SOCY 151: Foundations of Modern Social Theory

Lecture 25

 - Durkheim and Social Facts


Durkheim understood life sciences as divided into three branches: biology, which is interested in the body, psychology, which deals with the personality, and sociology, which deals with collective representations. In The Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim attempted to provide methodological rules and guidance for establishing social facts and how they are related to one another.

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Foundations of Modern Social Theory

SOCY 151 - Lecture 25 - Durkheim and Social Facts

Chapter 1. Review of Final Test Questions [00:00:00]

Professor Iván Szelényi: Okay, now let me–I actually would like to spend as much time as I can on Durkheim’s methodology. I have lots of notes. This is the twenty-fourth lecture, note, this semester for this course. But let me rush through of the test questions and just to tell you how I would like to deal with them.

I think the first one is very obvious, probably a bit too obvious. The question is how can you make it interesting? I hope that the distinction between power and domination is clear. Right? Power means that somebody can impose its will on somebody else, even if that other person opposes it. There is a strong element of coercion involved. Right? You can coerce people to obey your command. Domination implies that you do not have to use coercion systematically, because people tend to internalize the reasons those who have power use in order to legitimate why they should have power. Right?

And then this brings us to the notion of legitimacy. Right? Legitimacy are the claims which are made by those who have power, which try to justify why it is reasonable that they should issue commands and others should obey it. So far, very simple. Right? What is kind of controversial about this? It’s controversial the way how Weber uses the notion of legitimacy. Normally we, in modern democratic theory, we believe–right?–a system is legitimate when it has popular consent. We think about universal suffrage. People go to free and fair elections, and then they elect leaders, and then they follow those elected to office this way. Then power is legitimate.

But I think Weber wants to have a broader notion of legitimacy. Because free and fair elections, operating with universal suffrage, go back one-hundred years in human history, and in some countries it still does not exist. And Weber does not want to describe the last ten minutes of human history for human history’s twenty-four hours. Right? He wants to offer some conceptual tools to understand the whole twenty-four hours. So that’s why he has this interesting notion of legitimacy; which it does imply that people have to have a certain degree of belief in the validity of the legitimacy claims. But it is a rather passive notion of belief. They don’t have to love the person in position of authority; they do not have to elect it. They simply–it’s enough if they think, “Well I cannot think of a better alternative.” Right? Another dictator could be worse than this one. Right? This is a dictator, but a reasonable one. And Weber will say, as long as this is happening, the person in authority will not have to use coercion systematically, and therefore it will be legitimate. Right?

Let me also just say–of course, the coercive element is also in domination. Right? If people disobey the law, then they will be coerced. There is certainly a promise of coercion, even in modern free democracies. People are put in jail; in this country people are even executed. Right? So there is an element of coercion. Just the real question is how systematic that coercion should be? And for Weber, pure exercise of authority is relatively rare and marginal. I would say, for instance, the sort of last year or two or three of Hitler was fairly illegitimate. Hitler had to use massive coercion. Certain epochs of rule of Stalin in the Soviet Union were illegitimate, not all the rule of Stalin. During the Second World War he established some legitimacy. But when he had to imprison ten million people–right?–and to kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, that is an indication that this is illegitimate. Okay? So that’s the way how I would handle it–right?–to work around this interesting conception of legitimacy, and what is for and against this.

Well this is again a very simple question, traditional and legal-rational authority. Right? The basic difference is–right?–that traditional authority, you have a personal master. In legal-rational authority you do not have a personal master. You obey the laws, and the people who are in charge, who are superiors, will also have to obey the same laws, what you are required to do. And traditional authority is legitimated by the sanctity of age-old rules. Here again I think the interesting issue, if I would write about this, will be, well this is a big historical distinction. But Weber also uses it to describe, in contemporary society, different types of organizations. So contemporary theory has a big dose of traditional authority in it–right?–and I would try to elaborate on this.

