Summary of Durkheim's Sociological Theory
Emile Durkheim is one of the major leaders in the delineation of sociology. Durkheim set out on a mission to define how sociology should be considered and how the method of sociology should be used. Although Durkheim’s writing does touch upon certain moral, political organization, and intellectual issues, overall, Durkheim sets out to provide a theoretical construction for the study of sociology. Durkheim desires to understand societal life through various social constructs. His agenda entails “accurately distinguish[ing] social facts” and further “show[ing] what it is that gives them their identity” (Giddens 52). He basically would like to analyze how societies work and what factors can be used to describe different aspects between and within societal boundaries. According to Durkheim, we need to recognize the different parts of sociology as being related. He claims that we must study and analyze the social facts in order to “avoid reducing sociology to nothing but a conventional label applied to an incoherent collection of disparate disciplines” (Giddens 52). Durkheim did not wish to separate sociology from all of the other sciences because he knew that all of the sciences are closely related. Instead of defining the exact definition of sociology, he wishes to explain what sociology includes as best as possible. Durkheim fully believed that sociology was more than just the accumulation of its parts. He focused on social facts instead of what motivates an individual human being.
Collins notes that sociology is unified “around a quest for a general theory rather than merely a set of investigations of social problems or historical particulars” (Collins 186). We must not try and define sociology in terms of the historical context of events. Durkheim has a serious interest in distinguishing between historical and functional aspects of life. Durkheim argued that the “basic contents of sociology should be historical: only by taking a long sweep of time
Cited: Collins, Randall. Four Sociological Traditions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Giddens, Anthony, ed. Emile Durkheim: Selected Writings. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998.