Durkheim and Sociology - Thinking Sociology - Lecture Slides, Slides for Sociology. Aliah University
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raakaa30 December 2012

Durkheim and Sociology - Thinking Sociology - Lecture Slides, Slides for Sociology. Aliah University

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Durkheim and Sociology, Social Facts, Main Points, Models, Natural Sciences, Social Facts, Constrain and Shape, Thoughts and Actions, New Science of Sociology, Suicide Study are some points from this lecture.
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Durkheim and Sociology I: Social Facts

Durkheim and Sociology I: Social Facts

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Main points 1. Durkheim wants to set up sociology as a properly

“scientific” discipline 2. He models it on the “hard” natural sciences 3. He tries to prove “society” really exists; It’s not just a collection of individuals 4. Main thing to examine: “social facts” These strongly constrain and shape individuals’

thoughts and actions

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OUTLINE 1. Durkheim’s life 2. Durkheim’s aims 3. The new science of sociology 4. Social facts 5. Scientific method – positivism 6. The suicide study 7. Some problems 8. Assessment

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Durkheim’s Life • Born in 1858 – dies 1916

• Assimilated Jewish family

• Committed to French

Republican ideals: liberty, equality & fraternity

• Middle-of-the-road politics – reformist socialism

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Main books • The Division of Labour in

Society (1893) • The Rules of Sociological

Method (1895) Suicide (1897) • The Elementary Forms of the

Religious Life (1912)

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Durkheim’s Aims 1) To help reconstruct French society War with Germany, 1870 Anti-Semitism Industrial unrest 2) To set up sociology as a proper science Scientifically rigorous Objective knowledge 3) To set up sociology as a distinct discipline Different from psychology

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Durkheim’s Aims 4) Go beyond his predecessors “Sociology” already coined by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) Durkheim influenced by Comte - Sociology is a science - Can be used to solve social problems

Durkheim wants to go beyond Comte - Comte’s ideas too simplistic - His version of sociology not “scientific” enough docsity.com

The New Science of “Sociology” Sociology’s subject matter: “Society” Against utilitarianism: - Only individuals - Self-interested and calculating “Society” really exists; it has an existence of

its own Society is more than the sum of its parts i.e. society is more than just a collection of

individuals

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SOCIAL FACTS

Society is a set of social facts Social facts have two key features: 1) Social facts are external to the

individual 2) Social facts are constraining – of the

individual’s thoughts and actions

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Social facts are “mental” in nature a) They are shared thoughts and feelings b) They are expressed in language and symbols c) They are shared – they have an existence beyond each individual’s mind d) Socialisation & education = shared thoughts and feelings inculcated into

the individual child e) “Naturalisation” – taking as “natural”

what has been socialised into you

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Each individual has 2 sides 1) Purely “personal” side – wholly individual character and personality 2)Social side - ways of thinking and feeling socialised into

individual by social forces - constantly reinforced by social facts Pre-modern society: high level of 2) Modern society: higher levels of 1).

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Social facts are “moral” in nature a) They divide the world up into “good”

and “bad”, “moral” and “immoral”, “sacred” and “wicked”

b) They encourage an individual to act in

ways that society defines as appropriate behaviour

c) They encourage an individual not to act

in ways that society defines as inappropriate behaviour

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Appropriate (socially sanctioned) behaviour is rewarded

Inappropriate (socially

condemned) behaviour is punished

Breaking of everyday social

norms: - low-level punishments

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“If I do not submit to the conventions of society, if in my dress I do not conform to the customs observed in my country and in my class, the ridicule I provoke, the social isolation in which I am kept, produce …. punishment[s] ... “

“I am not obliged to speak French with my

fellow-countrymen nor to use the legal currency, but I cannot possibly do otherwise ...”

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Religion a very important social fact - divides the world up into “sacred” and

“not-sacred” (“profane”) things

- individuals’ thinking & actions strongly guided by ideas of what is “sacred”

- anyone disrespecting “sacred” things severely punished

- Applies particularly in pre-modern societies; but also still applies in modernity

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SOCIOLOGY AS A SCIENCE

Sociology to be independent of other disciplines

Especially psychology Psychology’s domain: individual

brains and minds Sociology’s domain: “Society” -

the realm of social facts

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SCIENTIFIC METHOD: POSITIVISM

Positivism: a) A doctrine developed in the

later 18th century – the Enlightenment

b) Applied to chemistry, physics,

biology c) Science can produce thoroughly

objective (“positive”) knowledge

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d) Real truth; beyond mere opinions - Scientists are dispassionate and objective - They don’t impose their views on the data

e) Science can be completely rigorous – uses

reliable methods (experiments) f) Science discovers scientific laws that apply in

all circumstancese.g. putting together nitro and glycerine e.g. the boiling point of water is ALWAYS 100 °C

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Durkheim’s Positivism Applies positivism to sociology Sociology can be a real science if it is positivist i.e, if it is modelled on the lines of the

natural sciences Sociology = the natural science of

societydocsity.com

a) Sociology searches for “objective” knowledge about how society really works

b) It uses rigorous scientific methods c) The sociologist puts her own personal biases

aside - “lets the facts speak for themselves” - this is possible as social facts really exist - there can be true and false viewpoints on

them

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Sociology produces objective knowledge that is beyond mere opinions about society Sociologist is a scientist

who knows more about society than “ordinary” members of it

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d) Sociology finds the objective laws of social life

e.g. high suicide rates caused by lack of social integration

(At the least: sociology can spot really

occurring social patterns and trends) e) Sociology uses & produces reliable

statistics; these indicate social patterns & social laws

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f) The practical point of sociology: - produce objective knowledge that can

be used to help improve social conditions

- sociology’s findings inform government

policy-making  Sociology can research social

problems; find their real causes; suggest how to solve them

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THE SUICIDE STUDY

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THE SUICIDE STUDY Aims: 1) To show sociology could produce objective data 2) To show sociology had as rigorous methods as the

natural sciences 3) To show that human behaviour was as much

socially shaped as it was driven by the individual’s personal motivations

4) To show that psychology on its own could not explain suicide

5) To provide information about social causes of suicide, for government to try to reduce suicide levels

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