Emile Durkheim Contribution To Sociology

What are some contributions made to sociology by Emile Durkheim and by Max Weber?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Emile Durkheim’s major contribution to society was his thinking about how society is held together.  Earlier thinkers had realized that there had to be something holding society together, but Durkheim was the first to study this phenomenon carefully.  Durkheim argued that there were two different kinds of solidarity among people in a society.  The first type of solidarity appeared in more traditional societies.  In these societies, all of the people are of the same ethnic group, the same religion, and the same culture.  They are all similar to one another and that similarity holds them together as a society.  Durkheim called this “mechanical solidarity.”  In more modern societies, however, very different kinds of people are thrown together and expected to live together.  It is not at all clear what holds them together when they are so different.  Durkheim says that “organic solidarity” holds them together.  By this, he means that people need each other in an economic sense.  They depend on one another to keep their economy functioning.  This binds them together even though they do not hold all of their values in common.  This idea was Durkheim’s main contribution to sociology, but it was not his only one.  He also pioneered the use of statistics in sociology and he argued that society is a moral entity, not just a group of human beings acting in their rational self-interest.  All of these are important contributions to sociology.

Max Weber is important for two major contributions to sociology.  First, he is the author of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  This is one of the most important books in the history of sociology.  In that book, Weber tried to understand why some countries were more able than others to build strong, capitalist economies.  He theorized that religion was the key to this issue.  He argued that Protestantism was more compatible with capitalism and economic growth than other religions.  Scholars today do not necessarily agree with Weber, but his thesis was extremely important in sociology for a long time.  The idea that cultural aspects of a society can affect its economy remains important today.  Weber’s second contribution is that his ideas have given rise symbolic interactionism, one of the three main sociological perspectives that exist today.  Interactionism argues that society is created by the interactions between people in the society.  It further argues that these interactions are determined by the meanings that people give to events and aspects of society.  This perspective comes from Weber’s idea that society could only be studied by looking at the way its members understood it.

Both Weber and Durkheim made other contributions to sociology, but the ones mentioned here are the most important contributions they made.

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glendamaem | Student | (Level 1) Honors

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Max Weber introduced the idea of a social action. Social action is an action that is oriented to others taking into consideration the past, present or expected future behavior.

While Emile Durkheim introduced a social fact. Social facts are ways of acting, thinking, and feeling external to the individual and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason by which they control him.

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