Possible Reasons That Could Cause an Individual in Society to Choose to Deal Drugs With Regards to Durkheim’s Ideas of Organic Solidarity
Throughout all societies there are common trends; laws, relationships, hierarchies and among other things, crime. There is no society in existence where individuals obey every rule that the society has set for them. The law is an external form of social control that is broken often but not penalized nearly as much as it is broken. This means that there is the small chance that an individual or group can get away with breaking the law. However, the reprimands and penalties of breaking the law can be great and with this is mind members of society are forced to ask the question, is it really worth it? During this case study I will explore the possible reasons that may cause an individual or group in a society to commit the crime of drug dealing with specific correlation to Durkheim’s ideas of organic solidarity. Illegal and illicit drugs are all seriously harmful substances that have negative short and long-term effects on those who use them. If we were able to understand more about what causes people to feel they have a right to distribute these substances to others in their society then maybe there is a way we can understand how to decrease drug trafficking and distribution.
In New Zealand, the laws are clearly spelt out in regards to any use, possession and distribution of drugs and there are penalties carried out if those laws are broken. Yet, people still continue to break the rules surrounding drug distribution. One of the possible explanations behind drug dealing could be to do with Durkheim’s idea of division of labour and specialization. As societies become more complex, they are unable to function with mechanical solidarity, thus we see the emergence of organic solidarity. As opposed to mechanical, which focuses more on similarities and minimal individuality, organic solidarity specializes tasks and promotes individuality. Organic solidarity is a lot different to mechanical solidarity but it does not lead to disintegration, rather it leads to social solidarity based on interdependence. Most societies today demonstrate organic solidarity and as a result, the new complexity of societies mean people are no longer producing all the things they need, so they must interact to fulfill societies needs. This interaction and recognition that they need each other results in integration.
Because organic solidarity causes people to specialize, the basis for the collective consciousness diminishes. This is where a possible cause of drug dealing arises. Individuals are no longer all preforming the same tasks and instead are dependent on other members in society; meaning one kink in the chain can result in a societal collapse. The maximum individualism that comes with organic solidarity societies can sometimes be their own downfall. Too much choice results in an unhealthy desire to keep pushing the boundaries of the law. Drug dealing is not only unlawful but also morally frowned upon in most societies, the production and distribution of drugs affects many different individuals in society, nearly always in a negative manner. It is clearly spelt out that if an individual possesses or distributes drugs they will be punished but perhaps because of the taste of choice and individualism that comes with organic solidarity we see drug dealing trending in all societies.
During periods of rapid social change individuals sometimes experience alienation from group goals and values. They lose sight of their shared interests based on mutual dependence. In this condition they are less constrained by group norms. Normative values become generalized rather than personally embraced. Durkheim defines this experience as anomie. We can directly correlate Durkheim’s idea of anomie to drug dealing because of the pressure felt by individuals to be a part of the organized society and their lack of ability to cope under this pressure. Once anomie has set in, individuals have weakened social restraints and no limits on their desires. This would explain how someone could fathom distributing a harmful, illegal and occasionally fatal substance to fellow members of their own society merely to fulfill their own needs and desires. Once individuals have succumb to social pressures, their need to rebel against the system arises, thus resulting in breaking the laws set by the very society they don’t feel the belong to. Drug dealing is a direct and harmful way to ‘stick it’ to the system and to bring others down with them. The effects of illegal drugs on other members in society are never positive and in the long-term result in addiction and decreased general life performance. Drug dealers spread their disappointment through the distribution of substances they know will effect others who are weak and looking for a way out.
Each different society has it’s own specific needs and different parts of each society contribute to these particular needs. There are, however, different ways to meet the same needs. Some of these ways are not always legal. Because societies that have organic solidarity are usually quite complex and have many different ideas and norms not everything in an organic society is going to work for every individual or group. This introduces Durkheim’s idea of dysfunction in society and in turn, individuals finding functional alternatives (ways that work for them) to meet their personal needs. By understanding dysfunction, we can understand social change with more depth and apply this to drug dealers. Another way to explain the choice of the path that is drug dealing is to apply Durkheim’s idea of functionalism and understand that it is not only people with the means readily available to them that reach their goals (conformists) but also a group of individuals called ‘innovators’ that reach these goals as well.
Durkheim describes innovators as those who don’t have the means readily available to them but instead find alternative ways to reach their goals. Now, a drug dealer may have exactly the same goals as the CEO of a major Corporation- to reach the top of the social ladder and have the means to support a luxurious lifestyle. Just because they take different routes to get there does not mean they do not have the same goal. Something that does differentiate between the two may be their ethical and moral beliefs, however they are still two individuals in an organic society striving for the same goal. This is where anomie comes into play again- this time in the form of discontinuity between cultural goals and accepted means of reaching them. An individual in a lower socio-economic lifestyle can sometimes try as hard as they can within the boundaries of the law, but never be able to escape their lower class or status despite their desire. In these situations there can be disruption and frustration, the understanding that some other people in society have exactly what they want and do not even have to try hard to get it, while they are trying as hard as they can and not meeting their goals. Innovation then comes into play, drug dealing is considered an easier and faster way to make lots of money provided the dealer does not get caught. When looked upon in this light, drug dealers can be classed as ‘innovators’ as they are merely finding an alternative way to make money and escape their lower socio-economic class.
Solidarity changes as a society becomes more complex. The existence of crime and deviance however, does not. In saying this, a change is solidarity can change the causes behind why individuals in a society commit crimes. Durkheim’s organic solidarity ideas of division of labour and specialization, anomie and functionalism provide us with some insight into why people feel the need to deal illicit substances. Although there are a lot of researchers that state that drugs are here to stay in all societies throughout the world this does not mean that identifying the underlying causes through Durkheim’s sociological theories will not help to aid in the fight for a more functional society. With the strive for harmony rather than conflict, determining the reasons as to why people act out against the law is the first step to decreasing the amount of illegal and harmful drugs that continue to taint societies all over the world.