Collective consciousness  

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Mona Lisa (c. 1503–1519) is an oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most famous paintings in the world.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Collective consciousness (French: conscience collective) is a term coined by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) to refer to the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. One might recommend collective conscience as a superior translation of Durkheim's concept, in part due to the frequent association of the word "consciousness" with both Marxist and Freudian thought.

Collective consciousness in Durkheimian social theory

Durkheim used the term in his books The Division of Labour in Society (1893), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), Suicide (1897), and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). In The Division of Labour, Durkheim argued that in traditional/primitive societies (those based around clan, family or tribal relationships) totemic religion played an important role in uniting members through the creation of a common consciousness (conscience collective in the original French). In societies of this type, the contents of an individual's consciousness are largely shared in common with all other members of their society, creating a mechanical solidarity through mutual likeness.

Other uses of the term and synonyms

Various forms of what might be termed "collective consciousness" in modern societies have been identified by other sociologists, going from solidarity attitudes, hive mind and memes to extreme behaviors like groupthink or herd behavior.

Another term for the collective consciousness is the 'popular imagination', what i.e. average people think, as for example in Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination or other cultural depictions.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Collective consciousness" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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