Systems of Sociology Theory based in the French Revolution era when Napoleon was defeated and the Burbons returned to the throne.

Theory based in the fact that the society had evolved to a stage where neither the monarchy, military or church had the societal clout it once had.

* he saw this change in society to be as a result of a change in collective thought of the people; that is their “stages in the search for understanding”.

Law of 3 Stages : Theological, Metaphysical, Positive Society(pg.122)

In each stage, the typical forms of organization of society and social institutions can be reflected in the people’s development of distinctive types of knowledge and beliefs. For example, if people believe that having sex outside of making babies (for pleasure :)) is a sin, then the church will have maximum influence over people.

Theological Stage: think (Mayas, Incas, Inuit)

– dominated by primitive religious thought

– explain phenomena via the supernatural (gods and spirits)

– society based on intuition, sentiment and feelings (must appease the gods to avoid disaster)

– ruled by priests and military (general or war lord)

– moral structure centered around blood ties

Metaphysical Stage: think (Victorian English society or French Aristocratic society)

– move from primitive religious thought to a limited development of CRITICAL THOUGHT

– belief in 1 God or single diety (montheism) and a search for ultimate reality

– explain phenomena in terms of abstract forces not spirits (fate and destiny)

– here you get a more unified concept of SOCIETY because people now share a common belief system

– society organized based on the idea of the state (as opposed to the individual) and its defense or protection from others

Positive Society: think (Industrial Society)

– all thought is critical and open to analysis, i.e. based on SCIENTIFIC EMPIRICISM

– rejects religion and abstraction as the sole means of explaining phenomena. To do this, one must rely on observation and scientific testing or experimentation. Results = facts (scientific and social)

– scientists now the intellectual and/or spiritual leaders

*to bring us back to the original idea: change in patterns of thought can be seen in the change in social structure. e.g. Wealth being derived from: military loot and plunder ==> industry and technology via science.

*To complete the transition to Positive Society would be a science geared toward the study of society (SOCIOLOGY) using empirical research to arrive at social facts and law like relations between observable phenomena. That is Positivism as an approach to studying society.

Problems with Compte:

– does not explain the mechanisms that cause a change in society

– does not show why reason or why society would change in the direction it has

– vague about what is or isn’t observable and what is or isn’t empirical


He tries to pick up the slack in Compte’s theory. He tries to study the mechanisms behind the progress(ion) of society. His biggest contribution= likeningsociety to a biological organism (structural functionalism).

His theory of evolution incorporates all aspects of the universe (animate/inanimate, biological/social). For him, all matter moves from disorganized flux ==>order and stability.

Through DIFFERENTIATION (breakdown of simple and unspecialized structures into many specialized parts) and INTEGRATION (development of a specialized function, organ or bond preserving unity among differentiated parts) working simultaneously simple forms and structures evolve into more complex ones i.e. as matter moves from flux to stability.

Society evolves to greater institutional complexity:

Differentiation based on greater specialization of tasks of devision of labour

Integration based on a central coordinating agency e.g. modern state will arise to keep things going smoothely.

“Survival of the fittest” – Spencer not Darwin = mechanisms governing change in all systems is a competitive struggle which breeds more complex and specialized forms to emerge out of simpler ones. In effect, to increase chances for survival in a competitive environment one must strive to develop ways to stay ahead. For example developing digital cell phones to replace analog ones; or chameleons evolving with the ability to blend into their background as a defense mechanism; some species of frogs that are asexual and can become females to reproduce if the population becomes too low.

Function: concept derived to test whether an adaptation is successful. It is tested in terms of its relation to the necessary conditions or functions that must be met for the social system to survive. Three (3) functions for system survival = 1. a Sustaining System function 2. a Distribution system function 3. a Regulatory System function. See pg. 123

Problem with Spencer:

– Not all societies follow his sequence of development

– Not all societies have the same pre-history

– Colonialism and its exploitative nature may be responsible for the regression in some societies not poor adaptation mechanisms.


To understand his work, one must understand the mental state if the man, so read his background pg.124-125.

His contributions to sociology stem from his work exploring the origins and nature of MORALITY as the expression of the relationship between individuals and society.

*look @ how D treats social facts pg.125

His goal is to study scientifically the ‘facts’ of moral life and look for laws to explain them.

The conditions under which people live give rise to moral rules and these change when society changes, so ALL societies have a moral base.

Moral order of society is intrinsically tied to two central aspects of society : SOLIDARITY (the achievement of cohesiveness and integration) and REGULATION (restraint above the pursuit of self interest).

