Monday, September 1, 2014

On Sociology and Émile Durkheim

On Sociology and Émile Durkheim: It's been stated that sociology is the social science with the most methods and the least results. Originating in the late nineteenth century with help from works by French social theorist Durkheim, sociology focuses on social trends and organizations that affect whole groups or categories of people. Often contrasted with psychology, which attempts to explain the specific behaviors of individuals under certain circumstances, sociological methods seek to identify general pressures acting on social groups (and how those pressures influence group actions). One of Durkheim's common metaphors for sociology involved comparing it to bronze, which as a metal composed of tin, copper, and lead was much stronger than its individual components. Similarly, he believed the features of an entire social group cannot be measured simply by examining the features of individual members. Metaphors aside, however, it was Durkheim's 1897 book Suicide which really helped to solidify sociology as an academic discipline. In it, he studied the suicide rates of European Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish groups to uncover general trends. One such trend Durkheim found was that suicide rates were highest among single, Protestant, Scandinavian men. Suicide rates increased as well among men who had military experience and no children. Such trends proved appealing to a mass audience, as sociology started to gain legitimacy in academia.

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