Modernity is a collection of Idea’s that foster new ways of thinking about the subjects of society, economics and political thinking in comparison to the classical way of sociological ideas. Modernity was a name given to a big idea, a big sociological theory, which consisted of lots of smaller ideas. It was a historical change, whereby more than two hundred years in the past, European societies underwent a significant and quite rapid change in all aspects of their social, cultural, political and economic lives (Fevre. R and Bancroft. A. 2010. P 27).
Modernity meant that people started to question social phenomena; they started to create theories as to why something had happened or was happening. They started to question what made us do the things we do, what makes us follow certain rules and so forth. Modernity itself was in fact a theory, thought up to summarise the changes that were happening at a certain point in history. Emile Durkheim was a key sociological thinker of the 19th century. He was one of the first people to try and explain and understand society as a whole by looking at all the different parts of society.
He studied the ways in which society was held together through moral and social bonds. This came to be known as ‘functionalism’. It was a word used to describe a complicated system in which different pieces fit together to form a stable and structured society. One of Durkheim’s major works was a Book called ‘The division of labor in society’. This is known as one of his most famous books, as it includes some key elements of his sociological thoughts. In this book, Durkheim wrote about the differences within traditional and modern societies.
He describes traditional societies as having a low division of labor in society- resulting in mechanical solidarity. This is a term that Durkheim used to explain small compact and quite simple societies such as small rural villages, where there was a strong sense of religion and where people had the same jobs and shared the same type’s responsibilities, such as managing the fields, or baking their own food. People were close knit, and mainly relied on themselves, or a few close neighbours to help each other live.
People who lived in these societies tended to know each other; the idea that they all shared the same ideas, views and responsibilities was the bond that held this type of society together. “We celebrated in each others’ joys because we had the same joys. And this commonality was the basis for community” (http://moralmindfield. wordpress. com/2012/01/31/of-durkheim-and-facebook-social-forces-and-social-media/). When the industrial revolution hit however, this traditional image of society grew into a now more modern and complex world. This was now known as modern society.
Durkheim describes this as being an organic society by which there is a much higher division of labour. This essentially described the move from farming to more industrial practices, by which people moved to cities and varied the jobs in which they did. People started to specialize in things that they were good at, therefore creating a world where people had to rely on each other a lot more, to get the things they needed. Everything became specific; people did a job to make a certain thing, without this person doing this specific job, society wouldn’t work.
People had to now rely on the differences they now had, rather than the things that they once had in common. It’s true to say that “In traditional rural villages everyone knew everyone else, and it could be very claustrophobic. Now we were used to a more arms length way of life, but that only became possible because at one level we were a kind of unit, part of something which we recognize as bigger than us. ” Fevre, R and Bancroft, A. (2010b, P 41). People became dependent on each other, trading one thing that someone needed, for something that they then needed themselves.
Without this type of relationship, people would not have had the amenities to survive, or at least live normally. Durkheim believed that this higher division of labour could eventually make us all better off, society would have a chance to grow and flourish because people could learn new skills and use them to their advantage to create new things, new ideas. He explained that to successfully apply this theory however, we needed trust and co-operation. However there were also downsides to this complex division of labor.
He worried that without the need for co-operation, people would not make the things that other people needed. Without this flow of people doing things for each other, how would society stay formed and efficient, when there were no longer strong religious views, Ethnic minorities etc? This was what Durkheim defined as ‘Anomie’. This was a term used to describe the “breakdown of social norms and it a condition where norms no longer control the activities of members in society. Individuals