W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and Emile Durkheim (1857-1917) were well known Sociologists who both use the term “consciousness” when studying individuals and society. Durkheim, through his term organic solidarity, explains that for a modern society to succeed their must be a division of labor with a specialized workforce. Durkheim’s term, individual consciousness, refers to the awareness that individuals have towards one another with each contributing to the success of the other.
Consequently, this organic solidarity, increases productivity significantly making it possible to meet the needs of a growing modern society. Collective Consciousness, according to Durkheim, is the individual awareness of shared beliefs, goals, and that we are all part of the same societal family. We are Americans, we share the same holidays, American customs, obey the same laws, belong to churches, etc.: We are members of larger groups like farmers, teachers, commercial fisherman, lawyers, and of course Aggies, Dawgs, Cougars, Ducks and all social matters where we have a commonality.
Du Bois describes a double consciousness that individual African Americans have dealt with since the Civil War. The culture in America is mostly white. It’s easy to be white living in a white culture. When your black you feel like your conscious identity is double. Du Bois says,(“There is a feeling of looking at yourself through the eyes of a white society.”) Du Bois 1903:131 It is an oppressive feeling. According to Du Bois, (“White society sees you as a black man, subordinate to white.”) Du Bois 1903:131 As a black person, your trying to be part of a white society and at the same time stay true to your black culture.
This causes a double consciousness. Du Bois uses the term “veil” as the darker color of African American’s skin. This has proven to be a barrier demarcation for African Americans. The veil is white people’s inability to see blacks as true Americans. Du Bois says, (“Since the whites own the mainstream culture in America, the black person is always in the passive position. This is one of the main reasons that cause the black people’s double consciousness. African Americans are exploited economically and oppressed politically by white American.”) Du Bois 1903:131
Du Bois’ analysis is a contrast to Durkheim’s analysis. Du Bois analysis’ studies individual interaction instead of group interaction. As a sociologist and black activist, Du Bois explains the struggle of individual identity as an African American in a white society. Durkheim’s analysis studies the needs of a modern society being met through organic solidarity where there is a group awareness that promotes production in a society with a large population. Both Du Bois and Durkheim were significant contributors to Sociology.