This book explores the “moral value of division of labor”, that is, how division of labor determines social solidarity through influencing morality.
Why would Durkheim write such a book called “The Division of Labor in Society”? Apart from to obtain a PhD degree, there is an “ethical” agenda lurking behind the “scientific” analysis. “It has been rightly stated that morality is in the throes of an appalling crisis(339).” The shaking of morality gives rise to social disturbances. To “cure” this illness, it is necessary first to “diagnose” it---“to prescribe the goal that must be attained（340）.” Therefore, Durkheim sets out to explore the relation between morality and social solidarity.
Durkheim identifies two important features of morality: 1) morality develops over the course of history and is dominated by historical causes, fulfilling a role in our life in time. (Xxv-xxvi ) 2) the function (of morality) is to forestall any disturbance of the common consciousness, and consequently, of social solidarity.(330)
Why then division of labor? Book I of this work is devoted to the “function of DOL”. He explains it in two ways, supplementary to each other:
“not only does the division of labor exhibit that character by which we define morality, but it increasingly tends to become the essential conditions for social solidarity.(332)”
“in short, since the division of labor becomes the predominant source of social solidarity, at the same time it becomes the foundation of the moral order.(333)”
In one word, division of labor undergirds both morality and social solidarity.
To substantiate it, D resorts to legal codes---differentiating between repressive sanction and restitutory sanction. Based on this, there are two types of moral rules, and in turn two types of social solidarity, mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity ---the first based on collective consciousness, the latter division of labor. The former is typical of primitive societies, but with DOL, individuals are increasingly specialized, and the type of social solidarity, accordingly, becomes complementary, that is, people are ever more individual but at the same time more dependent upon each other. Whence lies the function of DOL: 1) to maintain social solidarity; 2) to increase individual personality.
After such a “functional analysis”, Book II sets about a “causal analysis”, looking for the causes and conditions of DOL.
Durkheim ventures to identify The Cause of DOL: “division of labor develops regularly as the segmentary structure vanishes. It is this disappearance that is the cause of this development; alternatively, the latter may be the cause of the former.”(200)
Then finally, Book III addresses some abnormal conditions of social solidarity, including 1) Industrial or commercial crises; 2. Hostility between labor and capital; and 3. Science, division of intellectual labor.
D thinks that these anomie are originated from transitional difficulties, not consequences of the inherent problems of organic solidarity, and he is optimistic about its future solution.
Thus it explains the current disturbances in morality and social solidarity:（339） 1) over a very short space of time every profound changes have occurred in the structure of our societies. 2) On the other hand, the functions that have been disrupted in this period of trial have had no time to adjust to one another.
What is the significance of all these analyses? “our first duty at the present time is to fashion a morality for ourselves. ... It can arise only of its own volition, gradually and under the pressure of internal causes that render it necessary.”（ 340） Durkheim shows us that the power of theory lies in it’s power of explanation. His frequent use of “cause” indicates this basic method.
Several questions to press on: 1) As Durkheim emphasizes the “function” of morality and division of labor, what is the connection between him and the American structural-functionalist school? 2) Marx also talks about division of labor, describing it as the core of power of production, then how can we compare the two of them? In particular, how do we compare Marx’s economic-basis theory and Durkheim’s social-structure-basis theory? 3) How do we understand Durkheim’s concept of history? What’s the relation between history and structure?