Emile Durkheim was a French philosopher and sociologist who used scientific methods to study society. He applied scientific methodology to sociology discipline. He is also known as father of French sociology, functional theory and modern sociology. Emile Durkheim was born on April 15, 1858, Epinal, France—died November 15, 1917, Paris. He is widely regarded as the founder of the French school of sociology along with other sociologist. He presented numerous lectures and published works on a variety of topics, including the sociology of knowledge, morality, religion, law, education and deviance.
Some of the important works of Durkheim’s are the following.
- Le Suicide (The Suicide)-1897
- (ii) De La Division du Travill Sociale (The Social Division of Labour)-1893
- Empirical study of social facts
Emile Durkheim was a well-known sociologist famous for his views on the structure of society. He argued that the sociology discipline should be understood as the empirical scientific study of social facts i.e. social values, cultural norms, social structure, behavioral patter and characteristics of particular group. Social facts should be study through observation and experiment.
Functionalism emphasizes a societal equilibrium. If something happens to disrupt the order and the flow of the system, society must adjust to achieve a stable state. According to Durkheim, society should be analyzed and described in terms of functions. Society is a system of interrelated parts where no one part can function without the other. These parts make up the whole of society. If one part changes, it has an impact on society as a whole.
For example, the state provides public education for children. The family of the children pays taxes, which the state uses for public education. The children who learn from public education go on to become law-abiding and working citizens, who pay taxes to support the state.
Durkheim believed that individual is bind together through a shared culture as "solidarity." Through his research, he found that this was achieved through a combination of rules, norms, and roles; the existence of a "collective conscience," which refers to how we think in common given our shared culture; and through the collective engagement in rituals that remind us of the values we share in common, of our group affiliation, and our shared interests.
- Durkheim book: Le Suicide (1897)
In his book “Le Suicide” he claimed that suicide is linked with social integration of an individual.
Durkheim’s most important reason for studying suicide was to prove the power of the new science of Sociology. Suicide is generally considered to be one of the most private and personal acts. Durkheim believed that if he could show that Sociology had a role to play in explaining such an individualistic act as suicide, it would be relatively easy to extend Sociology’s domain to phenomena.
According to Durkheim, people have a certain level of attachment to their groups, which he calls social integration. Abnormally high or low levels of social integration may result in increased suicide rates; low levels have this effect because low social integration results in disorganized society, causing people to turn to suicide as a last resort, while high levels cause people to kill themselves to avoid becoming burdens on society. Those lacking social identification are more vulnerable to suicide; hence social forces play their role in individual decision.