Discussion Question

The first question at the end of Chapter 3 asks, “If individuals are both selfish and social, how can a balance in these tendencies best be achieved? Is Durkheim’s insistence that the individual must be in society and society in the individual a suitable one?” The question centers on the idea of the “natural self.”  Hurst explains that in sociology, the self is often represented in a dualistic sense.  He provides evidence of both Durkheim and Simmel, who each present some variation of this concept.  Simmel describes the duality more between rationality and nonrationality.  Hurst and Durkheim argue though, that these two parts of our selves are the selfish and the societal aspects.  Durkheim calls these egoistic and social, and Hurst explains these in saying, “humans have two sides to their nature, one pulling them toward the self and the other toward society” (Hurst 2005; 43)

Hurst expands further through his example of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Durkheim would support this example because of the intense conflict that exists between Dr. Jekyll, the “good” and moral side, and Mr. Hyde, the uncivilized “evil” side.  Durkheim argues that this tension between these two parts of ourselves are what cause conflict in society, as we constantly need to balance our selfish nature with our societal obligations. A balance must thus exist in order for society to function properly.  We must have some degree of self-interest to be contributing members of society, yet we cannot function in an entirely individualistic society.  Therefore, Durkheim’s insistence that this balance must exist is suitable and important. As Hurst says, though these two halves of our selves are often conflicting, they are often also necessary for the existence of the other. We cannot fulfill some of our selfish needs without society, and we cannot have a society without being involved and contributing to that community or society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *