Durkheim’s Concept of Anomie vs Weber’s Concept of Disenchantment
The concept of anomie by Durkheim pertains to a situation where there is an instability in the society as a result of the breakdown of values and standards or the lack of purpose perceived by an individual. Social anomie happens when ordinary meanings and social norms are no longer accepted, and new meanings and values have not been developed. The result of such a state of the society is a psychological state characterized by a sense of futility, emotional despair and emptiness, and the lack of purpose. Making efforts in every aspect of life become meaningless because what is desirable cannot be defined. For instance, Durkheim believed that suicide in such a society occurs because social standards required for regulating behavior have failed (15).
On the other hand, Weber’s concept of disenchantment presupposes that people have to face the reality as it is, without deceiving themselves. The fate of normlessness in the society is to be addressed without relying on promises of religious salvation or utopian dreams. Weber gives an example of human mediation of salvation. To him, it is magic because human beings are trying to influence God’s will like the way old magicians attempted to influence gods’ will by sacrificial practices.
The attribution of social change and its causes differ in both Durkheim and Weber’s analysis of their respective concepts. Social solidarity is the focus of Durkheim. He considers it the most significant role in a social order context. Durkheim indicates that one has a particular place in the universe reinforced by the social values of religion, morality, and patriotism. He notes that these strands of social values can be weaker or stronger in various societies. The present social forces of the world tend to break down moral strands of social unity. Durkheim gives an example of large cities where he states that the population’s social solidarity is weak due to different solidarity levels, which predisposes some people to commit suicide (14). On the contrary, Weber’s concept of disenchantment entails a different kind of breakdown and separation. According to him, an individual is separated from one’s nature as a creator and an independent producer. In addition, one can be separated from his natural sociality. Weber believes that social relations are founded on freedom and equality and that the current capitalist society is a destruction of the true sociality. Therefore, Weber addresses social changes from an individual point of view while Durkheim considers the society as a whole, single unit, determining its changes.
Furthermore, the fate of the society in the future in regard to what modernity would face also differs. Durkheim regards a sociological ground, and he hopes for a better society in the future. He is hopeful for the modernity to come and he is cautious, open-minded, and optimistic about the future in his analysis. He hopes that the society’s standards and values can be restored in the future. On the contrary, Weber is pessimistic about the face of future modernity. His illustrations of bureaucracy, definition of iron cage, and irrational rotation of rationalism support his position. The examples help to justify his pessimistic nature, especially in modern institutions and processes (Tucker 157). Moreover, his interpretive methodology of social change indicates the future as the fragmented structure of daily life and the society.
Both Durkheim and Weber diagnose the same feature of modernity. Durkheim explains the difference between pre-modern and modern worlds. In the pre-modern world, an individual has a well-defined moral and social place. However, in the present world, the strands of solidarity have been broken down (Durkheim 14). Weber analyzes the same situation of the present world in a forward-looking manner. He affirms the present as a factory lacking moral and social settings and the future as a society of equal, free social producers (Tucker 167). Moreover, Weber indicates that the present social values are broken down just as analyzed by Durkheim.
Moreover, Weber and Durkheim used sociology in a scientific way to respond to changes in the society’s values in Europe. The issues related to the consequences and reasons of modernity such as division of labor, anomie, suicide, alienation, and individualism are discussed by the two classical sociologists using social science. According to Durkheim’s concepts, the contribution to sociology is in scientific reflex (31) while Weber’s contribution is in a new methodological and philosophical step when addressing a broad social change in modern Europe (Tucker 160).
Common Substantive Themes
Evolutionism is the concept of division of labor by Durkheim, which focuses on the shift from a simple society to a complex society. He indicates that traditional societies were composed of a homogeneous population that had almost similar values, backgrounds, and religious beliefs. However, the development of the society with time resulted in a modern society that entails complex division of labor, experiences, and beliefs (Durkheim 150). In his suicide concept, the traditional society underwent changes with time concerning its social behavior, norms, and consciousness. Durkheim states that in the traditional setup, the collective consciousness prevailed, the social norms were strong, and behavior was strictly regulated (14). Over time, the common consciousness and norms have become less apparent, the regulation of behavior has become less punitive, and there have been more attempts to restore roles in the society. Therefore, the two concepts illustrate how the society has evolved in different aspects to the division of labor and suicide experiences.
Disintegration is the tendency of one to commit suicide and is a result of social values, norms, and behavior that have become less obvious to individuals. As mentioned above, in the old setup, the collective consciousness and social norms were strongly observed (Durkheim 15). Moreover, the behavior was highly regulated. In contrast, in the modern world, behavior has become more of restoration of normal functioning in the society and the common consciousness and norms have become less obvious. The modern society situation results in a state of normlessness that predisposes one to commit suicide because what is desired cannot be defined. It indicates disintegration of values, behavior, and norms in the society. The current division of labor is due to the specialization in jobs. The society broke down from self-sufficiency states in a traditional set up to dependencies states. Currently, people can no longer meet their needs by themselves (Durkheim 158). Instead, they rely on other people to satisfy their needs, which is the opposite of traditional set up where people were tied together and they could fulfill their needs without relying on others.
Methods, Goals, and Functions of Sociology
Durkheim indicates that social facts are to be studied differently from psychological and biological perspectives, hence, indicates the method and the approach of the research to be used when studying social changes (56). Moreover, the social studies are meant to determine the historical causes of particular social phenomena and to ascertain the roles of the social system as a whole. Therefore, for one to have an understanding of the social events and their changes, a classical social approach should be used which differs from both the psychological and biological methods. The latter two methods study individualization while Durkheim’s approach studies the society as a unit. According to Durkheim, what happens to an individual directly relates to society’s norms, values, and expected behavior (16). Thus, sociology also helps to explain the behaviors observed in the society and their changes because of the relation between individual actions and social norms and values.
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