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Durkheims notion of movement from mechanical to organic

Durkheim’s notion of the movement from mechanical to organic solidarity more accurately describes the nature of different forms of social order than does Weber’s description of different types of authority (Discuss).


Emile Durkheim has none other than been recognised by many great philosophers to be truly one of the fore fathers of Sociology. As well as being one of the first great theorists to discover the science of society within the field SociologyLaw. In some of Durkheim’s work his greatest concerns evolves around the concept of ‘social solidarity’. His work involved trying to answer the theory of what ‘social solidarity’ actually is and how it holds society together? Durkheim’s discovery consisted of two main key stages of focus in order to be able to characterise society. The stages consisted of recognising the importance of appreciating a terminology he called ‘social facts’. “Durkheim defined social facts as things external to, and coercive of, the actor. These are created from collective forces and do not derive from the individual. While they may not seem to be observable, social facts are things, and are to be studied empirically, not philosophically” (Ritzer, 1992: p.78). This consisted in the ways of thinking and acting, as well as being external too, but constraining on the individual that reflects social reality. This Second stage consisted on how he managed to utilise law as an external index, which ultimately lead him to believe that it was the dominant social fact; in order to explain the character as well as the properties of modern society.

Within his newly discovered methodology, Durkheim was able to explain how modern western societies had surfaced by solely discovering the development of social solidarity from a mechanical to an organic state. With his theory consisting of law as the external index, he provided the understanding that social development is reflected in the legal development from repressive to restitutive law. Durkheim regards both criminal and civil law as the core of each field, thought his concept of discovering society. Further down the line of his theories he discovers the real place and function for the two types of law.

Where as Max Weber’s study of bureaucracy looks for developing a historical and sociological account of the rise of modern organizations. (Linstead, Fulop & Lilley, 2004: p130). He used an ideal type to analysis the appearance of the bureaucracy form of organization. The ideal type, according to Weber, is a tool used to identify the characteristics of social phenomena such as bureaucracies. Weber used the term ‘ideal type’ in order to make a distinction from other forms of organization (Linstead, Fulop & Lilley, 2004: p130). Weber defined the Prussian Church, Army and Civil Services as all being examples of this bureaucratic form. He also saw a powerful instrument of the first order, and considered bureaucracy as embodying a powerful combination of knowledgeable calculable basis, and the power case would dare the bases of democracy (Nicos, 1975: p38). It is definitely a great idea to explore Weber’s theories; in conjunction to Durkheim’s as this essays main purpose is to investigate why Durkheim’s theory more accurately describes the nature of different forms of social order, more so over than Weber’s theory of bureaucracy.

This comparative analysis of both sociologists will help to describe the principal characteristics of the Weber “Ideal Type” bureaucracy, by discussing Weber’s concept and ideas about the roles of power and authority within the bureaucratic form of organization. In order to achieve this within the topic of discussion, certain objectives need to be addressed. Firstly, by giving a brief introduction to what Weber believed to be the ideal type of bureaucracy. Secondly, by understanding the relationship between power and authority, Weber believed in a theory that consisted of three major kinds of different authorities within power that need to be studied correctly to understand the module of Bureaucracy.

Max Webber made excellent contributions to the field of sociology by his ability to witness and analyse various patterns which were quickly altering the standard way of life. His ability to find hidden patterns which the general person could not discover through observation, gave him the ability to discover new theories. These involved the ability of understanding new markets and businesses evolving worldwide by observing them in action. In his main observations and analysis he noticed the markets and businesses were actually unifying people together. His theories and concepts through observation described the way he witnessed how modern science was becoming the new method of conducting business. Through his observations he compared the different societies he witnessed, which gave him the ability to analyse how the forms of government were beginning to evolve. As one of his main theories he believed sociology had to apply scientific methods that would elevate sociology to level of social science instead of just a being another branch of philosophy (Hughes & Kroehler & Vander Zanden, 2002).


According to the fact of Durkheim’s distinctive approach in explaining the theory of social solidarity and the reason why society has been made possible. Has ultimately given, Durkheim the recognition as being regarded as the first social theorists to truly discover the meaning of society. His persistence involved scientifically studying society through the means of observation and measurement rather than the general approach of focusing on one individual at a time. As introduced above, the concept of social facts play an important role in Durkheim’s analysis as they epitomise an impartial account of the beliefs and values of society taken cooperatively. The mere theory that ‘social fact’ is irrepressible to alteration makes it an exceptional tool to clarify the concept of social solidarity.

