25. Durkheim and Social Facts


Prof: Okay,
now let me–I actually would like to spend as much time as I
can on Durkheim’s methodology. I have lots of notes.
This is the twenty-fourth
lecture, note, this semester for this course.
But let me rush through of the
test questions and just to tell you how I would like to deal
with them. I think the first one is very
obvious, probably a bit too obvious.
The question is how can you
make it interesting? I hope that the distinction
between power and domination is clear.
Right?
Power means that somebody can
impose its will on somebody else, even if that other person
opposes it. There is a strong element of
coercion involved. Right?
You can coerce people to obey
your command. Domination implies that you do
not have to use coercion systematically,
because people tend to internalize the reasons those
who have power use in order to legitimate why they should have
power. Right?
And then this brings us to the
notion of legitimacy. Right?
Legitimacy are the claims which
are made by those who have power,
which try to justify why it is reasonable that they should
issue commands and others should obey it.
So far, very simple. Right?
What is kind of controversial
about this? It’s controversial the way how
Weber uses the notion of legitimacy.
Normally we,
in modern democratic theory, we believe–right?–a system is
legitimate when it has popular consent.
We think about universal
suffrage. People go to free and fair
elections, and then they elect leaders, and then they follow
those elected to office this way.
Then power is legitimate.
But I think Weber wants to have
a broader notion of legitimacy. Because free and fair
elections, operating with universal suffrage,
go back one-hundred years in human history,
and in some countries it still does not exist.
And Weber does not want to
describe the last ten minutes of human history for human
history’s twenty-four hours. Right?
He wants to offer some
conceptual tools to understand the whole twenty-four hours.
So that’s why he has this
interesting notion of legitimacy;
which it does imply that people have to have a certain degree of
belief in the validity of the legitimacy claims.
But it is a rather passive
notion of belief. They don’t have to love the
person in position of authority; they do not have to elect it.
They simply–it’s enough if
they think, “Well I cannot think of a better
alternative.” Right?
Another dictator could be worse
than this one. Right?
This is a dictator,
but a reasonable one. And Weber will say,
as long as this is happening, the person in authority will
not have to use coercion systematically,
and therefore it will be legitimate.
Right?
Let me also just say–of
course, the coercive element is also in domination.
Right?
If people disobey the law,
then they will be coerced. There is certainly a promise of
coercion, even in modern free democracies.
People are put in jail;
in this country people are even executed.
Right?
So there is an element of
coercion. Just the real question is how
systematic that coercion should be?
And for Weber,
pure exercise of authority is relatively rare and marginal.
I would say,
for instance, the sort of last year or two or
three of Hitler was fairly illegitimate.
Hitler had to use massive
coercion. Certain epochs of rule of
Stalin in the Soviet Union were illegitimate,
not all the rule of Stalin. During the Second World War he
established some legitimacy. But when he had to imprison ten
million people– right?–and to kill tens of
thousands or hundreds of thousands,
that is an indication that this is illegitimate.
Okay?
So that’s the way how I would
handle it–right?–to work around this interesting
conception of legitimacy, and what is for and against
this. Well this is again a very
simple question, traditional and legal-rational
authority. Right?
The basic difference
is–right?–that traditional authority, you have a personal
master. In legal-rational authority you
do not have a personal master. You obey the laws,
and the people who are in charge, who are superiors,
will also have to obey the same laws, what you are required to
do. And traditional authority is
legitimated by the sanctity of age-old rules.
Here again I think the
interesting issue, if I would write about this,
will be, well this is a big historical distinction.
But Weber also uses it to
describe, in contemporary society, different types of
organizations. So contemporary theory has a
big dose of traditional authority in it–right?–and I
would try to elaborate on this. Well this is–right?–one of
the trickier questions: Why does Weber believe that
bureaucracy is efficient? And you may agree or may
disagree with him. So first of all,
I would state why Weber believes that bureaucracy is
efficient. I would emphasize that he
thinks that bureaucracy is the most efficient,
in the technical terms–not necessarily otherwise.
