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Emile Durkheim: - functionalist emile durkheim viewed society

Emile Durkheim:Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He lived from 1858 to 1917. He did his graduation from Paris after which he travelled to Germany for studying Economics, Folklore and Cultural Anthropology. In 1887, he was appointed professor at university of Bordeaux, where he taught the first course in Sociology ever offered in any French university. In his writings and in his thoughts, he was deeply influenced by August Comte Saint Simon and to some extent by Herbert Spencer. The main contributions of Durkheim include the concept of social facts, division of labour, suicide, and sociology of religion.Social Facts:The methodology of Durkheim can be explained with reference to his concept of social facts. According to him, there are some facts in social life which cannot be explained in terms of physical or psychological analysis. These social facts have distinctive social characteristics and determinants. The social facts constitute the subject matter of sociology.According to Durkheim, there are two important features of social facts, (a) Exteriority”: Social facts are external to any particular individual considered as a biological entity. They continue to persist over a period of time while particular individuals die and are replaced by others. There are certain ways of action, thinking and feeling which are external to the individual, for example, the principles of public morality, family and religious observances etc. ; (b) Coercion: The social facts have coercive power, i.e. they impose themselves upon the individual, independent of his own will.Durkheim gives a number of examples which show the element of coercion in social phenomena, for example, in a gathering or a crowd, a feeling imposes itself on everyone or there is a collective reaction. Coercive power of social facts comes into force whenever social demands are violated, for example, the means of social control like law or custom immediately come into operation in case of such violation.However, in his later writings, Durkheim changed his views regarding external constraints. He admitted that some social facts, particularly the moral rules, become internalized in the consciousness of individuals and then act as effective guides and controls of conduct.Durkheim defined social fact as “Every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint”. According to him, social facts should be regarded as things. We do not know in scientific sense, the social phenomena that surrounds us, for example, as a layman, we do not have scientific knowledge about the terms like state, sovereignty, democracy, socialism or communism.We generally have a vague and confused idea regarding them. When we learn to regard social facts as things we can avoid the preconceptions and prejudices which hinder the scientific knowledge about these facts. Moreover we must observe social facts from outside i.e. we should gain knowledge about them through objective and scientific research.We can discover them as we discover physical facts. The social facts are general in character because they are collective. According to Durkheim, social fact is any way of behaving which is universal throughout a given society and has an existence of its own, independent of its individual manifestations.Division of labour:The view of Durkheim about division of labour have been deeply influenced by August Comte. Durkheim starts with the analysis of relationship between individuals and collectivity. In this analysis he distinguishes between two forms of solidarity i.e. mechanical and organic. Mechanical solidarity is solidarity of resemblances.The major characteristic of a society marked by such solidarity is its homogeneity, i.e. individuals in such a society differ from one another as little as possible. The individuals in this type of society have similar emotions, values and beliefs. On the other hand, in a society marked by organic solidarity, there is a remarkable social differentiation.However, even in this type of society there is a coherent unity of the collectivity which is based on consensus. The primitive societies are characterized by mechanical solidarity and are called segmental societies. On the other hand, modern societies are characterized by organic solidarity and have an elaborate division of labour. In a segmental society, the individuals are strongly attached to particular social groups and are more or less separated from outside world.Thus the segmental organization is contrary to the general phenomena of differentiation designated by the term organic solidarity. However, Durkheim concedes that in certain societies which might have advanced forms of economic division of labour, the segmental structure may still persist to some extent. The division of labour which Durkheim tried to define and explain should not be confused with the one explained by the economists.According to Durkheim, differentiation of occupation and multiplication of industrial activities are an expression of social differentiation which precedes the economic differentiation. The origin of social differentiation leads to the disintegration of mechanical solidarity and movement of the society towards organic solidarity, which is characterized by a complex division of labour.Suicide:Durkheim related the problem of suicide to his study of division of labour. To some extent, he approves of the phenomena of organic division of labour and regards it as a welcome development in human society. However, he also notes that the individual is not properly satisfied with his lot in the modern societies and hence, there is an increase in the number of suicides. The increase in the number of suicides is considered by him as an expression of certain pathological features of modern societies.Durkheim considers suicide not as an individual but as social phenomena. Apparently, suicide seems to be the most personal matter of an individual because nothing may be considered more personal than the decision to take one’s own life. But Durkheim argued that the decision of an individual to commit suicide is taken because of certain social forces.He tries to bring out the relationship between suicide as an individual phenomena and the suicide rate as a social phenomena. He found that suicide rate, i.e. frequency of suicide in a given population, is relatively consistent. It does not vary arbitrarily; rather it varies as a result of many circumstances. According to him, sociology must establish correlations between the circumstances and variations in suicide rates.Durkheim does not accept the psychological explanations for suicide. In order to prove his view point he examines variations in the suicide rate in different populations, for example, he considers various religions and remarks that the proportion of neurotic or insane persons among Jews is particularly high, while suicide rate among them is quite low. Thus he comes to the conclusion that there is no correlation between the psychological factors and suicide rates.

What was Emile Durkheim wrong about? In a certain way however, Durkheim was wrong about Tardes ideas. They are, as the Wiki-Article rightly notes, experiencing a renaissance in the context of both Poststructuralist and Postmodernist thought. Guattari and Deleuze are notable here. As is the Neo-Tardism of Bruno Latour. There was an error loading more items.