In The Division of Labor in Society, Emile Durkheim writes about occupational groups as a source of community in modern societies. In his language, we might consider these occupational groups as reservoirs of mechanical solidarity in a mass society characterized by organic solidarity. I’ve never thought very seriously about this; mostly because I’ve assumed it’s just wrong. I belong to the American Sociological Association, and I’m happy to, but the ASA doesn’t feel like community to me. I rejoined this year after letting my membership lapse for several years. I joined as a grad student because I was told I should be part of the ‘profession’ if I wanted a good start to a ‘career.’ It wasn’t about joining a community for the sake of being part of a community, and then the meetings felt more like competitive exclusion than religious harmony. I rejoined primarily because Twitter has put me in touch with networks of sociologists and scholars in other disciplines, and those connections have made me feel a bit more connected to the discipline, and the academic-world in general, than I had recently. So, my renewed membership in ASA was really a consequence of feeling part of the community (if that’s the right word) of scholars . Maybe the ASA meetings in New York this summer will create that rare but great feeling of collective effervescence Durkheim tells us is the result of collectively celebrating our morality and social order. Maybe.
If I was asked about the totem of my tribe, I’d not show you my ASA lanyards. Instead I’d show this picture:
There you see a UW-Whitewater disc golf disc and a WTFpod coffee mug. Last year I started playing disc golf, and I’ve really gotten into it. Just looking at the disc gives a bit of the joy I get from playing a round, and I’m at least marginally involved in the local disc golf community. The image on the disc is the sacred animal of my alma mater UW-Whitewater – the Warhawks. The coffee mug images are Marc Maron, the host of WTF, and one of his cats (I don’t think that’s Boomer – the sacred animal of the WTF community). Downloading and listening to the twice weekly podcast renews my feeling of connection to the WTF community and is one of my favorite rituals, and I take pride in knowing the significance of the phrase ‘Boomer Lives!’ when I know not everybody does.
So, I don’t know, are these symbols of communities that give me a little feeling of mechanical solidarity in our modern age? If so, then they are decidedly leisure activities, not occupational.