Book Report: The Rules of Sociological Method

Topics: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Social fact Pages: 2 (567 words) Published: November 21, 2008
In The Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim aimed to boost sociology as a valid science for identifying knowledge. He introduced the term social fact as the focus of his study. The article offers various explanations of what a social fact is according to Durkheim, but he best defines the meaning in his last line of the work. “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” (Farganis 63). In other words, a social fact for one society may be completely different for another society. Durkheim explains that he experiences social facts as he carries out duties “externally to [himself]…in laws and in custom” (59). Such acts as being a family member, friend, citizen, or religious follower constitute social facts through the thoughts and behaviors attached to each. Another important aspect to note is that Durkheim meant for social facts not to be confused with the sciences of psychology or biology, both of which are specific to the individual, not the collective. Durkheim further explains the problematic nature of social facts. He says that they are not only external to the individual, but are also “endowed with coercive power, by virtue of which they impose themselves upon [a person], independent of his individual will” (59). This means that social facts control behavior and take away the individual’s right to free will and choice in a legal sense. Attempting to violate a social fact would be thwarted at the first sign, and success in violating would result in compensation for one’s actions. Furthermore, violation of social facts has social implications, such as “ridicule” and “social isolation” (59). Regardless, Durkheim believes that the ideas and behaviors that make up social facts are the basis of sociology as a...
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