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Durkheim, Émile (1858–1917)

David Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), a French sociologist, that formally established the academic discipline of sociology with his work Rules of the Sociological Method (1895). After setting up the first European department of sociology at the University of Bordeaux, he became France’s first professor of sociology.

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  • Durkheimian is an adjective, meaning of or pertaining to Émile Durkheim.
  • Durkheim’s ideas along with those of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Max Weber (1864–1920) played a significant role in the development and growth of the social sciences.
  • In 1897, Durkheim published Suicide, which examined statistics from over 25,000 suicides. Durkheim found a correlation between suicide and widowhood which he called domestic anomie. He also categorized the suicides into four categories:
    • altruistic suicide
    • anomic suicide
    • egoistic suicide
    • fatalistic suicide

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  • “Durkheim argued that societies are built on social facts, that rapid social change produces strains in society, and that the loss of shared values and purposes can lead to a condition of anomie” (Kendall 2006:37).
  • “Near the end of the nineteenth century, Émile Durkheim’s Suicide (1897) established the field of sociology by offering the first comprehensive theory of suicide. Durkheim’s theory postulated that two basic social forces exist and interact within any society—regulation and integration. Societies that were chaotic and confused produced “anomic” suicides; societies characterized by excessive constraints were likely to develop “fatalistic” suicides; societies in which the individual felt alienated and separate would have “egoistic” suicides; and in societies in which there was overidentification with the values or causes of a person’s group, the suicides would be “altruistic.” Durkheim’s theory stimulated a continuing array of sociological-statistical investigations. It has been modified in innumerable ways, none of which seriously challenged his basic underlying theory” (Farberow 2003:799).

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Durkheim, Émile. [1893] 2004. “The Division of Labour in Society.” Pp. 19–38 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Farberow, Norman L. 2003. “Suicide Basics: History.” Pp. 795–800 in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, edited by R. Kastenbaum. New York: Macmillan Reference USA.

Cite the Definition of Émile Durkheim

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “Émile Durkheim.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 18, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/emile-durkheim/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

Émile Durkheim. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/emile-durkheim/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “Émile Durkheim.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 18, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/emile-durkheim/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“Émile Durkheim.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Jul. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/emile-durkheim/>.