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A course of action is done in ‘work’ and this proposes division of labor in certain work. Various great sociologists such as Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant and Emile Durkheim were in favor of this theory while philosophers such as Karl Marx, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson criticized this theory. Durkheim observed that in communities with little division of labour - primitive societies – mechanical solidarity is the sole kind of solidarity. The division of labour is more specialised in more complex and advanced industrialised societies, and there is greater individualization in both persons and groups and it is called organic solidarity. Increased concentrations of productive forces and capital investment appeared to bring contemporary industry, business, and agriculture to more occupational distinction and specialisation, as well as greater reliance among goods themselves. As a result, businesses stand out at the core of the new international trade environment as the worldwide division of labour deepens and commercial activities become increasingly globalised. Durkheim divided and categorised societies according to the type of division of labour they had.


In our personal and professional life, we observe many instances of division of tasks to different individuals. Be it, division of work among the students in their group presentation work or preparing moot memorials. To keep it simple, let us remember the last time we have visited a restaurant or a dhaba. There is one person at the gate of the premises to greet people, one person is present to arrange the table, another helping hand is present to take down the order, another one to present the super delicious dishes at the table and many other people for different purpose. This allocation of work to different people can be termed as Division of Labor.

Emile Durkheim, a French philosopher, described the concept of Division of Labor in his book De la division du travail social (The Division of Labor in Society), 1893.1 He has defined the division of labor as a social or moral concept rather than an economic concept. The division of labor in society play a very significant role in increasing productivity of the work. Individuals with different specializations helps in getting the work much faster and efficient. This theory is seemed significant in the advancement of sociological thoughts and ideas and was highly encouraged for being its forward-looking attitude. The theory corresponds favorably with societal progression since it deals with societal advancement. Furthermore, there is a gradual shift from mechanical to organic solidarity in contemporary era.


Durkheim was cautiously hopeful about the division of labor, whereas Marx was skeptical about it. The division of labor is the division of tasks into smaller sections or processes that are carried out by separate people or groups. It is symbolised by occupational distinction. In the words of Prof. Watson – “Production by Division of Labour consists in splitting up the productive process into its component parts, concentrating specialised factor on each sub-division and combining their output into particular forms of consumption output required.”

The earlier explanations saw it as a way to boost production and profit in the industry or society. Durkheim claimed that the division of labor appears in all the aspects of life and not only in economic activities. Durkheim comment that economists defended the division of labour not merely as an essential, but as the greatest rule of social groups and the basis of their evolution.

The same is further classified into two types of solidarity- mechanical and organic solidarity. Before we elucidate these classifications, it is important to first understand the meaning of the term “solidarity”. Solidarity is an awareness of shared interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies creating a psychological sense of unity of groups or classes.2 Solidarism, unlike collectivism, does not disregard individuals and views them as the foundation of society. The forms of social solidarity, according to Durkheim, are related to the forms of society. He claimed that the rise of individuality would not lead to the disintegration of society, but rather to an increase in social solidarity.

Mechanical solidarity- Mechanical solidarity is similar to inorganic solidarity in that sense that its component elements cannot function independently in order to maintain the harmony and cohesiveness of the whole society. A clock, for instance, cannot function if one of its components fails. People feel linked by comparable employment, educational and religious training, and lifestyle, which is generally based on kinship relations. In mechanical solidarity, social cohesiveness and integration originates from individual homogeneity. In this society, the person does not belong to himself; rather, he is in every way subject to society. In this kind of solidarity, the community as a whole owns the resources, whatever they might be. Because the shared identity is the only one, property is inherently collective. Property may only become privately owned property when an individual separates oneself from the masses and develops into a unique, personal being, as in organic societies. It is characterized by the lack of modernity and also it is based on moral grounds. It does not necessarily lays down punishments for criminals, rather it focuses in the restoration of the prior state of affairs.

Organic Solidarity- Organic solidarity is a type of social cohesiveness based on people' dependency on one another in more sophisticated cultures. It originates from the dependency that occurs as a result of job specialisation and interpersonal complementarities.3 This evolves during the “modern age” or “industrialization”. Unlike mechanical solidarity, it is found where there is heterogeneity among people. For example, farmer cultivates food which is consumed by the industrial workers, who in turn produce different machineries for the farmers which help them to cultivate more food. With the advent of industrialization, many thought that the social cohesiveness shall get disrupted and there will be more emphasis on individualism. However, Durkheim rejected this view and instead, claimed that due to more specializations in job, there will be more interdependence in the society which will emerge the need of division of labor. His premise is simple: when industrialisation occurs, specialisation, or complex division of work, is unavoidable. Specialization leads to social stratification, as well as stratification in terms of resources and functional dependency. Without the profession of one, other professions are also affected.


The planet is more connected than ever before, thanks to decades of technical advancement and advancements in international collaboration. This advancement emerged the concept of globalization in this era. According to WHO, globalization can be defined as “The increased interconnectedness and interdependence of peoples and countries. It is generally understood to include two inter-related elements: the opening of international borders to increasingly fast flows of goods, services, finance, people and ideas; and the changes in institutions and policies at national and international levels that facilitate or promote such flows.”4 The global economy's growing interdependence has evolved and necessitated the division of labor among countries.

