Organic Solidarity

Hence, the ‘division of labor’ is a mode of organization that assumes a global scale, and in turn, organizations are held together by “associative social relationships.” Also, “associative social relationships” require one form of solidarity or another in order to sustain themselves, as argued by Emile Durkheim. Thus, the ‘division of labor’ requires some form of solidarity in order to take hold. Durkheim argued that solidarity comes in two forms. For one, there is “mechanical solidarity” which is founded on blood ties and communal ties. And then there is “organic solidarity,” which is founded through the gathering of people based on like-mindedness and “occupation.”

Yet, as Durkheim noted, there are both cognitive and empirical impediments to the fostering of “organic solidarity,” which happens to be the most superior form of human solidarity. I mentioned the cognitive and psychosocial impediment in the previous essay, namely, competition and perhaps even jealousy between like-minded people. But there is also an empirical impediment to the fostering of “organic solidarity” which Durkheim noted, namely, the “condensation of societies” resulting from advances in communication and transportation. Thus, the “condensation of societies” as a result of technology on one hand and the ‘division of labor’ on the other hand are mutually reinforcing phenomena. As Durkheim wrote: “If society, in concentrating, determines the development of the division of labour, the latter, in its turn, increases the concentration of society.”

What emerges, then, is either a real or perceived “struggle for existence” as a result of the condensation of society and social density which are intertwined with the emergence of a ‘division of labor.’ As Durkheim wrote:

“If work becomes progressively divided as societies become more voluminous and dense, it is not because external circumstances are more varied, but because struggle for existence is more acute.”

Durkheim added:

“Having the same needs and pursuing the same aims, [people] are in rivalry everywhere. So long as they have more resources than they need, they can still live side by side, but if their number increases to such proportions that their needs can no longer all be adequately satisfied, war breaks out, and it is the more violent the more marked this scarcity; that is to say, as the number of participants increase.”

Thus, with the ‘condensation of society’ as a result of technology comes both the cognitive and empirical impediments to the ‘organic solidarity’ which is supposed to arise as a result of the ‘division of labor,’ with the ‘division of labor’ being both a cause and a consequence of the ‘condensation of society.’ Overcoming such impediments to both collective and individual progress then becomes a struggle and an uphill climb. For one, the individual has to overcome the ‘scarcity’ paradigm which contributes to condensation and social density both cognitively and empirically. But what is most important to keep in mind is that the concentration and social density – and thus the scarcity mentality – are not so much tangible as they are cognitive, and this is something which is overlooked more often than not. More difficult than anything is breaking free from “herd mentality” and mustering the will to go where no one else has ever gone before.

Thus, the cognitive and empirical impediments attached to condensation and social density are essentially overcome cognitively as a result of cognitive expansion and ‘generalization’ in a world that is compelled to become narrow and ‘specialized’ due to the preponderance of the ‘division of labor’ over our social reality. And as David Epstein wrote in a book titled “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World,” even the empirical research now suggests that “mental meandering and personal experimentation are sources of power.”

As a result, the possibility of cognitive expansion and “generalization” means that the ‘division of labor’ is a double-edged sword. In essence, an organization or a scheme such as the ‘division of labor’ is neither good nor evil. What matters most is the collective or individual input into such organizations and schemes towards the shaping of ultimate outcomes.

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