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collective consciousness

Definition of Collective Consciousness

(noun) A group’s or society’s commonly shared fundamental beliefs, customs, norms, and values.

Examples of Collective Consciousness

Collective Consciousness Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: col·lec·tive con·scious·ness

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /kuh-lEk-tiv kAHn-shuh-snuhs/
  • British English – /kuh-lEk-tiv kOn-shuh-snis/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /kəˈlɛktɪv ˈkɑnʃəsnəs/
  • British English – /kɒˈlɛktɪv ˈkɒnʃəsnɪs/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: collective consciousnesses
  • Developed by Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), in Division of Labour in Society (1893).
  • Collective consciousness informs an individual’s sense of belonging and identity.
  • The collective consciousness of a group or society is relived, shared, and passed on by holidays, myths, rituals, and stories.
  • Also called:
    • collective conscience
    • collective conscious
    • collective memory
    • common consciousness
    • conscience collective

Related Quotations

  • “The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average members of the same society forms a particular system with a life of its own life; one might call it the collective or common consciousness” (Durkheim [1893] 2004:24).
  • Social life derives from a dual source, the similarity of consciousness and the social division of labour. In the first case the individual is socialized because, in the absence of any real individuality, he is united with others with whom he shares a common likeness, becoming part of the same collective type; in the second case, because, while having an appearance and personal activity which distinguish him from others, he is dependent on them to the extent that he is distinguished from them, and consequently upon the society which results from this combination” (Durkheim [1893] 2004:32).
  • “We can say that an act is criminal when it offends strong and defined states of the collective consciousness . . . In other words, we must not say that an action offends the common consciousness because it is criminal, but rather that it is criminal because it shocks the common consciousness. We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it” (Durkheim [1893] 2004:24).

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Additional Information

Related Terms


Durkheim, Émile. [1893] 2004. “The Division of Labour in Society.” Pp. 19–38 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

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Cite the Definition of Collective Consciousness

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “collective consciousness.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 18, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-consciousness/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

collective consciousness. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-consciousness/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “collective consciousness.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 18, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-consciousness/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“collective consciousness.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Jul. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/collective-consciousness/>.