Reading Guide to selections from: Lockwood, D (1992) Solidarity and Schism:'The Problem of Disorder' in Durkheimian and Marxist Sociology, Oxford: Clarendon Press

I have summarised the extracts that refer to functionalism -- I hope the Appendix gioves some idea of how the critique of conflict theory and Marxism goes


The problem of order became the central issue of sociology for Parsons. Parsons' sociology was concerned with the social order rather than how the system functioned, compared with Durkheim and Marx -- or actually, with social disorder.

We can begin to criticise Durkheim as seeing anomie as the only alternative to social order. What about cases where there is a 'schism' into two moral communities? We need to rework Durkheim on 'fatalism' to correct his failure to properly examine anomie. This would supply a missing theory of social status classification (anomie is a form of declassification).

Status classification is also important for Marx, to help to rectify the general omission of any consideration of norms from his accounts. We might need some notion of moral schism to explain class polarisation as well. We certainly need to counter the excessive utilitarianism in Marx, and his notion of ideological domination to explain deviations from rational action. Value elements in their own right are unexamined, and how they are embodied in status systems. Instead, we circle between economic and ideological determinism instead. This is glossed by notions such as hegemony: this term simply smuggles in an account of common values and commitment to them -- 'for Gramsci, the example of hegemony was the Church' (xii).

So, both Marx and Durkheim operate with notions of system and structure as determinants of social action, but are forced to consider residuals. In this way inherent problems of disorder were inexplicable, and so both were forced to generate explanations from ad hoc residuals. The conceptions of both of them are therefore 'antithetical and complementary' (xiii).

Chapter 1 The Durkheimian Dilemma

Sociology studies both solidarity and schism. Durkheim runs into problems because he sees anomie as the only term to explain disorder. This arises in turn from his analysis of social order:

(a) Individuals need social discipline and regulation, and they also develop attachment to the community through rituals, and divisions of labour. Misregulation leads both to anomie and fatalism. The mismanagement of attachment leads to egoism or altruism. Both groups and individuals are affected. Sometimes the same group regulates and attaches a, but this is not usual, but the two processes do interact double - for example, if norms are supplied by another group, this leads to weaker attachment to the membership of the original group. Differences can arise between attachments and social integration too, for example revolutionary groups are strongly attached but socially anomic. There is no real theory of multiple group affiliations here, though, to explain, for example the differences between ascribed and achieved characteristics.

(b) Societies are seen as religions. The emphasis is on moral consensus as the specially distinctive feature of social life. This consensus arises from process of socialisation and from participation in rituals, rather than the emergence of rational rules to guide decisions. The consensus is embedded in institutions, but actions are not necessarily institutionalised (9). For example, institutions can be differentially supported, as Merton points out. This leads to an inquiry into the regulation of social interaction, and thus to some theory of power. However, we need not turn directly to conflict theory, which over-rates power. Nevertheless, there is a danger of over generalisation in Durkheim that normative mechanisms are the only social mechanisms, and the real basis for social order. Parsons certainly recognises that actors respond to the 'realities' of their situation where norms are imperfectly developed, but he sees these realities as residuals. There is no conception of a class structure which can affect such 'realities' as the degree of autonomy available in a job. A similar mistake is made by Smelser, who identifies 4 levels of normative functioning -- 'values, norms, roles and facilities', but argues that the 'facilities' have only a situation or relevance and cannot be considered part of a structure (12).

(c) This leaves disorder as a matter of a lack of consensus, and suggests that value consensus is the necessary and only basis of social order: in fact it is only one option. The Republic of South Africa [before the end of apartheid] had order but no value consensus. Such societies might be dismissed as temporary, of course. Value consensus is seen as some polar opposite emphasis to that placed on rational, economic or utilitarian conduct: this explains the strange absence of any interest in the empirical variation of the strength of values and beliefs, such as the concrete details of different religions and how they work. American functionalism bolts on Weber to explain differences and social changes: this produces a curious addition of Weber's emphasis on values with a denial of problems for the Durkheimian approach to social order. There may be ulterior motives again, if such approaches were developed as a 'cordon sanitaire against marxism' (16).

