Durkheim on Totemism

Topics: Sociology, Anthropology, Émile Durkheim Pages: 3 (1559 words) Published: April 26, 2014
In order to truly assess the legitimacy of Durkheim's functionalist definition of religion, his notion of Social facts, (upon which his theory is constructed) must be examined. Durkheim advocated that amongst the reputable fields of biology, psychology and history, Sociology also warranted a specific focus. It was, for him: a 'sui generis' "something that had to be explained on its own terms". Sociology was not, for Durkheim, a field that should be susceptible to overlapping subject matter: he believed that there existed concrete social facts recognisable "by the power of eternal coercion" which they are "capable of exercising over individuals". This claim is an imperative one because it is the platform on which his functionalist definition of Religion is situated, without it his beliefs on Totemism cannot materialise. Here Comte's belief that sociology was the 'queen science' at the top of the scientific hierarchy seems influential. Durkheim admired Comte's belief that sociology should be concerned with concrete social facts and his desire to find humanities fundamental tendency "which directly impels man to ameliorate his condition". But he felt Comte had merely shown why such facts were useful, not where they originated from. In Gabriel Tarde we find an objection to Durkheim's scientific approach as he says "sociological concepts which are released from all psychological foundation (are) frivolous and fantastical". This seems a valid argument: to completely detach sociology from pyschology or any other study of the human condition seems outlandish, more then one factor is surely at play here. Is sociology not an umbrella term for a study of the intricate intertwining factors that make up social systems, not a discipline overriding everything. It almost seems that Durkheim's desire to see sociology as a respected scientific discipline leads him to regard social facts as external, because through this he can make a case for his beloved disciplines integrity....
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