Do Rules Make Durkheim Constructionalist?

Durkheim goal for writing the ‘The Rules’ was to set guidelines which distinguish sociology from other disciplines and also help the sociologists to analyze social facts objectively, specifically and methodologically. It is an attempt to explain social facts rationally and construct the foundation of sociology based on ‘reason and truth’.
It is important to understand that how facts are termed ‘social’ before looking into the rules of sociological methods. This objectivity treats the social facts as ‘things’ which may be regarded as ‘realities’ having characteristics which are independent of sociologist conceptual intuitions and can be accessed through empirical analysis. The first part of this paper interprets the rules and second part of the paper tries to explore that how Durkheim applied those rules in The Division of Labor in Society.
Durkheim defines society as collectivity and sociology as “the science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning”. He stresses the researches to be careful and cautious in both defining and analyzing what constitutes social facts and its relationship with groups.
Durkheim tried to establish the use of scientific method to analyze and answer the queries and to explore and describe society. He emphasizes that ‘Sociology must be not only a concept for discussion, but also an empirical science in application’. He says that any sociological argument will loose its validity if it is not analyzed scientifically.
He believes that methods should include
· observation of facts (things) as a function
· systematically discard all preconceptions
· discretion in order of main problems to be examined,
· procedures to be followed in sequence,
· established rules of proof
· cautious and critical review

Being a functionalist, he observes Social facts are a way of thinking and doing, it develops a collective consciousness which is a baseline or point of beginning for science. One should objectively observe social fact as a thing because the ideas or concepts are subjective while things are objective. Unlike Spencer and Comte, he tautologically stresses that scientific observation should also be a part of reflection which ultimately brings concrete ideas rather than speculating the ideas without scientific investigation.
External Social Phenomena proceeds from the proposition that elements together form phenomena. Unlike psychology where individual makes the psyche of entire ‘whole’ which is not true with social. He compares that individuals are related to society (whole) in the same way as particles forming the cell. He argues that there are commonalities and resemblance between sociology and psychology which does not mean they are same. Even those similarities are constructed in different ways in both disciplines. For example a group of peaceful individuals demonstrating in the street and if few of them get violent, does not represent the collective objective but external social phenomenon had made it violent. In psychology it will be termed as a group psyche but sociology will look into the external social phenomenon which instigated the crowd to be violent.
Durkheim believes that both history and philosophy are unable to analyze ‘social’ due to various factors. History deals with the nominal data of various groups and connects it with events while comparison of groups and events is not in the domain of historians. On the other hand philosophy looks tribes, town and nations as a combination of people ‘together by general laws and thereby creating a continuum for all humans.’ He argues that its sociology which intermediates between both as society is same but it differs in relation to social facts.
He also criticizes both Comte and Spencer for their limitations as the former perceives society as one specie and the latter though cognizes significance of observing parts to understand the ‘whole’ but failed to define ‘simple society’. He says ‘society is not mere sum of individuals, but the system formed by their association represents a specific reality which has its own characteristics’.
Durkheim identifies horde as the basic social specie for his methods of study as he believes that one needs to study all the ‘parts’ in order to understand ‘whole’. It seems impossible to study all parts of society (whole) as it is comprised of many species (parts). And also, the selection process of parts and whole may have the possibility of some errors but he comes up with the idea for sociologists for selecting appropriate variable and defining them meticulously. In this way its not only the element to be analyzed but it also helps us to find the ‘relationship to what is being studied’. His rule determining ‘cause of a social fact must be sought among antecedent social facts and not among the states of individual conciousniess’.
Classifying social facts and units assist us make improvement in the interpretation of phenomenon ‘Therefore when one undertakes to explain a social phenomenon the efficient cause which produces it and the function it fulfills must be investigated separately’ . Although this interpretation needs to analyze cause of phenomenon and also examine its function as he proposes ‘ the function of a social fact must always be sought in the relationship that it bears to some social end’. Here function may be interpreted as the effect of that cause or the relationship it contains to ‘social end’. Therefore the ‘causal relationship’ is very pivotal as it helps us to interpret and analyze the social facts and its function.
Division of Labor & ‘The Rules’:
Division of labor (DOL) is necessary for intellectual and material development as it enhances reproductive capacity and skill of worker. It creates sense of solidarity between two or more people. In addition to economic interests, it lays the foundation of social and moral order i.e. sui generis.
Durkheim correlates solidarity with two types of laws (repressive & restitutive) which segregate solidarity into mechanical and organic respectively. Repressive or penal laws are considered as collective punishment by society to a perpetrator against any crime ‘The collective conscience is the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society that forms a determinate system with a life of its own’. While restitutive (civil, communal and procedural) laws are designed to restore the previous relationship disturbed by one party to affect organic solidarity ‘The formation of a contract directly concerns the parties involved: nonetheless, if a contract has a binding force, it is society which confers that force.’
It is a functional approach by looking into the layers of DOL by dividing solidarity (whole) into mechanical & organic (parts) and to see them with the lens of law (dependent variable). He also illustrates the example that how society in early ages developed from various stages such as hordes, tribes, village, towns and cities and identified the evolution of society from mechanical to organic solidarity. In doing so he infact divides the society’s evolution into various parts and then see with solidarity (dependent variables). He comes up with the conclusion that the increase in organic solidarity decreases its mechanical share from the society.
He argues that people in primitive societies have more resemblance in their beliefs and ideologies while the in advanced ‘civilized’ societies they are distinguished from one another. However backward or less developed societies still have laws which punishes a group/community against the crime done by an individual as they have mechanical solidarity and believe that crime done by an individual from a tribe is a collective responsibility of whole community.
Infact development or modernity is very dear to Durkheim as he believes that the societies which are primitive or have mechanical solidarity are have less division of labor. In other words he believes ‘Diversity becomes greater as types become more developed. Hence, the higher the social type, the more developed the DOL’.
Durkheim differs from Spencer who believes that society is just an ‘establishment of relationship between individuals to exchange the products of their labor’ and this normal exchange takes place through a social contract. But the former believes that societies are ‘spontaneously contractual’ to the extent as individual is born in the society and is expected to abide the rules of society. But also the legal obligations in modern society are growing with expanding structures of restitutory laws. Resultantly, it increases the role the social control to regulate obligations while decreasing the role of contracts. In this way ‘society plays a role in shaping contracts, contracts play a role in shaping society. An extensive network of relationships which contribute to social solidarity can stem from contracts’.
Durkheim believes that every society is moral as ‘men cannot cohabitate without agreeing or cooperating’. Therefore societies classified as organic solidarity tend to be more moral as DOL needs more interaction and cooperation among eachother. Therefore individual have strong ties with others in the society. But societies with mechanical solidarity tend to be less moral as it is based on ‘common sentiment’.

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