The world has witnessed a restructure in the international labor market and this has enhanced new kinds of global division of labor. It hasn't only been assembly lines in past few years, but also knowledge-based operations like software development and implementation, as well as services that have been transported to other parts of the world. The notion of global labour division is not new. 'The British Empire revealed a highly evolved structure of local industry specialisation linked all together in a worldwide trade network' by the end of the nineteenth century. The rise of multinational firms accelerated in the twentieth century, and by the early 1970s, it was evident that a new worldwide division of labour was emerging. Large corporations broke down their manufacturing processes into single subprocesses and transferred these operations throughout the world to nations with the best circumstances.

For acquiring access to external capital and producing jobs, several states have embraced an export-processing zone (EPZ) approach. As a result of these businesses' fast and unregulated expansion, environmental issues such as traffic congestion in border towns, unsatisfied demand for services such as safe drinking water, and river pollution have arisen. Nonetheless, zone-based globalisation management solutions are growing in popularity, albeit in different ways in different parts of the world. While the Asian Regional Division of Labor (ARDL) arose in part as a result to fluctuating labour prices, it now serves as a model for other organisations. Sub-regions serve as essential links between international and local levels of government, businesses, and the availability of low-cost labour. The government has also intervened in labour processes, often through repression, partially to keep labour costs down, and often, as in Japan, by encouraging experimentation with the 'just-in-time' manufacturing system. The growing poles of competitive participation in the Global Division of Labor are attracting large-scale and more varied labour inflows from their source point while global production and power relations are simultaneously restructured. According to the UN Population Fund, there have been at least 100 million international migrants residing outside of their native nations.

Globalisation does not suppress the state; rather, it requires it to adapt domestic policies to the demands imposed by global capital flows. Durkheim was of the view that industrialization does not dissolve the society, rather it maintains the society together. As we discussed, there is a gradual shift from mechanical to organic solidarity because of the development of complex structures in the society.


  • Increase in productivity- Workers may master a task faster and more efficiently if they concentrate only on it. Workers become more productive as a result. It enables employees to flow to the regions where they are most effective. Some workers excel at working with and manipulating data, while others excel at managing tasks or projects.

  • Effective allotment of labors- it helps in increasing efficacy of workers in different compartments. Large organisations, for example, have divisions for finance, information technology, human resources, and advertising, among other things employees can specialise thanks to the division of labor. This is effective because individuals who are well-suited to an IT function are unlikely to be well-suited to an advertising role.

  • More liberalization of laws- With the expansion of global DOL, different countries have sought to enact, implement and expand the existing laws for laborers for corresponding countries. This is done to ensure that the labors have greater opportunities across various countries.

  • Peaceful response to the increasing demands- the increase in density and population has indeed emerged the immediate need for greater demand and to meet this demand the productivity of goods becomes a crucial factor. This can be possible through dividing the labors according to respective demands of the people.

  • Higher income- it is possible that sometimes employers consider the boredom of employees because of the repetitive tasks assigned to them. In order to reduce this boredom, the employers may increase the wages of the employees so that they don’t get demotivated and continue their work with greater efficiency.


Whilst shift from mechanical to organic solidarity is advantageous to the general people in the long run, Durkheim observed that it creates moments of turbulence and "normlessness." Social anomie is one of the outcomes of development. Anomie - literally "without norms" - is what happens when society loses the support of a strong common consciousness. There are really no legitimate rules or values that can be used to guide and govern behaviour. Anomie was linked to the rise of contemporary society, which removed links to the environment and shared effort; the rise of independence, which removed limitations on what individuals may seek; and the rise of secularism, which removed tradition or iconic themes and traditional moral guidance methods. The standard assumption of society was also put to the test during times of conflict or rapid monetary change. People who are preoccupied with their own activities are more likely to grow distant from one another and from a sense of shared viewpoint. Regardless, Durkheim believed that when social organisations reach a high degree of organic solidarity, they avoid anomie by revamping a set of common ideals. According to Durkheim, a public in general has finished its set of events when it achieves organic solidarity.


Emile Durkheim’s theory of Division of Labor is something we all are familiar in today’s world. It has become of utmost significance in this contemporary world. The concept of division of labour has been given a specific connotation by sociologists. In the history, “specialization of function” has been emphasised as a driving factor. The key concern for Durkheim is both destructive and coherent tendencies in the division of labour, which, in turn, promote social integration or what he refers to as organic solidarity. Modern organic societies rely on the balance of distinct specialised functions, as opposed to mechanical social structures that are kept together by shared ideas and ideals.


O'Connor, J., 1980. Review Essays: The Division of Labor in Society: (Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, The Free Press, New York, 1964.). Insurgent Sociologist, 10(1), pp.60-68.

Kemper, T.D., 1972. The division of labor: a post-Durkheimian analytical view. American Sociological Review, pp.739-753.

Kemper, T.D., 1972. The division of labor: a post-Durkheimian analytical view. American Sociological Review, pp.739-753.

Durkheim, E. and Halls, W.D., 1963. The division of labor in society.

Merton, R.K., 1994, March. Durkheim'sdivision of labor in society. In Sociological Forum (Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 17-25). Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers.

Shaiken, H., 1987. Globalization and the worldwide division of labor. Monthly Labor Review, 110, pp.47-48.

Ferguson, L., 2013. Gender, work, and the sexual division of labor. The Oxford handbook of gender and politics, pp.337-362.

Krings, B., 2009. Global restructuring and its effects on occupations: Towards a new division of labor?

1 comentário

Yash Arjariya
Yash Arjariya
23 de abr. de 2022

Eloquent, structured and well-consolidated!! Was looking to read something like this - alas! Found one.

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