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David Emile Durkheim

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Karl Paguidopon

on 17 July 2013

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Transcript of David Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim
David Emile Durkheim was born on April 15, 1858 in Epinal, capital town of the department of Vosges, in Lorraine.
His mother, Mélanie, was a merchant's daughter, and his father, Moïse, had been rabbi of Epinal since the 1830s.
An outstanding student at the Collège d'Epinal, Durkheim skipped two years, easily obtaining his baccalauréats in Letters (1874) and Sciences (1875), and distinguishing himself in the Concours Général.

Intent now on becoming a teacher, Durkheim left Epinal for Paris to prepare for admission to the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Installed at a pension for non-resident students, however, he became utterly miserable: his father's illness left him anxious over his family's financial security; he was an utter provincial alone in Paris; and his intellectual predilections, already scientific rather than literary, were ill-fitted to the study of Latin and rhetoric essential for admission to the Ecole. After failing in his first two attempts at the entrance examination (in 1877 and 1878), Durkheim was at last admitted near the end of 1879.
Though ill through much of 1881-82, Durkheim successfully passed his agrégation (the competitive examination required for admission to the teaching staff of state secondary schools, or lycées), and began teaching philosophy in 1882

In 1898, Durkheim founded the Année sociologique, the first social science hournal in France. In fact, Durkheim's intellectual virtuosity up to 1900 had implicitly contradicted one of his central arguments, namely that in modern societies, work (including intellectual work) should become more specialized, though remaining part of an organic whole. In 1896, therefore, putting aside his work on the history of socialism, Durkheim devoted himself to establishing a massive program of journalistic collaboration based upon a complex division of intellectual labor. Supported by a brilliant group of young scholars (mostly philosophers), the Année was to provide an annual survey of the strictly sociological literature, to provide additional information on studies in other specialized fields, and to publish original monographs in sociology.

Durkheim was utterly devoted to his son André, a linguist who had gained his agrégation just before the War, and was among the most brilliant of the younger Année circle. Sent to the Bulgarian front late in 1915, André was declared missing in January, and in April, 1916, was confirmed dead.

Durkheim was devastated by his son's death, withdrawing into a "ferocious silence" and forbidding friends to even mention his son's name in his presence. Burying himself all the more in the war effort, he collapsed from a stroke after speaking passionately at one of his innumerable committee meetings.

After resting for several months, relieved by America's entry into the war, he recovered sufficiently to again take up his work on La Morale; but on November 15, 1917, he died at the age of 59. He is buried in the Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris.

Famous Works

•The Division of Labor in Society (1893)

•The Rules of Sociological Method (1895)

•Suicide (1897)

•The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912)

Structural Functionalism
Structural Functionalism
It is a theoretical understanding of society that posits social systems are collective means to fill social needs. In order for social life to survive and develop in society there are a number of activities that need to be carried out to ensure that certain needs are fulfilled. In the structural functionalist model, individuals produce necessary goods and services in various institutions and roles that correlate with the norms of the society.

•One of the key ideas in Structural Functionalism is that society is made-up of groups or institutions, which are cohesive, share common norms, and have a definitive culture
•Another key characteristic of Structural Functionalism is that it views society as constantly striving to be at a state of equilibrium, which suggests there is an inherent drive within human societies to cohere or stick together.

Structural Functionalism
Structural Functionalism is a sociological theory that attempts to explain why society functions the way it does by focusing on the relationships between the various social institutions that make up society (e.g., government, law, education, religion,etc). French sociologist Émile Durkheim based his work on this theory.
History Of Social Functionalism
Functionalism developed slowly over time with the help of many sociologists in different parts of the world. Perhaps the most significant contributors to the initial development of this theory are Émile Durkheim and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown.

In the late 19th century, Émile Durkheim laid the primary foundations of Structural Functionalism. He originally wanted to explain social institutions as a shared way for individuals in society to meet their own biological needs. He also wanted to understand the value of cultural and social traits by explaining them in regards to their contribution to the operation of the overall system of society and life.

