Essay on Durkheim’s Theory of Anomie and Marx’s Theory of Alienation

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Pages: 12

Durkheim’s theory of anomie and Marx’s theory of alienation have had a very strong influence on the sociological understandings of modern life. Critically compare these two concepts.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the two concepts of anomie and alienation and evaluate their merits. The analysis will cover various aspects of modern life under the two theories and seek to establish which provides a more convincing account. In order to critique the concepts against each other, it would be helpful to define them in terms of a common ground, that being labour, as well as looking at the concepts’ similarities, differences and origins. The present-day solutions in use such as trade unions, nihilism and religion also warrant
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With the emergence of many different tasks being performed by individuals of different values, organic solidarity replaced mechanical solidarity and was based more on the interdependence of members in order to keep society running, rather than common values and morals. Following from the rise of organic solidarity, morality was weakened as it had no concrete conception as previously in mechanical solidarity, and so there were no standards by which members of society could measure themselves.

As a consequence of not having a concrete set of values, similar to Marx’s alienation, the society is likely to suffer from problems as previously outlined. (Macionis: Chapter 4)
Daniel Little makes an interesting point drawing upon the similarities of the concepts:
But in each case the theorist is grappling with an absence in modernity -- an absence of a social and moral setting that gives the individual a basis for self-respect and sociable collaboration with others. The social itself is breaking down. (This is a theme with other social theorists as well; for example, in Tönnies' distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.) (UnderstandingSociety, 2008)

Marx’s theory of alienation was based on the assumptions “that labour expresses man’s species being and that labour