Emile Durkheim conceptualised the term anomie in The Division of Labour in Society (1893). In this treatise he discusses in detail the subject of social solidarity. Durkheim holds that all members within society are a product of society, bound together by societal bonds.
Durkheim used the term anomie to describe lack of social cohesion or relative normlessness, where bonds break down or are undefined. (p.212) According to Durkheim this blurring of societal bonds causes members of society to become detached from societal regulatory constraints that govern and control their behaviour and aspirations, leaving them with no set guidelines within which to act or to aspire, resulting in anomie.
Durkheim was a positivist; he was not interested in the study of individuals' subjective meanings but aimed to identify and study different social facts. Many forces contributing to anomie can be measured only by their visible effects as some forces are invisible, like gravity. Durkheim studied the observable effects of invisible social forces.
Anomie can be observed through effects such as societal disorganization and deregulation, leading to criminal and deviant behaviour but also social facts as personal as suicide (discussed below). Durkheim suggests that an anomic state is more likely to be present during periods of social unrest, perhaps caused by social changes like increases and decreases of economic prosperity, due to the disruption of traditional values (p.201)
Durkheim believed that crime and deviance were socially constructed. Durkheim saw acts of crime and deviance as an integral part of society’s temporal transition; he suggested that a certain amount of crime and deviance is an essential component of the healthy functioning of society, and he suggested it reinforces society’s moral code and causes social solidarity, change and innovation. Although crime and deviance could threaten the stability of society, Durkheim suggests that a society without crime would also...