Durkheim was the first sociologist to really push sociology in an academic setting to study the world through a scientific manner. He critiqued assumptions and critiqued disciplines. Personally I believe his views on Mechanical solidarity and Organic solidarity was particularly prominent to examine in today’s culture. When looking at Mechanical solidarity there are some few key points, for example there are minimal division of labor, it is community oriented, there are limited roles, and finally social interactions are based on social relationships. On the other hand there is Organic solidarity much as the community that I live in today represent. Organ solidarity also includes four keys components, for example, there is a greater division of labor, society becomes less personal, peoples relationships become based on statuses and roles, and lastly interdependence is essential. In most communities today we see a mix of both organic and mechanical solidarity, there is no “right” one to be.
Mechanical solidarity is the social integration of members of a society who have common values and beliefs. These common values and beliefs constitute a “collective conscience” that works internally in individual members to cause them to cooperate. Because, in Durkheim’s view, the forces of social bonds causes relationships between community members to be strong, and yet the bond with society is relatively weak. In the world today I believe Mechanical solidarity has been especially present in low income communities, especially those of Cabrini Green and my focus of the Robert Taylor homes of Chicago Illinois.
For some background, the Robert Taylor Homes was a Chicago housing authority public housing project located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. At one time, it was the largest public housing development in the country, and it was intended to offer decent affordable housing. It was composed of 28 high-rise buildings with 16 stories each, with a total of 4,415 units, mostly arranged in U-shaped clusters of three, stretching for two miles. Although made for 11,000 people, many had said up to one time there was a community of 27,000 people living in the Robert Taylor Homes. At one point up to 95% of the resident were either unemployed or listed public assistance as their own form of income, and 40% were single mother earning less than 4,000 dollars a year. These were pretty staggering statistics that most communities don’t see. Therefore it led to many issues with crime, there were no help from government so many community members turned to gang leaders for guidance.
How this all ties back to mechanical solidarity is obvious in many ways. To begin, the Robert Taylor homes had a minimal division of labor. As I stated before the rate of unemployment was incredibly high, although the population was large the extreme poverty caused it to be a less advanced society. There were no jobs, although many sold drugs, there were also a creation of a bartering system. It was estimated that $45,000 in drug deals took place daily. Former residents of the Robert Taylor Homes have said that the drug dealers fought for control of the buildings. Many people had skills with cars, cooking, doing hair, babysitting therefore creating a system of “favors”. Although these people had skills it was nearly impossible for them to use in larger society so they used it in their community. For example everyone knew that “Stephanie” could do your hair; as long as you would in return watch her children for a few hours. This created a proficient system for many community members. In the book Gang Leader for a Day a man tried to explain the community, “We live in a community, understand? Not the projects – I hate that word. We live in a community we need a helping hand now and then, but who doesn't? Everyone in this building helps as much as they can. We share our food just like I’m doing with you. My son says you’re writing about his life – well you may want to write about this community.” (Venkatesh).
There also is a different level of community oriented society when it comes to Mechanical solidarity. In other words, they care about each other, they know everyone. In the Robert Taylor homes there was a great sense of community. Since everyone was on the same socioeconomic status, they were all raised in a similar upbringing. They all were also subject to Chicago public schooling if they chose, so the education level was generally across the board the same. Yet some gang leaders who were highly educated, were notorious for coming back to run the Robert Taylor Homes after receiving more education. Many of the collective consciousness attributed to determining which behaviors are allowed/what were not, hence why many looked to gangs as an easy choice. In the book gang leader for a day a man living the Robert Taylor homes quotes 'You need to understand that the Black Kings are not a gang, we are a community organization responding to people's needs”(Venkatesh). Overall that there was a strong collective conscious from how they felt about authority to how they lived their everyday life.
Yet there was limited roles this caused many issues among the community, in mechanical solidarity we often see community feeling that your problem is truly the community’s problem. In one weekend, more than 300 separate shooting incidents were reported in the vicinity of the Robert Taylor Homes. Although violence was extremely prevalent there was a sense of social bond between community members, and the people of the Robert Taylor homes feelings towards authority and bonds with the rest of “Society” was extremely weak. I believe the law enforcement and resources were not properly provided for the residence hence creating a sense of chaos, and lack of productivity. The community members saw law as a form of punishment and oppression rather than help and cooperation. As you can see, despite the problems the residents of the Robert Taylor Homes made what many people saw as hell on earth into a community
Sudhir Venkatesh Gang Leader for a Day New York: The Penguin Press, 2008, 302