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Emile Durkheim: Making Sociology a Science

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Sociology is the study of development, structure, and functioning of human society as a whole. Ask yourself, Who is credited with making sociology a science? The founding father, Emile Durkheim is credited with making sociology a science. The explanation why society functions the way it does by focusing on the relationships between the various social institutions that make up society is called structural functionalism. Emile Durkheim developed his theory on structural functionalism by creating a series of theories; functionalism, the division of labor, and anomie. All of these theories were based on social facts, values, and structures where society is made up of interrelated parts. Durkheim has many contributions to Sociology that impacted people’s perspective on life.

Emile Durkheim was born and raised in France to a heritage family that was Jewish. Later in his life he decided to move to Paris where he created an interest in Catholicism, but he chose to no longer pursue it. Emile wrote famous books such as, Suicide, and The Division of Labor in Society that discussed his experiments on religion, social pathologies, methodology, and crime. Like most people, Durkheim’s contributions, social facts, and values were driven by an inspiration; that inspiration was Auguste Comte’s positivism and realism outlooks which caused Durkheim to realize that he had to study religion in an agnostic point of view. In the book, ‘’Suicide’’, Durkheim shares his beliefs on how what is seen as the most individual act is actually the result of the social world, not just the individual person. Furthermore, everything we do as individuals affect the whole world as a whole. So he decided to test this theory by comparing suicide rates among Catholics, and Protestants. His result was that Catholics have lower suicide rates because there social control was more stable, while with Protestants their suicidal rates were higher because of less integration and structure. He theorized that suicide can be caused by three main scenarios; fatalistic, egoistic, anomic, and altruistic scenes.

Whenever there are loose connections or lack of social ties to any social group it is known as egoistic suicide. For example, a high school kid sitting at the lunch table alone and gets antagonized for having no friends or being too attached to a group. When one commits suicide to benefit others or a community by giving primary consideration to individuals or members of the group is defined as altruistic suicide. For example, A hand grenade is thrown into a room full of soldiers and one soldiers jumps onto the grenade knowing that he will die, but hopes the other soldiers will survive. Durkheim also believed that self sacrifice was an example of altruism in war. To continue, a condition in which individuals are characterized by an absence or diminution of standards or values is defined as anomie. Picture the scenario of the Great Depression when unemployment was out the roof and many people couldn’t provide for their families anymore. Therefore families were evicted from their homes and felt that life no longer had meaning to them, which lead to suicide. Fatalistic suicide occurs when an individual is under great oppression and they see no possible way to improve their life. A perfect example would be being taken from your family and forced into slavery for the rest of your life.

Emile Durkheim quotes, ‘’Our whole social environment seems to us to be filled with forces which really exist only in our minds.’’ In this world, everyone that travels in and out of our lives contain negative or positive forces that give us the illusion of non acceptance, discrimination, and judgement. One of his major contributions to sociology was his study on religion and how it affected solidarity. Durkheim explained suicide from a sociological perspective and portrayed that suicide was not one hundred percent a psychological fact. He was a creative man so he provided sociology with a method to perform research in the concept of social facts. Sociology is the study of development, structure, and functioning of human society as a whole. Emile Durkheim portrayed studies and proof of development, structure, and the functions of human society with his notorious theories on Sociology.

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Emile Durkheim: Making Sociology a Science. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
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