History of Social Functionalism
Later the focus for structural functionalism changed to be more about the ways that social institutions in society meet the social needs of individuals within that society.
Durkheim was interested in four main aspects of society:

•Why societies formed and what holds them together
•Deviance and Crime

Application in Durkheim's works
The concept of function played a key part in all of Durkheim's work from The Division of Labor, in which he sees his prime objective in the determination of "the functions of division of labor, that is to say, what social needs it satisfies," to The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, which is devoted to a demonstration of the various functions performed in society through religious cults, rites, and beliefs. An additional illustration of Durkheim's functional approach is his discussion of criminality.
In his discussion of deviance and criminality, Durkheim departed fundamentally from the conventional path. While most criminologists treated crime as a pathological phenomenon and sought psychological causes in the mind of the criminal, Durkheim saw crime as normal in terms of its occurrence, and even as having positive social functions in terms of its consequences.
Crime was normal in that no society could enforce total conformity to its injunctions, and if society could, it would be so repressive as to leave no leeway for the social contributions of individuals. Deviance from the norms of society is necessary if society is to remain flexible and open to change and new adaptations. "Where crime exists, collective sentiments are sufficiently flexible to take on a new form, and crime sometimes helps to determine the form they will take. How many times, indeed, it is only an anticipation of future morality--a step toward what will be." But in addition to such direct consequences of crime, Durkheim identified indirect functions that are no less important.
A criminal act, Durkheim reasoned, elicits negative sanctions in the community by arousing collective sentiments against the infringement of the norm. Hence it has the unanticipated consequence of strengthening normative consensus in the common weal. "Crime brings together upright consciences and concentrates them."
Durkheim always thinks contextually rather than atomistically. As such he must be recognized as the direct ancestor of that type of functional analysis which came to dominate British anthropology under the impact of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski and which led. somewhat later, to American functionalism in sociology under Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Merton.
Whether he investigated religious phenomena or criminal acts, whether he desired to clarify the social impact of the division of labor or of changes in the authority structure of the family, Durkheim always shows himself a masterful functional analyst. He is not content merely to trace the historical origins of phenomena under investigation, although he tries to do this also, but he moves from the search for efficient causes to inquiries into the consequences of phenomena for the structures in which they are variously imbedded.
Major Ideologies and Contributions
Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from logical and mathematical treatments and reports of sensory experience is the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, and that there is valid knowledge only in scientific knowledge.
Verified data received from the senses are known as empirical evidence. This view holds that society, like the physical world, operates according to general laws. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected.
Although the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of Western thought, the modern sense of the approach was developed by the philosopher and founding sociologist Auguste Comte in the early 19th century. Comte argued that, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other absolute laws, so also does society
General Aims of Positivism
•To build general laws which demonstrate relationships between social phenomena.

•To reveal by observation and experiment those social phenomena which do or do not fit a particular thesis.

•To build quantifiable and measurable data to construct explanations which examine the impact of social structures upon human behavior, such explanations are therefore distinct from those which refer to human intentions and motives.

•To apply scientific principles of research to the study of society, with the aim of constructing to proposals for social change, thus leading to a better society.

Social Facts
For Durkheim, sociology was 'the science of social facts'. The task of the sociologist was to search for correlations between social facts in order to reveal laws of social structure. Having discovered these, the sociologist could then determine whether a given society is 'healthy' or 'pathological' and prescribe appropriate remedies. Within social facts Durkheim distinguished material and non material social facts.
•Material social facts have to do with the physical social structures which influence the individual.

•Non material social facts are values, norms and conceptually held beliefs.

Among the most noted of Durkheim's work was his discovery of the 'social fact' of suicide rates. By carefully examining police suicide statistics in different districts, Durkheim was able to 'demonstrate' that the suicide rate of Catholic communities is lower than that of Protestant communities. He ascribed this to asocial (as opposed to individual) cause. This was considered groundbreaking and remains influential even today.

