Social Inequality vs. Natural Inequality

Social Inequality vs. Natural Inequality

Social Inequality refers to a form of discrimination that in entrenched in the society and often propagated through social institution within the society.  This form of inequality usually includes but not limited to attributes such as status and wealth. The concept of social inequality justifies and ascertain why some individuals are superior or inferior over other with regard to their innate design, which consequently dictate their social position, occupation and other social concerns in the society (Tiryakian, 2008). Durkheim, in the above mention excerpt reveals the need for not stressing nor overlooking these inequalities in the society through some external cause as a necessary and sufficient condition. Natural inequality on the other hand, occurs when certain individuals poses distinct skills or physiognomies making them innately superior over other. These individuals are thus able to rise to the top for the ground that relate with their special abilities, resulting to substantial difference that cannot be intervened by any extraneous social force. 

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The term social inequality can therefore be used to explain the condition through which individuals in the society poses different levels of wealth, prestige or power. In every society, there exist a certain degree of social inequality. Stratification, a social inequality system that is based on hierarchy of groups, consist of structured groups of individuals according to ranks where different groups attract unequal economic rewards and power. This setting is often viewed as the functional source of order in the society. In natural inequality, the society bears no responsibility through previous policies or set of actions to influence the variations in the endowment of resources among individuals (Cristi, 2012). Under this circumstance, the social responsibility behind the superiority articulated to certain individuals over others in the society is zero.  

Why Social Inequality Compromises Organic Solidarity

Durkheim argument on social justice proposed the need for a specific form of solidarity that draws from individual differences rather than similarities, that is, organic solidarity. He demonstrated the process of division of labor as the source of these solidarity through which different occupations generate benefits to individuals when the processes take place spontaneously. However, social inequality weakens this spontaneity through distortion of prices resulting to an unjust perception of the organic solidarity. The equality of opportunities that the society need to provide to its members is thus destroyed under this perception. According to Herzog (2017), internal inequalities within an industrial setting are necessary for proper functioning of the division of labor but external inequalities compromised organic solidarity. That is, all external inequalities posed a threat to the social order in the industrial society that is necessary for effective division of labor. 

Durkheim viewed internal inequalities as an important condition for suitable operative industrial system, and insisted that individuals with appropriate talents must be allowed to rise into positions that best suits their talents. He however, stressed that dominance of external inequality over internal inequality would lead to an imperfect and troubled solidarity. Durkheim concluded that social inequality that consist of external inequality (defined as the inequalities which are imposed on people by their social circumstance of birth) undermined organic solidarity by distorting the social order required in the industrial societies for proper functioning (Tiryakian, 2008).

Relation of Spontaneity to Organic Solidarity

Division of labor in Durkheim concept was assumed to develop from the interactions of the varying abilities and specialties of different people. The different natural talents observed in different individuals often distinguishes persons of different professionals upon maturity, and this in many cases have promoted division of labor. In a society based on organic solidarity, individuals usually undertake particular functions within some progressive division of labor (Cristi, 2012). In such a circumstance, people are bound by their dissimilarity from one another. Individuals tend to become more dependent on the society as more labor is socially divided. Similarly, social division of labor tend to create more unique and specialized persons. From this scenario it is evident that organic solidarity promotes individual spontaneity in the society by enhancing autonomy and enterprise. Since obligations in a social setting are not repressive and limiting, individuals are not linked by kinship structure but rather by specific functions and primary occupations. 

Durkheim and Richard explain the spontaneity of the relation flanked by individual actors and new organizations as the ideal state for normal society. Durkheim argue that the absence of spontaneity may obstruct the free recitation of the social force bestowed within each individual. Spontaneity therefore leads to an ideal situation which adds more strength to solidarity between the functions of the society and also among the various professions arising through division of labor. The second relationship between spontaneity was derived from the question of achieving perfect spontaneity. Durkheim note that by ensuring equality in the external conditions of struggle, we would get near the ideal situation for spontaneity. The equality can be achieved by making sure that social factors are not faced by unequal favors from the qualities emanating from the context, for instance, favorable social or economic heritage, or favorable geographical environments (Tiryakian, 2008). Following the removal of these external sources of inequalities, natural inequalities are indeed conveyed by social inequalities. Therefore, spontaneity is perfect under the above conditions since all individuals disputing for a task have no unduly favors and thus only the most perfectly fitted for the specific task will succeed in obtaining it. 

Solving the Problem of Externally caused Inequality to Achieve Organic Solidarity.

In order to achieve a social setting in which division of labor leads to people depending on each other for a technologically advanced and industrialized societies that is bound together, there is need to address the problem of externally caused inequality. External inequalities as discussed above, have been shown to compromise organic solidarity. External inequalities such as those imposed to people by their circumstances of birth undermine the achievement of organic solidarity in that individuals may not secure their proper functions in the society as they are disadvantaged by certain external forces. These external inequalities can produce favorable outcomes in preindustrial societies or mechanical solidarity. However, in the industrial society, external inequalities affect the social order which determine the functioning of division of labor. Therefore, promoting equality among the external conditions facing people would be important in securing individuals to their rightful functions (Herzog, 2017). Given that solidarity enhances unity in all features of social life, it thus becomes necessary to address the disturbances or external forces or inequalities that do not equally subordinate to social forces that are required for developing social life. Unlike in the modern society, in the past there was the need to encourage existence of division of labor backed with regulations for dealing with external forces leading to inequality. 


Herzog, L. (2017). Durkheim on Social Justice: The Argument from Organic Solidarity. American Political Science and Review, 212(1), 112-124.

Tiryakian, A. (2008). Durkheim, Solidarity, and September 11: The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.Cristi, M. (2012). Durkheim on Moral Individualism, Social Justice, and Rights: A Gendered Construction of Rights. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 37 (4), 409–438.

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