Durkheim talks about religion being the the cause of the idea of society. Everything about society has stemmed from what is known about religion. Religion has rituals, a central place of worship, those who teach and those who learn, and symbols. Durkheim defines religion as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things… beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them.
To understand fully the relationship between religion and society, I compared religion to something in everyday society. Taking school as an example, Durkheim would definitely agree that it has its ideologies in religion. The first example is ritual, which is defined as “a formalized mode of behavior in which the member of a community regularly engage”. In schools, the rituals are going to class, taking notes, doing homework, studying for test, and taking exams. No matter which school you go to, this is the general ritual and schools do not deviate from it no matter the location, level of schooling, or even type of schooling. The church helps facilitates the rituals that its members part take in, so in comparison the school campus and classrooms help facilitate it’s rituals. Then there are symbols, which Durkheim defines as “a thing that represents or stands for something else”. In religion, the holy text and heaven are sacred, and the way to get to heaven is to follow the holy text. In schools, grades and degrees (diplomas) are sacred. One must get good grades to reach their degree.
With a simple comparison between religion and schools, we can see what Durkheim is talking about and relate it to modern day society.
As social beings we enjoy being part of groups .It gives us a sense of commitment and support that ultimately enables us to create strong emotional bonds with one another. It’s vital to our mental health to become part of a group; it has been proven that individuals who are marry are less likely of committing anomic suicide than those who aren’t , states Durkheim. Groups affect individual’s perceptions a great deal to the point that they might discard their own opinions. Would you go along with the crowds’ opinion or would you stick to your guns? Believe it or not most of us would conform to the majority’s opinion. This phenomenon is visible in our contemporary society. We are able to identify this ideology in groups such as, political groups, family, friends, and relationships and even fashion trends. The reasons why we conformed to our group’s opinions are to feel accepted and liked. Another reason is because we believe that they posses more intelligence than us. Also, it’s difficult to see something that no one else does. Opposing to the groups opinion can cause tension and isolation from other group members. Isolation can lead to anomic suicide due to the lack of social integration. The groups expressed opinions can pressure us into agreeing with them and consequently distorting our true perception. Ash’s experiment of perception is based a line test that is conducted on a group of individuals, but only one is the real subject and the rest are just actors. The subject was told that he was going to be participating in a visual perception test. Social psychologist Solomon Asch experiment studies the level to which pressure from other members of a group could influence one’s perceptions. Checkout the results of this remarkable experiment in the video below!
According to Emilie Durkheim, religion is the functional theory of society. Durkheim defines religion as a ‘unified (Solitaire) system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things, that to say, things set apart and are forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a ‘church’. This theory serves the purpose in society of social solidary which, is focused on “what holds us together” as a society. Durkheim does not argue that religion creates society. He would say religion is the basis for uniting people. Under his theory, individuals are encouraged to gather together and permits reinforcement of our beliefs. It also serves the purpose of authority figures such as Doctors or law enforcements. In order words, it allows people to socialize.
Durkheim would say that it is critical if all religions divide the world into two classes or to distinct kinds known as Sacred and Profane. Durkheim wants to understand what is common in religion throughout time and in different places. One way to help him understand this phenomenal is by studying the simplest religion called Australian Totemism. It is his belief system that the fundamental separation between the sacred and the profane is most clear. Australian Totemism is recognized as supernatural divinities that are not essential to religion. He made the following statement to better understand his idea:
“If all history of human thoughts exists, there are no examples of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one another. The traditional of good and bad is nothing beside this…while the sacred and profane have always and everywhere have been conceived by the human mind as two distinct classes, as two worlds between which, there is nothing in common…” (P. 138).
To Durkheim, sacred class consists of something that “separate and protect things”. In other words, things that has a meaning with rules and instructions on how one should utilize something. For example, children are the core of a family. They grow up to be the next generation. In today’s society, few people do not consider children to be sacred. A lot of crimes involving children are committed daily such as kidnapping and sexual abuse and neglect. In reference to Durkheim’s second distinct class, Profane, he would say that this category is all that is not sacred such as the everyday matters.
Since Durkheim was a functionalist, he believed everything that existed had a purpose. Crime is normal according to Durkheim and I completely agree. As we mentioned in class, there is no society in which crime does not exist. There is no such thing as a perfect Utopian society. In one way or another crime is always present. Crime functions to point out what is accepted and not accepted in a society, which then introduces laws. Laws serve to mark the boundaries people should not transcend. I think Durkheims theory is so important because years later we still recognize crime, we see it every day in the media and all around us. Laws shape our everyday lives. A great example of how crime varies in different societies is the fact that some cultures allow men to have more than one wife, however in the United States that is seen as a crime, with the punishment of divorce. Two different societies have two very different views on the idea of marriage.
If Durkheim were alive today I think he’d be intrigued by crime, specifically how it brings society together. For example, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was devastating, it shocked the entire nation. The media, and social networks spread the news instantly. A terrible crime had been committed, and the nation remained unified. My Facebook feed was overflowed with pictures of the crime scene and prayer statuses. Although people did not personally know the families of the victims, they prayed for them and every person understood the depth and seriousness of the crime. Similar to Durkheim’s findings of how war unifies people, I believe crime does too. Two terrible events result in the unification of society. This is interesting because it is pure Durkheim, people need to feel a part of something, and supporting a cause definitely unifies societies.
Finally, the last question I was left with was what a society would be like without crime? But then I realized I can’t even picture this because crime is such a normality is society that it is hard to imagine one without it.
Durkheim says “we must contract our horizon, choose a definite task and immerse ourselves in it completely, instead of trying to make ourselves a sort of creative masterpiece, quite complete, which contains worth in itself and not in the services it renders.” What I gather from the statement is whatever job one chooses to perform to earn a living determines their worth to society. Everything we do in society helps to keep it running and productive. People seem to take on a view that everything should be equally split, but not every task is simple and not every task is complex. If you want a high position in society choose a task to learn that will give you that position and earn you that pay you feel you deserve it. The growth of society is bigger than the self, so you should focus on bringing the best to society. He doesn’t seem to focus on the individual self as I feel others do when it comes to a capitalist society. Even those in the lower classes are guilty of selfishness to an extent in my opinion, because it is a given lower classes don’t get paid nearly enough, whose to say if the roles were reversed they would not act in the same manner of those in the higher class? Everyone is biased of their own talents and worth as they should be, but how does this serve the greater good of a society?