Sociology and Emile Durkheim

Topics: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber Pages: 8 (2633 words) Published: July 23, 2013
Compare and contrast the theories and methods of Emile Durkheim and Max Weber regarding social behavior.

Emile Durkheim and Max Weber are founding fathers of sociology and outstanding sociologists who made great contributions to the development of sociology and progress of human beings. Previous studies have been done about the theories and methods of Durkheim and Weber, and their works have also been studied for many times from different viewpoints, such as the nature of human and social world, their mutual unawareness of each other and so on. However, few studies have been done to compare and contrast their thoughts and methodologies on social behavior. This essay examines Durkheim’ and Weber’s theories and methods regarding social behavior and discusses the similarities and differences between them. In the first part of this essay, Durkheim’s theory of social behavior-social facts, which is independently of individuals and have coercive power-will be presented and then the method he used-statistics and comparison--will be discussed. The second part of this work will analyze Weber’s theory of social behavior-social action, action which is directed to another human beings-and then the method-verstehen, which involves the interpretive understanding of social action-and tool-Ideal Types, imagined by scientist to compare social phenomena-will be presented clearly. Further more, I will move on to the major part of this essay, in this part, similarities such as that they both use comparison in their research, and difference between Durkheim’s and Weber’s theories and methods on social behavior such as their attitudes towards individuals, will be proposed from different aspects and perspectives respectively.

2.Emile Durkheim’s theory and method regarding social behavior Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is a French sociologist and one of the key thinkers of early positivism. Positivism is an epistemological approach,Which applies the scientific method to the study of social world. Emile Durkheim, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is regarded as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology. His theory concerned with social behavior is the concept of Social Facts, which is presented clearly in his masterpiece On Suicide and The Rules of Sociological Method (Mohseni, 1994, P.90). When studying suicide rates, he applied scientific method by collecting mass of statistics, which is objective and empirical.

2.1Theory: Social Facts
A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual and 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. —Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method (Delanty and Strydom, 2003, P.27) According to Durkheim, social facts are social structures, such as institutions, traditions, beliefs and patterns of behavior, that exist independently of the individual Benton and Craib, 2001, P25). In another word, social facts are the regular ways of doing something, and the rules individuals follow in society. For example, each individual is born into an already existing society in which the institutions and practices are already in existence (Benton and Craib, 2001, P.25). Therefore these structures exert a ‘coercive power’ over us—we are forced to follow the established rules and learn to fit into the dominant patterns of behaviors. For instance, each of us have to communicate with others and learn basic skills if we participate in our society. Obviously social facts can control social behaviors. For example, couple who get divorced are not against rules of law, but against moral beliefs, in another word, rules of society. In order to prove the existence of social facts and figure out whether human behavior is caused by social structures, Durkheim did research on suicide, which will be presented...
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