Initially, Durkheim's 'discovery of social facts' was seen as significant because it promised to make it possible to study the behaviour of entire societies, rather than just of particular individuals. Modern sociologists refer to Durkheim's studies for two quite different purposes, however:

•As graphic demonstrations of how careful the social researcher must be to ensure that data gathered for analysis is accurate. Durkheim's reported suicide rates were, it is now clear, largely an artifact of the way in which particular deaths were classified as 'suicide' or 'non-suicide' by different communities. What he had actually discovered then was not different suicide rates at all—it was different ways of thinking about suicide.

•As an entry point into the study of social meaning, and the way in which apparently identical individual acts often cannot be classified empirically. Social acts (even such an apparently private and individual act as suicide), in this modern view, are always seen (and classified) by social actors. Discovering the 'social facts' about such acts, it follows, is generally neither possible nor desirable, but discovering the way in which individuals perceive and classify particular acts is what offers insight. A further complication is introduced by asking about the status of our "discovery" of these perceptions and classifications. After all, don't such "discoveries" also reflect socially embedded practices of classification? But if the alleged discoveries of perceptions of social facts aren't therefore dubious, it’s hard to see why the original claims about the social facts are.
For Émile Durkheim, sociology was 'the science of social facts'. In sociology, social facts are the values, cultural norms, and social structures external to the individual. By a social fact, Durkheim is referring to facts, concepts, expectations that come not from individual responses and preferences, but that come from the social community which socializes each of its members. The task of the sociologist, then, was to search for correlations between social facts to reveal laws.
Having discovered the laws of social structure, it is posited that the sociologist is then able to determine whether any given society is 'healthy' or 'pathological' and prescribe appropriate remedies. Durkheim made two main distinctions between social facts--material and non material social facts.
Material social facts, he explained, have to do with the physical social structures which exert influence on the individual. It is something that can be touched emerging because of society's shared belief that it serves a purpose.
Non material social facts are the values, norms and other conceptually held beliefs.
In The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim proposed two concepts. First, that societies evolved from a simple, nonspecialized form, called mechanical, toward a highly complex, specialized form, called organic. In the former society people behave and think alike and more or less perform the same work tasks and have the same group-oriented goals. When societies become more complex, or organic, work also becomes more complex. In this society, people are no longer tied to one another and social bonds are impersonal.
Anomie thus refers to a breakdown of social norms and it a condition where norms no longer control the activities of members in society. Individuals cannot find their place in society without clear rules to help guide them. Changing conditions as well as adjustment of life leads to dissatisfaction, conflict, and deviance. He observed that social periods of disruption (economic depression, for instance) brought about greater anomie and higher rates of crime, suicide, and deviance.
He also used anomie to describe a condition of deregulation that was occurring in society. This meant that rules on how people ought to behave with each other were breaking down and thus people did not know what to expect from one another. Anomie, simply defined, is a state where norms (expectations on behaviors) are confused, unclear or not present. It is normlessness, Durkheim felt that led to deviant behavior.
•In 1897, Durkheim used the term again in his study on Suicide, referring to a morally deregulated condition. Durkheim was preoccupied with the effects of social change. He best illustrated his concept of anomie not in a discussion of crime but of suicide.

•Durkheim felt that sudden change caused a state of anomie. The system breaks down, either during a great prosperity or a great depression, anomie is the same result.

Social Cohesion
The definition of Social Cohesion:

The bonds or "glue" that maintain stability in society.
Social Cohesion describes the bonds that bring people together in a society. In order for groups to be cohesive in a social context, positive membership attitudes and behaviors have to be produced and maintained.

•Durkheim believed that harmony, rather than conflict, defined society. He examines social phenomena with regard to their function in producing or facilitating social cohesion

•As part of his theory of the development of societies in, The Division of Labor in Society (1893), sociologist Emile Durkheim defined two distinct types of social cohesion: organic solidarity and mechanical solidarity.

