wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)Emile Durkheim

French sociologist whose ideas on conflict and behaviour are useful for managers (pictured right).


Key books


The Division of Labour in Society (1893)


People need:


1. Division of labour (job specialization) 

This creates social order (“organic solidarity”) because it forces people to be interdependent.


2. Freedom

This must never be suppressed by excessive state power.


3. Dignity, purpose, and community

These are based upon conscience, selflessness and mutual rights and responsibilities (what Durkheim called “the cult of the individual”).

If people don't get these three things, there will be “anomie” involving:

  • a breakdown of social norms and values.
  • dissatisfaction, conflict and anti-social behaviour.

This is more likely in times of economic depression.


Key quotes on division of labour

Since the division of labour becomes the chief source of social solidarity, it becomes at the same time, the foundation of the moral order.


Key quote on society

Law and morality are the totality of ties which bind each of us to society.



Suicide (1897)


Suicide can be caused by (the last two causes are much more important):


1. Selfless sacrifice 

(“altruistic suicide”) - for example, in war  .


2. Social oppression 

(“fatalistic suicide”) - for example, slavery .


3. Anomie 

(“anomic suicide”) -disillusionment and disappointment .


4. Excessive individualism 

- resulting in:

  • social isolation.
  • inadequate moral guidance.
  • spiritual meaninglessness (“egoistic suicide”).

These social ills must be removed before education can have any positive effect.


Key quotes on happiness

To pursue a goal which is by definition unattainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness.


Key quote on education

“Education... can only be reformed if society itself is reformed”.



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