Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Durkheim and the Arab World

When applying Durkheim to modern sociological study, most obvious to my mind are the fundamental differences between the societies of the Middle East and the US and the conflict which may or may not be a direct result of those differences. It can be assumed, based on Durkheim's description of mechanical solidarity (Appelrouth & Edles, pgs 105-106, 2008; Allan, pg 87, 2007), that many Middle East societies could be classified as such. Many of these societies are unindustrialized, tribal communities with strong familial attachments. They are tied to one another through common moralistic beliefs. Their system of law and punishment is driven by moral agendas and upheld by the group.
On the other hand, the US has organic solidarity, as described by Durkheim (Appelrouth & Edles, pgs 106-108, 2008; Allan, pg 87, 2007). We are an industrialized nation in which people depend on one another not through familial connections, but utilitarian necessity. We are connected based on what other people can provide us. People in the US are quite individualistic, their actions are generally independent of the group and their connection with the collective consciousness is loose, generally through an intermediary.
It is my opinion that conflict between these two groups, is driven , in part, by the differences in their social structure. Durkheim describes, in The Division of Labor in Society (Appelrouth & Edles, pgs 104-110), the conflict that can arise from forced division of labor. I see the clash between the Middle East and the US being one possible product of this conflict. US capitalism and the division of labor which it promises to introduce, is viewed as a threat to the mechanical solidarity of the tribal life currently adhered to in much of the Middle East. With the expansion of capitalism, driven largely by the US, it is no wonder that some in the Middle East view it as a threat to their way of life. Capitalism threatens to dismantle the close familial and tribal connection present in that part of the world for generations. Durkheim, in my opinion, has very accurately predicted the ensuing conflict.

What other connections can you see between Durkheim's theories and Middle East/US conflict?

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