Social cohesion can be looked at on both an individual and group level. Individual-levels include: an individual’s desire or intention to remain a part of a group, her attitudes and beliefs about the group, the individuals’ intention to sever, weaken, maintain, or strengthen her membership or participation in a groups, and her susceptibility to group influence. Social cohesion at a group level is directly affected by the individual members
Durkheim argued that religion is, in a sense, the celebration and even (self-) worship of human society. Given this approach, Durkheim proposed that religion has three major functions in society:

it provides social cohesion to help maintain social solidarity through shared rituals and beliefs, social control to enforce religious-based morals and norms to help maintain conformity and control in society, and it offers meaning and purpose to answer any existential questions. Further, Durkheim placed himself in the positivist tradition, meaning that he thought of his study of society as dispassionate and scientific. He was deeply interested in the problem of what held complex modern societies together. Religion, he argued, was an expression of social cohesion.
Division of Labour
Division of Labor refers to the range of tasks within a social system. This can vary from everyone doing the same thing to each person having a specialized role. It is through the division of labor that social life actually takes place and individuals are connected to it.
In his seminal work, The Division of Labor in Society, Émile Durkheim observes that the division of labor appears in all societies and positively correlates with societal advancement because it increases as a society progresses.
Durkheim believed the division of labor applied to all “biological organisms generally”
Since Durkheim’s division of labor applied to all organisms, he considered it a “natural law” and worked to determine whether it should be embraced or resisted by first analyzing its functions. Durkheim hypothesized that the division of labor fosters social solidarity, yielding “a wholly moral phenomenon” that ensures “mutual relationships” among individuals.
As social solidarity cannot be directly quantified, Durkheim indirectly studies solidarity by classifying the different types of law to find the different types of social solidarity which correspond to it.
Durkheim categorizes: criminal laws and their respective punishments as promoting mechanical solidarity, a sense of unity resulting from individuals engaging in similar work who hold shared backgrounds, traditions, and values; and civil laws as promoting organic solidarity, a society in which individuals engage in different kinds of work that benefit society and other individuals.
Durkheim believes that organic solidarity prevails in more advanced societies, while mechanical solidarity typifies less developed societies. He explains that, in societies with more mechanical solidarity, the diversity and division of labor is much less, so individuals have a similar worldview. Similarly, Durkheim opines that in societies with more organic solidarity, the diversity of occupations is greater, and individuals depend on each other more, resulting in greater benefits to society as a whole.

•Durkheim’s work enabled social science to progress more efficiently “in the understanding of human social behavior.”

Mechanical Solidarity
In Durkheim's 'The Division of Labour in Society', he made the distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity, the ways in which solidarity is characterized in different societies.

Mechanical Solidarity can be thought of as the solidarity found in smaller, isolated, maybe rural, populations that have a relatively homogenous population. There tends to little, if any, specialization or division of labour.

The connections between people are usually based on customs handed down from generation to generation, and feelings of obligation to others. The population will usually have a shared set of values and beliefs, which may be characterized by a shared dominant religion. This will produce a strong sense of social cohesion. There may be little individual freedom, in terms of potential occupations and mates, because of a strict kinship system.
Mechanical Solidarity generally is not only a weaker link than Organic Solidarity but it also decreases in importance as social evolution advances. Strong and defined states of the common conscience are the roots of penal law. These states are fewer in number today and their number progressively diminishes as societies approach our present type. The average intensity and the average degree of definiteness of collective states have diminished.
Durkheim studied these different types of solidarity through laws. A society with mechanical solidarity is characterized by repressive law, while a society with organic solidarity is characterized by restitutive law. Durkheim believed that social life takes a definite and organized form and the best indicator of this organization is law.

Repressive law, which focuses on punishment, is diffused throughout an entire society, imbedded in the conscience collective, and reflects the morals of the society.
Restitutive law, on the other hand, reflects civil, commercial, procedural, administrative, and constitutional laws. It reflects the many different and complex spheres of society. Durkheim saw a progression from repressive to restitutive law which accompanied the progression from mechanical to organic solidarity.
Examples of Repressive and Restitutive Law:

•Repressive Law: serves punishment for crime committed.
Restitutive Law: pay for the crime committed.