And then, of course,
the way how he defines bureaucracy.
People are put into position in
terms of their competence. There is a rule of law.
It is a predictable
environment, a bureaucratic environment.
There is a hierarchy of appeals;
if somebody makes a mistake, how to appeal.
This, of course,
all makes it efficient. Now we know that bureaucracies
are often inefficient. So how to reconcile this?
Well it’s not that Weber was
totally insensitive to the problem of inefficiencies of
bureaucracies, and he formulated it how that
bureaucracies are caught between formal and substantive
rationality. That’s the way how I would
probably defend Weber–to say he was not that naīve to
believe that bureaucracies are always efficient.
They would be efficient if they
would be purely formally rational, but they are not.
And one good example is welfare
bureaucracies, which do establish a kind of
patron-client relationships–right?–between
bureaucracies and clients. Some people refer to this as
welfare dependency, which makes it,
of course, a cause of inefficiency.
Well this is a nice question to
answer, and we discussed this a great deal.
We know that charismatic
leaders appear in times of crisis, when people are looking
for a change. Right?
So Barack Obama,
during the presidential campaign, he has read Weber
carefully; he knew how to
frame–right?–his message exactly as a charismatic
message. It was all about change,
and it was about hope. Right?
In contrast with Hillary
Clinton or John McCain. Both of them emphasized that
“we are experienced’. This is not what people wanted
to hear when they wanted to have change.
So yes, in this respect,
Barack Obama did have a charismatic appeal,
and this charismatic appeal did gel.
Right?
Many people responded to his
charisma. He was criticized by his
opponent that he’s a rock star–right?–because people got
so excited about him. So he could appeal to the
emotion of people. Right?
He could appeal to them.
But, of course,
as we again discussed in discussion sections–
also briefly in class–Barack Obama has a charismatic appeal,
but he operates in a legal-rational authority.
Right?
And we just have seen that very
recently–right?–making a decision about the war in
Afghanistan. Right?
Well he had to deal with
realities. Right?
So well Weber would–in the
classical sense, charisma in Weber is reserved
to great religious leaders, such as Muhammad or Jesus or
whatever, or the great prophets.
And in this sense charisma is
not really applicable to politicians operating in
legal-rational authority. So Weber would have some unease
to call Barack Obama a charismatic leader.
I would think he would concede
that certainly Barack Obama had charismatic features,
as such. Now the fifth question:
Durkheim and the study of law. Why on earth he starts from the
study of law in analyzing society?
Because he’s a methodological
collectivist, and because he wants to capture
something like the collective conscience,
which is more than the sum total of individual
consciousness. But he’s also a scientist,
and I hope I will have a little time to talk about the
methodology. He wants to be very rigorous,
and he doesn’t want to start with ideas;
he wants to start with facts. Well he’s caught in–right?–a
contradiction. So collective conscience is
ideas. Right?
How on earth you study them
objectively? And law is a great example,
because law is written down. Right?
There is written law.
You can study it objectively,
and it is not only individual consciousness what guides us
all. So I think this is the major
reason why his point of departure is–as an example–law
because this is what he can rigorously study.
It can be seen as a social
fact–right?– that this is the law,
and to understand why this law came into being,
under what circumstances, and how does it influence
people? Well, of course,
the inspiration comes from Montesquieu.
All right.
Well agreement and disagreement.
I think the real question is
whether you buy into methodological collectivism or
not. Some of you may be
methodological individualists. Especially if you are an Econ
major, you tend to be an economic individualist,
a methodological individualist. Right?
You tend to believe that there
are rational individual actors who pursue interest,
and you are very skeptical about anything which is
assumedly above the individual. So in that case,
if you are a methodological individualist–
and, in fact, I think the dominant trend in
social sciences today is methodological individualism and
a great deal of skepticism about methodological collectivism–
that can be a kind of critical handle on it.
Or at least you can show this
is the way how it can be criticized,
and you can show why you actually think that
methodological collectivism is reasonable.
Okay, the sixth question,
organic and mechanical solidarity, and how this is
related to Weber’s typology of authority.
