Saturday, April 22, 2017

Emile Durkheim: pioneer of modern sociology

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is a famous sociologist best known for his systematic analysis of society and coining the term 'social fact'. Along with Karl Marx and Max Weber, Durkheim is considered one of the pioneers of modern social science. Erich Fromm says,
One of the most penetrating diagnoses of the capitalist culture in the nineteenth century was made by sociologist, E. Durkheim, who was neither a political nor a religious radical. (The Sane Society, 1955)
This post is a collection of Quotes from Durkheim regarding his philosophy of society.

What is a social fact?

"A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations." (Rules of Sociological Method, 1895)

"When, then, the sociologist undertakes the investigation of some order of social facts, he must endeavour to consider them from an aspect that is independent of their individual manifestations." (Rules of Sociological Method, 1895)

Analysis of concepts

"At the roots of all our judgments there are a certain number of essential ideas which dominate all our intellectual life; they are what philosophers since Aristotle have called the categories of the understanding: ideas of time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, etc. They correspond to the most universal properties of things." (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912)

"Now, it is unquestionable that language, and consequently the system of concepts which it translates, is the product of a collective elaboration. What it expresses is the manner in which society as a whole represents the facts of experience. The ideas which correspond to the diverse elements of language are thus collective representations." (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912)

"The category of class was at first indistinct from the concept of the human group; it is the rhythm of social life which is at the basis of the category of time; the territory occupied by the society furnished the material for the category of space; it is the collective force which was the prototype of the concept of efficient force, an essential element in the category of causality." (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912)

Division of labor

"The division of labour is not of recent origin, but it was only at the end of the eighteenth century that social cognizance was taken of the principle. though, until then, unwitting submission had been rendered to it. To be sure, several thinkers from earliest times saw its importance; but Adam Smith was the first to attempt a theory of it. Moreover, he adopted this phrase that social science later lent to biology." (The Division of Labor in Society, 1893)

"Nowadays, the phenomenon (of division of labor) has developed so generally it is obvious to all." (The Division of Labor in Society, 1893)

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