For Durkheim , the bonds that unite individuals to society are designated by the term solidarity . Based on this notion, it characterizes two forms of social organization: traditional (pre-capitalist) and modern (capitalist) societies.
Mechanical solidarity is that which characterizes pre-capitalist societies, in which there is a low (or none) degree of individual conscience, since a collective conscience that controls society predominates, in terms of social cohesion.
An element that is associated with mechanical solidarity societies is the low division of labor, in the sense that there would be a small division of tasks and functions present in these societies. In this way, societies organized according to mechanical solidarity make up the first group of societies studied by Durkheim.
According to the sociologist, these societies would maintain their social cohesion through traditional ties resulting from the sharing of the same cultural values responsible for determining a certain moral standard to be followed.
Durkheim believed that moral values, reinforced by centuries of tradition that were strengthened through family ties and customs, would be responsible for determining a series of rules that would require certain behavior from individuals, so that they would adapt to their respective functions.
Within the historical process, mechanical solidarity is reduced. This opens space for a new form of organization and social cohesion based on organic solidarity, in which the specialization of work is intensified and causes the weakening of collective consciousness.
This weakening allows for a more pronounced social difference (expansion of individual consciousness), which triggers a greater diversity of thoughts and beliefs, decreasing the degree of similarity between members and allowing, albeit with limits, more individual freedom.
Thus, the division of social work, which separates the existing social groups, workers and owners, ensured by the need to produce, establishes, at the same time, the functions of each one, generating an interdependence different from that existing in societies of mechanical solidarity.
The context of organic solidarity is what characterizes capitalist society, as there is a wide division of tasks and functions, which leads to great interdependence between individuals, in economic and technological terms, but, above all, morally.
For Durkheim, the biggest problem arising from the division of labor is related to the moral issue, that is, the ability to keep members cohesive and society functioning harmoniously. The broad division of labor produces more intense forms of individualism, which in turn causes the collective conscience to partly lose its aggregating capacity.
According to Émile Durkheim, organic solidarity is characteristic of modern and industrial societies. A contemporary example is the computer industry, which presupposes the interdependence of different fields of knowledge and work.
The weakening of the collective conscience could produce situations of anomie , when there is a crisis in relation to the rules and norms that keep society cohesive.
For Durkheim, modern and contemporary capitalist society would have greater possibilities for the development of anomalous states, due to the growing individualism and the loss of the strength of collective consciousness.