Well this is–right?–one of the trickier questions: Why does Weber believe that bureaucracy is efficient? And you may agree or may disagree with him. So first of all, I would state why Weber believes that bureaucracy is efficient. I would emphasize that he thinks that bureaucracy is the most efficient, in the technical terms–not necessarily otherwise. And then, of course, the way how he defines bureaucracy. People are put into position in terms of their competence. There is a rule of law. It is a predictable environment, a bureaucratic environment. There is a hierarchy of appeals; if somebody makes a mistake, how to appeal. This, of course, all makes it efficient. Now we know that bureaucracies are often inefficient. So how to reconcile this? Well it’s not that Weber was totally insensitive to the problem of inefficiencies of bureaucracies, and he formulated it how that bureaucracies are caught between formal and substantive rationality. That’s the way how I would probably defend Weber–to say he was not that naïve to believe that bureaucracies are always efficient. They would be efficient if they would be purely formally rational, but they are not. And one good example is welfare bureaucracies, which do establish a kind of patron-client relationships–right?–between bureaucracies and clients. Some people refer to this as welfare dependency, which makes it, of course, a cause of inefficiency.

Well this is a nice question to answer, and we discussed this a great deal. We know that charismatic leaders appear in times of crisis, when people are looking for a change. Right? So Barack Obama, during the presidential campaign, he has read Weber carefully; he knew how to frame–right?–his message exactly as a charismatic message. It was all about change, and it was about hope. Right? In contrast with Hillary Clinton or John McCain. Both of them emphasized that “we are experienced’. This is not what people wanted to hear when they wanted to have change. So yes, in this respect, Barack Obama did have a charismatic appeal, and this charismatic appeal did gel. Right? Many people responded to his charisma. He was criticized by his opponent that he’s a rock star–right?–because people got so excited about him. So he could appeal to the emotion of people. Right? He could appeal to them.

But, of course, as we again discussed in discussion sections–also briefly in class–Barack Obama has a charismatic appeal, but he operates in a legal-rational authority. Right? And we just have seen that very recently–right?–making a decision about the war in Afghanistan. Right? Well he had to deal with realities. Right? So well Weber would–in the classical sense, charisma in Weber is reserved to great religious leaders, such as Muhammad or Jesus or whatever, or the great prophets. And in this sense charisma is not really applicable to politicians operating in legal-rational authority. So Weber would have some unease to call Barack Obama a charismatic leader. I would think he would concede that certainly Barack Obama had charismatic features, as such.

Now the fifth question: Durkheim and the study of law. Why on earth he starts from the study of law in analyzing society? Because he’s a methodological collectivist, and because he wants to capture something like the collective conscience, which is more than the sum total of individual consciousness. But he’s also a scientist, and I hope I will have a little time to talk about the methodology. He wants to be very rigorous, and he doesn’t want to start with ideas; he wants to start with facts. Well he’s caught in–right?–a contradiction. So collective conscience is ideas. Right? How on earth you study them objectively? And law is a great example, because law is written down. Right? There is written law. You can study it objectively, and it is not only individual consciousness what guides us all. So I think this is the major reason why his point of departure is–as an example–law because this is what he can rigorously study. It can be seen as a social fact–right?–that this is the law, and to understand why this law came into being, under what circumstances, and how does it influence people? Well, of course, the inspiration comes from Montesquieu. All right.

Well agreement and disagreement. I think the real question is whether you buy into methodological collectivism or not. Some of you may be methodological individualists. Especially if you are an Econ major, you tend to be an economic individualist, a methodological individualist. Right? You tend to believe that there are rational individual actors who pursue interest, and you are very skeptical about anything which is assumedly above the individual. So in that case, if you are a methodological individualist–and, in fact, I think the dominant trend in social sciences today is methodological individualism and a great deal of skepticism about methodological collectivism–that can be a kind of critical handle on it. Or at least you can show this is the way how it can be criticized, and you can show why you actually think that methodological collectivism is reasonable.

Okay, the sixth question, organic and mechanical solidarity, and how this is related to Weber’s typology of authority. I mean, it’s pretty simple. There are very important distinctions–differences–between Durkheim and Weber. Durkheim looks at what brings society together. The central concept is solidarity. Weber looks at social conflict, what takes society apart. So he looks at struggle around power. Right? Weber is coming from the lineage of, I would say, Hobbes and Nietzsche. Right? That’s where the Weberian view comes from.

