Organic Solidarity: 10 Examples & Definition

Organic Solidarity: 10 Examples & DefinitionReviewed by Chris Drew (PhD)

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

organic solidarity example and definition

Organic solidarity refers to a type of social solidarity that is based on mutual interdependence between the people within a society.

For example, each of us is dependant upon the postman to bring the mail, the electrician to maintain the powerlines, and the train drive to run the trains on time. Similarly, others are dependant upon us to do our jobs effectively.

This mutual interdependence theoretically should make us coexist peacefully even in diverse and multicultural societies.

Organic solidarity is contrasted to mechanical solidarity which relates to solidarity based on cultural homogeneity and shared values.

Organic solidarity has grown worldwide since industrialization in the mid-late 18th century.

Organic Solidarity Definition

Durkheim used the term “organic solidarity” to describe how people within advanced capitalist societies are like the organs in the human body. If one organ is removed, the body could shut down and cease functioning.

Likewise, if any job sector, or essential specialized occupation is eliminated, society as we know it, could also shut down.

Imagine, for instance, if the banking sector does not allow people to withdraw the money from their bank account. That would cause social chaos.

According to organic solidarity, it is necessary that people cooperate with each other and fulfill their duty to society in order for society to survive.

As Sister (1955) expresses:

“Durkheim looks at society as being like a great organism. What is important to him are the different functions which subdivide the large group into small groups. People are held together in groups because they fulfill various functions in this organic society. It is this division of functions in organic society that makes people dependent upon each other. It is no longer a feeling of group unity as such, but it is the feeling that others contribute something that others again need. Organic interchange of functions according to him should exist in organic society. This, then, would present another powerful check on the ever-growing freedom of the individual members of society”(p. 25).

The question that Durkheim proposes, says Sister (1955), is:

“what is that thing which keeps a group together & makes them cooperate – makes them act as a unit in which they combine their efforts”(p. 23).

The Rise of Organic Solidarity

Mechanical solidarity – a type of solidarity based on shared cultural values – has declined in multicultural and cosmopolitan Western societies since the 20th Century.

Mechanical solidarity was most common in small ethnically and culturally homogenous societies. Solidarity was less about mutual interdependence and more about shared values – often based on a religious tradition.

This sort of solidarity was commonplace before the rapid expansion of globalization in the 20th Century.

Since globalization, we have seen multiculturalism expand across the world. As a result, our common interests were no longer served by cohesive cultural values and more served by mutual interdependence – or organic solidarity.

This is not to say that there are no dominant cultural values in Western societies anymore, but rather that cultural diversity is respected and individual choice is triumphant over the expectation to cohere to a collectivist culture.

See Also: Cultural Pluralism vs Multiculturalism

Organic Solidarity Examples

  1. Community interdependence: Communities are reliant on each other to operate. You are reliant on your barista to make your coffee and your mailman to deliver your mail. If you’re a teacher, then your mailman is also reliant on you to do your job and educate their child.
  2. Supply chain interdependence: Mutual dependence exists across virtually every industry. For example, manufacturers of a product, a textile, or a material, like steel or copper, are dependent on the transportation sector to move their product and distribute it.
  3. Urban planning: Urban planning requires community cooperation where specialists from different sectors coming together to figure out the best way to create an efficient urban environment.
  4. Corporate interdependence: A large company has a range of departments – accounting, marketing, human resources, etc. who often need to share resources and communicate effectively with one another in order for each department to get their jobs done.
  5. Interdependence between unions and workers: Labor unions are organizations that provide job security and protect the rights of workers. However, they cannot operate without workers who join their union and pay union dues. For more, see: pros and cons of unions.
  6. Political parties: Center-left and center-right parties (Republican and Democrat, Labor and Conservative) are, in many ways, reliant on each other for a thriving democracy. If there was only one strong party and no party keeping them in check, we would decline into autocracy or dictatorship, such as is the case in Russia.
  7. Courts and Lawmakers: The courts rely on the lawmakers to write the laws and the lawmakers rely on the courts to enforce the laws.
  8. Business to Business Relationships: Large tech companies are dependent on other companies to provide security services, database hosting services, and so on. Those companies are dependent in turn on the tech companies to give them business.
  9. Multi-Agency Working: People working in child protection now work across agencies, with healthcare workers, educators, and social workers all collaborating. Each must work with one another and rely on one another to achieve positive outcomes.