I mean, it’s pretty simple.
There are very important
distinctions–di fferences–between Durkheim and
Weber. Durkheim looks at what brings
society together. The central concept is
solidarity. Weber looks at social conflict,
what takes society apart. So he looks at struggle around
power. Right?
Weber is coming from the
lineage of, I would say, Hobbes and Nietzsche.
Right?
That’s where the Weberian view
comes from. There are, of course,
similarities. Organic solidarity is what
legal-rational authority is for Weber.
They try to capture modernity.
Both are similar in the sense
that they are also social typologies of societies,
but also types of social organizations in any given
society, as such. So these are some similarities.
Okay, I think that’s probably
about it. Well the question of anomie.
I think we covered this
recently. So I don’t have to refresh your
memory as much. The notion of anomie in
Durkheim comes out of the absence of sufficient
regulation. And this is a temporary product
which emerges because mechanical solidarity is breaking down and
organic solidarity has not been established yet.
And in the transition from
mechanical solidarity– traditional society–into a
modern urban industrial society, people have a problem of
regulation in value systems, and that’s when they are anomic.
But this will go away.
What is the theory of human
nature behind this? This can be debated.
One possible argument is that
since he believes that order has to come from the outside,
from above, he tends to believe that without order,
created by a societal level, collective conscience,
we would do evil things. We need to be regulated. Right?
Well of course he knows that we
can be overregulated, and then that’s also
pathological. But the main pathology,
at least in the transition from mechanical to organic
solidarity, is the absence of regulation
and the problem that humans may do abnormal,
pathological, or evil acts. So there is a notion of humans
needing control over them. Well this speaks to the eighth
question: anomie and alienation. They are in many ways the
opposite to each other. Right?
Alienation means that you are
over-regulated. You are not in control of your
own life, of your own fate. That is what alienation means.
Also Marx is inspired by
Rousseau. It’s a kind of Rousseauian
conception of nature behind that.
The problem comes from society;
it doesn’t come from the individual.
Right?
We are born in society,
we are social by nature, and if modernity,
modern capitalism, would be removed,
we again would act socially and collectively in a good way.
So that’s–and in contrast,
like Durkheim’s notion is that the absence of regulation,
that’s what causes pathologies. All right?
Ninth question.
This is something what I think
you find difficulties to deal with, because you did not find
the word ‘disenchantment’ in any of the readings.
And indeed Weber did not use
the word very often. He did use it most critically
in an essay what he wrote after he was trying to combine his
various sociology of religions. But the word ‘enchantment’ is
translated from the German word magic.
So disenchantment means a
situation in which the world loses magic, when magic is moved
out of life. And this is happening with
rationalization. Right?
The big process of historical
evolution is towards rationalization and the loss of
magic. And the text what you have to
support that is in The Protestant Ethic,
where Weber makes a big deal out of it.
That’s what especially
Calvinism and the teaching of predestination did,
it got rid of magic. Right?
But though he is,
say, a rationalist, he sees the downside of
rationalism; the loss of magic is the price
what we have to pay for rationalization.
And he’s a bit nostalgic about
the world, when it was magic, when the relations were
magical. So that is kind of a permanent
condition of modernity; things are not getting any
better. That’s, I think,
one of the big differences with Durkheim’s notion of anomie.
The loss of magic actually does
mean, like–there is roots in Marx here.
Because the loss of magic means
that actually you seem to be more vulnerable to fate.
Right?
Magic, you were a magician,
you had ways how to make God, the omnipotent God,
to do things for you; for instance,
to save you. Right?
You could do it through magical
means. In a rationalized world,
we are less in control of our lives.
So in this sense I think
Weber’s notion of disenchantment is closer to the Marxian notion
of alienation, rather than the Durkheimian
notion of anomie. Well social causes of suicide.
Well we just covered this the
last lecture. The argument is–right?–that
we believe that suicide is the most individual,
intimate decision. He actually does show,
and demonstrate, this is not the case,
because there are great differences in suicide rate
across countries. These differences tend to be
very stable. There are also strong
relationships between suicide and religion,
and suicide and education, and therefore there are–
right?–social determinants of this very individualistic
action, as suicide.