– there are two (2) types of solidarity: MECHANICAL and ORGANIC

– there are two types of morality because of these two types of solidarity

Mechanical Solidarity is bred out of homogeneity i.e. birds of a feather flock together.

Organic Solidarity is bred out of recognizing the heterogeneity of society and the individuals is evident but these differences complement and complete us. That is, the differences are experienced in the form of exchange and mutual dependence e.g. a bee hive with drones and workers.

* Organic Solidarity based on COMPLEMENTARY differences is stronger than mechanical solidarity based on sameness!!

For Durkheim, any behavior that threatens the solidarity of a community will be seen as immoral and will be sanctioned by the community.

To study scientifically and objectively the underlying moral life of a society, one can study the LAWS of that society, since the law is a written account of the shared moral values/ ethics of that society.

Mechanical Solidarity and Repressive (Penal) Law

– solidarity based on sameness will have laws that punish people who go against the shared values of that society i.e. repressing deviance from the norm.

These offenders are seen as violating the “conscience collective” – ‘totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average citizens of the same society’- or social fact. This conscience collective is a “superstructure” that exists independent of individual circumstance e.g. a woman who murders her husband will be punished regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

– Punishment for violation of the conscience collective is not only for revenge on the offending party but to reaffirm and strengthen collective values of the conscience collective.

Societies based on Mechanical solidarity:

– are found to be simpler, pre-industrial societies with Gemeinschaft principles and little division of labour beyond age and sex.

– Have strongly shared convictions that are treated with religious reverence and are therefore strongly defended against diversity which would be considered sinful

– Shared beliefs is the main basis for solidarity so the cohesion of the community would be directly threatened by the tolerance of non-conformist behaviour.

* so the root of Repressive Law is Religious Law

Organic Solidarity and Restitutive (Contract) Law

– solidarity based on differences and mutual dependence

– this breeds contract law or restitutuve law which is less concerned with punishment but more focused on making right the ‘reciprocal’ obligations between people in the society i.e. making exchanges fair.

– Assumes that there is greater division of labour and specialization so these reciprocal relationships are necessary for societal functioning as people become dependent on each other for survival.

Societies based on Organic Solidarity:

– are found in complex industrialized societies

– societal cohesion based on division of labour and interdependence i.e. as people become more specialized they also become more dependent on each other. Therefore ties are based on cooperation and grow stronger as specialization increases.

– Restitutive law dominates because cohesion depends on people fulfilling their contractual obligations to each other

– Respect for individual rights is essential for solidarity in modern society. The rights if the individual are the building blocks of the justice system and are protected by restitutive law and Durkeheim calls this “PRECONTRACTUAL BASIS OF CONTRACT”.

– Morality of highly specialized societies are reflected in these laws

– The stronghold of religion is severely weakened and the concept of conscience collective becomes an abstraction. It is replaced by HUMANISM.

* Humanism focuses on individualization but it is not based on selfish self interest but on mutual respect for others since each benefits from the other.

Transition from Mechanical to Organic Solidarity is facilitated by:

– development of communication that penetrates isolated areas

– demographic changes i.e. increases in population size forces people to diversify

– division of labour forces people to cooperate rather than compete i.e. persons encouraged to find their niche and specialize.

Problems with Durkheim:

– transition from Mechanical ==> Organic is too unilinear i.e. can find division of labour and contractual agreements in primitive societies

– mechanical solidarity still found in industrial society e.g. solidarity based on race and religion

– repressive (penal) law still dominant in industrialized societies e.g. communist China or Cuba.

Anomic Division of Labour

By using the concept of Anomie, Durkehiem hopes to explain the moral ills of contemporary society.

* Anomie = an absence or confusion of values, a lack of clear regulations or norms for behaviour that leaves people feeling lost, disorganized, devoid of behavioral control or beliefs and leads to a sense of meaninglessness/purposelessness in their lives.

Major cause of anomie is forced or unjust division of labour. To fix ==> 1. division should correspond to natural talents of people (free occupational choice) . 2. when people enter contracts they should be equal and the contract fair and entered into freely (people shouldn’t be forced).

* There should be no ascribed status because being born into a social position sets up an inherent inequality in contracts.

Another cause of anomie is Fractionalized work i.e. when a task is broken down into discrete components e.g. assembly line work. Here persons become divorced from the process when they are unable to see the task through. This leads to loosing feelings of solidarity and continuity i.e. persons can’t see themselves as part of the organization and there is a loss of pride in one’s work because it has become uninteresting.

REGULATION = CURE FOR ANOMIE (look at Laissez Faire systems and regulation pg.129 for solution for Anomie)

2 Studies done be Durkheim to investigate his theories of the nature of social solidarity and anomie: 1. SUICIDE and 2. RELIGION.


