Emile Durkheim is one of the most influential thought leaders and scientists even in the modern era. His impact on sociology is immense and incalculable as he is rightfully considered one of the founding fathers of sociology as a separate discipline. The purpose of this paper is to examine social facts in the context of Durkheim’s theory of suicide, as well as to explain the legacy of the scientist as one of the prominent architects of modern sociology.
A social fact is the way things are in a given society, which exists separately but can influence individuals by applying external constraint to them. Durkheim’s research on the nature of suicide reaffirms the existence of such facts. People in a society do not themselves cause suicide, at least directly. A suicide rate as a social fact exists separately and is a very telling characteristic of a chosen population. Despite the seeming independence of mortality rates through suicide, they are caused by other social facts, including norms, regulations, values, and traditions. Suicide itself is not an independent act because it is directly associated with a person’s lack of social regulation and/or moral integration. Thus, Durkheim (1958) demonstrated the correlation between suicide rates and collective societal representations such as customs, norms, or religious dogma. Therefore, suicide is a by-product of a unique social structure, which affirms the statistics that show how suicide rates vary depending on the level of integration of political, domestic, or religious society.
Durkheim’s theory of suicide affirms the existence of social facts by highlighting the power of the society to create a collective consciousness, which then becomes a force capable of binding individuals by specific norms and customs. By proving that suicide is not necessarily an internal act, the scientist confirmed social life is crystallized and goes beyond individual manifestations. Thus, scholars must examine individual events under the prism of social constraints and pressures.
The efforts of Emile Durkheim to examine correlations between high suicide rates and social integration led him to use statistics, rather than relying purely on reflection. This need to collect and analyze data to investigate social facts proved that sociology is an actual academic discipline, distinct from any other. Apart from the fact that Durkheim (1958) defined sociology as a science and social facts external, coercive factors, the man suggested that social constraints were the prime examples of collective consciousness. A specific person’s ego is simply the combination of multiple consciences or egos coming in union. Therefore, human beings are governed by their social environment, rather than physical or materialistic powers. Psychologists, historians, and other scholars had to be aware of these symbols and constraints to gain in-depth understanding of seemingly internal acts of separate individuals.
In conclusion, Emile Durkheim is an influential figure in modern science. Over the course of his life, he has managed to become one of the architects of sociology as a separate academic discipline, which uses fact and statistics to make conclusions about societal trends. Theory of suicide contributed to the re-affirmation of the existence of social facts, which exist independently and coerce each member of a given population. Individuals do not directly cause suicide, with it being a by-product of external constraints and collective ideas imposed by the society.
Durkheim, E. (1958). Suicide: The study in sociology. The Free Press.