Well there are these two
dimensions in which you can conceptualize suicide:
how well integrated you are or how well regulated you are.
And Durkheim has this idea that
too much integration and too much regulation,
or too little integration or too little regulation,
are both abnormal. He’s for the golden middle
road. Right?
Normality is in the middle road.
Sort of an anomic suicide
happens when you are not sufficiently regulated.
Egoistic suicide occurs when
you are not sufficiently integrated in society.
That’s when you egoistically
commit suicide, because you don’t care how
yourself, killing yourself,
will affect your beloved ones– right?–because you don’t have
beloved ones. Right?
You are not integrated in
society. Right?
You do not commit egoistic
suicide when you care about the beloved ones,
and you don’t want to cause them pain by killing yourself.
Right?
Anomic suicide happens if
people are kind of not sufficiently regulated,
and therefore they, in this anomic situation,
may commit suicide. Okay, so that’s about it.
And let me then move on to
Durkheim’s methodology.>
Yes, number twenty-four.
So this is The Rules
of Sociological Method, published in 1895,
two years after The Division of Labor and two years
before the Suicide, but foreshadows and combines
elements from both. I have a lot of stuff,
so I will rush you through. One question is–what he deals
with–when is a fact social; when can we talk about social
facts? Then he asks how can we observe
social facts? Then he makes a distinction
between normal and pathological states.
He also writes about nominalism
and realism, and offers an alternative to nominalism and
realism, what is his system of classifications.
And then he addresses the issue
of the question of explanation and causality–very path
breaking ideas in his times. So when is a fact social?
And the first point is,
well we have to make a distinction between social and
biological or psychological phenomena.
Well, and then he also–I will
elaborate on this. And then he asks the question,
how objective are the social facts?
The biological facts are
obviously objective; psychological, not so obviously;
the social, the least so. Why are they still objective?
And then he labors on what
makes the social facts collective, as such.
And that is–of course,
education is the major mechanism.
Okay, so let’s ask the
question, what is the social fact, as distinct from
biological or psychological? Well he said,
“Well, if all facts, what affects human beings,
would be regarded as social, there would be no real
discipline what should be called sociology.”
And as I pointed out
before–right?–he is the first person who identifies
emphatically with the discipline of sociology.
He actually has this notion of
life sciences, interestingly,
right? And sociology is part of life
sciences. Right?
There are three life sciences:
sociology, biology, and psychology.
But these three different life
sciences deal with different units of analysis,
deal with different objects. Right?
Biology deals with the body,
psychology deals with the personality,
while sociology deals–this is his shtick,
right?–it deals with collective representations.
Right?
He tries to move beyond the
idea of collective consciousness;
collective representation, which somehow objectively
embodies, as a fact, the states of collective
consciousness. And therefore he said,
“This is indeed a set of phenomena I will be able to
distinguish with other facts. So when do I act socially?”
he asks the question.
“I do so when I execute my
contract.” Right?
“I perform
duties–right?–which are defined externally to me.
Right?
If I perform my duties,
then I am acting socially; I’m a socially responsible
person”. Which seems to
be–right?–straightforward and obvious.
Okay, how objective they are?
That’s very–at first look it
doesn’t look too objective, because the sense of obligation
seems to be very subjective. Right?
You may occasionally say to
your partner, “You are
irresponsible.” Right?
By which you mean you don’t
have enough of a feeling of a duty towards me.
Right?
So there is this subjective
element involved in this. But he said nevertheless we can
see this is still objective. And one of the major ways how
we can understand it is objective,
that in fact there is some external enforcement–
right?–of these obligations, if you keep breaking these
obligations, there will be penalties against
you. Right?
Well not all the time.
Occasionally you can get away
with it. But at one point there may be
punishment. You see others being punished
by not fulfilling their duties or obligations,
and therefore you can see that it is externally enforced–
it’s not just a subjective thing that you think you have
duties, right?–it will be externally
implemented. So well you have
obligations–right?–at 7:00 p.m.
today to go on the internet and
unload questions–right?–and to answer two of them.
