University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment

Midterm Essay
Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?
Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)
Monday, Sept. 11 - Aristotle (2)
Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Aristotle (3)
Monday, Sept. 18 - Nietzsche (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)
Monday, Sept. 26 - Abortion (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Abortion (2)
Excursus 1: Historical overview
Excursus 2: Abortion in Judaism and Christianity
Excursus 3: Abortion in Islam
Excursus 4: Pro-choice argument
Monday, Oct. 2 - Suicide (1)
Wednesday, Oct 4 - Revision
Monday, Oct 16 - Suicide (2)
Wednesday, Oct 18 - Paradigm shifts
Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)
Wednesday, Oct 25 - Philosophical Anthropology (1)
Monday, Oct 30 - Sexual History of the USA
Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)
Monday, Nov 6 - Race, death, tragedy, and bad faith
Wednesday, Nov 8 - Race, Biology, and Culture
Monday, Nov 13 - Racism and culture
Wednesday, Nov 15 - Existentialism
Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment
Wednesday, Nov 22 - Kant and Moral Obligation
Monday, Nov 27 - War and Peace
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Non-Western Philosophies (1)
Monday, Dec 4 - Non-Western Philosophies (2)
Wednesday, Dec 6 - The End
Final Paper

Giddens, Anthony (1986). "Political Obligation, Moral Duty and Punishment," in Durkheim on Societes and the State. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Émile Durkheim

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Emile Durkheim.

Émile Durkheim (15 April, 185815 November, 1917) was a French sociologist and anthropologist who was decisive in shaping modern sociology. His work, lectures, and editorship of the first journal of sociology helped establish it within the academy as an accepted "science sociale" (social science). During his lifetime, Durkheim gave many lectures, and published numerous sociological studies on subjects such as education, crime, religion, suicide, and many other aspects of society.

Theories and ideas

Durkheim was concerned primarily with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern era, when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed. In order to study social life in modern societies, Durkheim sought to create one of the first scientific approaches to social phenomena. Along with Herbert Spencer, Durkheim was one of the first people to explain the existence and quality of different parts of a society by reference to what function they served in keeping the society healthy and balanced—a position that would come to be known as functionalism.

Durkheim also insisted that society was more than the sum of its parts. Thus unlike his contemporaries Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber, he focused not on what motivates the actions of individual people (methodological individualism), but rather on the study of social facts, a term which he coined to describe phenomena which have an existence in and of themselves and are not bound to the actions of individuals. He argued that social facts had an independent existence greater and more objective than the actions of the individuals that composed society and could only be explained by other social facts rather than, say, by society's adaptation to a particular climate or ecological niche.

In his 1893 work The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim examined how social order was maintained in different types of societies. He focused on the division of labor, and examined how it differed in traditional societies and modern societies[1]. Authors before him such as Herbert Spencer or Otto von Gierke had argued that societies evolved much like living organisms, moving from a simple state to a more complex one resembling the workings of complex machines. Durkheim reversed this formula, adding his theory to the growing pool of theories of social progress, social evolutionism and social darwinism. He argued that traditional societies were 'mechanical' and were held together by the fact that everyone was more or less the same, and hence had things in common. In traditional societies, argues Durkheim, the collective consciousness entirely subsumes individual consciousness—social norms are strong and social behavior is well-regulated.

In modern societies, he argued, the highly complex division of labor resulted in 'organic' solidarity. Different specializations in employment and social roles created dependencies that tied people to one another, since people no longer could count on filling all of their needs by themselves. In 'mechanical' societies, for example, subsistence farmers live in communities which are self-sufficient and knit together by a common heritage and common job. In modern 'organic' societies, workers earn money, and must rely on other people who specialize in certain products (groceries, clothing, etc.) to meet their needs. The result of increasing division of labor, according to Durkheim, is that individual consciousness emerges distinct from collective consciousness—often finding itself in conflict with collective consciousness.

Durkheim also made an association of the kind of solidarity in a given society and the preponderance of a law system. He found that in societies with mechanical solidarity the law is generally repressive: the agent of a crime or deviant behaviour would suffer a punishment, that in fact would compensate collective conscience neglected by the crime—the punishment acts more to preserve the unity of consciences. On the other hand, in societies with organic solidarity the law is generally restitutive: it aims not to punish, but instead to restitute normal activity of a complex society.

The rapid change in society due to increasing division of labor thus produces a state of confusion with regard to norms and increasing impersonality in social life, leading eventually to relative normlessness, i.e. the breakdown of social norms regulating behavior; Durkheim labels this state anomie. From a state of anomie come all forms of deviant behavior, most notably suicide.

