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What To Know About Collective Consciousness

By Sonya Riley
Collective consciousness, also seen as collective conscience, refers to a specific set of shared moral attitudes, ideas and beliefs. These shared things operate as a unified source within various societies. The term was first coined by a French sociologist by the name of Emile Durkheim in a book he wrote titled Division of Labor in Society, published in 1893.

The French word conscience is comparable to, and translated as, conscious or conscience in English. It may also be defined as perception or awareness in this language. Some people use the word conscience as if it is a non-translatable foreign word or technical term. In general, it is not relate to moral conscience, but instead, a shared understanding in terms of social norms. As far as collective, Durkheim made it clear that he is not reifying or hypostatizing this concept. For him, the word refers to a social fact, something common to most people.

Durkheim employs this term often in four books: Suicide, The Division of Labor in Society, Rules of Sociological Method, and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. He thought that in traditional or primitive societies a totemic religion exists and plays a big part in uniting members. This is possible through development of common consciousness. In these societies, which are based around clan, family or tribal relationships, contents of consciousness of an individual are shared among others in the society. This creates mechanical solidarity via shared likeness.

The concept and term is used outside of the social theory presented by Durkheim. There are several things categorized under this term that represent society of the modern day. This term is used by parapsychologists and sociologists.

Mary Kelsey, a lecturer of sociology, used this term in the early half of the 2000s. Kelsey used it in describing people within a social unit being aware of shared traits and circumstances. This awareness led people to act as a community in order to create solidarity. Rather than living as separate individuals, people came together in order to create dynamic groups that shared knowledge and resources.

There is a new theory that suggests the character of this consciousness is relative to the kind of mnemonic encoding applied in certain groups. For instance, cohesive groups that have an informal structure tend to represent important aspects of a community as episodic memories. This, in turn, has an influence that is predictable on the collective ideology and behaviors. It typically leads to indulgent atmosphere, solidarity that is strong, ethos that is exclusive, and more.

Society consists of numerous collective groups, for example: organizations, regions, nations, family, community. These units have capabilities to act, decide, think, reform, judge, reflect, and conceptualize. Differing behaviors among such groups vary based on the different collective consciousness, which is to say variations in consciousness may have a practical meaning.

Collective consciousness is a term that was coined in the 1890s by Emile Durkheim. This French sociologist applied the term when referencing shared beliefs, moral attitudes and ideas among societies. The concept has been employed by other sociologists and psychologists when referencing various ideas and theories of the modern day.

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