•Repressive Law: Person commits crime and is placed in jail for punishment
Restitutive Law: Person commits crime and is forced to pay a fine for punishment

Organic Solidarity
In sociology, organic solidarity explains what binds technologically advanced, industrialized societies together.

•Organic solidarity is social unity based on a division of labor that results in people depending on each other; it contrasts with mechanical solidarity.

Developed by Emile Durkheim in 1893, the concept of organic solidarity likens individual workers to specific bodily organs and a group of people to a body. Different bodily organs serve different functions; without these organs the body would die, and so would the individual organs. Similarly, in a society characterized by organic solidarity, individual workers perform different kinds of labor, without which society could not function, nor could individual workers thrive.

•For example, salespeople depend on manufacturers to build products, and manufacturers depend on salespeople to sell them.
Social Regulation
Social control refers generally to societal and political mechanisms or processes that regulate individual and group behaviour in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social control:

•Informal means of control - Internalization of norms and values by a process known as socialization, which is defined as "the process by which an individual, born with behavioral potentialities of enormously wide range, is led to develop actual behavior which is confined to the narrower range of what is acceptable for him by the group standards."

•Formal means of social control - External sanctions enforced by government to prevent the establishment of chaos or anomie in society. Some theorists, such as Émile Durkheim, refer to this form of control as regulation.

To Durkheim, men were creatures whose desires were unlimited. Unlike other animals, they are not satiated when their biological needs are fulfilled. "The more one has, the more one wants, since satisfactions received only stimulate instead of filling needs.” It follows from this natural insatiability of the human animal that his desires can only be held in check by external controls, that is, by societal control.

Society imposes limits on human desires and constitutes "a regulative force which must play the same role for moral needs which the organism plays for physical needs."In well-regulated societies, social controls set limits on individual propensities so that "each in his sphere vaguely realizes the extreme limits set to his ambitions and aspires to nothing beyond.

When social regulations break down, the controlling influence of society on individual propensities is no longer effective and individuals are left to their own devices. Such a state of affairs Durkheim calls anomie, a term that refers to a condition of relative normlessness in a whole society or in some of its component groups. Anomie does not refer to a state of mind, but to a property of the social structure. It characterizes a condition in which individual desires are no longer regulated by common norms and where, as a consequence, individuals are left without moral guidance in the pursuit of their goals.
Social Integration
•Emile Durkheim, introduced this theory during the late 19th century.

•Durkheim believed that society exerted a powerful force on individuals. According to Durkheim, people's norms, beliefs, and values make up a collective consciousness, or a shared way of understanding and behaving in the world.

•The collective consciousness binds individuals together and creates social integration.

•Social integration is the movement of minority groups such as ethnic minorities, refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of societies.

•Social integration is the means through which people interact, connect and validate each other within a community.

More on Social Integration:
•Social integration theory shows that a lack of positive social interaction and acceptance has negative consequences from an individual, family, community and societal perspective. Integration studies have demonstrated the positive impact of interaction on isolated groups of society.

•Abnormally high or low levels of social integration may result in increased suicide rates.

•Low levels have this effect because low social integration results in disorganized society, causing people to turn to suicide as a last resort.

•High levels cause people to kill themselves to avoid becoming burdens on society.

In Mechanical Solidarity, there is a high level of social integration; while in Organic Solidarity, there is a low level of integration.
In order to describe and explain the most primitive religion known to man, Durkheim observed, we must first define the term "religion" itself: otherwise we risk drawing inferences from beliefs and practices which have nothing "religious" about them, or (and this was the greater danger to Durkheim) of leaving many religious facts to one side without understanding their true nature.
Following The Rules and Suicide, Durkheim's 1912 definition is reached by a two-step process.

