Writing Out Loud: The Rules of Sociological Method

In the Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim calls for a science of sociology based on the empirical examination of something called social facts. Social facts are not facts about society, however, but rather structures and norms that exist outside any single individual. Read the excerpt carefully and then answer the following question.

Theme: Emergence Through Convergence


  1. What does Durkheim mean when he says that social facts are general because they are collective, but not collective because they are general?
  2. How can statistics be used to isolate social facts so that they can be studied, according to Durkheim?
  3. Durkheim suggests that social facts exist outside of any one individual, yet constrain each individual in powerful ways. In another of the readings in Social Theory Re-Wired, Durkheim argues that suicide is a social fact. Can you think of other examples of social facts that are seemingly very personal (like suicide) but operate as something bigger than the sum of their parts?
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