Sociology Index

David Émile Durkheim

Among distinguished sociologists, French sociologist and founding father of modern sociology David Émile Durkheim defined and established the autonomy of sociology as a discipline. David Émile Durkheim equated homogeneous or redundant skills to mechanical solidarity whose inertia retarded adaptation. Émile Durkheim also contrasted this with the self-regulating behaviour of a division of Labour based on differences in constituency, equated to organic solidarity.

He adopted a collectivist perspective in all his sociological analysis. He denied that the utilitarian version of individualism could provide the basis on which to build a stable society. His assertion was that the sociological method was to deal with social facts. Rules of the Sociological Method (1895). David Émile Durkheim with Karl Marx and Max Weber is considered the main architect of modern social science. His work reflects his opposition to the utilitarian tradition in British social thought, which sought to explain social phenomena by referring to the actions and motives of individuals.

In The Division of Labour in Society (1893), he argued that social order in industrial societies could not adequately be explained as an outcome of contractual agreements between individuals motivated by self-interest. He argued that the pursuit of self-interest would lead to social instability, as manifest in various forms of social deviant behavior such as suicide. He distinguished the forms of social order found in primitive and modern societies. Mechanical solidarity in primitive societies was based on the common beliefs and consensus was found in the conscience collective.

Durkheim's Suicide (1897), a study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), a theory of religion, compared the social and cultural lives of aboriginal and modern societies.

Durkheim set up the first European department of sociology and became France's first professor of sociology. He established the journal L'Année Sociologique in (1898).