(d) Durkheim is untenable on disorder. Anomie is seen as the complete absence of consensus and regulation, rather than arising from an alternative consensus, as in schism. Anomie technically is unthinkable, since it means the end of society itself rather than a conflict about types of society. Schism is also unthinkable for Durkheim since it is impossible for him to see how values can split, how a systematic disunity can arise. This means that there must be some un theorised systemic rather than normative mechanism which really structures interests -- that or some bolt-on 'realistic', or 'non - normative' bits of reality. This raises the possibility that there is a hidden theory in Durkheim, hinted at in his remarks on fatalism.

Chapter 2 Rituals and Hyper-rituals

How does the conscience collective vary 'normally'? Its volume, intensity and determinations can vary but this is treated formalistically and quantitatively -- Durkheim's studies of Aboriginal religion was simply a prelude to a formalist account of 'forms' rather than a genuinely comparative study. Yet volume and so on does vary, for example in terms of one's position in the stratification system, and other concrete variations are described too.

Durkheim seems better at explaining long-term social changes. Here, beliefs get eroded, after the pursuit of economic self-interest, for example, and have to be renewed by periodic rituals. But how does the cycle renew itself? [There seems to be some idea here that it always will, as a result of some 'underspecified goal' of human life]. What about 'ideological innovations' as an alternative to mere renewals -- as in the Church/sect mechanism?

The notions of charismatic 'breaks' with consensus followed by routinisation might be more appropriate. Routinisation can be seen as rituals which damp down rather than reinforce beliefs here. Sects are endemic to this process. Heresy is also socially linked to the distribution of power and status. Sect formation cannot be explained by Durkheim's variables of attachment and egoism, though: some notion of 'collective private interests' are required instead of the mechanism of 'moral determinism and egoistic indeterminism' (29). Perhaps the division of labour generates schisms? Durkheim believed it threatened the social order, but might be used to control 'corporate egoism': what emerges is a sort of matrix for local moralities, a civic culture. This has to be propped up by governmental regulation, but this is 'theoretically ungrounded' (31).

There are special problems when schisms arise from within the community itself. Durkheim fails to derive religion from advanced societies themselves [having worked only with 'elementary forms'], and is thus unable to theorise the relationship between advanced divisions of labour and religion. He does have a very materialistic and deterministic view of religion, whose categories arise directly from social life. Social changes can therefore produce new periods of creativity and renewal --'hyper rituals', such as when the Renaissance managed to collectivise creativity. This approach is still underdeveloped though, and we need to know when these occur and who participates: we need the same sort of detailed analysis as Durkheim offered for suicide.

Chapter 3 The Ethics of Fatalism

Fatalism is the opposite of anomie, but the concept is thinly developed. We know it arises from 'excessive regulation', and can lead to suicide too. Fatalistic regulation arises from force and 'moral despotism', but the analysis of force is little developed, especially how it turns into moral force. Impersonal forms of despotism can arise, both latent and unintended double - for example mass unemployment can produce a fatalistic culture, and a feeling that existing institutions are iron cages, where there is no alternative. Technically, this should be seen as 'good' however, rather like the 'sacred' realm, differing only in detail. However, much remains unexplained.

Fatalism offers a way through the assumption of either consensus or conflict theories. It sees social order as persisting as long as no alternative is perceived, which is not the same as seeing social order as legitimate. The analysis needs much more detail, however, since different conceptions are involved here -- first the personal realisation that one has no control over one's life, and secondly the idea of ideological domination. [I was reminded of an old study of the 'deferential worker', by Howard Newby. He wanted to explain the apparent cultural deference and ideological subordination of agricultural labourers in terms of their accurate and rather fatalistic perception of their own powerlessness].