Durkheim developed the concept of anomie later in Suicide, published in 1897. In it, he explores the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, explaining that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. According to Durkheim, people have a certain level of attachment to their groups, which he calls social integration. Abnormally high or low levels of social integration may result in increased suicide rates; low levels have this effect because low social integration results in disorganized society, causing people to turn to suicide as a last resort, while high levels cause people to kill themselves to avoid becoming burdens on society. According to Durkheim, Catholic society has normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low levels. This work has influenced proponents of control theory, and is often mentioned as a classic sociological study.

Finally, Durkheim is remembered for his work on 'primitive' (i.e. non-Western) people in books such as his 1912 volume Elementary Forms of the Religious Life and the essay Primitive Classification that he wrote with Marcel Mauss. These works examine the role that religion and mythology have in shaping the worldview and personality of people in extremely (to use Durkheim's phrase) 'mechanical' societies. In Elementary Forms of the Religious Life Durkheim develops a theory of religion which is based on Collective Effervescence.

Durkheim on crime

Durkheim's views on crime were a departure from conventional notions. He believed that crime is "bound up with the fundamental conditions of all social life" and serves a social function. He stated that crime implies, "not only that the way remains open to necessary change, but that in certain cases it directly proposes these changes...crime [can thus be] a useful prelude to reforms." In this sense he saw crime as being able to release certain social tensions and so have a cleansing or purging effect in society. He further stated that "the authority which the moral conscience enjoys must not be excessive; otherwise, no-one would dare to criticise it, and it would too easily congeal into an immutable form. To make progress, individual originality must be able to express itself...[even] the originality of the criminal...shall also be possible" (Durkheim, 1895).


 Durkheim on Crime


"There is no society that is not confronted with the problem of criminality. Its form changes; the acts thus characterized are not the same everywhere; but, everywhere and always, there have been men who have behaved in such a way as to draw upon themselves penal repression. There is, then, no phenomenon that represents more indisputably all the symptoms of normality, since it appears closely connected with the conditions of all collective life."
(1963, p. 62 [excerpt from The Rules of the Sociological Method])

"...We must not say that an action shocks the conscience collective because it is criminal, but rather that it is criminal because it shocks the conscience collective. We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it."
(1972, p. 123-124 [excerpt from The Division of Labor in Society])

"Contrary to current ideas, the criminal no longer seems a totally unsociable being, a sort of parasitic element, a strange and unassimiable body, introduced into the midst of society. On the contrary, he plays a definite role in social life. Crime, for its part, must no longer be conceived as an evil that cannot be too much suppressed."
(1963, p. 63 [excerpt from The Rules of the Sociological Method])

"Because they are found in the consciousness of every individual, the infraction which has been committed arouses the same indignation in those who witness it or who learn of its existence. Everybody is attacked; consequently, everybody opposes the attack. Not only is the reaction general, but it is collective, which is not the same thing. It is not produced in an isolated manner in each individual, but it is total, unified response, even if it varies according to the case."
(1972, p. 127 [excerpt from The Division of Labor in Society])

"We have only to notice what happens, particularly in a small town, when some moral scandal has just occurred. Men stop each other on the street, they visit each other, they seek to come together to talk of the event and to wax indignant in common. From all the similar impressions which are exchanged, and the anger that is expressed, there emerges a unique emotion, more or less determinate according to the circumstances, which emanates from no specific person, but from everyone. This is the public wrath."
(1972, p. 127 [excerpt from The Division of Labor in Society])

"It is impossible for offenses against the most fundamental collective sentiments to be tolerated without the disintegration of society, and it is necessary to combat them with the aid of the particularly energetic reaction which attaches to moral rules."
(Durkheim, 1933, p. 397)

"We can thus say that, in general, the characteristic of moral rules is that they enunciate the fundamental conditions of social solidarity. Law and morality are the totality of ties which bind each of us to society, which make a unitary, coherent aggregate of the mass of individuals."
(1933, p. 398)

Durkheim, Emile. 1933. The Division of Labor in Society Translated by George Simpson. New York: The Free Press.

Simpson, George. 1963. Emile Durkheim: Selections From His Work. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co.

Giddens, Anthony. 1972. Emile Durkheim: Selected Writings. London: Cambridge University Press.


Anthony Giddens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anthony Giddens in 2000.
Anthony Giddens in 2000.

Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens (born January 18, 1938) is a British sociologist who is renowned for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern contributors in the field of sociology, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages, issuing on average more than one book every year. He has been described as Britain's best known social scientist since John Maynard Keynes.[1]

Three notable stages can be identified in his academic life. The first one involved outlining a new vision of what sociology is, presenting a theoretical and methodological understanding of that field, based on a critical reinterpretation of the classics. His major publications of that era include Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (1971) and New Rules of Sociological Method (1976). In the second stage Giddens developed the theory of structuration, an analysis of agency and structure, in which primacy is granted to neither. His works of that period, like Central Problems in Social Theory (1979) and The Constitution of Society (1984) brought him international fame on the sociological arena. The most recent stage concerns modernity, globalization and politics, especially the impact of modernity on social and personal life. This stage is reflected by his critique of postmodernity, and discussions of a new "utopian-realist"[2] third way in politics, visible in the Consequence of Modernity (1990), Modernity and Self-Identity (1991), The Transformation of Intimacy (1992), Beyond Left and Right (1994) and The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy (1998). Giddens' ambition is both to recast social theory and to re-examine our understanding of the development and trajectory of modernity. It is not clear, however, that his theories have had any beneficial impact on social research. His theories have been criticised as being empty conceptual schemes lacking any empirical implications.


For more details on this topic, see Theory of structuration.

Social scientists generally agree that none of the early sociologists (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel) provided satisfactory ways of connecting micro and macro analysis or agency and structure. It was in 1976 when Giddens published his ontological analysis in New rules... that this view shifted, elevating Giddens to the role of one of the most important figures in that debate. Giddens continued his development of this line of thought in Central Problems in Social Theory (1979) and The Constitution of Society (1984).[1]

Giddens's theory of structuration explores the question of whether it is individuals or social forces that shape our social reality. He eschews extreme positions, arguing that although people are not entirely free to chose their own actions, and their knowledge is limited, they nonetheless are the agency which reproduces the social structure and leads to social change. His ideas find an echo in the philosophy of the modernist poet Wallace Stevens who suggests that we live in the tension between the shapes we take as the world acts upon us, and the ideas of order that our imagination imposes upon the world. Giddens writes that the connection between structure and action is a fundamental element of social theory, structure and agency are a duality that cannot be conceived of apart from one another and his main argument is contained in his expression "duality of structure". At a basic level, this means that people make society, but are at the same time constrained by it. Action and structure cannot be analysed separately, as structures are created, maintained and changed through actions, while actions are given meaningful form only through the background of the structure: the line of causality runs in both directions making it impossible to determine what is changing what. In Giddens own words (from New rules...) : "social structures are both constituted by human agency, and yet at the same time are the very medium of this constitution."[1] In this regard he defines structures as consisting of rules and resources involving human action: the rules constrain the actions, the resources make it possible. He also differentiates between systems and structures. Systems display structural properties but are not structures themselves. He notes in his article Functionalism: apres la lutte (1976) that "To examine the structuration of a social system is to examine the modes whereby that system, through the application of generative rules and resources is produced and reproduced in social interaction."[1] This process of structures (re)producing systems is called structuration. Systems here mean to Giddens "the situated activities of human agents"[1] (The Constitution of Society.) and "the patterning of social relations across space-time"[1](ibid.). Structures are then "...sets of rules and resources that individual actors draw upon in the practices that reproduce social systems’"[7] (Politics, Sociology and Social Theory) and "systems of generative rules and sets, implicated in the articulation of social systems"[1] (The Constitution of Society.), existing virtually "out of time and out of space"[1] (New rules....). Structuration therefore means that relations that took shape in the structure, can exist "out of time and place": in other words, independent of the context in which they are created. An example is the relationship between a teacher and his student. When they come across each other in another context, say on the street, the hierarchy between them is still preserved. Time-space is thus one of the most distinctive features of the theory, vindicating Einstein's postulate that e=mc2[citation needed]. Giddens writes that it refers to the ways duration extent into the constitution of social practices.

Structure can act as a constrain on action, but it also enables action by providing common frames of meaning. Consider the example of language: structure of language is represented by the rules of syntax that rule out certain combinations of words. But the structure also provides rules that allow new actions to occur, enabling us to create new, meaningful sentences. Structures should not be conceived as "simply placing constrains upon human agency, but as enabling."[6] (New rules....) Giddens suggests that structures (traditions, institutions, moral codes, and other sets of expectations - established ways of doing things) are generally quite stable, but can be changed, especially through the unintended consequences of action, when people start to ignore them, replace them, or reproduce them differently.

