It can be difficult for us to think of mechanical solidarity, apart from the Amish community just as perhaps for Durkheim, it would have been difficult to imagine such a differentiated society as ours today. Adding technology into the mix completely turns the idea of the division of labor upside down, at least in terms of mechanical and organic solidarity. I often times will see an advertisement on TV or in a magazine that really glorifies the advancement of technology in our world. I recently came across a video called “Advance Future Technology.” The video basically is a 6-minute glimpse into what the future of technology might have in store for us. It is quite evident that such technology would create even more individualist organic solidarity and far less mechanical solidarity—therefore resulting in a less significant emphasis on collective consciousness. There are four key points in regards to solidarity that Durkheim suggests; the division of labor (minimal or maximized), collective conscience (strong or weak), roles (limited or specialized) and social interaction (based on relationship or based on interdependence). In “Advance Future Technology,” we can analyze how the advanced technology presented in the video manipulates each of these key points.
The video begins with two children communicating with each other in different parts of the world in different languages through a glass barrier. They can draw a picture or ask each other a question and this glass wall will literally give a closed captioned, cartoon text box translation to the other child. This glass wall then goes so far as to pop up with a random fact based on their conversation (i.e. the kids are talking about cats, the glass wall says “Did you know, in India, cats are considered bad luck?”). This is an extremely relevant example of how individualistic thinking becomes more evident within an organic solidarity-based society because people will rely less on each other and more on a piece of technology—essentially eliminating the middle man. Without such technology, a community functioning through mechanical solidarity would generally rely more on each other for something even as fundamental as a simple fact about cats. In another aspect, the technology in this video is basically doing three different jobs, or specializations, which lowers the division of labor and could then be defined as a component of mechanical solidarity.
Later on in the video, a man has just arrived at the airport and pulls out a gadget to see if a colleague has arrived for a business meeting (or some scenario along those lines). He then pulls out another gadget that projects an arrow onto the ground, pointing him in the direction of his final destination. It may seem trivial but without this technology, the man would have had to interact with someone in the airport who could point him in the right direction. In mechanical solidarity, people generally have limited roles, which theoretically means that most people would be familiar with simple facts like directions to a location. For example, if this man was lost in an Amish town without a phone, he would likely be able to get correct directions from just about anyone in the town since it’s not likely that there is just a single person in the town that specializes in directions.
The video as a whole gives quite a clear picture of how technology would push a society in the direction of organic solidarity in terms of social interaction. Throughout the video, people rely on technology to actually limit their social interaction. For example, the man in the airport not having to ask anyone for directions because his device does it for him, which essentially would mean that society would be less person, as in organic solidarity.
Collective conscience and individualism can both be represented in the advancement of technology. On one hand, technology allows us to see and experience things that we might not have otherwise been able to experience (i.e. the children from two different sides of the world communicating via a glass wall). On the other hand, it is apparent throughout the video that technology does take the place of a sense of community because it then shifts from reliance on one another to reliance on only ourselves, weakening the collective conscience and increasing individualism.
Technology can be analyzed in many different ways in terms of solidarity as defined by Durkheim. Technology essentially eliminates the middle man, which means that the division of labor would actually be minimal and social interaction would also decrease along with the idea of interdependence. Durkheim states that "Not only does mechanical solidarity generally bind men together less strongly than does organic solidarity, but, as we mount the scale of social evolution, it becomes increasingly looser" (Durkheim 105). So in conclusion, it could be argued that Durkheim would strongly favor the advancement of technology transforming an organic solidarity-based community into one based on mechanic solidarity.
Advance Future Technology, Must See (By Aditya):
Durkheim, Émile, and W. D. Halls. The Division of Labour in Society. Hapshire, England: Palgrave, 1984. Print.