Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is anyone else yelling at Durkheim?

Although, I know that Appelrouth and Edles, and even Bellah (1973) all attempt to quell Durkheim's critics, I have to admit that I am one of those people that finds Durkheim extremely conservative and unattentive to critical issues like how socio-economies become organized to begin with, how they change, how a collective conscious is developed, etc...Not to mention the fact that he objectifies "society" in the most extreme of ways, writing that it "exists independently of the actors that compose it".... and that he essentializes traditional societies in the same ways that the classic anthropologists did, especially Geertz (1973).

Given his functionalist view of society, Durkheim puts forth a theory that suggests societies work relatively fine, if we can remain bound together by our collective consciousness. Who defines this collective consciusness? Who makes laws? Who says a crime is a crime? And is it really a reflection of a common public opinion?

Durkheim suggests that "crimes" serve a purpose in society, that they bound us together to define and reaffirm who and what we are and what we believe in. However, he offers no theories of change. In other words, we do not know how, for instance, the "crimes" of Socrates were eventually interpreted as acts of moral and political justice/expression.

The link that is missing, for me, in Durkheim's analysis, is where, how and in what ways a collective consciousness can be "redefined." While he is definitely not a conflict theorist, he admits that economic/societal growth results in disasters that lead to a break in social and moral bonds, but who puts these bonds back together, how and in what way? And why in the world, should we be okay with it as he suggests, especially in the Introduction to Suicide?

1 comment:

  1. For Durkheim, crimes serve a purpose in our society and there is no reason why we should do anything to change that. Durkheim believes that not only do crimes have a function in society, but that we actually need crime in order to remind us of what is wrong. I think we can know in other ways what is right and what is wrong. Although he is opposed to change, we need change in order for society to continue to evolve and function better.