According to Emile Durkheim, the Social Facts are the object of study of Sociology as they stem from life in society.
The French sociologist argues that these have three characteristics:
- Coercitivity – characteristic related to the strength of the cultural patterns of the group that the individuals integrate. These cultural patterns are so strong that they compel individuals to fulfill them.
- Outwardness – this characteristic conveys the fact that these patterns of culture are “external to individuals,” that is, they come from outside and are independent of their consciousness.
- Generality – social facts exist not for a specific individual, yet for the collectivity. We can see the generality by the propagation of the tendencies of the groups by the society, for example.
Durkheim’s sociological theory
Previously sociology was viewed not as an autonomous field of inquiry, but through psychological or organic approaches. Durkheim, however, devised the existence of specific social phenomena (“social facts”), which are units of study that can not be solved by techniques other than those of sociological detail. He also redefined sociology as a science which aims to study these facts Durkheim defined social facts in The rules of sociological method as: “… ways of acting, thinking and feeling external to the individual, and which has a power of in which imposed coercion to him … “
Such “social facts” exist before the birth of an individual in a given society and therefore are external to it. They are groups that are part of the culture of society, and are coercive because individuals are educated according to the norms and rules of society only because they have been born in it.
Durkheim also stated that society was something outside and within the individual, at the same time, because it adopts and internalizes its values and morals. Recognizes that society exists beyond ourselves, it is so much more than the individuals who compose it; society has a life that extends beyond our personal experiences. Society has the power to determine our thoughts and actions.