Within Durkheim’s work he identifies two types of solidarity, mechanical and organic. He claims that mechanical solidarity will ‘progressively loses ground’ as society develops and becomes more complex such that organic solidarity will emerge as the preponderant form of solidarity. Hence in order to be able to understand how modern western societies have evolved over the years, we need to appreciate this advancement of mechanical to organic solidarity, as well as the characteristics and in addition the properties associated among each state.

Mechanical solidarity was discovered by Durkheim to exist in more primitive, pre-industrial societies, where division of labour is largely undifferentiated and there is little interdependence between its members (Clarke, 1976: pp. 246-255). The ‘social glue’ that holds society together is the homogeneity between its members, which Durkheim termed as the ‘horde’ (Emirbayer & Cohen, 2003). This is generally characterised by the dominant concept of the ‘collective consciousness’, which is a form of social fact that represents ‘the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society’ (Horowitz, 1982). This collective consciousness provides the moral basis for which members within society must be judged upon according to their actions and beliefs. Individualism is virtually non-existent and not tolerated as it represents a stray from the common bond.

However, Organic solidarity has still been proclaimed by Durkheim’s theory to exist in more progressive and industrial societies that happen to have an extensive and highly distinguished division of labour. Organic solidarity is classed as the best form of solidarity that characterises the western modern society. The collective realisation under mechanical solidarity weakens due to the reason that greater emphasis is placed on individualism as portrayed by society being viewed as ‘a system of different organs each of which has a special role, and which are themselves formed of differentiated parts’ (Barnes, 1966). This type of solidarity has the characteristic ability of increasing interdependence between members as a result of the phenomenon of complementary differentiation. This refers to the need for members to ‘depend more upon one another’ as each have differentiated roles from the division of labour, which if separated will result in the crumble of society. Therefore it is clearly visible that interdependence is the key that forms the ‘social glue’ in an organic society.

The decisive factor which implements the movement from mechanical to organic solidarity is principally the concept of social density. This refers to the increased amount of interaction, an in turn interdependence, between members of society as a result of changes within an organisational structure of societies in a longer period of time. This is according to an increase in population growth, advancement in technology, the rapid developments of towns and their growth in geographical concentration. It is this ‘condensation of the social mass’ which characterises modern western societies and enables them to surface.

Despite being able to identify the two types of solidarities, Durkheim finds himself faced with the most difficult obstacles to his science of ethics that is, since social solidarity is a ‘wholly moral phenomenon’ , it is not capable of being exactly observed and measured (Barnes, 1966) . Therefore Durkheim substitutes law as the external index, a ‘visible symbol’, to measure and reflect ‘all the essential varieties of social solidarity’ (Elwell & Frank, 2003). Carrying with it the characteristics of being coercive, real, objective and observable, while also being the most stable and precise element in society, the law is the pre-eminent choice for an external index (Barnes, 1966).

Max Weber’s concept and ideal theory to make bureaucratic control work relied on the focus that managers must have complete authority to dominate control of power over the organization, as well as being the centre focal point of the larger society. Weber summarized three main types of authority which in-depth explain the management and control in a large organization.

The first type was known as Charismatic authority, which applied to organisation whose foundation is the dedication to the worthy character or the courageous of an individual and the command which defined by her or he. Political leaders have been able to get this kind of response too. For example, former US President Bill Clinton has often referred to as having charisma and charisma can be often found in revolutionary military organizations. The most advantage of charisma is its great power, which is rest on the intensity and strength of the force which lie absent-minded in the goal of every human (Kieran 2004 p55). On the other hand, charisma, in order to transform the environment of social life, thus in this way changing people’s attitudes toward them, then the greatest change of central views and directions of individual action would appear which with completely new intentional and controversial bias of the whole attitudes toward diverse problems of the “world” (Weber 1968 p977).

The second type is Traditional authority; this is based on the cases that occurred before, also means the precedent or custom. It is always more or less mixed with magical elements, Weber persist in that authority involves legitimacy in the sense of duty to obey indicates that we are dealing with an aspect of superego functioning. Church can be example of this kind authority, in this circumstance, managers cannot be impertinent to their members or break the images expected of them.

Finally, the third type of authority being Rational-legal, this is based on followers’ belief in ‘the legality of rules and the right to those who have a position of authority in order to issue commands’ (Daft, 2004: pp.294). The role of this authority can be described as it is the foundation for both management and creation of most government organizations. As well as the most common fundamental of control in organizations worldwide, worth to detail, ration-legal authority is the form which is most widely used to govern internal work activities and decision making, especially in the large organizations.