Hypothesis: Human happiness depends upon social cohesion therefore when social solidarity breaks down or weakens, levels of unhappiness within a community increases.

* to make his study empirical and scientific, he used SUICIDE RATES as concrete observable phenomena to infer intangibles like unhappiness and cohesion (both subjective states).

Suicide = “intentional self-death by any action known to have that effect”. It is the number of people per 100,000 who intentionally take their own lives.


His Theory: Specific kinds of social conditions that lead to a weakening of social solidarity engender increasing unhappiness and higher suicide rates.

3 Types of Suicide: 1. Egoistic Suicide 2. Anomic Suicide 3. Altruistic Suicide


This type of suicide occurs when people have poor or weak social bonds to their society i.e. when a society is poorly integrated.

Durkheim used religious affiliation and marital status as indicators of how strong social bonds were.

* Suicide higher in Protestants > Catholics > Jews because SOCIAL COHESION stronger in Jews > Catholics > Protestants

* Suicide higher in Single males > married males > married males with children

* Suicide higher in married women > married with kids > single women. Yes men commit suicide more often (3Xs) than women and it is considered a ‘masculine’ behaviour BUT if you take a closer look at the data, women attempt suicide 2-3 Xs more than men and attempts are 6-10Xs higher than completions. Therefore, women seem more suicidal but less likely to complete the act.

* Lesson = Statistical rates treated in isolation can lead to false conclusions!!


This type of suicide occurs when people experience a loss of REGULATION.

Therefore having a skewed sense of ones station or role in life, no apparent boundaries or limits to behaviour, and no meaningful goals in life, leave people unhappy, dissatisfied and frustrated.

Only when these things are clearly defined do people seem happy, content and orderly.

Any major shift in life circumstance (good or bad) can lead to anomie e.g. an economic boom/bust or a millionaire going broke.

Divorce related suicide higher in married people especially in males.


This type of suicide occurs when people have OVERLY strong bonds and societies are OVERLY cohesive.

Individuals here are totally obedient and attached to their society, so much so that one would be willing to die for the betterment or continuation of the group. This is voluntary death for the group e.g. suicide bombers.

* rare in modern society according to Durkheim because of greater focus on individualism (egoistic and anomic more common). *except in armed forces

* higher in army > civilians

* higher in volunteers > conscripts (drafted)

* higher in officers > privates

* higher in re-enlisters > newcomers

Why? ==> greater subordination of individuality to the group.

Impact on Sociology re: the study of suicide rates

1. shows the relation between individual acts and social conditiond

2. importance of treating societal forces as distinct levels of reality

3. methodological approach using statistical data as objective indicators of abstract concepts.

Politcal Economy of Suicide Rates

Marx (M) vs Durkheim (D)

PE Theorists use Marx’s critique of capitalosm to understand defferences in suicide rates.

D&M==>use statistical suicide rates

M==>PET looks at the origins of these symptoms in the capitalist system of production (few exploiting the many)

D==>Just describes the symptoms of anomic division of labour

M==>exploitive relations of capitalism reflected in rates

D==>breakdown of moral order reflected in rates

M==>CLASS OPPRESSION causes the anomie that drives people to despair (pg.139)

* anomie caused when human relations are reduced to mere cash payments i.e. payments made or relations expressed when labor needed and stopped when it isn’t.

* in societies with organic solidarity, when people have interdependent moral and social bonds with each other via the division of labour, unemployment and underemployment makes a person feel separated from these vital connections to the society. They not only suffer financially but morally, socially and emotionally.

Social Construction of Suicide Rates

M and D take suicide rates to be “social facts” but S.Cons’ts see these rates as being socially constructed i.e. made up by coroners and religious leaders.

Ethnomethodologists are not concerned with why people kill themselves but are interested in the process of classification as suicide.

The label ‘suicide’ gives intention to the person but you can never really know – dead men tell no tales. So, in effect, coroners have to guess and rely on the accounts of other people which can be biased and subjective. (pg.134)

Rates can be affected by:

1. methods of collection (priest vs coroner)

2. people’s inferences about the person’s life circumstances

* Douglas & Smith studies (pg.135)

RELIGION -def’n pg.137 para2

Durkheim looked at the impact religion had on social cohesion within a society.

He thought there was more to religion that superstition or the unexplainable because over time it would have/ should have been replaced by science.

Though its direct influence over society has weakened, religion is still the most common aspect if any human culture.

All religions:

– have shared beliefs held by all who believe

– have rituals that believers perform together

– *have a distinction between the sacred and the worldly

– have a church i.e. organized place/time for worship

Durkheim believed that religion was a mirrored representation of society i.e. society has all the qualities of religion.

