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Emile Durkheim Theories Research Paper


Sociology is an individual study now which serves for understanding the surrounding society, the processes which occur there, institutions, systems and relationships. Many years ago this study was not considered as individual one and only in the middle of the 19th century it was distinguished as a separate individual science. Emile Durkheim was one of the founders of sociology as an individual science.

Many ideas and theories expressed by Emile Durkheim still remain up to date and may be applied in the modern society. To understand Emile Durkheim’s vision of sociology three most significant theories are going to be considered with the detailed discussion of the application of his theories in the modern society. The institution of the family, origin of religion and social development are the central issues for discussion in the paper devoted to Emile Durkheim, a sociologist of the 19th-20th century.

To begin with, the brief discussion of Emile Durkheim’s bibliography should be presented for better understanding of his ideas. Many events and life situations impact human vision of life and future convictions. Emile Durkheim was born in religious family and planned to connect his life with this social institution, but after the death of his father he refused from this idea.

Being interested in philosophy, Emile Durkheim gave lessons in one of the French schools. He had an opportunity to visit Germany in 1885 where he received knowledge in philosophy, social sciences and ethics. After his return, he gave lectures in University of Bordeaux where he created the first department of sociology. Dwelling upon Emile Durkheim’s live, it is important to remember his friend Victor Hommay whose suicide impacted the sociologist greatly.

We can only guess the extend of this impact, but its presence cannot be put under question as later in his works Emile Durkheim writes that a person may become the part of the society and this connection may be broken. The World War I was a catastrophe for a sociologist as according to his theory the whole world had to be broken into pieces. Emile Durkheim died in 1917 after the death of his son on the war.

This loss was too painful for the sociologist and he could never adopt it (Lukes 50). The sociologist’s life consideration may be helpful in understanding his vision and approaches to society. As is has already been mentioned, many theories offered by Emile Durkheim can be used in the modern society as the rules are unchanged, only the form may be transformed and developed why the society lives in accordance with particular norms which existed and will exist.

The first theory highlighted by Emile Durkheim should be his consideration of the family as one of the strongest and most social institutions which deserves attention. It should be mentioned that the sociology of family considered by Emile Durkheim was ignored for many years until his ideas have been revealed and discussed right now in the social circles.

One of the main contributions Emile Durkheim made in the discussion of family as a social institution is the attempt to structure the institution of the family. Therefore, family institution consists of four central elements, consanguineous relations, husband and wife relations, children and relations to government. Each of these elements has subelements.

Thus, discussing the consanguineous relations Emile Durkheim pointed at the “relations of the husband with his own parents and those of his wife” (Bynder 528) and “relations of the wife with her own parents and those of her husband” (Bynder 528), “relations of children with parental blood relatives and maternal blood relatives” (Bynder 529), and relations with other relatives considered by marriage.

Husband and wife relationships are characterized by their attitude to those who are going to get married in the future and by their personal relationships as a wife and a husband. The children relationships should be divided into those with parents and other children. A family attitude to the government is considered as the most complicated and attention deserving.

The subelements of this element of family organization are as follows, the intrusion of the government into the family institution via domestic rights, the role of the government into family relations before the marriage (celebration pattern connected with documents), intrusion into husband-wife relations based on the “substitution of the authority of the tribunal for the of the husband under certain conditions” (Bynder 529), government intervention into relationships between parents and children, as well as into relationships between blood relatives (Bynder 529).

Considering his theory, it is possible to mention that the Emile Durkheim’s views may be applied to the modern social organization. The role of blood relatives, government, children and personal relations are considered as the basis for the modern institution of family. The application of this theory may help many sociologists in implementation of various theories.

Emile Durkheim states on the social origin of religion and is sure in its close tight with sacred. In other words, Emile Durkheim does not refuse that there is something sacred in religion but the social impact plays great role in the religion development in the society.

It may be stated that Emile Durkheim’s theory of religion foundation is something in the middle between theologians and anti-religion philosophers. According to the sociologist, “Religion is the first institution, because it is connected to the problem of the difficult, controversial, but pervasive socialisation which turns man into a social or civilized being” (Tarot 13).

Emile Durkheim is sure that religion can never exist that long only on the basis of mental preference. The role of society on religion development is inevitable. Relating religion to rationality, no one is able to reject the fact that the society is the institution which creates and forms religious patters. Durkheim considers religious rationalization in the society as a process of secularization (Goldstein 137).

The application of this theory in the modern society my help reconsider religion and add some particular aspects useful for the whole globe. Religion is not a stable idea, it is a science which develops and needs some changes as the society also changes. Moreover, the reconsideration of some particular notions in the society does not means that religion should change. It is important to remain society directed and meet the demands of the members.

Considering the principles of sociology, Durkheim criticizes the ideas of many philosophers of the previous century and states that sociology in not based on things which further become the ideas, but vice versa society should be treated as ideas which further transform into things.

Socialism for Durkheim is similar to religion, he describes it as a real concept which refers to “certain species of possibility in the basic unconscious ground rules of human thought and experience” (Nye and Ashworth 134). It becomes obvious that universal human categories are considered in the definition and the ideas may be called as realistic.

Only realistic concepts are appropriate for the modern society. Living in the materialistic world, the concept of ideas as the basis for things is exactly what should be applied in the modern society under the current conditions. Society is constantly changing structure which cannot be impacted by things for ideas generation. The versa effect is required and the theory of society development from ideas to things is exactly what is necessary (Nye and Ashworth 134).

Therefore, it may be concluded that even though the theories developed by Emile Durkheim were ignored several years ago, his ideas should be reconsidered and applied in the modern society. Having selected three the most appropriate theories by Emile Durkheim, it is possible to state that all of them may be applied in the modern society due to their materialistic nature. The theory about the division of the family institution should be refereed to due to the great role of the government which still remains.

The attitude to the origin of religion as the part of social opinion is discussed. Theologians may argue this point of view referring to the sacred origin of religion, still, the modern society requires more practical approaches, therefore, Emile Durkheim’s theories are considered to be more appropriate. The statement of the realistic social development as a part of materialistic world is the main concept which should be considered among many ideas expressed by Emile Durkheim.

Works Cited

Bynder, Herbert. “Émile Durkheim and the sociology of the family.” Journal of Marriage & Family 31.3 (1969): 527-533. Print.

Goldstein, Warren S. “Patterns of secularization and religious rationalization in Emile Durkheim and Max Weber.” Implicit Religion 12.2 (2009): 135-163.

Lukes, Steven. Emile Durkheim, his life and work: a historical and critical study. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985. Print.

Nye, D.A., and C.E. Ashworth. “Emile Durkheim: Was he a nominalist or a realist?” British Journal Of Sociology 22.2 (1971): 133-148.

Tarot, Camille. “Emile Durkheim and after: The war over the sacred in French sociology in the 20th century.” Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 10.2 (2009): 11-30.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Emile Durkheim Theories'. 25 May.

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