There is some Thing out there: Emile Durkheim
in Beginning classical social theory
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This chapter examines sections from Emile Durkheim’s The Rules of Sociological Method (1895). Durkheim argues here that it is the purpose of science to disturb established ideas. One such idea is that things (in society as elsewhere) exist for the purpose of fulfilling the function that they happen to be fulfilling. Against this he hammers home the need to distinguish between the cause of something and the function it has assumed (or has been subsumed to). Most of all, Durkheim’s insistence that society is not something that merely happens in our minds but that it actually is something thing-ly, out there, for real, acknowledges the fact of alienation that also others like Marx reflect on.


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