Émile Durkheim

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Émile Durkheim April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist whose contributions were instrumental in the formation of sociology and anthropology. His work and editorship of the first journal of sociology (L'Année Sociologique) helped establish sociology within the academy as an accepted social science. During his lifetime, Durkheim gave many lectures, and published numerous sociological studies on subjects such as education, crime, religion, suicide, and many other aspects of society. He is considered as one of the founding fathers of Sociology. Durkheim was concerned primarily with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern era, when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed. In order to study social life in modern societies, Durkheim sought to create one of the first scientific approaches to social phenomena. Along with Herbert Spencer, Durkheim was one of the first people to explain the existence and quality of different parts of a society by reference to what function they served in keeping the society healthy and balanced, and is thus sometimes seen as a precursor to functionalism. Durkheim also insisted that society was more than the sum of its parts. Thus unlike his contemporaries Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber, he focused not on what motivates the actions of individual people (methodological individualism), but rather on the study of social facts, a term which he coined to describe phenomena which have an existence in and of themselves and are not bound to the actions of individuals. He argued that social facts had an independent existence greater and more objective than the actions of the individuals that composed society and could only be explained by other social facts rather than, say, by society's adaptation to a particular climate or ecological niche. In his 1893 work The Division of Labour in Society, Durkheim examined how social order was maintained in different types of societies. He focused on the division of labour, and examined how it differed in traditional societies and modern societies[1]. Authors before him such as Herbert Spencer or Otto von Gierke had argued that societies evolved much like living organisms, moving from a simple state to a more complex one resembling the workings of complex machines. Durkheim reversed this formula, adding his theory to the growing pool of theories of social progress, social evolutionism and social Darwinism. He argued that traditional societies were 'mechanical' and were held together by the fact that everyone was more or less the same, and hence had things in common.
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