Well this, of course,
will come as subjective feelings of duty in you.
It’s–have enough guilt
feelings if you don’t do it in a timely manner,
if you would be late–it’s sufficiently internalized in
you. But you know that there were
occasions when people were late with assignments and there were
teaching fellows, or professors,
who deducted–right?– something from the grades.
So therefore you don’t want to
risk a lower grade. And beyond your deep personal
commitment that I want to fulfill my duty in a timely
manner– right?–there is also a concern
that if I don’t, I may get some penalty. Right?
So that’s what makes it social.
Right?
Okay, so well it has to be
collective. Right?
It cannot be just individual.
We have a collective sense of
obligations, and he uses the term ‘habits’.
It’s a very good term,
which I don’t think has been used before him so forcefully as
Durkheim did– became very widely used more
recently following another great French sociologist,
Pierre Bourdieu, who termed this term habit into
a term habitus. Right?
Well habit, habitus,
mores, manners, ways of life–right?–means
that we have something; we know how to navigate in
social life. Right?
We know how to deal with
situations. These are habits,
the ways how we behave in social life.
And he said,
“Where does it come from?”
He said this is coming from
education. Right?
It’s you are being educated
what you are supposed to do. Well that’s not
exactly–right?–what Hobbes meant.
Hobbes had this
idea–right?–of manners and customs,
but he believed that these manners and customs simply he
could explain from the individual actors.
Right?
The individuals act and then
they know that there will be another, an Alter who
will respond. They evaluate what the possible
answer of the other will be, and therefore they will learn
ways how to navigate, anticipating possible
punishment from others. Right?
So he, Hobbes,
can do it by doing a methodological individualist
exercise. Durkheim emphasizes no,
this is not how we learn it, through acting and getting
punishment and seeing others being punished.
It is through the system of
education. Now this is a good point,
an interesting point. Well and here
again–right?–this is kind of crystallized in ways of acting.
That’s what habit,
or in the more contemporary version habitus,
is all about. Right?
I think Bourdieu also means
that habitus is something what you learn and carry in yourself,
and depending what your habits or habitus are,
will mean how you will fit in different situations.
We occasionally think that
people get into positions where they don’t have the appropriate
habitus to behave– right?–and therefore they may
not be performing a task very well,
because they do not have the proper habits.
The habits are kind of
internalized earlier in life, and then it helps us to perform
different functions in society. Well I have to rush.
So how do we observe social
facts? And now here it comes.
These social facts are things,
and what we need is a rigorous discipline–right?–for social
analysis. And that also implies that we
have to get rid of all of our preconceptions.
We have to define the objects
of our investigations independently from our values.
It’s almost a value-free
science, what he argues; I will say not quite.
And we have to get rid of those
data which are too subjective–sort of social facts
are things, objects. Well this is a very interesting
citation, what you would not expect from
Durkheim, to come, and reads almost like
Karl Marx in The German Ideology.
Right?
“The proper science should
not proceed from ideas to things, but from things to
ideas.” Right? It reads almost identical to
The German Ideology. But he, of course,
means something different. Right?
The things are not property
relations. Right?
The things are actually
collective manifestations– right?–collective ideas.
So the notion of thing is used
here in a very unique and very different way.
But what he
emphasizes–right?–that they are not the individual ideas,
but they are kind of crystallized,
and it’s out there, over us, like things what we
cannot change, individuals cannot really
change. And he said well social
sciences evolve, just like natural sciences,
by getting rid of prejudices– right?–dogmas,
to moving beyond dogmas, and substitute them with the
study of facts. That’s what Bacon,
the philosopher–right?–in the seventeenth century suggested;
all scientific investigation should start from induction,
from the observance of sensually observable facts.
So he invokes
Bacon–right?–that this is the scientific method.
Right?
Well it is not necessarily
sensuous experience, which is emphasized in
Durkheim, but moving beyond preconceptions and dogmas.
