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: