The world is dynamic and each society across time has its structures and dynamics of relationships within. These structures of interactions develop as and when society develops. Over the years, sociologists have dedicated time to study the different types of societies across the world and postulate their characteristics. Sociologist Emile Durkheim has also worked on the types of solidarity that exist in society, i.e., mechanical solidarity, which exists in small societies, and organic solidarity, which exists in big societies.
What is Mechanical Solidarity?
The social integration of individuals into a community who share common ideas and beliefs is known as mechanical solidarity. These shared ideals and values form a “collective conscience” that motivates individual members to collaborate internally. Because the forces that compel members of society to cooperate, in Durkheim’s opinion, are similar to the internal energy that enables molecules to cohere in a solid, he coined the phrase mechanical solidarity using physical science language. (Britannica, 2010).
Mechanical solidarity is also closely linked to ‘collective consciousness: social solidarity exists when a specific number of levels of consciousness are shared by all members of the same community… Its contribution to society’s overall integration is determined by the amount of social life that is incorporated into and governed by it, whether large or small (Durkheim, 1893 b: 117 /t.84).
Mechanical solidarity in societies is beneficial to bring about collective growth and prevent intra-group conflicts. The small mechanical solidarity-based groups are advantaged in the aspects discussed below
- Homogeneity: In societies that practice mechanical solidarity, there is the presence of uniformity and homogeneity, which decreases internal divisions and hierarchical oppression or discrimination.
- Social consciousness: The societies which follow mechanical solidarity are small groups, and therefore, each member is responsible not only for themselves but for the well-being of other members. They can depend on each other.
- Security: As mechanical solidarity has increased social consciousness as compared to other societies, the members of society are familiar with each other and help them in times of need and provide security for each other.
- Less competition: In societies with mechanical solidarity, there is less competition among members for advancement. They believe in working together for the overall growth of society and, therefore, the standard of living increases on a larger scale.
- Increased socialization: In mechanical solidarity societies, members interact with each other on a higher scale, and not just for work interaction. This develops the communication and idea-sharing abilities of the members of society.
Cons of Mechanical Solidarity
While Mechanical Solidarity has its benefits, one would still focus on its shortcomings in modern society.
- The individual is fully subordinate to his group and society and there is reduced individual privacy. A member would always put the needs of society before himself/herself, even if it harms the individual in the process.
- Division of labour: There exists a minimal division of labour that would hinder advancement. The non-existence of competition for progress also aids in this.
- Communal ownership: Community resources are owned collectively by the community itself. There is no personal property. There is the existence of collective property.
- Collective conscience- There are certain shared views and feelings. A tradition-bound society is held together by such a conscience. A criminal offence does not disturb the communal consciousness since it is criminal; rather, it is a criminal act to hurt the collective consciousness.
- Repressive law- It is founded on moral principles. In a mechanical society, punishment consists of damage or at the very least, a disadvantage imposed on the offender in order to injure him via his fortune, honour, life, liberty, or the deprivation of an asset he owns.
- Restitutive laws are found in civil, procedural, administrative, and constitutional law. They may not always result in the offenders’ misery, but rather in the restoration of the former order of affairs.
To sum up, no civilization is always stagnant. It is constantly evolving. Mechanical or conventional society had prevailed in Europe before the advent of industrialisation and still exists in some small tribal communities. This community is held together by conventions and a kind of communal conscience, as well as restrictive legislation and retributive punishments. It is a kind of communism in which individuality is kept to a bare minimum and social benefits are shared by everyone.
Also Read: Organic Solidarity
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2010, February 9). Mechanical and organic solidarity. Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/mechanical-and-organic-solidarity
Sister Mechtraud. (1955). Durkheim’s concept of solidarity. Philippine Sociological Review, 3(3), 23-27. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41853340
Schiermer, B. (2014). Durkheim’s Concept of Mechanical Solidarity – Where Did It Go? Durkheimian Studies / Études Durkheimiennes, 20, new series, 64-88. Retrieved June 28, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/44174119
SHELLY, R., & BASSIN, E. (1989). Cohesion, Solidarity, and Interaction. Sociological Focus, 22(2), 143-150. Retrieved June 28, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20831507