It almost seems that people communicate more by phone, cell phone, email and the Internet than they do in person. Almost every where in the world there is some type of violence or the threat of war. In the United States, stress is mounting as people are concerned about the problems with the war, mounting costs of oil, food and other commodities, and the questionable economy. The road rage is entering other areas, as people rush through the drive-ups, grocery stores and drug stores to quickly pick up what they need and hurry off again. To Durkheiim, this was called anomie.
Durkheim wrote of the effect of anomie on human goals and the resulting happiness. As social restraints weaken, people decrease their limits upon their desires and aspirations. In the past, their goals were limited by social order, but now these goals are becoming out of hand -- look at all the huge homes people could not afford to buy. Durkheim warned in his called Suicide: "...one does not advance when one proceeds toward no goal, or -- which is the same thing -- when the goal is infinity. To pursue a goal which is by definition unattainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness."
Anomie therefore refers to the breakdown of social values and norms that have held together the society. Individuals become alienated; they can no longer find stability and their rightful place in society without established rules or "rules that are made to be broken," which is typical of today's legal system. Fear, which the world continually experiences, as well as mal-adaptation to life...
This comes as no surprise, given the increasing violence in the United States, alone. The number of school and university shootings has been increasing. Durkheim saw that social periods of disruption, as the economic recession today, and especially great change, causes greater anomie and higher rates of crime, suicide, and deviance. Durkheim felt that sudden change caused a state of anomie. Witness the speed of change in the world today. The system breaks down, whether during a prosperous or depressed time, anomie is the same result.
Total anomie, or complete loss of norms, is empirically impossible, Durkheim noted. Societies may be compared by their greater or lesser degrees of normative regulations. In addition, inside any specific society, the cultural subgroups may have varying degrees of anomie influencing them. Radical social change may cause anomie either in the whole society or just some parts of it. Business crises, for example, may have a far greater impact on those on the higher reaches of the social pyramid than on the underlying population. When economic depression leads to a sudden downward trend, the individuals impacted experience a loss of moral certainty and traditional expectations no longer maintained by the group to which these men once belonged. Similarly, a quick gain of wealth may cause some people to fast upward mobility and take them away from the social support needed in their new life style. Any major change in the social structure that upsets previous networks of life styles brings with it a chance of anomie. Studying Durkheim's division of labor can be just as useful today in the 21st century as it was when he first wrote about it.
Durkheim, Emile. (1933.) the Division of Labor in Society translated by George Simpson. New York: The Free Press.
Durkheim, Emile. (1951.) Suicide: A Study in Sociology translated by George Simpson and John a. Spaulding. New York: The…
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