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Peoples Temple Settlement In Guyana

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Close to one thousand people died at Jonestown. The members of the , under the direction of the Reverend Jim Jones, fed a poison-laced drink to their children, administered the potion to their infants, and drank it themselves. Their bodies were found lying together, arm in arm; more than 900 perished. How could such a tragedy occur? How and why did the People's Temple emerge? Perhaps one of the greatest sociologists in history could help explain the rise and fall of this cultural landmark. Perhaps Emile Durkheim could shed light on why this group of all different sides of life came and went. We can attempt to use the central concepts of Durkheim's theory on suicide and society to try to explain how the People's Temple erupted and eventually turned into the most horrifying act of mass suicide ever recorded.
Jonestown was a society of it's own, a Utopia within Anormal@ society. According to Durkheim, society is a Asocial organism@ composed of a number of social parts or social organs. These parts work or function together to maintain the existence of the whole organism or society. We can explain the emergence of the People's Temple by simply using Durkheim's definition of emergence. Durkheim states that emergence occurs from the interrelationship of elements of a simpler or less complex reality and the outcome is a phenomenon at the level of a more complex reality that creates new characteristics (Ashley 117). Jim Jones took very simple elements of religion and missionary enthusiasm and with their combination created a very complex commune, a society made up of all walks of life, a community of various followers to help him spread his socialist and Marxist ideas.
Jonestown's structure can be explained using Durkheim's ideas of mechanical and organic solidarity. According to Durkheim, a mechanically organized society is one in which social integration is based on a high level of shared beliefs, values, customs, and ritual interactions. All persons in this type of society are very consistent in their perceptions of reality, their social behavior, and their responses to the behaviors of others. These people thus have little sense of distinction and share a unity based on common activity and feelings of likeness (Ashley 124). On the contrary, an organically organized society consists of individuals and groups that are engaged in highly different activities. Such individuals and groups have a well-developed sense of individual differences and singularity. Social unity, rather than depending on likeness, is built on an interdependence of individuals and groups in the success of specialized tasks essential for the society's functioning and continued survival. Jonestown, when examined closely could be regarded as both mechanically and organically organized. Each person in the People's Temple had their own unique self, making the group an organic society. Every individual dressed different and had their own personality in comparison to the Heaven's Gate cult where every individual was made to look very masculine and thin and was also dressed in the same manner. Not only were appearances very different but the followers of Jim Jones also had very different roles in his Utopian world. The group had a very small hierarchy with Jones being at the head and certain followers of his having specialized jobs underneath him, unlike Heaven's Gate where even though there was a defined leader of the group, everybody maintained equality throughout. However, the People's Temple could also be considered as being a mechanically organized society. Jim Jones was a very charismatic leader, because of this all of his followers believed in his ideas and values.
As the group became larger it was clear that the followers were adapting to Jim Jones' belief and value system. The main reason for this however is most likely due to the threats and humiliation that Jones' placed on his followers when certain members disobeyed or were negative about his beliefs. In the end we could say that the People's Temple was very much a mechanically organized group in the aspect of beliefs and values but when dealing with the individuals it was clear that there was organic solidarity within the group. The change in the Jonestown group was one of organic solidarity to mechanical solidarity, the complex to the simple society.
Was Jonestown in a state of anomie as Durkheim labeled it? Durkheim claimed that when there is a state of social disorganization brought on by the lack of, or insufficiency of, social and moral rules regulating activity between persons and groups that there is a state of anomie (Ashley 139). ...

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Keywords: when did the peoples temple move to guyana, temple in guyana, peoples temple tragedy

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