Over time the study and application of social sciences have become to be viewed differently in comparison to those in the realm of natural sciences. By definition and practise Social sciences rely more on subjective details and inference than do those of the natural sciences which rely on empirical data to derive conclusions. Emile Durkheim sought to establish rules and practises for the methods used to discover new information utilized by the social sciences. With his publication of the book, “The Rules of the Sociological Method”, Durkheim’s theory of the social fact was revealed and presented as a practical and workable model for utilization within the discipline of the study of social behaviour. Durkheim goes on within his writings to break down his theory and to outline the different rules. Seemingly the most vital section establishes the “Rules for the Constitution of Social Types”. Social Types is a significant concept and the section that defines it is most important, this is due to the clarity in which brings it to his thesis and because it aids in relating the theory of social facts to particular societies and species. It is for these reasons that one can clearly see the concept and refinement of social types is the most vital piece to Emile Durkheim’s theory of social facts.
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Durkheim’s theory on Social Facts is based upon the thesis that there is a “category of facts which present very special characteristics: they consist of manners of acting, thinking and feeling external to the individual. Which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him”. This definition shows that Durkheim is focusing on sociology and the main forms of socialization; acting, thinking and feeling and how they control an individual. Along with this definition Durkheim continues to refine his outline that a social fact is a thing that stems from an idea not an idea from a thing.(page 60). From this frame of reference Durkheim further explores the social fact and the many other variables that make up its sum.
Durkheim identifies that social facts are divided into two separate groups: normal and pathological. Normal social facts are attributes or characteristics that are found in most if not all of a population, while pathological social facts are found within a limited number of the population and are sometimes only experienced for a brief period of time. With this clarity one can begin to see the importance of social types and it’s relation to Durkheim’s thesis as you cannot categorize something as normal or pathological until you are fully aware of its social type. Simply, this is due to the fact that you will not know how common or uncommon a particular social fact may be to a population until it has been identified and categorized.
The importance of social types however begins to be more clearly portrayed when analyzing the rules for the constitution of social types. Durkheim implies that human beings are not all the same and suggests many different groups of “species” exist amongst us. He does his best to distinguish himself from the historian and philosopher who both view society in much different ways. The historian looks at every event and occurrence within society in sequence to that particular time as unique and will not be repeated. On the other hand is the philosopher, who views humans as different groups who are governed by laws and justice. These laws aid in taking humans through the many stages of growth and evolution into more complex and modern societies. Sociology takes a much different view and approach than these two disciplines.
Durkheim believes that cities are made up of many different types of “species” with the inference that many of these species are similar in several ways. Durkheim theorizes that these differences arise within each particular species and calls them social facts affording each a classification accordingly to the particular species. In my frame of reference and after having been exposed to Durkheim’s concept’s I find myself supporting Durkheim’s views as practical and realistic of the three, in accordance to how society is really made up. The historian sees no relation in anything while the philosopher believes that laws applied to certain societies are what dictate how that society will progress, sociology seems to be a medium to these two schools of thought. Conceptually this shows that social types can be seen in many different ways of thinking and is not limited to sociology or any discipline for that matter. Durkheim uses these social types to apply social facts with this aiding in explaining how and why certain things occur socially. Durkheim correlates social fact with a very heavy reliance on social types.
While Durkheim does an excellent job in outlining and creating his theory regarding social facts, he does encounter some problems. One issue he identifies and discusses is not how many different species there may be, but what exactly is the best way to go about classifying them. Durkheim states, “We shall begin by classifying societies according to the degree of organisation they manifest, taking as a base the perfectly simple society or the single-segment society. Within these classes different varieties will be distinguished, according to whether a complete coalescence of the initial segments takes place”. Durkheim describes the idea of classifying different societies by their organisation as a whole. Ultimately, categorizing the seemingly more advanced societies as superior in comparison to others that do not appear to be as advanced.
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There may be some critique given to this idea, that Durkheim may believe a society has little going on while quite the opposite is actually taking place. The term “simple” is used to describe these lower societies, which one may interpret this classification as labelling this group as primitive. One could say that the difference in language, culture and practice creates a barrier and the automatic classification of “simple” is wrong. Still I must digress; one can see the importance that this classification has to Durkheim’s theory. The fact that dependencies exist within these societies makes it so that modern societies must rely on resources and labour that are more complex in comparison to the more “simple” societies who must also rely on resources and labour fitted to suit their needs.
The impact that the social type has can be seen clearly as the theory of the social fact is defined and explained. It is needed to describe and categorize the many different species of people so that the social facts of that particular society may be analyzed and discovered. If it were not for social types, the classification of normal and pathological would cease to exist. This would ultimately make it impossible to accurately identify and outline social facts for specific populations. The social type proves that it is a large division within the theory of the social fact. It is this factor that ultimately ties the different thoughts and ideas together. This is why, for me, I view the concept and utilization of social type as the most vital piece to Emile Durkheim’s theory of social facts.
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