There are, of course, similarities. Organic solidarity is what legal-rational authority is for Weber. They try to capture modernity. Both are similar in the sense that they are also social typologies of societies, but also types of social organizations in any given society, as such. So these are some similarities. Okay, I think that’s probably about it.

Well the question of anomie. I think we covered this recently. So I don’t have to refresh your memory as much. The notion of anomie in Durkheim comes out of the absence of sufficient regulation. And this is a temporary product which emerges because mechanical solidarity is breaking down and organic solidarity has not been established yet. And in the transition from mechanical solidarity–traditional society–into a modern urban industrial society, people have a problem of regulation in value systems, and that’s when they are anomic. But this will go away.

What is the theory of human nature behind this? This can be debated. One possible argument is that since he believes that order has to come from the outside, from above, he tends to believe that without order, created by a societal level, collective conscience, we would do evil things. We need to be regulated. Right? Well of course he knows that we can be overregulated, and then that’s also pathological. But the main pathology, at least in the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity, is the absence of regulation and the problem that humans may do abnormal, pathological, or evil acts. So there is a notion of humans needing control over them.

Well this speaks to the eighth question: anomie and alienation. They are in many ways the opposite to each other. Right? Alienation means that you are over-regulated. You are not in control of your own life, of your own fate. That is what alienation means. Also Marx is inspired by Rousseau. It’s a kind of Rousseauian conception of nature behind that. The problem comes from society; it doesn’t come from the individual. Right? We are born in society, we are social by nature, and if modernity, modern capitalism, would be removed, we again would act socially and collectively in a good way. So that’s–and in contrast, like Durkheim’s notion is that the absence of regulation, that’s what causes pathologies. All right?

Ninth question. This is something what I think you find difficulties to deal with, because you did not find the word ‘disenchantment’ in any of the readings. And indeed Weber did not use the word very often. He did use it most critically in an essay what he wrote after he was trying to combine his various sociology of religions. But the word ‘enchantment’ is translated from the German word magic. So disenchantment means a situation in which the world loses magic, when magic is moved out of life. And this is happening with rationalization. Right? The big process of historical evolution is towards rationalization and the loss of magic. And the text what you have to support that is in The Protestant Ethic, where Weber makes a big deal out of it. That’s what especially Calvinism and the teaching of predestination did, it got rid of magic. Right? But though he is, say, a rationalist, he sees the downside of rationalism; the loss of magic is the price what we have to pay for rationalization. And he’s a bit nostalgic about the world, when it was magic, when the relations were magical.

So that is kind of a permanent condition of modernity; things are not getting any better. That’s, I think, one of the big differences with Durkheim’s notion of anomie. The loss of magic actually does mean, like–there is roots in Marx here. Because the loss of magic means that actually you seem to be more vulnerable to fate. Right? Magic, you were a magician, you had ways how to make God, the omnipotent God, to do things for you; for instance, to save you. Right? You could do it through magical means. In a rationalized world, we are less in control of our lives. So in this sense I think Weber’s notion of disenchantment is closer to the Marxian notion of alienation, rather than the Durkheimian notion of anomie.

Well social causes of suicide. Well we just covered this the last lecture. The argument is–right?–that we believe that suicide is the most individual, intimate decision. He actually does show, and demonstrate, this is not the case, because there are great differences in suicide rate across countries. These differences tend to be very stable. There are also strong relationships between suicide and religion, and suicide and education, and therefore there are–right?–social determinants of this very individualistic action, as suicide. Well there are these two dimensions in which you can conceptualize suicide: how well integrated you are or how well regulated you are. And Durkheim has this idea that too much integration and too much regulation, or too little integration or too little regulation, are both abnormal. He’s for the golden middle road. Right? Normality is in the middle road. Sort of an anomic suicide happens when you are not sufficiently regulated. Egoistic suicide occurs when you are not sufficiently integrated in society. That’s when you egoistically commit suicide, because you don’t care how yourself, killing yourself, will affect your beloved ones–right?–because you don’t have beloved ones. Right? You are not integrated in society. Right? You do not commit egoistic suicide when you care about the beloved ones, and you don’t want to cause them pain by killing yourself. Right? Anomic suicide happens if people are kind of not sufficiently regulated, and therefore they, in this anomic situation, may commit suicide. Okay, so that’s about it. And let me then move on to Durkheim’s methodology.

