Alienation, Anomie and Fatalism: Durkheim Revisited

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Seminar 34 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Kornelia SAMMET, University of Leipzig, Germany, University of Bielefeld, Germany
Franz ERHARD, University of Bielefeld, Germany, University of Leipzig, Germany
In sociological research, ‘anomie’ is used as a multidimensional concept that includes vaious, partly contrary meanings. The operation of ‘anomie’ in quantitative research as normlessness, social isolation, powerlessness, meaninglessness and alienation from work in fact refer to very different experiences. The paper argues that in order to distinguish between experiences of under-regulation and over-regulation, the concept of fatalism which was mentioned by Durkheim in a mostly overlooked footnote in ‘The Suicide’ should be integrated in the analytical framework. The relations of ‘fatalism’ and ‘alienation’ are discussed and applied to the empirical analyses of worldviews of unemployed people in Germany.

The paper examines anomic world interpretations in a double perspective. Firstly, the sociological discussion on anomic experiences is recapitulated with the result that the concept ‘anomie’ has varying meaning in different theoretical contexts, and the links to alienation theory are examined. Secondly, worldviews of unemployed are explored with a qualitative approach. Based on biographical narrative interviews, the paper analyzes experiences of contingency, alienation and heteronomy focusing on the perception of order or disorder in one’s own life and the world. The empirical analyzes are thirdly condensed into a typology of worldviews differentiating the dimension of order and completing the Durkheimian opposition of anomie and fatalism by the perception of a well ordered world.