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Essay Example: The Sociological Work of Emile Durkheim

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Emile Durkheim was a French citizen born on April 15, 1858. He was a great sociologist who participated in the creation of academic discipline alongside with theorists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber. He is therefore regarded as one of the principal architects of contemporary social science (Brinton, 2001). His works were related to how society could uphold their honor and rationality in modernity in the period where traditional social and religious ties are not considered important and the appearance of current social institutions. The sociological work that Emile Durkheim introduced in the society was the division of labor in society. This was his first sociological work in history which he published in 1893. He also published a second sociological work in 1895 which he gave the name the rules of sociological methods before he established sociology department in Europe. After all of these great works, he was accorded as the first French professor. His work did not end there but he continued with sociological work until his death. In the beginning of 1897, he also introduced another journal called 'Annee Sociologique before he conducted a study in suicide rates in Catholic and the Protestants (Brinton, 2001). During that study, he led the people in the invention of modern social research and ensured that he established a distinction between social science and psychology and finally political philosophy. In 1912, he came up with a theory of religion that compares social and cultural lives of old and modern societies.

Emile Durkheim was one of the great men who participated in the development old sociology. He was really a great man because he contributed a lot to discuss what the social work. He was both a researcher and theorists who mainly concerned in the formation and function of a society. He work did not go beyond how order and stability can be maintained in the society. All these are discussed in his books called The Division of Labor in Society and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. This made many people regard him as a father of functionalist perspective a very important part of sociology. His main concern was what could bind the society together meaning that his work was based on shared knowledge, perceptions, values, convictions and deeds that makes people develop a feeling of belonging and also ensure that everybody in the social work towards a common interest (Brinton, 2001). For sure, he did not write about anything else apart from culture making his work to be more relevant on how current sociologists study culture. From his work, we can easily identify what holds society together and what divides the society and the solution to what causes the division among people living in the same society.

Durkheim determined what can be used to bind the society together. He concluded that culture is a very important tool that binds the society. He called it solidarity in his research and he noted that it can be accomplished through the use of rules, norms, and responsibilities which he referred to "collective conscience," which means how we think in common culture and the values share as a people. The theory of solidarity which Durkheim dwelled on is still relevant today in modern sociology (Berk, 2006). His study of collective conscious is also important when studying how some cultural values do not change over time and how such cultural beliefs are closely related to politics and public policy. This theory explains how shared values and other cultural norms are important in explaining why some politicians are elected on the basis of the values they claim but not on the things they have done in the society (Brinton, 2001). This is also another important work completed by Durkheim.

Durkheim also explained in his work how violence when he discussed the concept of anomie. His work is still used in modern society as sociologists use his ideas to explain what causes violence either self or others (Allan, 2005). He referred to it as a societal change and its perception can make someone develop a feeling of disconnection from the society when there is a change in norms and cultural values. His legacy is also very important when explaining the reason why agitating daily norms with complaints is vital in raising the consciousness of issues.

Part 2

Comparison of three sociological perspectives

There are three main sociological perspectives that sociologist use when explaining how the society functions. They include Structural Functionalist, Social Conflict Theory and. Symbolic Interactions. These perspectives are different from one another as each of them allows us to view our social world differently (Mustapha, 2009). Perspective simply means how people view the World and theories are used to help us see the world in a certain way. Sociological perspectives, therefore, are very important in explaining the nature of the social world and what we should expect to see happening in the World.

Functionalist Perspective

These sociological perspectives offer different explanations regarding social World and general behavior of human beings in the society. Functionalist Perspective is mainly focused on the sociological work of Emile Durkheim and other theorists. This theory holds the assumption that the society is a scheme of interrelated divisions that function as one unit in harmony to ensure there are a stable balance and social equilibrium. According to these theorists, each element of the society provides an important function to it. In the society family helps in reproduction and socializing children and education is important in providing means in which skills and knowledge are transmitted to individual persons and politics offers a way in which the society is governed (Mustapha, 2009). Furthermore, the economics ensure there is an efficient allocation of resources by supporting production, allocation of scarce resources and distribution of economic commodities.

Notwithstanding religion also has a social contribution to the society. It offers moral guidance and religious beliefs which shape the behavior of different people in the society. Its main emphasis is on the interconnectedness of the society and provides an explanation on how each part of the society plays a significant role in the function of other parts. For example, when there is an increase in the number of single parents and dual-earner families in the society leads to the increase in the number of children who do not perform well in schools because they are not staying together with parents thus lacks parental guidance.

In the Functionalist Perspective, there is a common use of the words functional and dysfunctional to provide an explanation of the influence of social constituents in the society. It holds the view that social constituent is functional when it has the capability to provide social stability but it is dysfunctional when it interrupts social stability required in the society (Mustapha, 2009). They consider that there are some elements in the society which are both functional and dysfunctional in nature. In this case, crime is considered as both dysfunctional because it is related to physical violence, the distraction of property and threat of life. In the contrary, it is also functional because it is associated with delicate awareness of mutual moral bonds and amplifies social cohesion.

Conflict Perspective

Functionalist Perspective is different from conflict perspective which perceives the society as a system comprises of various groups that compete against each other for authority and scarce resources. Conflict perspective is focused on different social aspects by identifying each social group possesses more authority and gains that arise from a given social arrangement. The most important illustration is in feminists that argue that we are staying in a patriarchal society which is controlled by men. Despite the fact that there are different forms of feminism theories, some of them assume that there is a need for the alteration of current economic, political and social formations. It was developed by Karl Marx in his classic works where he suggested that every society must undergo through all the stages of economic development. He explained that a society grows from agricultural sector to industrial sector in order to meet the needs of the people (Mustapha, 2009). In this theory, the society is divided into two groups namely the bourgeoisie and the proletariat which can also be described as the haves and the have-nots. Each group of the society is beneficial for each other. The workers or proletariat are not allowed to access other important resources in the economy and they are only allowed to earn wages from the haves. The bourgeoisie use power and authority to have control all the institutions to meet their interests without considering the interest of proletariat.

Symbolic Interactionist Perspective

This perspective is also different from the other perspectives which are focused on how the society maintains its social stability. Symbolic Interactionist Perspective in the contrary focuses on how social challenges are influenced at the institutional level. It only concerned with social psychosomatic dynamics of people work together in small groups. This theory holds the assumption that human behavior is controlled by the characterizations and meanings that are established and kept through a symbolic interaction with other members of the society (Mustapha, 2009). They assert that people react to their definitions of a circumstance instead of an objective condition. They added that any condition that we regard as real actually becomes real and our sense of self is natured by our social interactions. For that matter, human beings develop their self-concept by looking the way other people communicate with one another at all levels.


Allan, Kenneth (2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. Pine Forge Press. ISBN 978-1-4129-0572-5.

Berk, Bernard B. (2006). "Macro-micro relationships in Durkheim's analysis of egoistic suicide". Sociological Theory. 24 (1): 5880.doi:10.1111/j.0735-2751.2006.00264 Brinton, Mary C.; Nee, Victor (2001). The New Institutionalism in Sociology. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-4276-4Mustapha, Nasser. Sociological Perspectives.Sociology for Caribbean Students. Kingston, Jamaica:Ian Randle, 2009.25-31. Print

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