In his work “Division of labor in Society”, Emile Durkheim discusses the role of occupational groups in the contemporary social order. The occupational practices in Durkheim stress on self-organizing constitutive practices that present a vision of a modern and differentiated society that can be strong, flexible and egalitarian (Durkheim, 2). The practices support individual freedom and equality between individuals and also facilitating coherence and social solidarity without exerting constraint or authority. Durkheim also stresses the constitutive practices to clarify and underscore the essential role played by the constitutive practices in differentiated modern contexts of occupations and work.
Durkheim is a conservative thinker. His concept of occupational practices is hinged on the statement that many blameworthy acts are often ignored because of success and many times what is just or unjust has nothing to do with the occupation and everything seems susceptible to arbitrary change by individuals (Garfinkel, 2). The freedom of occupational practices is the extent to which other people are forbidden to profit from the economic, physical or some other form of superiority.
The economic functions of occupations now play a more central role in determining social relations. The society has become largely industrial and people engage more in occupations that are bound to bring in some economic returns (Durkheim, 3). As such there is need for the society to set limits to occupational practices so as to enhance peaceful co-existence in the society. Corporate or occupational groups emerged because the political party and the state cannot take over the absolute control of economic lives (Rawls, 430). Although occupational groups control the economic life of the society, they do not act in an ordered and collective manner but rather in temporary unified manners (Rawls, 24). Occasionally the corporate groups may come together to achieve common goals but it is when they act as separate entities that the collective goals and progress of the society is achieved.
Competition between corporate groups is one occupational practice that keeps the society going and improves social coordination. The existence of competition requires that the society be more ordered and coordinated because relations based on competition, “have nothing ordered about them, they depend upon chance meetings and have very often, an entirely personal aspect” (Durkheim, 6). Social institutions come onto play while scientific evidence and backing is sought to help come up with a more ordered society. According to Durkheim, scientific functions seem to dispute their place in occupational practices (Durkheim, 2). It is impossible for occupations to do without scientific facts and remain relevant but “even then science has scarcely any prestige save to the extent that it can serve practical occupations which are largely economic” (Durkheim, 2). Scientific facts become relevant only when they have economic value and can be applied in occupational practices and yield
The constitutive character of occupational groups ensures that laws are followed by all social classes in the society (Rawls, Jeffrey & Mann, 9). Occupational groups come up with ethics that aid them to co-exist harmoniously and respond to societal demands. When an occupational group has its occupational laws or ethics, it is able to become a defined, organized group or a public institution rather than a confused aggregate (Durkheim, 7). The constitutive nature of the laws or ethics governing a given occupational group further enhances coordination of that group and ensures that it develops a character that supports social coordination.
The development of occupational groups that have collective rule characters to help create common social and scientific facts, ensures that social systems do not last as long as the political powers that imposed them (Rawls, Jeffrey & Mann, 10). Societies should always have the freedom to use social institutions to develop themselves and develop in their careers and occupations regardless of the political powers controlling the economy (Durkheim, 8). Such institutions are able to contain individual egos and maintain spirited sentiment of common solidarity.
Occupational groups act as religious organizations thereby enhancing their constitutive rule character to create social coordination. Durkheim expected that the practices on which knowledge and communication depend would substantially relocate and the job of ensuring that people enact necessary practices together would fall on a commitment to the constitutive practices of modern differentiated science and work (Garfinkel, 35).
The original role of the profane/sacred distinction before it became instituted into religion was to make human society and rational thought possible. This created a distinction of what “should” be and what “should not” be. The emotional forces of which could be directly felt by participants in the social groupings in which the power of collective action and punishment were enacted. Rawls, Jeffrey and Mann, notes that all “should” and ‘should not” distinctions orient a profane/sacred boundary (9). The “should” are the shared social ways of making meaningful coexistence and therefore social coordination in the society. The “should not” on the other hand prohibits the purely individual and “natural” from intruding into and also disrupting the social processes (Rawls, Jeffrey & Mann, 8). Rawl notes that Durkheim’s argued that before the first social distinction, human beings lacked mental equipment to make logical distinctions and classifications or even to engage in complex reasoning that people take for granted (34).
Elaborate cosmologies have developed around the first distinction in which everything is associated with the sacred or the way things “should be”. Durkheim considered negative actors, and spirits to be part of the sacred. To Durkheim, the profane is not the social- or the natural individual. The sacred is the social-made by people together and requiring social and constitutive rule character to build and sustain.
Anne W Rawls, Adam Jeffery and David Mann. Locating the Modern Sacred: Moral/Social Facts and Constitutive Practices. Online 18 November 2013 Journal of Classical Sociology. Print
Durkheim Emile. The Division of Social Labor. Chicago Free Press edition translated by Karen Fields. 1893. Print
Garfinkel H. Seeing Sociologically. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers. 2006. Print
Rawls AW Durkheim’s epistemology: The neglected argument. American Journal of Sociology 102(2): 430–482. 1996. Print
Rawls AW. Epistemology and Practice: Durkheim’s the Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2004