SOCIAL THEORY REACTION PAPER No 3
E. Durkeim and his contemporary importance.
What is order at all? For Coser (1960) order is largely concerned with assumptions about frequency of conflict. But shall it always be that precise and instrumental? The Webster dictionary(2ed.,1979) gives a broader definition of order: it is a state of peace and serenity, orderly conduct, observance of the law as well as a law of arrangement. For E. Durkheim, the social order, I expect, would mean a kind of social contract (which sounds very a-historical, too reasoned and artificial, of course) concluded between the individual members for a greater welfare of the society, thus lessening the “pains” of individual existing of living on their own. Also, social order represents currents of opinions reflecting collectiveness.
E. Durkeim in his works addressed very important issues of relation between determinism and free action in a human society. First, he located social forces outside individual actors, but then there came a problem with structure, its role and extent. Does a structure perform a restrictive role only ? Or does it work both ways (e.g. structure enables and empowers the individual constituent members in a course they take)? I think that questions like these pose much scope for ideology and thus may be interpreted to fit any ideology. In my view, the National Socialist Movement in Germany as well as Socialism in the Soviet block emphasized very much the dominant force of “collective” at the expense of individual freedom and development. Nisbet, for example, accused E. Durkeim of impliedly attacking the liberalist principles through his acceptance of social harmony and obedience is an ideal. In my view, E. Durkheim is wrongly interpreted in this respect. His “anti-liberalism” exists only in so far as the works of his contemporary colleagues ( with which he didn’t want to be associated ( K.Marx)) were taken to mean it as well. I submit that what E. Durkheim called socialism could not be a very anti-democratic and anti-individual concept, moreover, his socialism was to be voluntaristic, “with a human face”.
It is suggested that a problem of order unavoidingly involves quality of human events (are they random and unconcerted or structured ( given in a system)?) as well as sources of interaction, which may be individual, collective or supra-individual. Collective orders were displayed by K. Marx as external and coercive and on the other hand as internal and voluntaristic ( by Parsons). I submit that works of E. Durkheim must lie on a continuum somewhere between these two extremes.
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