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Emile Durkheim’s Main Contributions To Social Theory

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Emile Durkheim was a French philosopher and sociologist who contributed many ideas to the Social Theory. He was well known for various ideas, social facts being one of them. Durkheim introduced social facts. He defined social facts as values, norms, and social structures that have some sort of control over society. Social facts have been embedded into our society without realization. For example, a social fact can be as little as brushing your teeth or as big and serious as a law. These two things have great control of us because of society. Society tells us that we have to brush our teeth. Society, also, tells us that we have to abide by the laws. Society tells us that if we do not follow these norms we are not ‘normal’. Aside from social facts, Durkheim has other contributions.

There was three main theories that Durkheim was also well known for. The main theories are: functionalism, division of labor, and anomie. Functionalism is the belief that, although society is composed of different parts, all these parts are somehow related to one another no matter how different each part may seem. Durkheim viewed society as one whole. Since he viewed society as a whole, he believed that everything affects something. Meaning if something were to disturb the flow of the system, society must learn to become accustomed in order to find balance and become stable, once again. An example of functionalism can be the three branches of the federal government. The three branches of the government are the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. Each branch has their own purpose in order for things to be able to run smoothly. If one branch does not do their job that can completely throw off the other two branches. The outcome of their purpose together will not come out the same since what one branch did not do affects the other two branches.

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Another theory that Emile Durkheim thought of is the Division of Labor. Division of Labor focuses on the shifts of society. Durkheim specifically focuses on the shift from the traditional society to the modern society. The norms throughout the traditional society seemed to be much more simpler. Beliefs, values, and background were all fairly the same. The majority of people had the same values. However, now in the modern society all values seem to be more complex. There are many, different, yet common, beliefs and backgrounds in a modern society. Traditional society has social norms that seem to strong compared to modern society whose norms seem to be less obvious. In fact, Durkheim believed that criminal activity is necessary for the correct function of a society. He thought that unlawful actions needed to occur in order for society to realize what is moral and what is not. These norms lead to the creation of boundaries and roles for society. People need to see right from wrong in order to know the difference between right and wrong.

The last theory is known as anomie. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, anomie is defined as “a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals. ” This means that for whatever reason, the social norms and values are no longer accepted or understood by society and new norms and values have, yet to be created. These all have been ideas and theories that the great philosopher, Emile Durkheim, has contributed to the Social Theory.


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