Durkheim’s early sociology, particularly in The Division of Labour, suggests that social evolution is the play of two distinctly different modes of social integration which are antagonistic to each other: mechanical and organic. Social evolution is marked by unevenness, antagonistic tendencies, periods of transition in which there are severe strains of noncorrespondence between the elements, but where there are also natural
social mechanisms of integration and regulation, though their working is by no means inevitable. Only one of the principles of integration is dominant at any moment: the evolutionary tendency being the replacement of mechanical solidarity by organic solidarity. There is an immediate appearance of assymetry however between the two principles, for the source of mechanical solidarity lies in the moral order (the conscience collective and its productivity of similitudes) while the source of organic solidarity lies in the ‘division of labour’: ‘it is the division of labour which, more and more, fills the role that was formerly filled by the common conscience. It is the principal bond of social aggregates of higher types’ (1964b:173). For Durkheim consistently refuses to talk of a unity of labour, or primitive communism, as being anything but a ‘product’ of the already existing ‘cohesion’ of conscience (1964b:179). Later, in 1912, he suggests that nothing is known of the connection between economic and moral values in mechanical societies ‘the question of the nature of these connections has not been studied’ (1961:466).1 In a society dominated by strong moral cohesion the social elements remain undifferentiated, especially family and economy; in the societies dominated by organic solidarity the elements are differentiated but the collective moral cohesion does not appear to come primarily from the level of moral authority outside of the economy: the conscience collective is ‘progressively indeterminate’. Thus not only is there a change in the principle of solidarity, but also in its social location, that is, from the moral order to the economic order. Durkheim was immediately aware of the dangers,
it is wrong to oppose a society which comes from a community of beliefs to one which has a co-operative basis, according to which only the former has a moral character, and seeing in the latter only an economic grouping. In reality, co-operation also has its intrinsic morality.