* society is a force far greater than any 1 person

* it brings life and can kill us; we all depend on it for our sense of self; and it provides us with a language to think and communicate

* he believes God(s) is the symbolic expression of our strong feelings of community with others. Therefore community us an invisible force that ties us all together

* he believes the Soul is the symbolic expression of the force of the group within the self i.e. human nature as both Individual and Social [Mead’s I and Me or Cooley’s Looking Glass Self].

* Just like religion can stir us to fervor and great action that exceeds the self e.g. suicide bombing; being a part of a group has that same dynamic, intangible force

Durkheim also believed that religion also mirrored the structure of a particular society e.g. totemism p.g. 137-138

* he knew that mulit-ethnic, highly specialized (high division of labour), diverse societies would not be held together by a shared religion like ones bound by mechanical solidarity but by organic solidarity and HUMANISM.

* Humanism = the respect for the individual and their human rights despite their differences.

* Institutions that persist over time must provide a critical maintenance function for the society of which it is a part.

Durkheim and Contemporary Functionalist Theory of Religion

Functionalists focus on the FUNCTION religion might have for human society

D==>saw religion as arising from and reflecting Social Cohesion

F==>modified this view to see religion as a crucial element to creating or fostering social cohension

D==>common consciousness i.e. shared beliefs, values etc. only work in Mechanical Solidarity

F==>religion = common consciousness that draws people together in Mechanical or Organic solidarity

**Key function of religion is to help people deal with death i.e. the thought of salvation eases suffering and rituals surrounding death brings people together and provides a support system

– gathering for collective worship reinforces cohesion and strengthens bonds of kinship

– Representative rights perpetuate tradition and reinforces a sense of belonging to the past and future

Problems with Functionalist Theory:

– Durkheim’s Humanism is a utopic fantasy in the face of our multi ethnic society

– Numerous religions foster more division than unity

– Since the functionalist perspective is based on a society that is unified and cohesive then in today’s world, religion cannot reinforce social cohesion in the entire society…maybe in subsections.


The Political Economy of Religion

Marx’s critique of functionalist theory states “Religion functions as the opiate of the masses” it drugs them into passivity and submission because it stresses acceptance of the trials and tribulations on earth for a good supernatural reward after death.

PE Theorists see religion with relation to economic circumstances and class separation in a society.

* that is, how the dominant class uses its power to promote and sustain a religioun that promotes and reinforces its own class values and legitimizes the oppression and inequality imposed on others by them.

They also see religion as an all too powerful force that prevented people from recognizing their real situation and rebelling against it.

* Engels likened Christianity to Socialism because it promised salvation from bondage and misery. The difference was that the latter came after death.

* Christianity was a good slace religion even in the Roman Empire because passivity and submission to rulers on earth and a God as lord and master tied into their obedience to these rulers as price for eternal salvation.

* Relations of Production would have to change before alternate conceptions of God can take shape.

In your reading, look at Weber and the differences between Puritanism (Methodism) and Calvinism. Pg140-142

Then at how religion can be used as a TOOL for responsible social action re:Social Gospel in Canada and Liberation Theology.

Religion as Social Construction

In PET and Functionalism, religion is seen as a social institution

In Interpretive Theory, religion is seen as an ongoing accomplishment i.e. something that people DO rather than HAVE.

– So religion is no longer a list of elements that make up religious life BUT it now is a question of how people in their daily lives make for themselves a sense of religious identity and how it is interpreted as tradition.

– Ancient practices and beliefs themselves are social constructions since they themselves have been stressed in order to legitimate current practices.

PET and Int. Theorists agree that Constructionists and Marxist analysis of religion both draw attention to the practical and political significance of identity formation through religion (look at Menonites and Natives).

Feminist Critique of Religion

Fem& PET==>both believe that religion (dominant ideas and values within a society) provides justification for the ruling class position.

* feminists switch focus from economic classes to PATRIARCHY

* According to Engels, male subjugation over is the first oppressor/oppressed relationship and the foundation of all others (class, property etc.). Ironically, it is the last form of oppression to be fought against.

* Religion serves to perpetuate the subordination of women by dulling them into submission and killing the will to change things

* Judeo/Christian concept of ‘God’ the father serves to oppress women. It creates a general acceptance of the ‘natural’ superiority of men and this view is reflected through the course of historical Christian writing to contemporary policy.

* The history of Christianity is therefore the history of Christian MISOGYNY (woman hating)

* These pronouncements however are social constructions (created by men who had their particular biases and views of how society should be)because scripture tells us Jesus was the first feminist by including women in his preaching and teaching :).