Chapter 2. The Rules of Sociological Method: Major Themes [00:24:15]

Yes, number twenty-four. So this is The Rules of Sociological Method, published in 1895, two years after The Division of Labor and two years before the Suicide, but foreshadows and combines elements from both. I have a lot of stuff, so I will rush you through. One question is–what he deals with–when is a fact social; when can we talk about social facts? Then he asks how can we observe social facts? Then he makes a distinction between normal and pathological states. He also writes about nominalism and realism, and offers an alternative to nominalism and realism, what is his system of classifications. And then he addresses the issue of the question of explanation and causality–very path breaking ideas in his times.

Chapter 3. When Is a “Fact” Social? [00:25:26]

So when is a fact social? And the first point is, well we have to make a distinction between social and biological or psychological phenomena. Well, and then he also–I will elaborate on this. And then he asks the question, how objective are the social facts? The biological facts are obviously objective; psychological, not so obviously; the social, the least so. Why are they still objective? And then he labors on what makes the social facts collective, as such. And that is–of course, education is the major mechanism.

Okay, so let’s ask the question, what is the social fact, as distinct from biological or psychological? Well he said, “Well, if all facts, what affects human beings, would be regarded as social, there would be no real discipline what should be called sociology.” And as I pointed out before–right?–he is the first person who identifies emphatically with the discipline of sociology. He actually has this notion of life sciences, interestingly, right? And sociology is part of life sciences. Right? There are three life sciences: sociology, biology, and psychology. But these three different life sciences deal with different units of analysis, deal with different objects. Right? Biology deals with the body, psychology deals with the personality, while sociology deals–this is his shtick, right?–it deals with collective representations. Right?

He tries to move beyond the idea of collective consciousness; collective representation, which somehow objectively embodies, as a fact, the states of collective consciousness. And therefore he said, “This is indeed a set of phenomena I will be able to distinguish with other facts. So when do I act socially?” he asks the question. “I do so when I execute my contract.” Right? “I perform duties–right?–which are defined externally to me. Right? If I perform my duties, then I am acting socially; I’m a socially responsible person”. Which seems to be–right?–straightforward and obvious. Okay, how objective they are? That’s very–at first look it doesn’t look too objective, because the sense of obligation seems to be very subjective. Right? You may occasionally say to your partner, “You are irresponsible.” Right? By which you mean you don’t have enough of a feeling of a duty towards me. Right? So there is this subjective element involved in this. But he said nevertheless we can see this is still objective.

And one of the major ways how we can understand it is objective, that in fact there is some external enforcement–right?–of these obligations, if you keep breaking these obligations, there will be penalties against you. Right? Well not all the time. Occasionally you can get away with it. But at one point there may be punishment. You see others being punished by not fulfilling their duties or obligations, and therefore you can see that it is externally enforced–it’s not just a subjective thing that you think you have duties, right?–it will be externally implemented. So well you have obligations–right?–at 7:00 p.m. today to go on the internet and unload questions–right?–and to answer two of them. Well this, of course, will come as subjective feelings of duty in you. It’s–have enough guilt feelings if you don’t do it in a timely manner, if you would be late–it’s sufficiently internalized in you. But you know that there were occasions when people were late with assignments and there were teaching fellows, or professors, who deducted–right?–something from the grades. So therefore you don’t want to risk a lower grade. And beyond your deep personal commitment that I want to fulfill my duty in a timely manner–right?–there is also a concern that if I don’t, I may get some penalty. Right? So that’s what makes it social. Right?

Okay, so well it has to be collective. Right? It cannot be just individual. We have a collective sense of obligations, and he uses the term ‘habits’. It’s a very good term, which I don’t think has been used before him so forcefully as Durkheim did–became very widely used more recently following another great French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, who termed this term habit into a term habitus. Right? Well habit, habitus, mores, manners, ways of life–right?–means that we have something; we know how to navigate in social life. Right? We know how to deal with situations. These are habits, the ways how we behave in social life. And he said, “Where does it come from?” He said this is coming from education. Right? It’s you are being educated what you are supposed to do.

