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Emile Durkheim’s theory focuses on social structures and the relation to human behaviour. He theorized that an individual’s behaviour is greatly impacted by social facts. Durkheim focuses on functionalism; the belief that society needs all parts to function. Examples of social facts are religion, traditions and laws. An individual will obey the law because they are told to do so or they will celebrate Christmas because that is a tradition in their family, as well as a religious holiday. Both of these are external factors that impact and affect how a person will behave.Social structures are divided into four categories; global, meso, macro and micro. When an individual’s behaviour is affected by their community, that is the meso level. The meso level of society focuses on how someone is influenced by things like government, schools, work or clubs. If a person lives in a communist run nation they will obey the laws because they are told to do so. An example of this may be a female wearing a burqa because that is the law of the country she lives in and by not following the law she will face a serious penalty.
Macro structures refer to how someone would behave based on what is happening in society. An example of how this could impact human behaviour is; if there is a recession or a low employment rate, a person may cut back on spending or make use of a local food bank in order to survive. Micro structures are family, friends and peers. If an individual comes from a family of high social status, it is more likely that they will continue to remain in that social class. For example if they come from a family where both parents are lawyers, they are more likely to pursue a career that offers them the same social status. Another example could be a teenager who starts smoking because their best friend does and it is perceived as an activity that will make them look cool.Global structures refer to the whole world. An example of this could relate to the food industry and how supply and demand around the world has caused a change in the farming industry. Farmers tend to be larger scale and produce at a much faster rate than they have in the past since there is a larger population to feed and support than there was 100 years ago.
A personal example in relation to Durkheim’s theory is in my home town, it is a common social norm to go to college, get married young, settle down and start a family. The majority of people follow this pattern and continue the traditions of the parents. In my immediate family, my siblings followed this norm. They were all married young, had children and moved back into the same community that they were born and raised in; just like my parents did. Another example that is relevant to Durkheim’s theory of human behaviour is many individuals who went to post-secondary are graduating with student loans and are having a difficult time finding employment; they are not buying houses as young and are either renting or continuing to live with their parents to save money.
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