First, he insisted, we must free the mind of all preconceived ideas of religion, a liberation achieved in The Elementary Forms through a characteristic "argument by elimination": "it is fitting," Durkheim suggested, “to examine some of the most current of the definitions in which these prejudices are commonly expressed, before taking up the question on our own account."
Second, Durkheim proposed to examine the various religious systems we know in their concrete reality, in order to determine those elements which they have in common; for "religion cannot be defined except by the characteristics which are found wherever religion itself is found."


According to the animistic theory, the idea of the human soul was first suggested by the contrast between the mental representations experienced while asleep (dreams) and those of normal experience.
In sharp contrast to animism, the naturistic theory insisted that religion ultimately rests upon a real experience -- that of the principal phenomena of nature (the infinity of time, space, force, etc.) -- which is sufficient to directly arouse religious ideas in the mind.
A system of religious belief which attributes sacred qualities to a particular type of animal or plant.
The earliest classes of natural phenomena were thus metaphors for human action -- a river was "something that moves steadily," the wind was "something that sighs or whistles," etc. -- and as these metaphors came to be taken literally, natural forces were quite naturally conceived as the product of powerful, personal agents.
Once these agents had received names, the names themselves raised questions of interpretation for succeeding generations, producing the efflorescence of fables, genealogies, and myths characteristic of ancient religions.

Finally, the ancestor cult, according to this theory, is purely a secondary development -- unable to face the fact of death, men postulated their possession of an immortal soul which, upon separation from the body, was gradually drawn into the circle of divine beings, and eventually deified.

Emile Durkheim studied suicide and published a book entitled “Le Suicide” which is published in 1897. The book is where he described the 4 types of suicide.

Durkheim was the first to argue that the cause of suicide is based on social factors and not on individual personalities. Instead of looking at emotional stress, Durkheim looked for causes linked to social factors

In Durkheim’s book Le Suicide, his findings where...

•Suicide rates on singles are higher than married couples
•Suicide rates on Protestants are higher than Catholics
•Suicide rates are high on military

The Four 4 Types of Suicide:

•Anomic Suicide

•Altruistic Suicide

•Egotistic Suicide

•Fatalistic Suicide

Anomic Suicide
Anomic Suicide - The cause of anomic suicide is weak social regulation between the society's norms and the individual, most often brought on by dramatic changes in economic and/or social circumstances. As defined by Durkheim, self-annihilation triggered by a person’s inability to cope with sudden and unfavorable change in a social situation.
Example: Man from riches to rags
Altruistic Suicide
Altruistic Suicide - Altruism is a state opposite to egoism, in which the individual is extremely attached to the society. Victims of altruistic suicide are those who believe that their death can benefit the society or group.
Example: A Japanese committing Hara Kiri in order to save the honour of his/her family
Ex. Kamikaze Pilots
Egoistic Suicide
Egoistic Suicide - Egoistic suicide happens when people feel totally detached from society. Ordinarily, people are integrated into society by work roles, ties to family and community, and other social bonds. According to Durkheim, when a man becomes socially isolated or feels that he has no place in the society he destroys himself.
Example : Loss of family member or friend
Example: Singles or people from a breakup
Fatalistic Suicide
Fatalistic Suicide - This type of suicide is due to overregulation in society. Fatalistic suicides occur in overly oppressive societies, causing people to prefer to die than to carry on living within their society.
Ex. Prisoners
•Durkheim's largely negative assessment of rival theories of religious origins thus led to his first positive conclusion:

"Since neither man nor nature have of themselves a sacred character," he argued, they must get it from another source. Aside from the human individual and the physical world, there should be some other reality, in relation to which this variety of delirium which all religion is in a sense, has significance and an objective value.

•In other words, beyond those which we have called animistic and naturistic, there should be another sort of cult, more fundamental and more primitive, of which the first are only derived forms or particular aspect. This more fundamental and primitive cult is Totemism.

