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What is Collective Consciousness?

Meaning of Collective Consciousness

The concept of collective consciousness was created by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim and is defined as the set of characteristics and common knowledge of a society.

It makes individuals think and act in a minimally similar way. It corresponds to norms and practices , to cultural codes, such as etiquette, morality and collective representations.

For Durkheim, a functionalist, the individual, in many of his practices, is influenced by the society in which he is inserted.

Therefore, the individual and his actions are strongly influenced by individual and collective consciousness .

But the boundaries between the two are not very clear, because even decisions considered extremely individual, such as taking one’s own life, are influenced by social conditions .

This becomes easier to understand when we think about the individual aspects of the understanding of the world, that is, the words, the language, the categories, the representations, the knowledge of the world only happens through a minimum of communion with respect to the basics so that individuals have some degree of certainty that when they talk about something, the other can understand what they are talking about.

For example, the process that creates new moral orders, shaped by collective enthusiasm , is frustrated by processes in which that enthusiasm has diminished, such as deep social crises .

In his book ” Suicide “, the author addresses the possible causes of the increase in suicide and identifies them, anomic suicide, as the lack of adjustment between individual and collective representations.

The collective conscience is located at the level of the structure, it is sociological and psychological, and constitutes the culture and common sense of the individual members of a society.

Contrary to what ” consciousness ” may suppose, as a conscious dimension of the psychological, the collective consciousness is unconscious and conscious.

It is important to pay attention to the tradition of thought in which this concept is inserted, referring to the French tradition, in which Auguste Comte defined the concept of consensus and Jean Jacques Rousseau that of the general will.

Another important intellectual in Durkheim’s definition is Sigmund Freud and the concept of the superego .

Another aspect to highlight is that the concept was developed to reflect on punishment, or rather, on justice and retribution systems .

As it is about respect or not for the rules, it is very common to find the concept in research on crime and religion.

Therefore, the concept of collective consciousness is strongly related to that of anomie and imagines a certain degree of normality for different societies.

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