Durkheim 's Influence On Social Science Essay

Durkheim 's Influence On Social Science Essay

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Emile Durkheim was born in 1858 in the region of France known as the Alsace-Lorraine. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all been rabbis, however Durkheim quickly decided against following into the rabbinate early in his youth (Jones 1986). Durkheim excelled in science as a student, however his weakness in studying Latin and rhetoric caused him to fail the entrance exams to Ecole twice before he passed (Jones 1986). Durkheim trained to be a teacher at Ecole, as well as participated in lively debates, in which he advocated for the republican cause (Jones 1986). It was also at this time that Durkheim first read Comte and Spencer (Calhoun 2002). It was partially through these sources that Durkheim came to view social science and culture as an organic whole. Durkheim then went to train in sociology in Germany, before accepting the first position as a professor of sociology in France. During his life, Durkheim faced invasion of the Alsace-Lorraine by Prussian forces in 1870. Furthermore, despite giving up Judaism, he remained a firm part of local Jewish communities, thus facing strong anti-Semitic backlash in France (Jones 1986).
2. Explain the theoretical paradigms and the questions they addressed
Durkheim is often considered one of the founders of structural functionalism, with his work inspiring many thinkers, including A.R. Radcliffe-Brown. Durkheim was committed to the creation of sociology as a natural science that studied social phenomena that was as real as natural phenomena (Barrett 2009). Durkheim saw that social phenomena were not rational, but rather driven by emotions that were themselves the products of a social structure (Barrett 2009). It was this structure, which Durkheim called the collective conscienc...


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...ther criticism of Durkheim is a use in evolutionary thought, despite his clear opposition to evolutionism (Barrett 2009). His mechanical and organic solidarity echoed closely the evolutionist’s ideas of clear differences between less and more “advanced” societies.
4. Explain contributions of paradigms to discipline of anthropology
Durkheim’s contributions can be immediately seen in the British school of structural functionalism through the adoption of scientific methods and focusing on the functions of societal structures. Much like other structural functionalists, Durkheim introduced a stronger, more scientific form of methodology, the use of statistics, and focusing on how certain structures fulfill the needs of society. Durkheim influenced several anthropological and sociological thinkers such as Radcliffe-Brown, Levi-Strauss, Foucault, and his own nephew, Mauss.

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