The most fundamental of these beliefs is that the members of each clan consider themselves bound together by a special kind of kinship, based not on blood, but on the mere fact that they share the same name.
This name, moreover, is taken from a determined species of material objects (an animal, less frequently a plant, and in rare cases an inanimate object) with which the clan members are assumed to enjoy the same relations of kinship. But this "totem" is not simply a name; it is also an emblem, which, like the heraldic coats-of-arms, is carved, engraved, or designed upon the other objects belonging to the clan, and even upon the bodies of the clan members themselves.

Indeed, it is these designs which seem to render otherwise common objects "sacred," and their inscription upon the bodies of clan members indicates the approach of the most important religious ceremonies.
The primitive man grants equal status to both, and is thus led to postulate a "second self" within himself, one resembling the first, but made of an ethereal matter and capable of traveling great distances in short periods of time. The transformation of this soul into a spirit is achieved with death, which, to the primitive mind, is not unlike a prolonged sleep; and with the destruction of the body comes the idea of spirits detached from any organism and wandering about freely in space.
Henceforth, spirits are assumed to involve themselves, for good or ill, in the affairs of men, and all human events varying slightly from the ordinary are attributed to their influence.

As their power grows, men increasingly consider it wise to conciliate their favor or appease them when they are irritated, whence come prayers, offerings, sacrifices -- in short, the entire apparatus of religious worship. Reasoning wholly by analogy, the primitive mind also attributes "second selves" to all non-human objects -- plants, animals, rivers, trees, stars, etc. -- which thus account for the phenomena of the physical world; and in this way, the ancestor cult gives rise to the cult of nature.
In the end, Durkheim concluded, "men find themselves the prisoners of this imaginary world of which they are, however, the authors and models."
David Emile Durkheim
a. Social Facts and Social Aspects - Social Facts and Social Aspects affect people. Durkheim had a strong structural view of society, and the manner in which each of us is influenced by these social facts and how we must fit into these. Durkheim attempted to see a role for the social.

This can be seen in his view of the social influences on suicide rates, where he takes a wide variety of factors and considers their influence on the tendency for suicide.

The effect of each of these factors is not a simple connection between the factor and the tendency to suicide, but must be mediated by social factors. In particular, the social factors that he identified were the degree of integration and the degree of regulation. For modern theories of sociobiology, and the influence of genetics, Durkheim's approach could prove a useful counter.
b. Division of Labour - Durkheim again shows how the division of labour is set within a social context, so that economic relationships are governed by social conventions that may not always be apparent. Durkheim's view that the division of labour does not result in a disintegration of society, but changes the form of social solidarity provides a useful way of examining modern society.
c. Sociological Approaches. Many of common approaches to sociology derive from Durkheim. The method of attempting to determine social facts and their influence, along with concepts such as norms, values, socialization, institutions, etc. could be considered to come at least from Durkheim.
Problems on Durkheim's Approach
As noted above, Durkheim has a particular view of human freedom and this may be regarded as too limited. Or even if this approach is adopted, it is not clear what the basis for individual human motivation and action is. Durkheim's view is a very strong structural view. Our behavior is determined by Social facts and Society, and we have little option but to accept those. He favors such an approach, and considers deviations from this as abnormal.

This could allow his approach to be used to identify any behavior that is not part of the common morality as abnormal and perhaps deviant, something that has to be corrected or eliminated. For example, immigrants, youth culture, etc.
While there are many aspects of a common morality in our society, there are also many opportunities for individuals acting in a variety of ways in similar situations. Durkheim might recognize this as possible, but he seems to have little to say concerning the nature of human motivation. He is too concerned with the larger structural issues.
While Durkheim makes useful ideas concerning the source of societal solidarity, this often appears to be his only concern. One difficulty with Durkheim and the structural functional approach is that Durkheim almost completely ignores conflict and power differences. Durkheim may have constructed his approach in part to negate the Marxian or conflict approach to the study of society. Durkheim treats the anomic and forced forms of the division of labour as unusual, and devotes little time to their analysis.
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