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Emile Durkheim And Social Solidarity

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Emile Durkheim sociology is basic functionalism (Pope, 1975; Dew, 2007), he is the author of many classical texts, and one of those whom originated sociology (Lukes, 1985). In “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life” (Durkheim 1954) Durkheim studied ritual practices, religious beliefs and their social explanations, Durkheim anticipated to explain ritual practices and religious beliefs thoroughly in a sociological context (Lukes, 1985). “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life” and other Durkheim work like “suicide” (Durkheim, 1951), lead to argue Durkheim’s Functionalism, Taylor and Ashworth argued that Durkheim is a realist because he explained observable phenomena (Taylor & Ashworth, 1987). Durkheim contribution to public health is very important, his study of the connection between health and society helped to understand the social solidarity, and the social integration effect on mortality (Berkman, Glass, Brissette & Seeman, 2000). Durkheim’s work has been used in several public health concepts, such as social capital and anomie (Dew, 2007). “Dignity of the human person” is not a common concept used in public health (Dew, 2007). Durkheim’s interpretation of the Dignity of the human person is discussed in this paper, where medicine is recognized as a possible way to satisfy the role of the “Dignity of the human person”. However, public health as an institution appears to be a more appropriate contender. “Dignity of the human person”, “Individualism”, “cult of humanity” and “religion of humanity” all refer to the progression of society, and the associated shift of the importance to the sacredness of the individual (Chriss, 1993). The fact that there are many terms to the same concept, resulted in confusion (Chriss, 1993). These terms are used interchangeably by different translators, and even by Durkheim (Chriss, 1993). The religious ideal and the religious power captivated Durkheim, as they molded the lives of a society of believers (Durkheim, 1938, 1951, 1954, 1984).

Emile Durkheim wrote about social solidarity in “The Division of Labor”, he discussed solidarity concepts in two forms (Durkheim, 1984). On the one hand, the “mechanical solidarity”, which is a religiously based, homogenous and has compliance with standards via suppressive permissions and strict laws (Durkheim, 1984). The “mechanical solidarity” implies shared awareness that fully encases and subordinates each individual to the community (Durkheim, 1984). On the other hand, the “organic solidarity” of postindustrial and socially distinguished societies that are ordered and advanced morally, which is integrated by social independencies, and is heterogenous in nature (Durkheim, 1984). In the “organic solidarity” law is restitutive, and the labor division emerges (Durkheim, 1984). Through the evolution from “mechanical” to “organic” social solidarity, Durkheim sensed the progressive fading of traditional religion in Europe (Durkheim, 1954).

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Inconsistently, Durkheim says things like religion is the start of everything, and religion will continuously be an element of social life (Durkheim, 1984). Furthermore, Durkheim also perceives the gradual fading of the religion power, as well as a universal drifting away from religion as societies evolve from “mechanic solidarity” to “organic solidarity” (Durkheim, 1954). The harmony of Durkheim’s contrasting positions is questionable. Durkheim’s effort to conceptualize the similar phenomena, through the continuous drift away from religion, and considering the remaining influence of religion as a primeval power in contemporary society (Durkheim, 1951, 1954). Durkheim’s effort to conceptualize the similar phenomena is a core to the issue of the nature of “Dignity of the human person” (Chriss, 1993). Instead of putting an end to religion or proposing that it would shortly turn out to be a rationally unimportant, Durkheim just transposed the nature of the religious power from social presentation “mechanical solidarity” to the sacredness of the individual “organic solidarity”, which is visibly demonstrated in the evolution of Durkheim’s writings starting in his paper on suicide (Durkheim 1951), and reaching over to his rearmost great work “The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life” (Durkheim, 1954; Chriss, 1993).

