Sociologist Emile Durkheim is counted as a
scientist who played a big role in a history of social sciences. His
contribution is equally important for theoretical and practical sociology. He developed
definitions that existed before and created new in order to create own concept.
There can be founded ideas about social fact, division of labor, religion,
solidarity, functioning of social institutions that lead to general definition
of society and goals as well as to the approach of examining society.

At the early stage of his career of sociologist
Durkheim declared that there is a necessity to make society stable. It means
that stability is achievable in case of justice in economical distribution that
never has to be more that individual freedom of a person (Jeffrey C. Alexander, 1986). One of the most important category of analyzes that
appeared in Durkheim’s concept is ‘social fact’ though it will be the main for the
essay. Durkheim defined ‘social fact’ as “a category
of facts which present very special characteristics: they consist of manners of
acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual, which are invested
with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him” (Jones, 1986). Thoughts, feelings and actions are
included in that definition that means they are not biological issues. There
would be a sense to argue that is also has to be in psychology rather than in
sociology, however, French scientists states social facts are presented outside
individual conscience. Later he implemented his definition into developing
method that is presented in his fundamental work ‘The Rule of Sociological Method’
(1985). Examples of social facts can be different such as beliefs, group’s traditions
and habits, intentions. He points also that social fact is any kind of action
that makes external constraint on individuals.

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Social facts are modes of human behavior that are sanctioned upon the
individual in a group because of membership (Giddens, 1972). Thus, Durkheim
does not say states of consciousness are excluded from sociology. Social
phenomena cannot be studied by the concepts of psychology only because
individual does not exist alone in society. At the same time studying some
social problems there is no way not to accept positive influence of psychology.
Sociologist can gain findings but has to be careful with similar acquaints. The
example of it can be suicide and many other social issues. For example, psychologists
would see the reasons of suicide in personal characteristics; however, this
explanation cannot be implemented to all individuals and all societies. The
evidence for the society difference is statistic data that show us there are
different suicide rates between societies that means there has to be counted
social factors, not only psychological matters. Apart from the examining
society to which social fact belongs it is needed to observe phase of the society’s
development. Social fact can be normal for specific period.  It follows that facts are normal and not
normal. Social fact is not normal when it is not normal for the certain state
of development. For this society has to be examined somehow in evolution
together with its specialties. What can be the example of normal social fact?
Durkheim made contribution in studying criminality that is why we can find
example there. Criminality exists in all societies differing within the forms
of it and level of crimes. Criminality can be counted normal for the period of society’s
development when it is not above certain limit. That can be spread on other
social issues as well.

Thus, Durkheim considered social facts are presented as ‘normal’ and
‘pathological’. Normal social facts as it was mentioned above exist almost
everywhere and function until the moment when they are up to certain limit.
Jones (1986) writes that ‘pathological’ facts appear for short term as well as
on few occasions. The determination of social fact as normal means types that
are observed have characteristics that appear most often. Consequently, other
facts are ‘pathological’ when they are in contrast to some average
characteristics of types or species. The one more statement that was important
for Durkheim is period of the development of that ‘fact’. We have to pay
attention on the phase of society’s development studying facts and on the
duration of that phase/period. When it comes to the figuring out where the
normal and pathological facts differ there are is a dilemma that appears for
sociologists. According to Durkheim, for any social fact there are reasons that
come before. That reasons also produce outcomes and it is not easy to draw out
which reasons caused which effects of social fact. That is why studying of
social facts raise the issue of separation between social health and social
disorder. Durkheim made an attempt to find an objective criterion that would
solve the dilemma. By using that criterion normal social facts are discovered
in most or all entities with limited diversity. ‘Pathological’ facts are faced
in a small number of cases and for short-lived periods of existence of the
individual. When we are able also the define the average type, the term that
was also used by Durkheim, it means that social facts that are normal are near
that type, and pathological ones are far and vary a lot. Therefore, the normal
fact is normal for specific period of the social type, appearing in average
society in a certain stage of evolution. There were also two important
statements mentioned. Firstly, the fact we learn is counted as more normal as
it has outside sign of it that appears not accidentally but “grounded in the nature of things”(Durkheim,
1950). Secondly, the knowledge that we use in that cases has to raise up the
question why we want to study certain issues and events. When the investigation
starts and general fact is found, the next step for researcher is to rebuild
the conditions of that fact and decide If they are continue to be relevant to
it. If they can be further implemented to the fact so that is normal fact. If
the conditions have been changed, so the normality is merely apparent. Another
rule for distinguishing facts thus can be formulated as If we want to verify
the consequences and results of the used method, it is enough to show that
general characteristic of phenomena we observe is connected with general
aspects of collective life in the social type under examination.

