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Collective consciousness refers to the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society.[1] This term was used by the French social theorist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) in his books The Division of Labour (1893), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), Suicide (1897), and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912).

In The Division of Labour, Durkheim argued that in "traditional" or "simpler" societies (those based around clan, family or tribal relationships), religion played an important role in uniting members through the creation of a common consciousness (conscience collective in the original French). In societies of this type, the contents of an individual's consciousness are largely shared in common with all other members of their society, creating a mechanical solidarity through mutual likeness.


Other uses of the term

Various forms of what might be termed "collective consciousness" in modern societies have been identified by other sociologists, such as Mary Kelsey, going from solidarity attitudes and memes to extreme behaviors like groupthink or herd behavior. Mary Kelsey, sociology lecturer in the University of California, Berkeley, used the term in the early 2000s to describe people within a social group, such as mothers, becoming aware of their shared traits and circumstances, and as a result acting as a community and achieving solidarity. Rather than existing as separate individuals, people come together as dynamic groups to share resources and knowledge.

It has also developed as a way of describing how an entire community comes together to share similar values. This can also be termed "hive mind". Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, used the term to describe how the combined coherence in consciousness of a group of people could have an influence on the rest of society.

See also


  1. ^ Collins Dictionary of Sociology, p93.


  • Jary, David; Julia Jary (1991). Collins Dictionary of Sociology. Glasgow: Harper Collins. p. 774. ISBN 0-00-470804-0.  


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