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Social disintegration

posted 11 Jan 2011, 18:13 by Jess Maher

Social disintegration is the tendency for society to decline or disintegrate over time, perhaps due to the lapse or breakdown of traditional social support systems. In this context, "society" refers to the social orderwhich maintains a society, rather than the political order that defines its boundaries. Society in the sociological sense is not the same as a country.

The theoretical origins of this idea lie with Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Toennies. For both researchers one can see a division into two types of social integration corresponding to two historical phases. First there is a primitive integration based on likeness and intimate interaction, which Durkheim called mechanical solidarity and Toennies labelled Gemeinschaft. Second, there is a more complex and modern integration based on abstracted interdependence, which is known as organic solidarity or Gesellschaft.

Those who espouse social disintegration beliefs tend to doubt the integrative capacity of organic solidarity, claiming that if it is not based on primordial ties and relationships, it is fabricated. On the other hand, optimists might argue that new complex forms of integration can emerge, for example through new communal forms of identity formation or through economic interdependence.