And he said,
“Well the theory should be only introduced when science is
sufficiently at an advanced stage.”
Well this is a very good advice
to people who are graduate students and are doing
dissertations. Don’t start with
theory–right?–start by analyzing social facts,
and when you’re sufficiently advanced, that’s when you find
the proper theory. When you will be doing your
senior thesis, I think it’s good advice to
take. Right?
Don’t start with big words,
start with actual analysis and find theory when you already
have a scientific idea. And here he comes,
a strong critique of economists of his time;
a critique what some people will say would apply to
economists today. He said, “Economists today
principally are occupied how the economy ought to work,
rather than to understanding how the economy actually
works.” Right? Paul Krugman just published a
little piece in New York Times a couple of weeks ago
where he actually accused his own colleagues.
He said, “You created this
mess”– you know, with the financial
markets– “because you were never
looking at how the economy really works.
You operated how the economy
should be working. But we really should be
studying how the economy works.”
So it’s an interesting
criticism of economics–I mean, not necessarily true for all
economists. And it can be debated whether a
normative science, which describes how something
should operate, is illegitimate.
But he certainly takes the idea
that it should not be normative. Well we have to get rid of
preconceptions. Right?
And he said Descartes and Bacon
disagreed with each other. Right?
As I said, Bacon was the one
who said the analysis should start from induction,
observing phenomena what we can sensuously study,
and then move towards theorizing later on.
Descartes was opting for a
deductive method. He said, “Well we have to
start from general abstractions and then to move to derived
hypotheses from these general, and then to move to the
facts.” This is the difference between
Bacon and Descartes. But he said,
“But they do agree in one thing,
namely that no matter whether your reasoning is inductive–
right?–from observation to theory,
or deductive, from theory to observation,
they agree that we should get rid of the dogmas;
no preconceptions.” And he said this is
particularly difficult in social sciences because we think we
know how society works. We don’t necessarily think we
need social scientists to tell us how society works.
We experience society,
and therefore we have an idea how it works.
And we have a strong interest
how we would want society to work,
and if the conception, if the findings,
goes against our interest or beliefs,
strong sentiments, we tend to disregard it.
So it’s very difficult to get
rid of dogmas in social sciences,
because we have an ordinary knowledge–
right?–not scientific but ordinary knowledge–
how society and the economy operates–
right?–and we have an interest as well involved.
So very difficult to get rid of
our preconceptions. Well he said,
“Well yes, because we have very strong
sentiments–and that’s okay–we should study the
sentiments.” Sentiments should study as if
they were objects. But we should not be led by
sentiments. Right?
We have to proceed without
passion and without prejudices. Well we have to define the
objects of our investigation independently from our values,
as such. And therefore he said we have
to come up with objective definitions of what we are
studying. He said, “What is a
crime?” He said, “Crimes are
social acts which are punished.”
Therefore I don’t have to make
a value judgment in defining crime.
If I see a society in which
certain acts are systematically punished by that society,
I can say in this society this is defined as a crime.
I may disagree with this.
I may say this should not be a
crime, but in this society it is a crime.
In many societies,
for instance, homosexual acts were defined as
a crime. In those societies,
they were a crime. You can disagree with it,
and you should say, “Well, homosexuality
should be decriminalized”; as it was, fortunately,
decriminalized. It’s not a crime any longer.
Well smoking and selling
marijuana is a crime. Right?
It is being punished;
you can end up in jail. That’s a fact.
You may think that marijuana
should be decriminalized, but the fact that the
consumption of marijuana and marketing of marijuana is a
crime today in the United States is an objective fact–
right?–and it can be studied by looking at the law and what
on earth judges do in this country.
Right?
So that’s his point.
It doesn’t matter what your
values are, what matters what the practices of society are.
The same goes for morality.
He said, “Well some people
will say well they are immoral because they act differently
than I do.” He said, “No,
every society has morality. You have to understand what
that morality is, even if it is different from
your own morality.” Well we have to disregard too
subjective informations. This is what scientists do when
they use measures and instruments.
