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AS/SOCI 2040 Sociological Theory


Mid Term Study Questions




Question 2:

To answer the question you need to have a good grasp of the concept of


What is subjective become objective. Pretending to be a good friend (subjective) sowing it objectively by your deeds to others and to yourself!(objectification)

Our conditions as human beings which we believe  make us so special! (different than other species).

1.         Creative and productive

2.         Independent and rational planners,

3.         Social

4.         Free from dependence on nature

All of these are reflected in the labor process in general according to Marx. We have potential to feel ourselves to be free and rational beings just by working under human condition (no need to some philosophers or idealist philosopher to come and tell us how free and rational we are!—we, ordinary people, can show it objectively to our selves)

However, in  today’s division of labor:

1.         The sense of being  creative is lost because the objects produced which might makes us aware of our creative nature is taken away from the producers – ALIENATION FROM THE PRODUCT

2.         That we work following the order of some one else makes us loose our sense of independence and rational planning; doing job becomes just for making a living (“the animal needs”). – ALIENATION FROM THE LABOR PROCESS

3.         That we have nothing to do with whom we work (just put there by some one else and we work with them without any shared purpose and often in a very competitive fashion),and that we face others (the employers) as individuals with whom we obviously have conflict of interest, makes us loose the social nature of our work and existence – ALIENATION FROM OTHERS

4.         The great accomplishment of humanity is independence from the particularity of the natural environment and becoming so globally connected that we produce for every one and every one is producing for us by creating almost every thing we need. The 1 and 2 above reduces us again into beings so limited to our own particularity of needs (work just for living) and under control and dictate of another particular being (the employer)--ALIENATION FROM SPECIES BEING.





Question 4:

*How does being egoistic make one commit suicide?

To answer your question I have to review the whole lecture notes. However here is a brief summary:

Generally speaking people commit suicide because either they are depressed or frustrated. In one case they blame themselves in the other they blame others. In getting depressed the suicidal individuals tend to blame themselves.

Egoism is, on the one hand, a psychological state of mind, i.e. individuals feeling lonely and depressed because unable to have meaningful relationships and purposes in their lives. But why is this (having social interactions, attachments, purposes) so vital? Because it is a need we grow up with, the more we get older and socialized the more the need for purposes and activities in life that involve others and social life in general, i.e. the need for sympathy (being effected by other’s well being and sorrows and at the same time needing others’ concerns for our own well being), the cultural  needs such as music, art, religion or some sort of spirituality, moral guidance, charity or social involvement, political engagement for social change etc..

Now imagine someone who is mostly interested in things that directly involves him/herself, such as making good money, spending it in never ending shopping, or someone who thinks in order to be happy he/she does not need much social interaction, or social life in general. That person tends to be an “egoist”!

However, egoism, according to Durkheim, is not just a personality type or characteristic of the individuals but rather is socially constructed. How? First of all he looks at the kind of people who live in an “egoistic” condition, e.g. children, elderly, Protestants, et.. Then he decides that being egoistic is a result of lack of integration in a social group, such as the family, church, political party, etc…

Conclusion:  egoistic suicide is caused by lack of integration or a social life in which social integration is weak.




Question 5:

There are two cases of anomie:

1.      The norms regulating the division of labor are lacking.

2.      The norms exist but there is a lack of social support and commitment to them among individuals.

To give you an example, in our society the norm is that to get some kind of jobs (higher status, professional positions such as lawyers or doctors) one should have a higher education. This means that social roles and functions are divided in our society (i.e. the division of labor) depending, partly, on educational achievements of the individuals. This is the norm accepted and respected by most of us and corresponds to a grate extent to what happens in our society. Now imagine if there were no such norms in a society, or if there were, they did not correspond to the real division of labor in society? Now there are different ways and conditions that might create such case of anomie. The one that was analyzed by Durkheim was a period of rapid social change. As you mentioned it seems we are now involved in an economic crisis which might get even worst in the future. Such crisis might have all sorts of consequences including that once graduated you might find out that, contrary to both your expectation and the social norms, there is no job for you. Thus the current economic crisis might end up in a social anomie.

However, the more relevant case of anomie occurs when the social norms exist but at the same time the individuals are not as strongly committed to them. Now here you should remember that social norms are not there because of our self interest rather because, according to Durkheim, they reflect a certain degree of specialization and differentiation of the division of labor in society. That people should become a doctor or a lawyer because of their qualifications (e.g. their degrees) not because of their family history (e.g. their fathers being a doctor or a lawyer) is more functional to our social order.

Thus if by contract we mean a contractual relationship in which we get involved because of our self interest there is always a non-contractual element in our contractual relationships, i.e. an element not based on our self interested interactions.

To give you an example, divorce is a break down of marriage, should it be granted just because the married couples feel that it is in their interest to get divorce? Should the judge grant the divorce just by making sure that the divorce is what the couples really  want and is  in their self-interest? Not according to Durkheim. The real job of the judge is to ensure that the divorce law applies to the case, and thus sometimes, even against the wishes of both couples, might decide that they cannot get divorce (for instance, he/she might decide that according to the law  they should wait one year and live separately for on year even if they did not want to).  If you look around carefully you may find out that there are numerous cases like this, i.e. cases of social norms and laws that we think are not in our interest to abide by.

On the other hand to have an enduring order in society people should follow the norms not only because they are afraid of the consequences, but also because they think it is in the interest of society and social life that every one obeyed the laws and norms of society. However, Durkheim argues, in doing so we must be ready to forgo our own self – interest in the name of the public interest. Thus there is always a certain degree of “sacrifice” involved in adhering to social norms.

But what if we lived in a society in which we are told that the most important thing in life is only our own self-interest? Would it be easy for us to support and commit ourselves to the norms of our society? If the answer is no, then we should conclude that in such society anomie is a permanent feature of social life, i.e. anomie has become chronic aspect of society. 

Durkheim dilemma was precisely that, one the one hand, he argued that “organic solidarity” will weaken or totally eliminate “collective conscience”, i.e. common beliefs and values shared by the individuals living in a community replacing it with contractual relationships (the ones based on mutual self-interest).  On the other hand, he maintains that even in organic solidarity, people need to commit themselves to social norms by overcoming their self-interest and in order to do so there should be a “collective conscience,” i.e., moral values and norms shared by all individuals.

However, he argued, to have a collective conscience we need a social power or authority external to the individuals in which they believe and which they respect. In the older times and societies religion and religious institutions used to play this function. But what about our times and the modern societies in which according to Durkheim religion has lost its authority in  regulating individual’s behavior and its power of  creating and supporting the collective conscience?  This is the question and dilemma Durkheim posed for himself and tried to answer all his life.