Emile Durkheim Contribution to Sociology Essay

Modern sociologists widely recognize Émile Durkheim as one of the founders of the discipline of sociology. Durkheim is well-known for his influential studies on suicide, coining the term anomie. He advocated for sociologists to study social facts, explored the concept of social constraint, and developed the idea of organic solidarity, shaping the field of sociology.

Firstly, one of Émile Durkheim's major contributions to sociology was the creation of the concept of anomie, which refers to "a situation in which social norms lose their hold over individual behavior" (Giddens, 2017). He proposed that times of change could lead an individual to become alienated from group values. The advent of industrialization brought about this process in large part, due to the constant evolution of society. Durkheim links this back to suicide, giving a wider social explanation for what was previously viewed as a very personal event. Émile Durkheim's suicide studies, while controversial, imparted a lasting impact on the sociological sphere. His book, Suicide, was groundbreaking in that it opened the gateway for other suicide research and was the first book to present a sociological study, paving the way for future researchers and establishing the basis of the subject.

Additionally, Durkheim's sociological theories also encompassed the ideas of division of labor and social integration. He proposed that there were two types of social integration: mechanical, based on shared beliefs and sentiments, and organic, resulting from specialization and interdependence. He believed that these concepts reflected the different ways in which societies organized themselves. These organizational methods could lead to social cohesion, which Durkheim called either organic or mechanical solidarity. These ideas are the basis for many contemporary sociologists in their studies of society, laying the foundation for countless new theories based around the central ideas of cohesion. Distinguishing between these two types of organizational societies has enabled sociologists to propose comprehensive developmental and comparative theories.

Émile Durkheim also worked with the idea of social constraint, the limiting forces of society. Building off his ideas of social cohesion and systems, he proposed that the structure of society constrains individual activity. This idea manifests in social norms, which are components of society that dictate expected individual behavior. These ideas, consequentially, have allowed present-day sociologists to more thoroughly understand the workings of society and its evolution.

Perhaps more importantly, Durkheim possessed unique views pertaining to how researchers should study social concepts. Unlike Comte and Spencer before him, he emphasized the importance of studying sociology through social facts, which are the aspects of social life. This approach of objectivity allowed sociology to develop into a scientific, empirical field, rather than speculation. For this reason, Durkheim is known as one of the main founders of the discipline, since his ideas have created the very basis of study today. Although there are those who disagree with his other theories, the idea of studying sociology with social facts remains the core of the field. Émile Durkheim's work has allowed modern knowledge and understanding of the workings of human society to progress to the point it is today.

Personal Opinion

Throughout his life, Émile Durkheim postulated various theories which have come to have a wide impact on the world of sociology. His view of studying the field using social facts is correct, in that it provides a non-biased basis for research and theoretical development. This view allowed for sociology to develop into a scientific branch, able to be analyzed and revised.

On the other hand, Durkheim's ideas concerning social constraint, while accurate, are not entirely complete. He proposed social facts constrained (or could constrain) individuals within their society. For example, norms could dictate what someone could or could not do. However, Durkheim was unable to recognize any internal factors affecting the behavior of an individual. Social facts are external, but sociologists now recognize biological instincts as playing a certain role in human behavior. This leads to the nature vs. nurture debate, but most sociologists can agree that both have an impact.

Separately, Durkheim's ideas of social organization (mechanical or organic) ring very true when analyzing the societies of the past and present. Historically, some groups have been organized through mechanical cohesion, with nearly uniform cultural beliefs with a group. These groups were often small and pre-industrialized, such as the hunter-gather tribes of prehistoric periods. Organic solidarity is more prevalent today, where the division of labor creates economic interdependence. While the theories of organic and mechanical organization seem accurate, there are also other ways of viewing a society that could also apply, such as classification by political or economic system.

Finally, the idea of anomie as proposed by Émile Durkheim has shown to be correct with the passage of time. As researchers delve more deeply into the idea of the Emile Durkheim suicide theory, they have discovered that his proposal of a disconnect from social norms leading to suicide has proven to be true in many cases. Additionally, the concept of anomie has been expanded beyond suicide, providing explanations for many modern behaviors.

In conclusion, Emile Durkheim theory contributed much to the world, shaping the discipline of sociology. Many of his theories have proven to hold true over the years, and his viewpoints remain insightful. Even for those who disagree with him, Durkheim must still be recognized for the vast foundation he laid in the sociological field.


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