Like religion, health is a shared concern to society (Dew, 2007). Several features of public health propose that it fills the religion role in modern society (Dew, 2007). Everyone goes through ill health and disability through their lives, individual participation in society relies on a specific state of health (Dew, 2007). In public health, the health of an individual is received in relation to the health of their community (Dew, 2007). Life expectation data are one of the ways to measure the success of the national public health (Dew, 2007). Although the idea of public health is a fundamentally shared illustration, health can be perceived as an individualistic quest, where the individual health can be outlined inside the idyllic population health (Dew, 2007). Social epidemiology as a science in supporting public health policy can be perceived as a new religion on the basis of its cause and its objective data (Dew, 2007). The social sources of disease and mortality are themes of social epidemiology, the goals of social epidemiology policies are focused at bettering harmful social impacts (Dew, 2007). The inadequate distribution in salaries, housing, education and other social aspects which lead to such inadequate consequences in relations of death rated and illness (Howden-Chapman, 2005). Social epidemiology as a science, has a demand for economic and social equity in terms of polices (Dew, 2007). In order to decrease well-being discriminations, the social discriminations must be reduced. In a population, everyone is somewhere on the slope, consequently such discriminations will affect every person in the society, this is a reflective idea of the influential and collective demand for social equity (Kawachi et al. 1999).

Public health acts as a buffer to anomie in limiting and regulating the individual’s never-ending pursuit of their own desires. Public health can also act a buffer to the flourishing capitalism as the argument of the need to regulate the economy and limit the extent of inequality in society. Conflict perception studies of public health have a tendency to position the institute as a problem in association with capitalism, or as a resolution with an emphasizing on social factors, lessening the capitalist influence and tendencies. An investigation of public health relative to the Dignity of the human person proposes a different emphasis. Public health is an institute that achieves an ethical monitoring purpose in modern society, and consequently as an institute is in disapproval with other institutes execution different monitoring roles or nurturing individuality. Individuality as a concept is not the resisting perspective, in this case the resistance is on a level of collectivity. The term resistance might not be the best definition, moderating different monitoring rules might improve defining the institutes relations. Influence can be absolutist when any specific monitoring rule governs from this viewpoint. Historically, that influence can be perceived as fading and waxing for different institutes, including the market, governments, academia and public health. Public health must not just be perceived as an adverse or helpful power. When uncontrolled, public health is absolutist. But public health itself can limit the undesirable influence of other institutes and confine anomic and selfish predispositions in modern society.


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  2. Chriss, J. J. (1993). Durkheim’s cult of the individual as civil religion: Its appropriation by Erving Goffman. Sociological Spectrum, 13(2), 251-275.
  3. Dew, K. (2007). Public health and the cult of humanity: a neglected Durkheimian concept. Sociology of health & illness, 29(1), 100-114.
  4. Durkheim, E. 1938. The Rules of Sociological Method, translated by S. A. Solovay and J. H. Mueller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  5. Durkheim, E. 1951. Suicide, translated by J. Spaulding and G. Simpson. Glencoe: Free Press.
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  7. Durkheim, E. 1957. Professional Ethics and Civic Morals, translated by C. Brookfield. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  8. Durkheim, E. 1961. Moral Education, translated by E. K. Wilson and H. Schnurer. Glencoe: Free Press.
  9. Durkheim, E. 1974. Sociology and Philosophy, translated by D. F. Pocock. New York: Free Press.
  10. Durkheim, E. 1984. The Division of Labor in Society, translated by W. D. Halls. New York: Free Press.
  11. Howden-Chapman, P. (2005) Unequal socio-economic determinants, unequal health. In Dew, K. and Davis, P. (eds) Health and Society in Aotearoa New Zealand 2nd Edition. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
  12. Kawachi, I., Wilkinson, R. and Kennedy, B. (1999) Introduction. In Kawachi, I., Wilkinson, R. and Kennedy, B. (eds) The Society and Population Health Reader: Volume 1, Income Inequality and Health. New York: The New Press.
  13. Lukes, S. (1985). Emile Durkheim, his life and work: a historical and critical study. Stanford University Press.
  14. Pope, W. (1975). Durkheim as a Functionalist. Sociological Quarterly, 16(3), 361-379.

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