Free Essay on Anomie Theory:
Emile Durkheim’s Notion of Anomie in Societies Characterized by Organic Solidarity. Reasons. Examples
In sociology the concept anomie refers to a social state characterized by the absence of norms, rules and principles in a society, consequently by the absence of organization in it. Psychology sees anomie as a psychological state characterized by the absence of orientation and direction in life. This term was firstly introduced in the studies of Emile Durkheim, who is believed to be one of the founding fathers of the modern sociology. Thus, presently the concept of anomie is discussed along the lines of Emile Durkheim’s notion of it.
Emile Durkheim believes that anomie is a condition when norms of any kind were underestimated, confused or simply not existent. According to Durkheim it is this lack of norms and organization that leads people to confusion and uncertainty and then later to deviant behavior (Durkheim, 1972, p. 173). While other sociologists often emphasize the normative nature of anomie, Durkheim considers that anomie is much more than lack of norms or their depreciation. Rather, it is weak structural constrains on one’s needs and desires that create threat to the modern social solidarity (Durkheim, 1972, p. 173).
Durkheim’s theory shows that society is bond by two notions mechanic solidarity and organic solidarity. By mechanic solidarity the sociologist understands the society where individuals have roughly same jobs, same norms, same lifestyle and are held together by common principles – sense of what is right and wrong. In a mechanical society collective principles stabilize individualistic desires (Durkheim, 1997, p. 246). When it comes to organic solidarity individuals are more complex and more different from one another. They have dissimilar jobs, diverse ways of life and different levels of moral consciousness. Thus, organic society is more individualistic (Durkheim, 1997, p. 247). According to Durkheim, mechanic solidarity always comes first and then transforms into organic solidarity. However, this does not at all mean that organic solidarity takes place when mechanic solidarity fails. It is just that organic solidarity is unavoidable in the modern fast-changing world (Ritzer, 2003, p. 17).
Both solidarities bond the society together, but in different ways, mechanical by means of ancient norms of society and organic by the division of labor. Deteriorating of such a bond makes the society unhealthy, leading to the state of anomie, which was explained earlier in this paper. Having said all of the above, there is no doubt that in Durkheim’s notion of anomie it is much more likely to occur in societies with organic solidarity than in the society with mechanic one.
Firstly this is so because a state of anomie is not likely to occur in societies members of which are closely connected with one another and share similar norms and principles (societies with mechanic solidarity), because such societies simply contradict with the definition of anomie. Secondly, in organic solidarities there is loosening of the common rules and values which leads to the loss of sense of community, or identity with the group. Thus, the social bond is weakened and social values and beliefs no longer supply people with logical or unrelenting moral guidance, which leads to anomie. Thirdly, anomie is likely to appear in a society with organic solidarity because in this society the restraints on people’s desires are dissolved. This is particularly obvious in our modern technological organic society, in which religion no longer controls people, and in which more and more things become accepted and scot-free. Finally, in organic societies people tend to lose the feeling of goal and direction. This is so, because they are not limited in their desires. Such freedom creates unhappiness and makes the before clear goals inestimable. Being unable to achieve inestimable goals in organic society makes people prone to anomie.
There are examples of anomie in organic societies that can be taken from real life. One of such examples is a person who rapidly becomes wealthy, a person who, so to say, goes from the lowest lows to the highest high. Such cases are well known, the process of rapid change made it possible for people to move from lower social class to a higher one. Without a shadow of doubt, the newly-created rich does stay happy for a while, though later when he feels the separation from his original class, his incompatibility with the original members of the new class, as well as his inability to fit into the new role he becomes purely unhappy and unsatisfied.
Another example is the fact that today a very big percentage of the youth finds themselves depressed and fed up with life at the age of eighteen. This is happening because this generation was brought up in an organic society where no borders or limits had been placed on their way. Such children usually grow up very fast, this happens not because of early mental maturity but because of permissiveness and lack of restrain. They dress the way they want, they attend events they choose to attend, they engage in sexual relationships, partly not because they want to or ready for it, but because they can. Thus, by the time they become full of age they seem to have tried it all. Living does not make sense for then anymore, which makes them unhappy.
Anomie is an unfortunate, though unavoidable notion. It has developed from the increase in dynamic density of the society. As presence of norms and rules fades away freedom and individualism become widespread (Ritzer, 2003, p. 16). Surely, there are advantages of freedom of choice in contrast to the dictatorship. Though, as it can be seen, humans do not always use freedom to their advantage.
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