Thus, actors (agents) employ the social rules appropriate to their culture, ones that they have learned through socialisation and experience. These rules together with the resources at their disposal are used in social interactions. Rules and resources employed in this manner are not deterministic, but are applied reflexively by knowledgeable actors, albeit that actors’ awareness may be limited to the specifics of their activities at any given time. Thus, the outcome of action is not totally predictable.


Giddens says that in the post-traditional order, self-identity is not inherited or static; rather, it becomes a reflexive project – an endeavour that we continuously work and reflect on. It is not a set of observable characteristics of a moment, but becomes an account of a person's life. Giddens writes (Modernity and Self-Identity: 54) that "A person's identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor - important though this is - in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going. The individual's biography, if she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day-to-day world, cannot be wholly fictive. It must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing 'story' about the self.".[8] [4]

More than ever before we have access to information that allows us to reflect on the causes and consequences of our actions. At the same time we are faced with dangers related to unintended consequences of our actions and by our reliance on the knowledge of experts. We create, maintain and revise a set of biographical narratives, social roles and lifestyles – the story of who we are, and how we came to be where we are now. We are increasingly free to choose what we want to do and who we want to be (although Giddens contends that wealth gives access to more options). But increased choice can be both liberating and troubling. Liberating in the sense of increasing the likelihood of one's self-fulfilment, and troubling in form of increased emotional stress and time needed to analyse the available choices and minimise risk of which we are increasingly aware (what Giddens sums up as "manufacturing uncertainty"). While in earlier, traditional societies we would be provided with that narrative and social role, in the post-traditional society we are usually forced to create one ourselves. As Giddens (Modernity and Self-Identity: 70) puts it: "What to do? How to act? Who to be? These are focal questions for everyone living in circumstances of late modernity - and ones which, on some level or another, all of us answer, either discursively or through day-to-day social behaviour."[4]


Durkheim on moral autonomy


"Liberty and [moral] authority have sometimes been opposed, as if these two factors of education [i.e., socializa­tion] contradicted and limited each oth­er. But this opposition is factitious. In reality these two terms imply, rather than exclude, each other. Liberty is the daughter of author­ity properly under­stood. For to be free is not to do what one pleases; it is to be master of one­self, it is to know how to act with rea­son and to do one's duty."

--Durkheim, Education and Sociology (pp. 89-90)

"Self‑mastery is the first condition of all true power, of all liberty worthy of the name.

...liberty is the fruit of regulation. Through the practice of moral rules we develop the capacity to govern and regulate ourselves, which is the whole reality of liberty."

--Durkheim, Moral Education (pp. 45, 54)

Taken by themselves, these statements are perhaps not crystal-clear; but they may at least furnish some hints about Durkheim's thinking on the issues involved.

Durkheim's two main points in this connection are (1) that society, and especial­ly culture, is not just an external framework for individual action, but enters into the formation of the individual personality at the deepest levels (i.e., it plays a crucial constitutive role); and (2) that socially‑elaborated structures‑-both in terms of con­cept­ual and symbolic systems and of social organization‑-don't simply serve to restrict individual action, but can be simultaneously constraining and enabling (to bor­row Anthony Giddens's termin­ology). Thus, the internalization (and, increasingly, the self-conscious acceptance and appropri­ation) of collectively elaborated systems of rules, including in particu­lar an effective sense of moral obligation, are crucial to the develop­ment of a character capable of autonomy.

And as Michael Walzer puts it in developing this part of Durkheim's argument (in Obligations):

The process by which obligations are incurred and the process by which they come to be felt are not the same, or not necessarily the same. They are similar, however, in at least one respect: they are both social processes. (p. 4) [my emphasis]

.... The best description of these processes is probably still Emile Durkheim's Moral Education. (p. 4fn.)

.... Obligation, then, begins with membership, but membership in the broadest sense, for there are a great variety of formal and infor­mal ways of living within a particular circle of action and commitment. (p. 7)






To think about       

"Any society that values creativity also needs to enable criticism. If we cannot question the way we are doing things and thinking about things at present, it will not occur to us that they could be thought of or done differently. (...) So philosophy is important partly because cultural criticism is so important."

CHRISTENSON, Tom (2001). Wonder and Critical Reflection. An invitation to Philosophy, p. 37. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


This page was updated on Nov 21, 2006
at 10.00 PM St Martin Time (-4 UT)