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Social solidarity refers to the integration, and degree and type of integration, shown by a society or group with people and their neighbors.[1] It refers to the ties in a society - social relations - that bind people to one another. The term is generally employed in sociology and the other social sciences.

What forms the basis of solidarity varies between societies. In simple societies it may be mainly based around kinship and shared values. In more complex societies there are various theories as to what contributes the sense of social solidarity.[1]


Ibn Khaldun

`Asabiyyeah refers to social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness, and social cohesion, originally in a context of "tribalism" and "clanism", but sometimes used for moderen nationalism as well. Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah described it as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history. `Asabiyya is neither necessarily nomadic nor based on blood relations. In the modern period, the term is generally analogous to solidarity.[2][3]

Ibn Khaldun argues, effectively, that each dynasty has within itself the seeds of its own downfall. He explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires and use the unity presented by those areas to their advantage in order to bring about a change in leadership. As the new rulers establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax and more concerned with maintaining their lifestyles. Thus, a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew.[2]

It can be compared to Émile Durkheim's mechanical solidarity as opposed to the organic solidarity which he suggests can be found in modern societies.[3]


According to Émile Durkheim, the types of social solidarity correlate with types of society. Durkheim introduced the terms "mechanical" and "organic solidarity" as part of his theory of the development of societies in The Division of Labour in Society (1893). In a society exhibiting mechanical solidarity, its cohesion and integration comes from the homogeneity of individuals—people feel connected through similar work, educational and religious training, and lifestyle. Mechanical solidarity normally operates in "traditional" and small scale societies.[4] In simpler societies (e.g., tribal), solidarity is usually based on kinship ties of familial networks. Organic solidarity comes from the interdependence that arises from specialization of work and the complementarities between people—a development which occurs in "modern" and "industrial" societies.[4] Definition: it is social cohesion based upon the dependence individuals in more advanced societies have on each other. Although individuals perform different tasks and often have different values and interest, the order and very solidarity of society depends on their reliance on each other to perform their specified tasks. Organic here is referring to the interdependence of the component parts. Thus, social solidarity is maintained in more complex societies through the interdependence of its component parts (e.g., farmers produce the food to feed the factory workers who produce the tractors that allow the farmer to produce the food).

The two types of solidarity can be distinguished by morphological and demographic features, type of norms in existence, and the intensity and content of the conscience collective.[4]

Mechanical and organic solidarity[5]
Feature Mechanical solidarity Organic solidarity
Morphological (structural) basis Based on resemblances (predominant in less advanced societies)
Segmental type (first clan-based, later territorial)
Little interdependence (social bonds relatively weak)
Relatively low volume of population
Relatively low material and moral density
Based on division of labour (predominately in more advanced societies)
Organized type (fusion of markets and growth of cities)
Much interdependency (social bonds relatively strong)
Relatively high volume of population
Relatively high material and moral density
Types of norms (typified by law) Rules with repressive sanctions
Prevalence of penal law
Rules with restitutive sanctions
Prevalence of cooperative law (civil, commercial, procedural, administrative and constitutional law)
Formal features of conscience collective High volume
High intensity
High determinateness
Collective authority absolute
Low volume
Low intensity
Low determinateness
More room for individual initiative and reflection
Content of conscience collective Highly religious
Transcendental (superior to human interests and beyond discussion)
Attaching supreme value to society and interests of society as a whole
Concrete and specific
Increasingly secular
Human-orientated (concerned with human interests and open to discussion)
Attaching supreme value to individual dignity, equality of opportunity, work ethic and social justice
Abstract and general

"...if I have properly understood gesellschaft is supposed to be characterised by a progressive development of individualism, the dispersive effects of which can only be prevented for a time, and by artificial means by the action of the state, it is essentially a mechanical aggregate."

  • Durkheim believed that Toennies saw individualism as working against moral order, people become unattached like atoms flowing in space suggesting that the only thing holding people together, prevented relationships from fracturing, and holds people to society was the imposition of order and coherence of the state.
  • Durkheim asserted that the life of social agglomerates is just as natural, and is no less internal as that of small groupings.
  • He characterised preindustrial societies as mechanical and industrial societies as organic (thus opposing Toennies theories by using opposite terminology)
  • Although the bonds of mechanical solidarity were based on "a more or less organized totality of beliefs and sentiments common to all the members of the group," this gave way in industrial society to potent new forces that were characterised by heightened complexity and differentiation, an increased dependence on society, and, seemingly paradoxically at first glance, a growing level of individual autonomy.[6]


International solidarity is “not an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives.” - Samora Machel

“Unlike solidarity, which is horizontal and takes place between equals, charity is top-down, humiliating those who receive it and never challenging the implicit power relations.”[7] - Eduardo Galeano

"Solidarity is not a matter of altruism. Solidarity comes from the inability to tolerate the affront to our own integrity of passive or active collaboration in the oppression of others, and from the deep recognition of our most expansive self-interest. From the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable."[8] - Aurora Levins Morales

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security." John Donne, Meditation XVII

See also


  1. ^ a b Collins Dictionary of Sociology, p621.
  2. ^ a b Alatas, Syed Farid (2006), "A Khaldunian Exemplar for a Historical Sociology for the South", Current Sociology 54 (3): 397–411, doi:10.1177/0011392106063189 
  3. ^ a b Gellner, Ernest (2007), "Cohesion and Identity: the Maghreb from Ibn Khaldun to Emile Durkheim", Government and Opposition 10 (2): 203–18 
  4. ^ a b c Collins Dictionary of Sociology, p405-6.
  5. ^ Collins Dictionary of Sociology, p406 adapted from S. Lukes, Emile Durkheim: His life and Work (1973) London:Allen Lane
  6. ^ Kivisto, Peter, Key Ideas in Sociology, 2nd ed. Pine Forge Press 2004
  7. ^ Galeano, E. 2000 Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World. Picador, p. 312
  8. ^ Aurora Levins Morales, 1998. Medicine Stories. Boston: South End Press.


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

Other reading

  • Ankerl, Guy: Toward a social contract on worldwide scale: Solidarity contract. Geneva, ILO, 1980, ISBN 92-9014-165-4


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