Organic vs Mechanical Solidarity

  • Mechanical Solidarity – A society that derives its sense of solidarity from a homogenous set of values, beliefs, customs, and traditions.
  • Organic Solidarity – A society that derives its sense of solidarity from mutual interdependence but respect for diversity of values & cultures.
Organic SolidarityMechanical Solidarity
BasisBased on interdependence and specialization of labor.Based on similarity and common beliefs.
Type of SocietyMore common in complex societies with diverse and specialized roles.More common in simpler societies with similar roles.
Level of AutonomyIndividuals have a high degree of autonomy and personal freedom (especially in individualistic societies).Individuals conform to societal norms and values (especially in collectivist cultures) – for more, see our guide: collectivist vs individualist values.
PunishmentsPunishments for deviant behavior are typically rehabilitative rather than punitive.Punishments for deviant behavior are typically punitive rather than rehabilitative.
Purpose of CooperationCooperation is necessary for the survival of society.Collectivism is highly valued.
Type of Social RelationshipSocial relationships are more fluid and informal.Social relationships are more rigid and formal.
EmphasisPromotes creativity, innovation, and progress.Promotes stability, order, and predictability.

Organic Solidarity Case Studies and Research Basis

1. Glennie (2020) – Urban Planning

Case Study: Overcoming challenges in urban planning and community cooperation represent organic solidarity.

In her research about urban renewal, and “urban greenspaces” Glennie (2020) illustrates a “conceptualization of ‘community coalescence’, a process that benefits urban sustainability by promoting organic solidary, social capital, and collective efficacy, and evidence of how widely this process is observed in shared growing spaces” (para 5).

She attempts to emphasize the social impacts of urban greenspaces, there health benefits for the elderly and residents of low-income communities, and data that supports that they lower overall levels of stress.

Her research hinges on the idea that:

“social cohesion can be assessed in the context of any social group, whereas organic solidarity is specific to the context of urbanization and addresses the need for maintaining large, diverse human populations in close proximity. Urban social sustainability hinges on the local community’s ability to sustain and reproduce itself at an acceptable level of functioning and organic solidarity speaks directly to this need” (para 9).

This collective efficacy, or organic solidarity, helps to maintain healthy cities.

She posits that by attracting diverse residents to all participate in a common greenspace, and:

“…foster social solidarity among diverse residents, especially in the US case due to the painful and costly history of racial conflict” (para 16).

2. Yonezawa (2020) – Schools as Spaces of Organic Solidarity

Case Study: Schools are dependent on students; if students don’t attend than educators have no one to teach.

Schools and universities are full of people with competing values and interests but who come together for mutual benefit.

No matter your religion or politics, you want your children to be educated in numeracy and literacy. You rely on the teacher – who may have vastly different cultural values to you – to educate your child.

The school, in turn, relies on the community’s support (and even finances) to continue to operate. This solidarity based upon mutual reliance helps to keep the society working cohesively.

Conslusion

According to Durkheim, the father of functionalism, the two types of solidarity – mechanical and organic – represent two different ways in which societies achieve cohesion and functionality. Organic solidarity is becoming an increasingly common way in which society achieves cohesion in the context of increasing cultural diversity.

References

Durkheim, É. (1982) The Rules of Sociological Method Free Press. (first published. 1895).

Glennie, C. (2020). Growing Together: Community Coalescence and the Social Dimensions of Urban Sustainability. Sustainability12(22), 9680. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229680

Ruiu, M. L., & Ragnedda, M. (2021). Between online and offline solidarity: lessons learned from the Coronavirus outbreak in Italy. American Behavioral Scientisthttps://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/gn2m8

Sister, M. (1955). Durkheim’s Concept of Solidarity. Philippine Sociological Review3(3), 23–27. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41853340

Yonezawa, A. (2020). Challenges of the Japanese higher education Amidst population decline and globalization. Globalisation, Societies and Education18(1), 43-52. https://doi.org/10.1080/14767724.2019.1690085

Gregory

Gregory Paul C. (MA)

Gregory Paul C. is a licensed social studies educator, and has been teaching the social sciences in some capacity for 13 years. He currently works at university in an international liberal arts department teaching cross-cultural studies in the Chuugoku Region of Japan. Additionally, he manages semester study abroad programs for Japanese students, and prepares them for the challenges they may face living in various countries short term.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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