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Essay Sample: How Durkheim's Division of Labor Related to Race Relation

4 pages
912 words
Wesleyan University
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Different scholars have examined societal division of labor and how it comes into being. Durkheim argumentatively explores the phenomena, and in the process of research, he realizes that division of labor is not restricted to one nation but it universal. Every society has its ways of dividing work, depending on the society extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Durkheim interest in the division of labor is to understand how and why the division of labor is subject to every society. In his observation, he realizes that as a society develop and acquire civilization the more, a community increases its divisions of labor (Durkheim, 2014). Although the division of labor is subject to civilization, it also results in increased racism and ethnicity. The labor market every day reports increased cases of races as some group of people are more market privileged than other groups. In this study, therefore, the relationship that exists between racism and division of labor will be explored bring into understanding why racism is a subject of labor division.

Labor division thrive in human society, and without the human community, then, the division of labor becomes unprogressive. Labor division, therefore, can be defined as a natural and moral law, since it has a function it fulfills in society (Durkheim, 2014). Labor division, for example, results to civilization, which aims at fulfilling the human needs, social solidarity, and cohesion. Labor division is created by societal needs, every need that arises create room for increased labor division. Race and division of labor can be explained as the social division and distribution of activities during production amongst groups and category of individuals who are different based on ethnicity and race (Bonacich, Alimahomed & Wilson, 2008). Division of labor can occur with a society of persons of the same race, and it can progress internationally and happen between nations, and that is why certain marginalized occupations are racially biased and associated with people of a particular identity or with a specific physical appearance (Hawkins, 1996). According to Durkheim division of labor is moral and cannot be defined extensively economically but to understand why and how race and division of labor are intertwined, I will argue that division of work based on race can only be possible when addressed under capitalism. However, the class formation is complex and can be reduced as an effect that is economic based.

Division of labor through a societal moral law, result to the generation of a capitalist society. The workers and the capitalists function to satisfy their self-interests, this leads to the production of a states system or preferably a global state system, that encourages the development of racial differentiation based on specific occupational positioning. Division of labor leads to build up of materialism which in return generate room for racism, as some people feel more superior to others based on their societal occupational positioning. According Durkheim (2014), the division of labor results in differentiation, and the distinction intensify more, as the world civilize. Due to civilization human needs become better addressed and human beings continually create more advancements to solve the self-created needs. The civilization advancement designed by man, resulting in the creation of an imbalanced society. The force of differentiation comparatively continue to intensify, and more divisions of labor are drawn. Leaving in a community where individuals want to be self-satisfactory and be better than others, creates grounds for a class to grow (Hawkins, 1996). There are a group of persons who become owners and others are subjects as workers. Racism is created and nurtured by the division of labor resulting from economic differentiation.

Today people are living in an increasingly civilizing society where economic satisfaction is becoming increasingly strenuous. To cater for the adjusting economic and self-needs, people migrate from one area to another seeking professional positions. This economic forces consistently continue to heighten division of labor. The underprivileged and primitive communities that are still lagging behind in terms of civilization are marginalized and are easily subjected to coercive work and poor remuneration. Race has been used for many years to deny the marginalized societies a chance to secure good jobs and economic freedom (Bonacich, Alimahomed & Wilson, 2008). The swift civilizing nations are taking advantages of the communities civilizing slowly by subjecting them to harsh working condition and reduced wages.

According to Durkheim crimes in marginalized societies are common. However, when society became civilized and more division of labor are witnessed, then grounds for protective societal restitutory laws are formulated protecting the society individual from exploitation (Hawkins, 1996). During the era of colonialism many nations were uncivilized, but as the civilization wind speed across continents, Africa ragged behind. So as satisfy the heightened class difference caused by the division of labor, the black people among other marginalized communities were taken to Europe and America to work under the white supremacists on coercion. When they began to understand civilization, and they start to seek freedom, citizenship and economic freedom. However, they are still underprivileged economically as they are yet to be well assimilated in the growing capitalist society where the division of labor is used to define one's position in the community. Labor division result in differentiation, which translates to capitalism and capitalism exploit individuals based on race to maximize production and profits.


Bonacich, E., Alimahomed, S., & Wilson, J. B. (2008). The racialization of global labor. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(3), 342-355.

Hawkins, M. (1996). Durkheim, The Division of Labour, and social Darwinism. History of European ideas, 22(1), 19-31.

Durkheim, E. (2014). The division of labor in society. Simon and Schuster.

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