David Emile Durkheim(15 April 1858-15 November 1917) was a French sociologist. He played a great role in development of sociology as an academic discipline. He played a great role during the period of enlightenment. He inherited the conservative tradition. Durkheim legitimized sociology in France,his work ultimately became a dominant force in the development of sociology in general and of sociological theory in particular.
He was politically liberal and feared social disorders. He viewed social disorders as an unnecessary part of modern world and stated that social reforms can be used to reduce them.
1.The Rules of Sociological Method
He stated that the main aim of sociology is to study social facts. Social facts are the ways if thinking,acting and feeling which are external,coercive and outside individuals. He reasoned that if he could link individual behavior to social facts then it would become easy to understand sociology as an academic discipline. Durkheim differentiated between two types of social facts, ie, material social facts and non material social facts. Material facts include bureaucracy, governance and economy etc whereas non material facts include religion, culture, ethics etc. Durkheim mainly focused on the study of non material social facts.
2. The Divison of Labour in the Society.
In this work, Durkheim basically focused on the comparative analysis of what held old and modern societies together. He stated that primitive societies were held together by non material social facts or strongly held common morality or what he called collective conscience. But as the world grew so did the complexities and this resulted in the weakening of collective conscience. The initial bond in the modern world was an detailed division of labour which held people together in dependency relationship but the modern division of labour brought with it several pathologies and proved to be an insufficient technique of holding the society together. Durkheim did not favour a revolution to solve these problems instead he suggested a variety of reforms that could patch up the modern system and keep it stable.
Durkheim adopted a very scientific approach in investigating the matter of suicide. He stated that suicide was not committed only by psychological or personal reasons but it also involved various social as well as economic reasons. Suicide was not a doing of an individual but it had collective efforts of various elements. Rather than focusing on individuality of suicide he focused on the rate of suicide and incidence. He noticed that suicide rates were different among different caste,class,sex,society, ethnicity etc. Thus he proved that suicide is affected by various other reasons including psychological factors.
4.The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
Durkheim examined primitive society in order to find the roots of religion and he found out that society was the source of religion. Society defined certain things as religious and others as profane. He also studied totemism. Durkheim concluded that society and religion were same, religion was the way society expressed itself in the form of non material social facts.
Emile Durkheim’s works contributed a lot in development of sociology, he cleared the initially vague facts and matters. He also set up a journal devoted to sociology named L’annèe Sociologique, this made sociological understanding more easy. Sociologists and the students of sociology will forever be grateful to him for his enormous and intricate contributions