Annotations on The Rules of Durkheim (II). Consider social facts as things

Chapter 2 of The Rules (the rules relating to the observation of social facts) begins with a famous phrase, and discussed:

The first rule et la plus fondamentale est de we must consider les faits sociaux comme des choses (Cap 2. p 15)

This phrase has been interpreted in multiple ways. In particular, is sometimes read as a rejection of the subjectivity, in terms of the methodology of Durkheim does not give relevance to the concepts and beliefs of the actor. These would be more well prenociones, and the recommendation of Durkheim on these prenociones is rather clear:

Le premier de ces corollaires est: Il faut écarter systématiquement toutes les prénotions. Une démonstration spéciale de cette rule n’est pas nécessaire; elle résulte de tout ce que nous avons dit précédemment. Elle est d’ailleurs, the base of toute méthode scientifique (Ch 2, II, p 31)

However, that reading wrong which is the center of the concern of Durkheim. The rule is addressed to the researcher refers not to what is the object of the study.

The core of the rule is that the researcher must approach the study of social life as something external to him. The insistence that social life be studied as a thing and not as an idea, it is a criticism of the practice in which the researcher part of his own idea of how things are and gives it for certain. First, we will develop this idea. Then, we present how this idea is transferred to the subject of the object of study

Consider social facts as things implies that the researcher must step out of their ideas

This makes then the rule is fully consistent with the idea of studying the concepts of actors, or to take these concepts seriously as shaping the social life. Since these concepts are, for the researcher, it is also something external, something ‘given’ to the researcher:

Est chose, en effet, tout ce qui est donné, tout ce qui s offre ou, plutôt, s impose to l’observation, Traiter des phénomenes comme des choses, c’est les traiter in qualité de data qui constituent le point de départ de la science (Ch 2, I, p. 27)

Not be wanting those who will say, based on the contemporary discussion, that that emphasis in the character given of the evidence is a sample of the positivism of Durkheim, and that being wrong, debunks the point. The case is that, the important thing is to look at the intention of the author: Again, it is criticizing the fact that the researcher can simply use their own ideas, without making any observation. That observation is passive (something given), or active (the ‘data’ is constructed) is the secondary. The important thing is to make that observation.

What you are criticizing Durkheim is the following procedure, exemplified here with the theory of value in economy (but previously he has exemplified in criminology and in other fields of study):

C’est, pur the faire [the theory of value], l’economiste is content of is recueillier, prendre conscience de l idée qu’il se fait de la valeur, c this-dire d’un objet susceptible de s échanger; il trouve qu’elle implies l idée de l utile, celle du rare , etc, et c’est avec ces produits de are’analyse qu’il build sa definition (Cao 2, I. p 25)

To think that the researcher simply putting in order your ideas can learn much of the world, it is this that is criticizing Durkheim. Will not have to defend too much that is right. Finally, because the number of possible patterns that can be produced by simply thinking are manifold, and therefore little to know which of them could be made. Or by following a reasoning to the Popper, that, as the schemes are generic and may be applied to any situation thinkable -passed and the scheme applied, it goes not-and the scheme also applies to-, which shows us the emptiness of them turn out to be.

That is the center of the critique that made Durkheim and the axis of his proposal. And there is no more to say, in front of it, which is rigorously true.

Consider social facts as things involves observing from the practice

Now, you can continue arguing that, although this is the axis, there is all ways a devaluation of the concepts and ideas as such, and in this sense of the subjectivity. When Durkheim wants to explain and exemplify the subject of the data, a few sentences later for our second appointment, continues in this way:

Ce qui nous est donné, ce n’est pas l idée that les hommes se font de la valeur, car elle est inaccessible: ce sont les valeurs qui s échangent réellement au cours des relations économiques. Ce n’est pas telle ou telle conception de l idéal morale; c’est / l’ensemble des règles qui déterminent effectivement la conduite. Ce n’est pas lídée de l utile ou de la richesse; c’est tout le charges of l organization économique (Ch 2, I, 27.28)

It is clear that we are not only front then a call to investigate the social reality and not just stay in the prenociones of the researcher: let’s Look at not the ideas that the people make the value, but as they are exchanged.

Do not come back here, then, the issue of the abandonment of subjectivity? In fact, not. And do not for a consideration that is crucial in all theories that emphasize subjectivity: That it is translated into action, that these concepts are necessary to understand the action. Then, if this is correct, then when you look at the exchange or the economic organization, those elements of the concepts and notions of the subjects that are part of these exchanges and the organization will have to demonstrate in any way that is possible to investigate.

Durkheim in this sense is not to deny the subjectivity. What we are saying is that what interests us is, first of all, in these processes, and practices, on those facts that can be observed. If the subjectivity matter, it is because you are required to analyze such processes, and practices-that is what they tell us those same theories of subjectivity.

Even more, we can recall a distinction that, for example do both Giddens and Bourdieu, on the difference between the speech of the agent and the concepts that are installed in the practice. What the agent says that does not necessarily correspond to the concepts actually used in their practice. And this is precisely the point of Durkheim, and the fundamental reason insists in its ‘social facts as things’: we are interested in practice and social interactions. How someone could say that this is a recommendation that is wrong?

In the same way as the previous entry, we are using the edition Quadrigé of the Presses Universitaires du France, 2013.

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