Essentially for Durkheim, one only has ‘to classify the different types of law to find therefrom the different types of social solidarity which corresponds to it’ (Spitzer, 1975). This is where in fact the whole study of criminal and civil law falls into place. As mentioned in the beginning of the introduction above, each of these laws acts as the essence of repressive and restitutive law respectively. Despite the claim that Durkheim makes on the evolution of mechanical to organic solidarity (and in turn the evolution from repressive to restitutive law) as society progresses, the discussion below demonstrates that ‘modern western societies regardless still preserve a combination of these two types of law’ (Adair, 2008: pp.97-120). The remaining discussion within this essay will focus on the rules and function of criminal and civil law within modern western societies. In addition to proclaiming whether Durkheim’s theory’s and ideas haves truly made him to be recognised as a discoverer of ‘society’ or not.

Weber declares his feelings of believing that the power of a class is not really a very important issue. Weber claims that when there happens to be a struggle for power, only then classes are considered important. Only then when declared they as a part of their class in their actions. Classes alongside with status groups are just unreceptive members in society. Only when a political party solely considers to addresses the class it becomes declared as active. This insignificance of classes dictates Weber’s direct concept that the economic issues within capitalism do not in fact affect the outcome of authority or the struggle for power (Barnes, 1996).

In Weber’s thoughts he declared that imperialism is not merely a matter of economics. He mainly justified that imperialism was more in fact a political tool. He defined it as a tool of esteem, to be used for the privileged and ways to address nationalism among the masses. Weber was right when stating that imperialism had not been created by capitalism, as imperialism was introduced way in time before the concept of capitalism was discovered. Imperialism however did in fact make an appeal towards all the members of ruling classes. It appealed to the esteem of the old leaders as well as it was declared as the source of money for the new leaders. But the appeal of prestige was by far the more important factor to Weber. Weber’s views on the concepts and theory of imperialism are an extension of expressing the struggle for power. This led him to being exploited with criticism, for restricting the impact of the economic aspects focus of imperialism during the power struggle. Weber directly declared the incomplete functioning of bureaucracy among the impact in created upon individuals. Its prime advantage resulted in efficiently accomplishing goals, which made it awkward in dealing with individual cases. The impersonality which happened to be crucial in attaining efficiency of the organization resulted in it degrading. However the major concern over bureaucracy’s threat to members of a particular organization had assisted to overshadow its effects on the larger society (Barnes, 1966). Weber became exceptionally troubled about the impact that rationalization and bureaucratization had on sociocultural systems (Elwell & Frank, 1996). According to its true nature bureaucracy generates a vast amount of unregulated alongside an unperceived social power. Due to the nature of bureaucracy’s superiority over other various forms of organization, they have thrived and have now dominated modern societies. Within Weber’s concepts he warned us of those individuals who control these organizations, also control the quality of our life, as they are primarily self-appointed leaders (Elwell & Frank, 1996). ‘Bureaucracy traditionally tends to result in oligarchy’ (Elwell & Frank, 1996) or the rules placed by the few officials in the hierarchy of the organization. The Larger formal organisations that dominate society always produce a potential threat that social, political and economic power may in fact become rigorous in the hands of those few individuals who have superiority in high positions as well as the ability of being the most influential personnel within these organisations (Elwell & Frank, 1996).

Weber’s end accomplishment for society involved the creation of a plebiscatory democracy which had the capabilities of being able to transform capitalism. He believed this change in society would eventually change individual power into a power to be utilised for the greater good for society. Weber disregarded the Junkers in Germany due to their egoist engagements (Norkus, 2004: pp.389-418). He claimed Junkers had only certain set tariffs as well as only following the rules that would benefit themselves instead of Germany as a whole. Although it relied on the individuality of one superiority, Weber was still highly interested in democracy not just for main the reason that consisted of the idea that masses could share the power to rule, but for mainly for the simple fact that it allowed the ability of potential new charismatic leaders to come into power (Kalyvas, 2008). Weber’s ideal democracy is one that consists of leaders that are recognised through masses, but even then the ‘masses still stay clear of the government involvement in letting the leaders rule with superiority’ (Kalyvas, 2008). Social stratification, according to Weber, was more based on three different ideas: economics, status and power. Further elaboration of his ideas of what constitutes a class, Weber states that “a class is not a community; rather, a class is a group of people who share situation is a possible, and sometimes frequent basis for action by the group” (Hughe, Kroehler & Vander Zanden, 2002). This basically means that just because people may live in the same town or city they are not automatically equal, but they are considered equal when their economic status is compared. Weber suggests that social order can be maintained by separating classes using determining factors such as the three aforementioned: class, status, and social power.