Ideologies also vary in terms of their capacities to both explain and legitimate social systems, and they can be either integrated or contradictory. Fatalism exposes these possibilities. Social change can also arise from the exposure of new possibilities or beliefs, for example when expectations are rising.

Participation in rituals is not the same as having shared commitments or beliefs. Societies vary. Rituals can routinise as well, and this is probably more common: we know there are differences between elite beliefs and mass ritualism, and conflicts within each level too [Anglican Christianity would be a marvellous example to use here]. Normative functionalism tends to generalise from the abnormal ethnocentric case [the USA?], where 'dominant values and beliefs, principally those of the "secular" religions, are much more accessible to the masses; and in which... the problems of consensus, legitimation and delegitimation of the centre... [are] of much more crucial importance' (48). More commonly, ritualism encourages fatalism, because the beliefs and values are provided by remote elites, and discontents is parochialised: social distance and stratification is the cause of both.

There are still a different kinds of fatalism, however, such as pragmatic and ideological. In analysing ideological fatalism, we might turn to Weber on the concept of 'karma' to explain fatalism in terms of the caste system. This notion of a deserving fate did not prevents all rivalries and hatreds, however, but it did prevent revolutionary theories of them. Socially inconsistent groups tried ideological innovations, but these were still aimed at breaking out of the cycle of rebirths, which left untouched the mass religion. Social change did mean social struggles took place, over placings in the system, but not in the form of a challenge to the system. Secular movements were liable to be incorporated as yet another caste. Even abolition of the caste system did not guaranteed delegitimation. Weber possibly underestimated the effect of material sanctions, and generally did not explore the reasons for compliance -- but his analysis offers an excellent general theory of ideological fatalism.

We might apply some of this to Merton and social strain, to try to explain why some value systems produce rebellion rather than ritualism [Lockwood describes a particular rebellion -- the Taiping -- in pre-revolutionary China to show how an apparently fatalistic religion can interact with certain social peculiarities to produce rebellion if not exactly revolution. In particular, the penetration of Christianity had an effect, providing a better example of the influence of Christianity than Weber's classic Protestant Ethic piece -- the social conditions were little changed, but Christianity provided a dynamic variable which broke the hold of fatalism]. Some religions also permit rebellion, almost for functional reasons -- when rulers are seen as being at odds with the divine order.

Fatalism seems to be a crucial variable, and it directs us to the deterred examination of specific systems of belief. Instead, as a mere opposite of anomie, it is still untheorised in functionalism, and seen as the result of rapid changes of power and wealth, or as a general example of the disruptive incursion of utilitarianism. There is no discussion of the specific ideological elements, and no analysis of abnormalities of fatalism.

This is because the categories of mechanical and organic solidarity do not offer a real history of social change. They act rather as different types of moral integration. They are not pursued in sufficient detail, to explore, for example, how values are institutionalised and grounded in action. What is needed is a theory of status stratification, or class, to explain how sectional interests can also act as collective agents. There is no account, for example, of how the status system is legitimated by particular values.

Appendix Social Integration and System Integration

There is a difference between the social and system levels. The social level refers to relations between actors, the notion of system to relations between parts. For normative functionalists, social disorder arises from system disorder, for example where role conflict leads to deviance and social conflict [that is, there can be no problems or contradictions arising from social values themselves]. Other functionalists, like Merton point to differential support for institutions arising from specific groups, which does mean we need to consider morals and power.

Functionalism has drifted (mostly through Parsons' influence) to an emphasis on values and social stability, becoming 'normative functionalism'. Conflict theory sees power as an alternative mechanism for institutionalising values. There are potential conflicts in all systems stemming from the need to exercise authority. Yet conflict theorists want to operate with a whole alternative society, so they miss their chance to operate as an alternative to normative functionalism at the social level [that is, they have never really developed an account of social values either?].

