David Émile Durkheim (French: [emil dyʁkɛm] or [dyʁkajm]; April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology.
Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintaintheir integrity and coherence in modernity; an era in which traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, and in which new social institutions have come into being. His first major sociological work was The Division of Labor in Society (1893). In 1895, he published his Rules of the Sociological Method and set up the first European department of sociology, becoming France's firstprofessor of sociology. In 1898, he established the journal L'Année Sociologique. Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide (1897), a study of suicide rates in Catholic and Protestant populations, pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), presented a theory of religion, comparing thesocial and cultural lives of aboriginal and modern societies.
Durkheim was also deeply preoccupied with the acceptance of sociology as a legitimate science. He refined the positivism originally set forth by Auguste Comte, promoting what could be considered as a form of epistemological realism, as well as the use of the hypothetico-deductive model in social science. For him, sociology was thescience of institutions, its aim being to discover structural social facts. Durkheim was a major proponent of structural functionalism, a foundational perspective in both sociology and anthropology. In his view, social science should be purely holistic; that is, sociology should study phenomena attributed to society at large, rather than being limited to the specific actions ofindividuals.
He remained a dominant force in French intellectual life until his death in 1917, presenting numerous lectures and published works on a variety of topics, including the sociology of knowledge, morality, social stratification, religion, law, education, and deviance. Durkheimian terms such as "collective consciousness" have since entered the popular lexicon.
Durkheim was born in Épinal in Lorraine, coming from a long line of devout French Jews; his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had been rabbis. He began his education in a rabbinical school, but at an early age, he decided not to follow in his family's rabbinical footsteps, and switched schools. Durkheim himself would lead a completely secular life. Much of his workwas dedicated to demonstrating that religious phenomena stemmed from social rather than divine factors. While Durkheim chose not to follow in the family tradition, he did not sever ties with his family or with the Jewish community. Many of his most prominent collaborators and students were Jewish, and some were blood relations.
A precocious student, Durkheim entered the École Normale Supérieure(ENS) in 1879, at his third attempt. The entering class that year was one of the most brilliant of the nineteenth century and many of his classmates, such as Jean Jaurès and Henri Bergson would go on to become major figures in France's intellectual history. At the ENS, Durkheim studied under the direction of Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, a classicist with a social scientific outlook, andwrote his Latin dissertation on Montesquieu. At the same time, he read Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer. Thus Durkheim became interested in a scientific approach to society very early on in his career. This meant the first of many conflicts with the French academic system, which had no social science curriculum at the time. Durkheim found humanistic studies uninteresting, turning his...