Selecting crime as a category of analyze Durkheim made a conclusion that
its pathological feature exists indisputably. He discovered that crimes are in
all societies and at all periods of their development. Even more, despite all
attempts to demolish crimes, they are increasing as civilization growths. So
the conclusion for French sociologist was that we cannot find the fact that has
all syndromes of normality because it is always connected with the collective
life and its circumstances. However, the crimes play a role of supporter of the
healthy and normal conditions of society and they work towards social health. There
are few more words about the crime, the example that was used by Durkheim and
shown in the book The Division of Labor. He demonstrated there that crime is an
action that insults feelings of the members of collective. In this case feelings
have to be changed and each individual has to accept that offensive feelings to
the degree of strength that it will be enough to contradict to the opposite
feelings. If this happened, not strong states of collective conscience, when
people broke the rules on a certain not high level, also have to change their
feelings and what was unusual for the society becomes criminal. What happens is
an increasing of collective feelings to the extent that is enough to suppress the
dissentient voices and it becomes contradictory to the
environments which condition the compatible instability of individual
consciences. However, there is no society where members do not vary from the
conscience collective, so it means some of the anomalies have criminal
character.  What seems strange for people
who live nowadays but was normal for Durkheim is that crime is useful for the
society. The development of the law and morality leads to the deep society’s
transformations in collective feelings. These transformations are intensive,
and the crimes stop existing only if at least one collective sentiment becomes
exceptionally strong. When we tell about moral issues society has to let
individuals include creativity in their lives because ideal forms produce
criminal.

Giddens (1972) presenting Durkheim’s concept in ‘Selected Writings’
emphasizes social facts have to be viewed as ‘things’. The thing is object of
knowledge that is separate from our intellect and mental activity. By the experiments
mind goes outside itself and in this case become more external. The interesting
point is that the scientist does not refuse the fact that there is a psychological
factor, natural mechanisms that can be also scientifically studied. To define
social facts as things and operate with them they have to have crucial
features; if they do not exist, research starts assuming they occur. As for the
studying of social facts there are rules that according to Durkheim have to be used
by sociologist (Jones, 1986). The first rule is to get rid of definitions and
concepts that come from other sciences. For the studying there have to be used
terms that formulated within sociology. It is said in ‘The Rule of Sociological
Method’ about the right way of scientist’s behavior: “He
must free himself from those fallacious notions which hold sway over the mind
of the ordinary person, shaking off, once and for all the yoke of those
empirical categories that long habit often makes tyrannical” (Durkheim, 1950). The second one
is that sociologist has to choose and investigate phenomena that are similar by
certain indications that formulated in advance. Not the ideal model of an issue
has to appear in research but the fact defined and explained through some
outside characteristics. This definition has also to be followed by all
phenomena that correlate to it. The definitions have to be again objective and
we can observe how Durkheim created his conception and method tending to make
everything objective and ‘clean’. In each step he has done in terms of
methodology it is visible that we need to be only in sociology as a science and
not in other sciences as well as we need to use only necessary definitions,
terms, issues and facts that would be useful for the survey. That special characteristic
makes sense in modern sociology as well. I think nowadays sociology has a big
disadvantage (especially in practical scope) that is regularly mixed with other
fields of sciences: psychology, marketing, management, statistics, etc.
Sometimes it is good; however, if we are named as sociologists and researches
in social sciences we have to stay in that field. The third rule tells
examining social facts means isolating them from the individual display. Somehow
the objects that we take under study has to be fixed, these objects might be
formulated during the existence of society/community and can be clearly
investigated. The examples are legitimate and moralistic rulings, social
construction’s elements, axioms and aphorisms.

Durkheim states and defines social organizations. They consist of
actions and reactions and when individual consciences interact the result is
collective sentiment (Alexander, 1989). Collective facts are connected with
emotions. Social facts, despite they are balanced between collective and
individual, they can be described as state of collective mind. Durkheim
developed this in his book The Division of Labor, writing that it can be rules
created by people morally and legally to establish order and stability in
society, beliefs and customs. When social fact becomes wider as migration, criminalities,
changing in child-birth, sociologists have to use statistic data in order to
separate these social issues from individual movements. Nowadays that is
obvious for researches in social sciences, although, at the time of Durkheim his
statement was breakout in practical sphere of sociology.

How social fact can be recognized? We can find two answers in the
present concept. Social facts can appear when sanction or any legal punishments
exist, in case of societies with predominant beliefs when social actions are
perceived as threatens by members. Meanwhile we can observe social pressure less
straightforward, social facts become general and objective because they are
common for group’s members. Even though social facts continue to be for us
external, powerful viewed through the control they express towards the
individuals. The one important thing that has to be mentioned is that social
facts are viewed through measures of functioning and being. That means social
facts are actions as thinking and feeling emotions as well as size of
population, rates, essence of society.