That’s what–he’s very much
attracted to the scientific reasoning in sociology;
it’s a very French idea. Well then he makes a
distinction between normal and pathological.
So what is the difference
between normal and pathological? Well he said,
“Normal is the most frequent form of action.”
Right?
We need a conception for
normality, because we just cannot operate without defining
normality. But how can we do that,
and at the same time remain objective, when we can say
something is abnormal without us making it?
He said it’s easy,
because what we shall do, that we should regard those as
normal which is sort of the most common way of act,
and to define the extremes as abnormal.
And he said the reason for this
is that it would be incomprehensible if the most
widespread act were not at the same time the most advantageous
one. But then he takes it back.
He said well we can actually
see a number of occasions when frequently behavior,
which is frequently followed, is actually not useful.
In this case,
it may be inherited from the past.
It may have been functional at
one point of time. The situation changed and
people still keep their habit, and they still keep behaving
that way, and that can be now defined as
abnormal, though it can be probably quite
average behavior. Right?
Think of racism,
for instance, as a good example.
Right?
Well there is a very
interesting argument about crime.
He said well crime looks like
it is indeed, by definition,
pathological. But is it?
He said well crime is present
in all societies. So when is–he makes this very
interesting argument. And therefore really,
I think, we are calling crime abnormal if there are too much
crime in society. Crime per se is a normal state,
as such. Well I think I’ll leave this
nominalism, realism argument out.
We’ll put it on the internet.
About causality–I’ll finish
with the idea of causality. He said well the task of social
sciences is to explain, not only to describe–to be
able to deal with causes and causality.
And there are different methods
how to do causality. He said in social sciences the
typical method is comparative, rather than experimental.
In natural sciences we do
experiments. In social sciences we can’t.
Experiment does assume that we
assign certain stimuli randomly to a population,
and then to see how they respond to this stimulus.
We can’t do that in society.
And as I mentioned about
suicide, we cannot assign people to get married and others to
assign not to get married, and to study later on what the
effect of marriage was in something like suicide.
So therefore what we can do is
the comparative method. Well I think I’m out of time.
He makes a distinction between
two types of comparative methods.
The comparative methods can be
either the method of agreement; a method of agreement if I
compare two similar types of societies.
For instance,
the United States and Canada, and to see whether there is a
difference between these two countries.
For instance,
the level–I have a theory that poverty may be related to crime.
People who are hungry are more
likely to steal food–right?–because they have
to feed themselves; to put it very simply.
Now I compare two societies by
the level of poverty is the same,
and then I will see whether it is indeed poor people are more
likely to commit certain type of crimes.
Or I can do the method of
difference. And the method of difference,
if I compare two very different countries.
I compare the United States
with Bangladesh, where there is a very different
rate of crime– right?–and then I see whether
there is a difference in crime as such.
He said the problem with this
method is that there is not enough cases,
and therefore the proper method, interestingly he argues,
is correlation. What we have to do is to find
what the correlations are between two variables.
Well this was guiding
contemporary social sciences. But Durkheim was smarter than
most number crunchers in social sciences, because–here I think
the last sentence what I’ll show is important.
Well you have to make sure that
the relationship, what the causal relationship
shows, is really causal. Right?
“And therefore we shall
investigate, by the aid of deduction, how one of the two
terms has produced the other one.” Right?
Today we would say,
what Durkheim is suggesting, if you want to establish real
causality, short of the possibility of an
experimental method, you have to figure out what is
the causal mechanism, what relates the two phenomena
together, which are statistically
correlated to each other. Statistical correlation does
not necessarily show that they are–one is causing the other
one. Right?
You have a theory that the
stork brings the baby, and then you test this,
and you show that fertility in Scandinavia is low,
and there are not many storks. So you have a very strong
correlation between number of storks and number of babies
being born. This still does not show
that–right?–the storks bring the babies.
Right?
Therefore you have to look at
the causal mechanism how babies are being produced.
That’s basically,
I think, a very early, insightful argument by
Durkheim’s methodology. And that’s about it.
Thank you.
>
Prof: Oh thank you.
Thanks.

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