Term Paper: Theorist: Emile Durkheim

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[. . .] 14). Where there is a weak social structure, individual behavior is more likely to be abberrant than when there is a strong social structure binding individuals to a community (Durkheim, 1897, p. 14). He reasoned that Catholics, as a group, more fully integrate individuals into the group and have exacting rules of behavior (what is and is not acceptable) than do Protestants (Durkheim, 1897, p. 14). To Durkheim, this explained why Catholics in his study exhibited a lower rate of suicide than Protestants (Turner, 2002, p. 457).

Durkheim was a firm believer in control theory. He believed that behavior is determined by outside forces which comprise a social structure, namely, family, school, morals, values, beliefs, religion, etc.(Turner, 2002, p. 457). When an individual is strongly influenced by his social network and value belief system, that individual is more likely to conform to that set of norms (Turner, 2002, p. 457). For example, an Eagle Scout who has been fully indoctrinated into the tenets, norms, values, and total support system of the Boy Scouts of America is more likely to "Be Prepared" than individuals who have not committed to a social group such as the scouts who hold preparedness as almost sacred.

Taken together, positivism, control, and functionalism form three of Emile Durkheim's basic tenets. He strongly believed that society controls individual behavior through a definitive social structure and that when the structure is weak it is more likely to lead to deviant behavior. It is when society fails to control the individual through norms beliefs, religion, etc., that sociological problems occur. Durkheim firmly believed that these phenomena are susceptible to the scientific method of study and submitted many studies to substantiate his belief. I too believe that overall behavior is controlled by society as a whole via a complex social system and that it is empirically measureable.


Bryant, L. (2012). Functionalism. Retrieved November 27, 2012 from History Learning


Website: www.historylearningsite.co.uk/functionalism.htm

Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide. (John A. Spaulding and George Simpson, Trans.). Illinois:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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