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Durkheim vs. Marx (again) PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Durkheim vs. Marx (again). For Marx, the main problem is inequalities of power and privilege. Which tend to cumulate over time And set limit on the adaptability of any mode of production. For Durkheim, the French Revolution was progressive, But the main progressive movement was gradual,

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Durkheim vs. Marx (again)

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Durkheim vs marx again l.jpg

Durkheim vs. Marx (again)

  • For Marx, the main problem is inequalities of power and privilege.

    • Which tend to cumulate over time

    • And set limit on the adaptability of any mode of production.

  • For Durkheim, the French Revolution was progressive,

    • But the main progressive movement was gradual,

    • as a result of differentiation and moral development.


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Both Marx and Durkheim were reacting to Herbert Spencer

  • From about 1840 to about 1930, Spencer was “Mr. Sociology.”

  • Social Darwinism was the dominant strand of social theory, through the early 20th c.

  • It argued that competition, laissez faire and the survival of the fittest was the basis of social progress.

  • For Marx, that led not to progress but to class oppression.

  • For Durkheim that led not to progress but to a dog-eat-dog world of anomie.


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Durkheim’s theory of social change: structural differentiation

  • Like Spencer, Durkheim argued that this was the main process of social development.

  • Over the course of time, homogeneous communities and organizations are replaced by heterogeneous, specialized organizations of specialists in different jobs.

  • Activities such as economic production, health care, or education, that used to be performed by kinship structures, come to be carried out by specialized organizations.

  • The change is analogous to the difference between a jellyfish and a vertebrate.


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Organic solidarity

  • Durkheim argued that this requires a shift in the basic normative principles of society:

  • from mechanical solidarity – the bond created by similar, shared culture – found in an Amish community or tribe

  • To organic solidarity – thebond created by complementary differences and division of labor.


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The moral content of the division of labor

  • Against Spencer, Durkheim argued that the moral system of modern society could not be based on “survival of the fittest,”

  • but it could not be based on convention, shared custom and tradition, either.

  • Organic solidarity requires that different groups be united by overarching principles such as human rights, human dignity, equal moral concern, democracy, equality before the law, inclusive citizenship, equal opportunity, etc.

  • Durkheim, correctly, viewed that position as similar to Kantian universalism.


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A “science of morals”

  • Durkheim formulated his main project as the creation of a science of morals.

  • His aim was not to construct a philosophical or moral argument that tells people what they should believe,

  • but to analyze what kinds of moral structures and changes can and do work in modern society.

  • He argued that only such principles as democracy, equality before the law, inclusive citizenship, equal opportunity can hold together a heterogeneous and complex society.


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Implications for race, ethic or gender relations, education etc.

  • Many of these tendencies appear powerful and inexorable.

  • But the argument that a “modern” moral/normative/legal system requires equal treatment has considerable and contentious implications.

  • Is there some line of development of morals that can be proven to be necessary to the integration of modern society?


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Forced Division of Labor

  • Durkheim did not believe that organic solidarity requires equality, but he did believe that it requires that any inequalities be functional, based on motivation, ability and contribution rather than inherited privilege and position.

  • He referred to inherited privilege as a “forced division of labor.”

  • He argued that inherited wealth always leads to inherited social position and therefore inheritance must gradually disappear, as inconsistent with modern values.


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The three Durkheims

  • One World quotes almost all Durkheim wrote on forced division of labor,

  • Which carefully avoided taking positions on many of the issues dividing the 20th (and 21st) c.

  • However his position could be developed as:

  • Conservative: we have equal treatment.

  • Liberal: we need modest reforms to get it.

  • Radical (Marxist): to get equality before the law, equal opportunity etc. we would need to abolish inheritance of property.


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Example # 1: modern racism and the paradox of race relations:

  • There has been a steady decline in race prejudice in the United States over the last two generations

  • But there was an increase at other times such as the end of the 19th c.

  • And there has been a decline, rather than increase, in support for many policies aimed to create equality of opportunity. [See data.]

  • The 3 Durkheims can be used to defend three very different positions on race.


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Three positions on race and ethnic relations

  • The conservative Durkheim (e.g Thernstroms’ America in Black and White) says that there used to be racism, but there isn’t any more. (Except for affirmative action; which they say is racist because it takes account of race.)

  • The liberal Durkheim (e.g.Patterson’s Ordeal of Integration) says that racist inequalities have been reduced, and with some extensions, can be eliminated.

  • The radical Durkheim (e.g. Feagin’s Racist America) says that racist inequalities are still essentially rooted in the structure of wealth and power.


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Empirical pursuit of these issues

  • Works such as Krysan’s “Prejudice, Politics and Public Opinion” view the contradictory movements of policy attitudes and prejudice.

  • The thesis of the “new racism” is that today, opposition to leveling the playing field is based on different, subtler forms of racism.

  • The association between different kinds of policy commitment and different forms of prejudice can be examined in the GSS

  • And the movement of such attitudes can be examined in trends.


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Example # 2: Gender relations

  • There has been a steady growth of support for many policies aimed at equality of gender relations and legal blindness to sexual orientation.

  • For example, the number of states outlawing marital rape have increased.

  • See data on support for civil liberties for homosexuals.

  • But the three Durkheims can be used to defend three very different positions on gender.


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Gender relations cont.

  • Gender conservatives (such as Talcott Parsons) argued that family values are being eroded and anomie created by tolerance and liberalism with regard to women’s roles and/or sex and/or sexual orientation.

  • Gender liberals (such as Seideman) argued that equal treatment and equal citizenship will be achieved by continuing present reforms.

  • Gender radicals argue that essential inequalities are deeply rooted in the inequalities and privileges of property and family.


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