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Page history last edited by mcnamara 15 years, 4 months ago

Emile Durkheim defines anomie as a condition where social control becomes ineffective due to a loss of coherence and shared values, where social and moral norms are unclear or absent.  This can be applied in various areas, such as an "anomic division of labor" or "anomic suicide". 


In modern industrial societies, where the collective consciousness weakens and the 'Cult-of-the-Individual' gets stronger as well as where there exists an increase in the division of labor, anomie is more likely to occur. 


In traditional societies, where he believes there existed a mechanical solidarity, people were taught to control their desires and goals and were often collectively influenced by religion.  In more modern developed societies, where Durkheim believes their exists an organic solidarity, social bonds are weakened, due to the rise of individualism, an increased complexity, and the division of labor.  Therefore, members of Western society are perhaps the most subject to the risk of anomie.


As old norms fall apart and no longer hold, new norms have to be developed.  The more individual we become though, the more likely we are to be differently motivated, thus making it much more difficult to have a clearly understood and agreed upon set of values and norms.  


When discussing "anomic suicide" in his book Suicide, Durkheim describes it as occuring when there is a sudden shift in circumstances (ex. decrease/increase in wealth), moral deregulation, and/or weakened social restraints.  He observed that the more individuated  people are, the less bonds they have to others, and therefore are more likely to commit suicide.  Thus, those who are divorced are more likely than those who are married, those with no kids or family more likely than those with a family, etc. 


Durkheim is writing from a time when there is a great social shift into a period known as modernity, what he would call organic solidarity. In this period, society is less solid and is on a fast-paced continuum of technological and societal advancement. With the advent of defined time systems in the industrial era, individuals are encouraged to separated themselves from others by the amount of work they can do in set periods giving way for the idea of anomie to arise. In modernity, time becomes the most prevelant way of distinguishing individauls and furthers the category of the individual.


By looking at the individual act of suicide as actually due to social circumstances, Durkheim wanted to show how the sociological method could be useful and seen as an objective tool.

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