that played by the nervous system in the organism. The latter has as its task in effect the regulation of the different functions of the body in such a way as make them harmonise. It thus very naturally expresses the state of concentration at which the organism has arrived in accordance with the division of physiological labour. Thus on different levels of the animal scale we can measure the degree of this concentration according to the development of the nervous system. Which is to say that we can equally measure the degree of concentration at which society has arrived in accordance with the division of social labour according to the development of cooperative law with restitutive sanctions. We can foresee the great services that this criterion will render us.

There are in each of us as we have said two consciences: one of which is common to our group in its entirety which consequently is not ourselves but society living and acting within us; the other on the contrary represents that in us which is personal and distinct that which makes us an individual.

Solidarity which comes from likeness is at its maximum when the collective conscience completely envelops our whole conscience and coincides in all points with it...

Аt the moment when this solidarity exercises its force our personality vanishes... for we are no longer ourselves but the collective life.

The social molecules which can be coherent in this way can act together only in the measure that they have no actions of their own as the molecules of inorganic bodies. That is why we propose to call this type of solidarity mechanical. The term does not signify that it is produced by mechanical and artificial means. We call it that only by analogy to the cohesion which unites the elements of an inanimate body as opposed to that which makes a unity out of the elements of a living body...

It is quite otherwise with the solidarity which the division of labour produces. Whereas the previous type [mechanical solidarity] implies that individuals resemble each other this type [organic solidarity] presumes their difference... each one has a sphere of action which is peculiar to him; that is a personality... on the one hand each one depends as much more strictly on society as labour is more divided; and on the other the activity of each is as much more personal as it is more specialised...

This solidarity resembles that which we observe among the higher animals. Each organ in effect has its special physiognomy its autonomy. And moreover the unity of the organism is as great as the individuation of the parts is more marked. Because of his analogy we propose to call the solidarity which is due to the division of labour organic.


Progressive Preponderance of Organic Solidairy; its Consequences

It is an historical law that mechanical solidarity which first stands alone or nearly so progressively loses ground and that organic solidarity becomes little by little preponderant. But when the way in which men are solidary becomes modified the structure of societies cannot but change... Consequently... there ought to be two social types which correspond to these two types of solidarity

If we try to construct intellectually the ideal type of a society whose cohesion was exclusively the result of resemblances we should have to conceive it as an absolutely homogenous mass whose parts are not distinguished from one another... We propose to call the aggregate thus characterised horde.

We have not yet observed societies which complied with this definition... however societies... which are most akin to primitivity are formed by a simple repetition of aggregates of this kind...

Each Iroquois tribe for example contains a certain number of partial societies... which present all the characteristics we have just mentioned...

We give the name clan to the horde which has ceased to be independent by becoming an element in a more extensive group and that of segmental societies with a clan base to peoples who are constituted through an association of clans. We say of these societies that they are segmental in order to indicate their formation by the repetition of like aggregates in them... and we say of this elementary aggregate that it is a clan because this word... expresses its mixed nature at once familial and political. It is a family in the sense that all the members who compose it are considered as kin to one another...

Organic Solidarity and Contractual Solidarity

In the industrial societies that Spencer speaks of... social harmony comes essentially from the division of labour. It is characterized by a cooperation which is automatically produced through the pursuit by each individual of his own interests. It suffices that each individual consecrate himself to a special function in order by the force of events to make himself solidary with others.

For him industrial solidarity as he calls it presents the two following characters:

Since it is spontaneous it does not require any coercive force either to produce or to maintain it. Society does not have to intervene to assure the harmony which is self established... The sphere of social action would thus grow narrower and narrower for it would have no other object than that of keeping individuals from disturbing and harming one another...

The hypothesis of a social contract is irreconcilable with the notion of the division of labour... For in order for such a contract to be possible it is necessary that at a given moment all individual wills direct themselves toward the common bases of the social organisation and consequently that each particular conscience pose the political problem for itself in all its generality...

Nothing however less resembles the spontaneous automatic solidarity which according to Spencer distinguishes industrial societies for he sees on the contrary in this conscious pursuit of social ends the characteristic of military societies.

Such a contract supposes that all individuals are able to represent in themselves the general conditions of the collective life in order to make a choice with knowledge.

Spencer believes that social life just as all life in general can naturally organise itself only by an unconscious spontaneous adaptation under the immediate pressure of needs and not according to a rational plan of reflective intelligence...

The conception of a social contract is today difficult to defend for it has no relation to the facts... Not only are there no societies which have such an origin but there is none whose structure presents the least trace of contractual organisation...

To rejuvenate the doctrine and accredit it would be necessary to qualify as a contract the adhesion which each individual as adult gave to the society when he was born solely by reason of which he continues to live. But then we would have to term contractual every action of man which is not determined by constraint. In this light there is no society neither present nor past which is not or has not been contractual for there is none that could exist solely through pressure.

If it has sometimes been thought that force was greater previously than it is today that is because of the illusion which attributes to a coercive regime the small place given over to individual liberty in lower societies. In reality social life wherever it is normal is spontaneous and if it is abnormal it cannot endure.

Higher societies have according to Spencer the vast system of particular contracts which link individuals as a unique basis... Social solidarity would then be nothing else than the spontaneous accord of individual interests an accord of which contracts are the natural expression...

Is this the character of societies whose unity is produced by the division of labour? If this were so we could with justice doubt their stability. For if interest relates men it is never for more than some few moments. It can create only an external link between them...

The governmental organ is more or less considerable not because the people are more or less passive but rather because its growth is proportional to the progress of the division of labour societies comprising more different organs the more intimately solidary they are.


The following propositions sum up the first part of our work. Social life comes from a double source the likeness of consciences and the division of labour. The individual is socialised in the first case because not having any real individuality he becomes with those whom he resembles part of the same collective type; in the second case because whilst having a physiognomy and personal activity which distinguishes him from others he depends upon them in the same measure that he is distinguished from them and consequently upon the same society which results from their union.

The similitude of consciences gives rise to juridical rules which with the threat of repressive measure imposes uniform beliefs and practices upon all... .

The division of labour gives rise to juridical rules which determine the nature and the relations of divided functions but whose violation calls forth only restitutive measures without any expiatory character...

Even where society relies most completely upon the division of labour it does not become a jumble of juxtaposed atoms between which it can establish only external transient contacts. Rather the members are united by ties which extend deeper and far beyond the short moments during which the exchange is made. Each of the functions that they exercise is in a fixed way dependent on others and with them forms a solidary system. Accordingly from the nature of the chosen task permanent duties arise. Because we fill some certain domestic or social function we are involved in a complex of obligations from which we have no right to free ourselves.

There is above all an organ upon which we are tending to depend more and more; this is the State. The points at which we are in contact with it multiply as do the occasions when it is entrusted with the duty of reminding us of the sentiment of common solidarity.

Altruism is not destined to become as Spencer desires a sort of agreeable ornament to social life but it will forever be its fundamental basis...

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