According to Emile Durkheim, Division of labour is seen as the separation and specialization of work among people. By separation, it is meant that various components of the work process are separated. By this is meant that the various aspects that make up the work are set up into various component and co-functioning processes. For instance, in the production of a car, the productions of the tyres are separated from the production of the engines. According to my understanding, in these separated components, production can be maximized as in the production of the car, the producers will be able to produce several tyres while the producers of the engine will produce several engines. Therefore in Durkheim’s opinion, separation leads to specialization. Because separation is viewed as one of the constitutive element of division of labour, it means that producers must be specialized in specific tasks in any activity of labour. Division of labour includes separation of the work force into different categories of labour; dividing the work required to produce a product into a number of different tasks that are performed by different workers. Durkheim specifically defines division of labour in the following words “...Social harmony comes essentially from the division of labour. It is characterized by a cooperation which is automatically produced through the pursuit in 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.
MECHANICAL SOLIDARITY, OR SOLIDARITY BY SIMILARITIES
In Mechanical solidarity social cohesion and integration occurs as a result of the commonness or the homogeneity of the individuals i.e. individuals believe they are connected through similar work, value systems, family, kinship, religion etc.
As Durkheim has stated mechanical solidarity is solidarity of resemblance. It is rooted in the similarity of the individual members of a society who might share same desires, feelings and ideas towards the production of any given product. In the society where this kind of solidarity prevails individuals do not differ from one another much. They are the members of the same collectivity and resemble one another because “they feel the same emotions, cherish the same values, and hold the same things sacred.”They are really similar in thought and activity.
The society is coherent because the individuals are united by a common bond that unites them towards a common goal. They are not yet differentiated. “Here we find the strong states of the Collective Conscience. As the term suggests itself, it refers to the conscience of a group who would probably share the same ideals as presupposed in the notion of mechanical solidarity. According to Durkheim, he defines Collective conscience as “… the sum total of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of the society.” This prevails mostly in primitive societies. The common conscience completely covers individual mentality and morality. By this, it is implied that the common or collective conscience takes into view or consideration individual opinions or ideas. That is why it is called common because it envisages the common good which is not only common but also good. But sometimes because of the reality of the common or collective conscience individual conscience which may seem contrary to the expectation of the collective conscience might be repressed due to social pressure and to maintain social order or mechanical solidarity. In his own words, Durkheim says: “Here social constraint is expressed most decisively in repressive, severe criminal law which serves to maintain mechanical solidarity.”
It is quite clear from the above quote that organic solidarity is in opposition to the concept of mechanical solidarity. While in mechanical solidarity there is no differentiation, in organic solidarity, just like in differentiated biological cells, there is high level of specialization and specificity of differentiated organs designated for specific functions for the completion of a given function or task that when combined makes the organism a complete functioning unit. Organic solidarity is almost the opposite of mechanical solidarity. According to Durkheim, “Increasing density of population is the major key to the development of division of labour.” By this, the explanation is quite clear. In places where the population density is high, that is many more people per a given space, it is but obvious that some will be more suited for specific functions than others. So automatically there is division of labour so as to maximize production and profits in the corporate world. Organic solidarity emerges with the growth of the division of labour. This especially is witnessed in the modern industrial societies.
Division of labour and the consequent dissimilarities among men bring about increasing interdependence in society. The interdependence is reflected in human mentality and morality and in the fact of organic solidarity itself. In organic solidarity, consensus results from differentiation itself. By this we mean that a general agreement can be arrived at because each person is an expertise and specialize in his/her area of differentiation. The individuals are no longer similar, but different. In this way, each possesses complete autonomy in his area of expertise. Unless the individual errs, then they would be no difficulty of arriving at any given consensus. Because it is easy to arrive at a consensus, then decision making becomes easy and production and profit can be maximized. It is precisely because the individuals are different that consensus is achieved. According to Durkheim with the increase of the division of labour the collective conscience lessens. This has been explained above since collective conscience occurs as a result of lack of differentiation in mechanical solidarity. An increase in organic solidarity would represent moral progress stressing the higher values of equality, liberty, fraternity, and justice. This greatly highlights the ethical dimension for division of labour and it’s a call for an evaluation. Even here, the social constraints in the form of contracts and laws continue to play a major role.
THE ABNORMAL FORMS
At the end of The Division of Labour in Society, Durkheim does note that there can be problems in society. These could be moments of crises or conflicts. There are two abnormal forms of the division of labour, these are the anomic division of labour and the forced division of labour. Division of labour itself does not always function as well as it could in modern society because of these abnormal forms.
ANOMIC DIVISION OF LABOUR
This may arise as a result of industrial and commercial crises, there may be a partial break in organic solidarity. A break in organic solidarity implies that a consensus may be difficult to arrive as one component which may complete the given task could be lacking. Also, where there is conflict between capital and labour, this may be an unusual situation. Part of this is caused by the increased separation of employee and employer under capitalism, so that the conditions for a lack of solidarity are expanded as capitalism and the division of labour develop. Irregular forms such as crime are not treated as part of the breakdown, rather these are treated by Durkheim as differentiation (Division, p. 353), not part of division of labour. Durkheim compares these with cancer, rather than with normal organs.
The real problem for a breakdown or abnormal forms is a lack of regulation or a weakened common morality that can occur in modern society. For instance, in the economic sphere, one would realize that there are no rules which fix the number of economic enterprises, and there is no regulation of production in each branch of industry. This might be an overall form of irrationality. There can be ruptures in equilibrium, capital labour relations may become indeterminate. In the scientific field there may be greater separation of different sciences.
Durkheim also discusses conditions of the worker under capitalism in terms that come very close to Marx’s description of alienation and exploitation. He discusses the degrading nature of the division of labour on the worker, the possibility of monotonous routine, and the machine like actions of the worker. (Division, p. 371). However, Durkheim does not consider these to be the normal form, but one which results when the worker does not have a sufficient vision of the whole process of production. In view o this, he posits that:
... The division of labour does not produce these consequences because of a necessity of its own nature, but only in exceptional and abnormal circumstances. ... The division of labour presumes that the worker, far from being hemmed in by his task, does not lose sight of his collaborators that he acts upon them, and reacts to them. He is, then, not a machine who repeats his movements without knowing their meaning, but he knows that they tend, in some way, towards an end that he conceives more or less distinctly. (Division, p. 372).
Collaboration is very vital in division of labour. If a partner does not collaborate, then individual parts will come to mean nothing. It is only when specialist’s works in view of a goal can their work having meaning and is productive. This is where partners have to collaborate for the realization of a common goal in the division of labour.
FORCED DIVISION OF LABOUR
Another anomaly is the forced division of labour. The forced division of labour is where the division of labour is not allowed to develop spontaneously, and where some act to protect themselves and their positions. Here division of labour might not be voluntary. Something obstructs its natural flow. There is bound to be a breakdown in this process. Some of these which cause a breakdown could be traditional forms, which are external to the division of labour, or they could be castes, Weber’s status groups, or Marx’s classes. Any factors that prevent individuals from achieving positions which would be consistent with their natural abilities indicates a force division of labour. Ritzer notes (p. 98) that this could be inequalities in the structure of work or inadequate organization, with the wrong people in particular positions or incoherent organizational structures. This is quite evident in today’s society and could greatly affect outputs. Any interference with the operation of the division of labour that results in the position being filled by those who are not most apt for the position would mean forced division of labour. In some society where the rich and strong rule, one could experience that through bribes, the unqualified could take up some specific jobs and make a whole mess out of it.
Durkheim’s ideas on the Division of labour are quite plausible enough and relevant for our world today. For our world with increasing population, I think that the only way to maximize output is through high division of labour where all individuals within society work together for the common good realized in the collective conscience brought about by mechanical solidarity where there is no differentiation. His view of organic solidarity which brings about differentiation is quite plausible enough. Organic solidarity is at the heart of division of labour. Also the desire for happiness can lead to the cause of division of labour though Durkheim insists on causes within social structures like population density.