When most people hear the term social breakdown, they probably think about the poor, the homeless or a biker gang, but this is not the end of the story.
Emile Durkheim defines anomie (for me social breakdown) as a “…condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals resulting in the breakdown of social bonds between the individual and the community.” It arises from a “…mismatch between personal or group standards and the wider social standards, or lack of social ethics,” resulting in “…moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations.” It’s not just an “…absence of norms, because “…a society with too much rigidity and too little individual discretion can also produce anomie (quotes on ‘anomie’ from Wikipedia. org).” So, a healthy society seems to be a delicate balance between the individual (individuals of all classes) and the common good.
It may seem easy for some to identify the lack of social, moral and ethical standards to be present in other classes but not their own. But, it is important to look at our own morality and the legitimacy of our own aspirations. Greed and selfishness can be deeply hidden in self-achievement. Durkheim writes that “desire without limit can never be fulfilled, it only becomes more intense.” This results in grasping without concern for others. It results in subprime mortgages that cause hard-working people to lose their homes while bankers get richer and drug companies charging astronomical prices for a drug needed to save a child’s life just to increase their profits. It’s accepting tax breaks that take money from programs that promote the common good like healthcare, education and infrastructure.
Social breakdown is not just present in the lower classes, but in all classes. We need to work together and to realize what is truly important. We need to break out of our class bubbles and participate in the common good. Robert Reich states that without the common good we have no society. We are all responsible for the common good.