Lecture 1- Early Sociology and Emilie Durkheims work These were the first lecture notes taken on Emilie Durkheims work.

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16 Oct 2011

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Sociology 203
Early Sociology & Emilie Durkheim’s work
The Historical Context of Durkheim’s work
-Emilie Durkheim was born on 1858 in a small town in rural France
-In 1879 after entering the Ecole Normale in Paris he became interested in the study of society.
- After obtaining a position at the University of Bordeaux at the age of 29, he completed four major
sociological works: The Division of labor, The Rules of Sociological Method, the study of Suicide and The
Elementary Forms of Religious Life.
-Durkheim’s Strength as one of the founders of the discipline rests wholly on the body of these works.
They constitute the major research studies in sociology.
-by 1895, as a founder of the discipline, Durkheim formed a research group that established the
discipline of sociology in France. Eventually, this led to the formation of a theoretical perspective for
studying and social behavior.
- By the time of his death in 1917, he had produced a large body of writings and founded one of the
most coherent theoretical perspectives of the nineteenth century.
-Durkheim is best kwon for founding sociology as a discipline and for defining the boundaries of its
subject matter.
-Historically, Durkheim’s theoretical focus can be described focusing on three central building blocks
that helped form his theoretical perspective for the study of society.
-First, was his assertion that a theory of society must not be based on the study of the individual.
- Durkheim argued that if sociology was to be a discipline distinct from psychology, it had to be establish
the existence of what he called ‘social realities’ eternal to the individual. And what he means by social
realities is the rules on conducts, what structures our acts within our society.
-In order to do this, he had to focus on what he called the ‘rules of conduct’ that were external to the
individual and which functioned to structure the acts and activities of individuals in different societies.
- The central idea here is that as soon as societies form, rules of conduct emerge that could not have
developed if individuals lived isolated or alone. The primary function of these rules is to regulate and
structure the acts of individuals.
Focus on the Rules of Conduct
-The rules of conduct isolated by Durkheim became the main focus for the study of society for several
- First, because the rules were universal across all societies and touched on religious, legal and political
mechanism, it meant the rules had powers which came from society rather than the individual.
-Third, Durkheim found that the rules of conduct took at least three different forms: a religious form, a
law form and a family form.
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