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What is Anomie?

Meaning of Anomie

The concept of anomie was coined by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim and means: absence or disintegration of social norms .

The concept arose with the aim of describing the social pathologies of modern , rationalist and individualistic western society.

 

Definition

Anomie refers to the social state of absence of rules and norms , where individuals ignore the social control that governs a given society.

The process of accelerated urbanization, the lack of solidarity , the new forms of organization of social relations and the influence of the economy on people’s lives after the Industrial Revolution are the object of study by Durkheim.

The central theme of the works of this author is the relationship between the individual and the community : what differentiates a collection of individuals from a society? How is consensus built? What happens to the individual actions determined by the community?

Trying to answer these questions is the goal of many of his works, such as “ The Division of Social Labor ” and “ Suicide ”.

The division of labor, in the form that appears in complex societies , promotes differentiation between individuals and breaks the model of mechanical solidarity in simpler societies.

This division is a social phenomenon and is explained according to the combination of the volume, moral and material density of society.

Durkheim develops this argument to present the positive aspects of the division of labor, as a producer of social solidarity.

However, there is another result, which the author considers negative, the set of rules without unity , unregulated relationships, social disintegration and the weakness of the ties that bind the individual to the group, anomie.

The contracts legitimized by the legal system are not enough to explain what differentiates a society from a collection of individuals.

They express a consensus that cannot be valid through coercion, violence and force alone, since solidarity would be especially precarious.

Social Anomie

Anomie is a concept that has been widely explored in the sociological field. One of the main representatives of this theory was the sociologist and social psychologist Émile Durkheim.

According to Durkheim’s conception, social anomie is built on the basis of the absence of social and moral norms that serve as a ” guide ” for society.

The ” break ” of traditional social references intensified as society modernized, causing great changes in people’s way of life and thinking.

The loss of faith (source of power of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, for example) and cultural traditions (weakened by the growth of globalization and large cities), are some of the consequences of these social transformations.

But, as he says in his works, Durkheim says that social anomie remains active temporarily, only during the transaction period between social transformations.

From this anomic scenario, the feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and frustration is configured among people who seek satisfaction and new meanings for their lives.

Durkheim also states that this weakening of social ties and satisfaction with life can lead to tragic phenomena, such as suicide, for example.

The so-called anomic suicide , as the French sociologist explains, is motivated precisely by the feeling of instability in society, which does not feel ” protected ” by a direction that points out what is right and what is wrong, what is true or fake etc.

Anomie and Heteronomy

Heteronomy is, in part, one of the necessary elements so that a social anomie does not occur.

It consists of the condition of submission to moral and religious values ​​and traditions , mainly. This individual’s acceptance of external rules is passively followed, with no room for the person to interfere with the validity of such rules.

The opposite of heteronomy is autonomy , which consists of the individual capacity of each person to determine the laws that govern their conduct.

Unlike heteronomy, autonomy is less passive to external decisions, opening space for the individual reflection of each person.

In other words, it means the freedom that each individual has to choose different options and question the rules that are imposed on them.

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