Emile Durkheim said that the collective conscience is “the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society”
We have come across wide ranging social issues that perhaps slip right past us only to later realize that the underlying reason for the various disagreements is the idea of collective conscience.
Examples of collective conscience can be wide ranging from fashion trends to culture and traditions.
According to Durkheim, society has a significant impact on people. A collective consciousness, or a shared understanding and manner of acting in the world, is made up, in Durkheim’s view, of the norms, beliefs, and values of individuals. Individuals are connected to one another and become socially integrated through collective consciousness.
Therefore, our social, political and economic systems rests upon a collective conscience.
So, can collective conscience be harmful for any social system? The answer is two-fold.
On one hand, since collective conscience can exert a strong force upon society; individuality and minorities can be rigorously suppressed.
On the other hand, collective conscience ensures traditions, culture, economic systems are kept alive and relevant.
Often, we find that people who deviate from the path of collective consciousness find themselves bearing the weight of being considered a deviant. Though from historical examples deviants have created more change in the system thereby altering the mind of collective conscience. They bring with them progressive ideas that transform and uplift society ushering equality and justice.
For example, Jesus brought in considerable changes to the aged old law of Moses. He taught love and peace so did Muhammad and Buddha and all the other prominent historical figures. Hence it is historically evident that the power of individuality can change the collective conscience. They wanted to change the collective according to their belief prevailing at that time. Though in reality it takes more than the individual alone to change the collective. Their teachings have persisted.
But it’s not only in the realm of religion where collective conscience exist. Our economic systems, our culinary habits and any other system is built upon the idea of collective conscience. Bitcoin started out as an alternative to the modern day regulated fiat currency. Dive even deeper and the examples are endless.
The bottom line is that the collective exists! Unless you are a resident of North Korea – where the idea of individuality does not even exist – then it’s different altogether.
As thinking individuals we do what we always do best – WE PROGRESS.