Many of the well-known sociologists of years past have been concerned with the moral health of society, looking at not only the current state of morality within society, but the potential methods by which the moral state of the individual and of the society itself might be not only guided, but held in check when concerning themselves with matters of import. Of the many different sociologists who strove to tackle these considerations, perhaps two of the most well-known are Alexis De Tocqueville and Emile Durkheim; by working to review their views on the matter, it will then become possible to create an appropriate comparison and contrast between the two, showing the effects of these viewpoints on the prospects of social solidarity today.
Alexis De Tocqueville recognized the uniqueness of America as a country, arguing that it was one of the most moral that he had seen; he accredited this fact due to a variety of different factors, including the abundance of land, the fact that extremes in wealth and poverty were uncommon, a prevalence of religion, and the differing views of marriage within the American society (De Tocqueville, n.d.). This, in conjunction with the manner in which the concept of democracy was spread and identified with by the Americans, served to create a society based on the ultimate moral principles by which a society should be governed.

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Emile Durkheim wrote frequently on the topic of morality within society, but his work on the matter was cut short as a result of his untimely death, never completing a full text with a direct continuity of thought regarding the matter (Carls, 2012). Durkheim argued that society over time strove to create their own set of moral rules, varying widely from society to society, and in order to best understand these constructs, it was necessary for the individual to understand how the society itself had developed up to that point. Durkheim’s argument was that morality “begins only when an individual pertains to a group” (Carls, 2012), and that morality was strongly tied to the overall influence of religion within the society itself, as the basic moral principles of the individual occurred strictly in the context of the predominant religion. Durkheim argued that this could then be divided into two different methods of viewing the morality of the society: first as it relates to the overall group, and second as how the individual is able to translate those constructs within their own lives (Carls, 2012).

As may be seen, both De Tocqueville and Durkheim are concerned with the influences of religion on the moral health of society, and how religion works to affect the manner in which morality is viewed within the society itself, though they differ in the sense that Durkheim believes such morality is the primary concern of religion, while De Tocqueville recognizes that it is more than religion that works to shape the manner in which morality is viewed within the society itself. In both viewpoints, the two sociologists believed that the influences of these moralities on society itself and the associated perspectives of those moral concerns and considerations worked to both increase the dependency of the individual on society itself, looking to society to determine the moral compass by which one should live one’s life, and at the same time shying away from the traditional construct, ensuring that the individual was able to live by their own interpretation of the moral code predominant within society at the time.

The effects of these on the prospects of social solidarity are several fold; first, that the society overall will have a basic moral compass by which to guide its actions, while at the same time, the solidarity of the society will become more fragmented as individuals work to determine how they best feel this type of moral code applies within their own lives.

  • Carls, Paul. “Durkheim, Emile.” (2012): Web.
  • De Tocqueville, Alexis. “Democracy In America Alexis De Tocqueville.”, n.d. Web. 1 Apr 2014. .