Short Notes on Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

The concept of organic solidarity was developed by Emile Durkheim along with the concept of mechanical solidarity. He developed these concepts of solidarity while giving the theory of the division of labour in society. He believed that these types of solidarities are in correlation with the types of societies; be it mechanical or organic. The idea of organic solidarity arose because of the thought that individuals cannot depend on themselves entirely. It is a form of social togetherness based on the division of labour, resulting in interdependence. As humans become more specialised, they become more dependent on each other and this interdependence, in turn, gives rise to this phenomena.

In traditional societies, mechanical solidarity was prominent. However, in modern societies, organic solidarity can be observed. It is this modernising of society that transforms mechanical solidarity into organic solidarity due to the advancement of the society and the density of population. The larger the population is, the more competitive the people become, giving the division of labour to affect society in a way that we become more and more dependent on other members of society.

To understand the transition clearly Adam Smith’s example can be taken into consideration: a single individual can produce only 10 pins in a day if he takes no help from anyone. But, in a factory, due to division of labour, each worker has a definite task, so a total of 48000 pins are produced in a day. If there are 10 workers in the factory, on average, they produce 4800 pins per day. This is the transition where the factory owner depends on his manager who in turn depends on the workers to finish the work on time. This is organic solidarity in which every worker has a fixed task; they all have to depend on each other in order to get the work done. Alone, they cannot do anything. Whereas, in mechanical solidarity, even though less output is generated, a worker can, by himself, produce the pins without depending on anyone.

In a complex society where there are already so many tasks to perform when an individual needs to perform only one task, he can do it efficiently. This results in the society being comprised of efficient and skilled workers. The worker does not have to perform a lot of tasks to fulfil his basic needs and becomes focussed on only one particular job.

Although Durkheim believed that the division of labour and the consequent organic solidarity are positive phenomena, the rate of crime has been increasing in modern societies due to the lack of collective conscience. Collective conscience helped in maintaining social order in primitive societies. The societies characterised by organic solidarity have impersonal relationships, self-interest and individual achievements are prioritised over any other value. These societies are mostly Gesellschaft societies in which members of the society only associate primarily for personal benefit and gains. In such societies, individuals rely on others only to achieve their own goals.