There were the rules for structure of social types and interpretation of
social facts defined by Durkheim. Defining fact as normal or pathological
always relates to the type it relates. As the society consists of components,
their character depends on the amount of those components, character of them,
and how they relate to each other. So the social types have to be divided
according to rule: the societies have to be classified conferring to the degree
of institutional system they create, taking as a basic point the simple society
(Jones, 1986). The criterion for the classes’ separation will be existence or
non-existence of consolidation of the basic elements of the society. What was
more stated about the explanation of the social fact is that true facts have to
be explained by other facts. Explanation of the social fact is connected with
the reason or ’cause’ of it. Identifying social facts as things means outside
and forced strength prevail individual feelings. Sometimes it is not necessary
to be connected with individual wishes because forces can come from the habit
so individual wishes and feelings do not create social facts themselves – the
causes of social fact are more global. Thus, as there are many factors and
reasons that influenced creating fact, researching certain social issue we need
to investigate its cause and its function separately.

According to the explanation of facts Durkheim wrote one more thing why we
cannot rely on psychology and use the method we use. We can be sure that the
society consists of individuals and at one point is only sum of the members
(this definition is basic for psychologists). However, recourse to the biology
provides us the response to the opposite to the psychological statement
opinion. Cell consists of molecules, but they do not invent a new life – this
is the function of organizations of cells. That leads us to the conclusion that
telling about something as simply sum of elements is not correct – there is
more and bigger than the sum. Another remark was made is that the associations
and organizations were not created by individuals because of their wishes.
There appear in society naturally – that is found in all society’s evolution –
because people are willing to create responsibilities that they follow
voluntary. Individuals never decide that they would like to create some
organizations or unite for some reasons – they gather naturally – that are the
reasons of association’s appearance. The next rule that comes for the causes of
social facts is that we need to find them among prior social facts and not
among human consciences. Another rule that follows previous one refers to the role
of social fact – it carries to the social edge. Durkheim wrote that each
phenomenon is located in the environment and he created special term for it.
The environment comprises elements that are not only individuals, however also
objects as rules, art and material objects. Social facts vary depending on the
ways of connecting these elements in society, so the forms of associations
influence social facts directly. That environment is called inner and the rule
is the following: the basis of the social action lays in the nature of inner
environment. By formulating the rules Emile Durkheim became special person in
the history of sociology because his approach and conception was somehow
combination of the theories existed before. He showed that social facts can be
studied through their individual manifestation together with conditions and
nature of society that is more that sum of elements but special organizations
and connections.

Another aspect of conception of social facts I would like to develop in
my essay is connected with rules for display of proof in sociology. Why it is
important in the area of social facts? I think writing and studying about
social facts is needed for those who want to know everything about history of
methodology and my opinion is that choosing this topic for essay means
mentioning that kind of rules as well because it lies in practical side of
social sciences. There are different methods of studying how cases we observe
depend on each other and if one is the reason of another. There is an
experiment where we as monitors take two facts artificially and identify the
dependence we want to confirm or reject. If we are not able to produce facts
unnaturally we can just accept them as they appear spontaneously. This method
is comparative. Implementing right methods there is new rule to follow in the
studying: certain effect conforms to the identical reason. Durkheim formulated
few more methods for studying. Firstly, when we have statistical data about the
general facts we have to choose those data that conform to the one particular
society. Secondly, having data from different societies about the social type we
will be able to use comparative analyze. This means we can observe how social
fact evaluated during the time in different societies, compare its histories,
and the conditions in which facts were developed. Thirdly, the societies we
take for the research has to be taken at the same stage of the evolution.

The last thing I want to mention is related to the features of the
sociological method that will be also summarizing of the Durkheim’s conception.
The method is independent and unique for the sociology and we do not have to
confuse it with other approaches and concepts. Even If they catch our interest
it is because social facts are reflections of social group interests. Social
facts are studied as things along with what constructed them and these things
are explained by other facts-things.

The goal of my essay was to write about the social fact – the term created
by Durkheim and developed in his sociological method and other conceptions.
This is counted as basic element that has to be understood in order to use
later his other conceptions about crimes, anomaly, etc. I tried to define the
term and what is important – to show how it can be used for the research by the
sociologist’s point of few. In my personal opinion, his attempt to make a new
conception was very successful. Those definitions and conceptions were created
many years ago for the society that had absolutely different form than now, but
they can be used nowadays as well with transformation according to the modern
society.