Emile Durkheim Society

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Emile Durkheim’s Model of Society It may seem a very long way from the French sociologist Emile Durkheim and his studies of the cultural underpinnings of suicide to complaints about medical benefits around the water cooler. But in fact, the two are connected to each other for Durkheim’s interests covered all of human society and especially the institutions that bring us together and either force us or allow us to function as one member of a group. In the industrialized world of the 21st century, that institution is often the workplace. Durkheim’s model of society was not an altogether cheerful one, and his ability to see the flaws of social institutions with such clarity is one of the aspects of his work that makes it so valuable, by being able to describe how social structures and institutions fail us as well as how they support us he was able to create a blueprint for the ways in which we might want to be able to change society. As a student, Durkheim became convinced that progress was not the necessary consequence of the development of science and technology, that it could not be represented by an ascending curve, justifying complacent optimism. He perceived around him the occurrence of “anomie,” which is defined as a personal sense of rootlessness fostered by the absence of social norms. He also believed that the relative material success of his generation (almost unimaginable when set against the norm of human consumption averaged over the course of all of human history) set free greed and passions that threatened the equilibrium of society (Lukes, 1985, p. 143). Durkheim very quickly turned to the arena of work in an attempt to understand the relationship of group to individual and, more specifically, how it is that what each one of us does in our daily lives is linked to a sense of well-being or the lack of a sense of well-being and a sense of connection
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