Anomie

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Anomie is a sociological term meaning "personal feeling of a lack of social norms; normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social norms and values.[1] It was popularized by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his influential book Suicide (1897). Durkheim borrowed the word from French philosopher Jean-Marie Guyau.

For Durkheim, anomie arises more generally from a mismatch between personal or group standards and wider social standards, or from the lack of a social ethic, which produces moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations. This is a nurtured condition:

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History

In 1893, Durkheim introduced the concept of anomie to describe the mismatch of collective guild labor to evolving societal needs when the guild was homogeneous in its constituency. He equated homogeneous (redundant) skills to mechanical solidarity whose inertia retarded adaptation. He contrasted this with the self-regulating behavior of a division of labor based on differences in constituency, equated to organic solidarity, whose lack of inertia made it differentially sensitive to need changes.

Durkheim observed that these two labour forms could not co-exist. The conflict between the evolved organic division of labor and the homogeneous mechanical type was such that one could not long exist in the presence of the other: "This social type rests on principles so different from the preceding that it can develop only in proportion to the effacement of that preceding type".[3] and "The history of these two types shows, in effect, that one has progressed only as the other has retrogressed".[4] When solidarity is organic, anomie is "impossible whenever solidary organs are sufficiently in contact or sufficiently prolonged. In effect, being contiguous, they are quickly warned, in each circumstance, of the need they have of one another, and, consequently, they have a lively and continuous sentiment of their mutual dependence. For the same reason that exchanges take place among them easily, they take place frequently, and in time the work of consolidation is achieved".[5] Their sensitivity to mutual needs promotes the evolution in the division of labor "because the smallest reaction can be felt from one part to another. ... they foresee and fix, in detail, the conditions of equilibrium".[5] "Producers, being near consumers, can easily reckon the extent of the needs to be satisfied. Equilibrium is established without any trouble and production regulates itself."[6] Durkheim contrasted the condition of anomie as being the result of mechanical solidarity: "But on the contrary, if some opaque environment is interposed, then only stimuli of certain intensity can be communicated from one organ to another. Relations being rare, are not repeated enough to be determined; each time there ensues new grouping. The lines of passage taken by the streams of movement cannot deepen because the streams themselves are too intermittent".[7] "Contact is no longer sufficient. The producer can no longer embrace the market at a glance, nor even in thought. He can no longer see its limits, since it is, so to speak limitless. Accordingly, production becomes unbridled and unregulated."[8]

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