It is necessary to consider both levels. Social values are to be found even when power is very evident. Values generate opposition and guide the intensity and direction of conflict (403). Values affect people's aspirations, and offer chances for the development of different conflict groups are of contesting counter ideologies. Further, social change can 'declassify' people [as in anomie? ] and this can also produce conflict [so these are all good reasons for conflict theories to be interested in social values].

Both functionalists and conflict theorists use general sociological concepts to prop up their cases. For example, 'multiple group relationships' have an important role for Dahrendorf. Functionalists and conflict theorists are on common ground when focusing their attention on how problems are solved rather than defined. [There is a hint of the role of academic micropolitics to explain the way which conflict theory tried to develop a deliberately oppositional stance to functionalism -- page 404].

Social change is associated with conflict, but the reverse does not apply. In conflict theory, the only explanation of social change can be that conflict arises at the social level. There is no account of system integration as in functionalism [non-normative functionalism in this case]. Gouldner's concept of 'functional autonomy' provides one such plausible account of social change. [Briefly, Gouldner argues that there is a tendency for large organisations to become internally divided and split into competing sub-systems, each of which wishes to declare itself autonomous].

Oddly, conflict theory arises from Marx, who does differentiate between social and system levels. For him, change arises from system contradictions, based on private property and the relations of production, almost irrespective of social relationships between the classes. 'Social strain' is the systemic mechanism producing tensions in functionalism too, in the work of Merton, but there is still a need to isolate the elements which produce it systematically, rather than as an occasional feature, and this is where Gouldner might be useful. Normative functionalism privileges different institutional components as the only source of social strain, rather than any structural contradictions.

In marxism, the mode of production is a source of structural contradiction.  Perhaps it privileges productive relationships though? It focuses on the internal contradictions between the forces and relations of production (e.g. technology and property). Material conditions do carry social implications in general -- for example, they can produce deviant social relationships, as in the choice between socialism or oligarchy. The potentials can be actualised or resisted. Marx himself believed that the productive potential of capitalism would break the institution of private property, via over-production for example, which would then escalate to a system crisis.

However, there is doubt whether this escalation will occur [automatically], leading to Marx's generalised theory:

(a) the core institutions and the materials substratum may not fit together

(d) the material base generates social relationships which are agents of change

(c) the system is in a characteristic permanent 'strain'

(d) in political terms, it is doubtful whether the ruling groups can cope with such strain

(e) there can be an escalation into system crisis if coping mechanisms produce further strain, or a damping down of crisis if coping mechanisms succeed.

This theory is general its application to all sub-systems rather than just the productive subsystem. There are no a priori general laws, however. The core or dominant institutional elements can vary, and it becomes an empirical matter to decide. There are still problems with the 'material base' too -- for example, it displays variable degrees of integration of the economic and political structures.

A review of Weber's work on bureaucracy might suggest a different description of the core institutional elements. However, in the patrimonial form, bureaucracy finds itself in tension with the economic system on which it depends for taxation revenues. Bureaucracy comes to drive the money economy rather than the struggle for subsistence, and centralisation dominates over functional autonomy. This can produce struggles over taxation, and even 'taxation crises' [definite echoes here of  aspects of Habermas's 'legitimation crises'?.

We could also examine the contemporary USSR [that is before the fall of communism], where the political and economic systems are clearly in tension. The economic system has produced classes and markets rather than a centralised totalitarian society. This in turn has led to a class struggle against or within the Party, rather than the usual worker protests, which have rarely escalated to take the form of social action. The Soviet bourgeoisie is the real threat to the system, because it possesses organisational capacity and cohesiveness [and powerful external allies as we learned]. This has produced cliques inside the Party, which before were met with periodic purges as a form of 'declassification' strategy, which did not harm industrial efficiency.

So, these aspects were ignored both by normative functionalists who operate at the right level but overdo moral integration, and conflict theorists, who stay at the social level with no theory of a system -- largely because they simply over-reacted to normative functionalism.