Disclaimer: I was inspired to make this post by one Alt Shift X’s video on Emile Durkheim ( studying him in class). Of course being a weeb I have to relate everything back to anime but I’m gonna be spending a good part of the beginning explaining what’s described in the video in an even more simplified manner so if want a more in-depth understanding or just feel I did a shit job please do watch his video because this guy is great and he never does video’s like this anymore.
Next to Karl Marx and Max Weber, Emile Durkheim is 1 of the “Big 3 ” in modern sociology. He’s even called “The father of sociology” in some circles. He focused on social rather than individual explanations for things, even though at the time explanations at the time were typically assigned to either god or specific people(1858-1917. 100th anniversary since his death!). Marx looked at how the economy could explain how the world is shaped. Weber looked how ideas could shape the economy and thus society. Durkheim coming in a bit later somewhat synthesized these ideas. For how ideas shaped society he came up with the term “Social Facts”, which referred to the culture, norms, laws, values, morality, and institutions of society. Social facts affect one another, and they affect people. But while social facts have their roots in individuals they cannot be understood at that level. Morality and norms aren’t things that exist inside the heads of individual people but in the network of interactions between people. Social facts and thus society itself exist “Sui Generis”, “of its own kind”. It’s like to how “the net” doesn’t exist in any one computer but instead it is the connections of billions of computers talking to each other that forms “the net”. For how the material can shape ideas and thus society, however, he came up with the terms “Organic and Mechanical Solidarity” which he described in “The Division of Labor in Society”
In the essay, Durkheim wrote about how the two ways “Solidarity” what holds society together, the feeling that we are a part of the whole, can be achieved either through “Mechanical Solidarity” for pre-modern societies primarily, and modern industrialized “Organic Solidarity”. While the naming can be questioned, the basic idea of the premodern “Mechanical Society” is that everyone does the same job (relatively) and fulfill the same roles. Of course at least some people do a bit of different stuff like leaders or toolmakers.But because everyone’s roles in society match up well they share the same values, notions, identities, and experiences, what Durkheim calls the “Collective Conscience”. Basically, it’s all about similarity. Think #45 supporters and how some want a pure homogenous country.
Modern society? COMPLETELY different. Different religions, classes, jobs, values, even experiences persist in the modern city/town. Instead of similarity holding people together, it is our need for each other brought about by specialization of labor (which is more efficient for doing things and leads to prosperity) that bonds us. You don’t kill your neighbor and take his shit (or rather society doesn’t LET you do that) because that guy takes out your and everyone else’s trash while you’re too busy building computers, while your sister is too busy professional wrestling. While all these people are very different, the rely on each other. THIS is organic solidarity.
And this is what made me think of Drrr.
If you watched Digibro’s video on the series, you’ll know that it’s all about how everyone has a story of which they are the main character. The demographic density (the number of people in a society and the degree of activity between them) of Ikebukuro, in fact in all of Tokyo proper is, to put it mildly, FUCKING INSANE (it being the largest urban center in the world and all). As such it’s the perfect stage to see Durkheim’s ideas play out and indeed we do. According to Durkheim, Organic solidarity, interdependence, comes from greater density and interactivity, for as dynamic density increases so does competition and this creates a natural drive for society to find more efficient ways of doing things. Thus the division of labor and specialization arise. We see this progress is some pretty fun ways in durarara; The biker headless woman delivering messages and packages, her husband underground doctor who operates primarily on the criminal underclass with the couple often helping 3 high schoolers who all run gangs (of a sort in Anri’s case), who are spied on, informed, and manipulated and information broker who is mortal enemies with the town’s local “muscle” himself mixed up with Russian mafia and that’s just barely scratching the surface of all the stuff going on. And NO ONE knows exactly how everyone is related. This is why the most important character is the district of Ikebukuro itself. A tiny part of a tiny part of a MASSIVE city yet filled with some of the most insane characters and stories that by all rights should end with them all killing each other every other week. But it never does and that’s because they society they inhabit is bigger than all these inhabits superpowers and all, and in some insane way through the vast interconnecting web of relations, they rely on each other.
There is of course still some collective conciseness here, some order or driving force that guides these people and allows us to understand what’s happening on a board scale, weak metanarratives of sorts (Shoutout to joe from Pause and Select). Individualism (emphasis on the value, interest, and worth of the individual rather than wider society) for one thing is something a lot of the characters in the series value and the power of love is no small theme in the show. However ultimately beside the Power of Love nothing else is keeping the city together except that interference. The villains don’t move on the main characters at the end cause the situation mostly worked itself out and shaking things up again would be bad for business. For the perhaps the first time capitalism saves the day! (Except ya know it was more or less the cause of the rise of this criminal underclass in the first place which by the end of the story is more active than ever and..ah fuck it)
Anyway, this was just a short little stop-gap as I work on the next bigger and better piece on My Hero Academia! I just wanted to comment on something I noticed that interested me. What do you guys think? Am I onto something or am I just talking outta my ass again? Please let me know your thoughts and HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMANS DAY!