Durkheim on the contrary strongly believed a mechanical society operates in a different way than does an organic society. In a mechanical society, the term best suited to describe is “jack-of-all-trades.” This is because in that type of society, rather than assigning each person one particular duty to perform, most people were able to perform a multitude of tasks and responsibilities (Ritzer, 1992: pp140). Dynamic density, according to Durkheim, refers to the people of a certain society and their role they play in that society. A major problem that arises in dynamic density in a mechanical society is that when a society grows in numbers, conflict arises due to the fact that people will be competing against one another. As a result of the competition, people are given no other choice but to begin specializing in certain areas and only doing certain tasks, thus starting the transformation from a mechanical to an organic society (Ritzer, 1992: pp.190). The collective conscience of a society is the general feelings of the group. In a mechanical society the majority of a group thinks strongly about an idea or belief (Barnes, 1966). Therefore, it goes without saying that in a mechanical society, where there is little individuation in labour, there is also little individuation of the way that society thinks. Also, in an organic society, where there is diversity in labour, there, too, is diversity in the conscience of the society. People in organic societies tend to have differing opinions and feelings on certain issues (Ritzer, 1992: pp.193).

Durkheim proposed that the key to maintaining social order in a society is to have that society, if not already one, be transformed into a modern, or organic, society (Barnes, 1966). His reasoning for this is because, in a modern society, there is no competition between the inhabitants because there is a wide selection of areas readily available for each individual to specialize in. He also collaborated with two various types of laws that in fact helped his theory progress, in resolving how to maintain social order. Under a mechanical society, where repressive law is used, a crime usually results in a sever repercussion. An example of this is theft; stealing something of importance may result in the loss of a hand. However, it is much easier to achieve and maintain social order in an organic society because the consequences are less severe and harsh. Using the same example of theft, the punishment may be jail or simply repaying the cost of what was stolen. This is acknowledged as the term ‘restitutive law’ it helps to maintain order while preventing less fear in the people. Basically, under a modern society there is more freedom of the people and that allows for less disorder. When people are given more opportunities, and are allowed more freedom they are more likely to conform to society’s rules because it benefits them greater than if they didn’t.


Durkheim’s social theory is unique for the fact that it analyses society through the observation and measurement of scientific concepts and evidence. Viewing in this stance, Durkheim’s methodology indeed makes him the first major social theorist to truly discover the real meaning of ‘society’. As he, unlike many sociologists in his era, he in fact distinguishes himself away from the study of natural and human science in finding the answers for societal existence. Modern western societies, for Durkheim, has come a long way as reflected in the social and corresponding legal evolution, as discussed above. The characteristics and properties of organic solidarity best illustrate the situation of modern western societies, which include the rising emphasis on private individuals and the increase of interdependence between them as a consequence of the division of labour due to social density. In turn Durkheim has recognised a similar development of the function of law, which he sees as a moving target for sociological observation. The above discussion has demonstrated that modern western societies have retained elements of repressive (criminal law) as well as resitutive laws (contract law). Which both share the important function of coordinating growing interdependence by giving their utmost respect for the cult of the individual. The proliferation of regulatory law highlights that notion that social solidarity is not static and confirms Durkheim’s view on law as the ‘sociological equivalent of a thermometer’ to continuously reflect reasons for social cohesion. Thus it is important to realise that while Durkheim’s methodology (i.e the use of law as an index) has managed to provide a tool to truly discover society, one needs to be able tp continuously monitor this index to ensure that modern western societies are duly and truly discovered as well.

Weber’s theory of the bureaucratic form organization is regarded as a representation of a normal process of explanation in society as a whole, punctuating the value of mean-ends relations. An ideal type is constituted by the bureaucratic form of organization. There are many characteristics of this form such as obvious division of labour, higher formalization, and separation of organizational and personal lives, employment decisions are based on merit. Weber suggested that authority can be seen as critical to understanding power, but exercise of authority is different from the power. The power of position within a complete bureaucracy is always considered as exceptional, under the normal conditions of overpowering; due to bureaucracy’s political rulers face it as dilettantes of an expert. The most advantage of charismatic authority is its great power, which is rest on the intensity and strength of the force which lie unconscious in every human goal. A Church can be example of traditional authority, in this circumstance; managers cannot be saucy to their members or break the images expected to them. The role of rational-legal authority can be described as it is the foundation for both management and creation of most government organizations as well as the most common basis of control in organizations worldwide, worth to detail, ration-legal authority is the most widely used form to govern internal work activities and decision making, especially in the large organizations.


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