Well that’s not exactly–right?–what Hobbes meant. Hobbes had this idea–right?–of manners and customs, but he believed that these manners and customs simply he could explain from the individual actors. Right? The individuals act and then they know that there will be another, an Alter who will respond. They evaluate what the possible answer of the other will be, and therefore they will learn ways how to navigate, anticipating possible punishment from others. Right? So he, Hobbes, can do it by doing a methodological individualist exercise.

Durkheim emphasizes no, this is not how we learn it, through acting and getting punishment and seeing others being punished. It is through the system of education. Now this is a good point, an interesting point. Well and here again–right?–this is kind of crystallized in ways of acting. That’s what habit, or in the more contemporary version habitus, is all about. Right? I think Bourdieu also means that habitus is something what you learn and carry in yourself, and depending what your habits or habitus are, will mean how you will fit in different situations. We occasionally think that people get into positions where they don’t have the appropriate habitus to behave–right?–and therefore they may not be performing a task very well, because they do not have the proper habits. The habits are kind of internalized earlier in life, and then it helps us to perform different functions in society. Well I have to rush.

Chapter 4. Social Facts Observed through Rigorous Discipline [00:34:42]

So how do we observe social facts? And now here it comes. These social facts are things, and what we need is a rigorous discipline–right?–for social analysis. And that also implies that we have to get rid of all of our preconceptions. We have to define the objects of our investigations independently from our values. It’s almost a value-free science, what he argues; I will say not quite. And we have to get rid of those data which are too subjective–sort of social facts are things, objects.

Well this is a very interesting citation, what you would not expect from Durkheim, to come, and reads almost like Karl Marx in The German Ideology. Right? “The proper science should not proceed from ideas to things, but from things to ideas.” Right? It reads almost identical to The German Ideology. But he, of course, means something different. Right? The things are not property relations. Right? The things are actually collective manifestations–right?–collective ideas. So the notion of thing is used here in a very unique and very different way. But what he emphasizes–right?–that they are not the individual ideas, but they are kind of crystallized, and it’s out there, over us, like things what we cannot change, individuals cannot really change.

And he said well social sciences evolve, just like natural sciences, by getting rid of prejudices–right?–dogmas, to moving beyond dogmas, and substitute them with the study of facts. That’s what Bacon, the philosopher–right?–in the seventeenth century suggested; all scientific investigation should start from induction, from the observance of sensually observable facts. So he invokes Bacon–right?–that this is the scientific method. Right? Well it is not necessarily sensuous experience, which is emphasized in Durkheim, but moving beyond preconceptions and dogmas. And he said, “Well the theory should be only introduced when science is sufficiently at an advanced stage.” Well this is a very good advice to people who are graduate students and are doing dissertations. Don’t start with theory–right?–start by analyzing social facts, and when you’re sufficiently advanced, that’s when you find the proper theory. When you will be doing your senior thesis, I think it’s good advice to take. Right? Don’t start with big words, start with actual analysis and find theory when you already have a scientific idea.

And here he comes, a strong critique of economists of his time; a critique what some people will say would apply to economists today. He said, “Economists today principally are occupied how the economy ought to work, rather than to understanding how the economy actually works.” Right? Paul Krugman just published a little piece in New York Times a couple of weeks ago where he actually accused his own colleagues. He said, “You created this mess”–you know, with the financial markets–“because you were never looking at how the economy really works. You operated how the economy should be working. But we really should be studying how the economy works.” So it’s an interesting criticism of economics–I mean, not necessarily true for all economists. And it can be debated whether a normative science, which describes how something should operate, is illegitimate. But he certainly takes the idea that it should not be normative.

Well we have to get rid of preconceptions. Right? And he said Descartes and Bacon disagreed with each other. Right? As I said, Bacon was the one who said the analysis should start from induction, observing phenomena what we can sensuously study, and then move towards theorizing later on. Descartes was opting for a deductive method. He said, “Well we have to start from general abstractions and then to move to derived hypotheses from these general, and then to move to the facts.” This is the difference between Bacon and Descartes. But he said, “But they do agree in one thing, namely that no matter whether your reasoning is inductive–right?–from observation to theory, or deductive, from theory to observation, they agree that we should get rid of the dogmas; no preconceptions.”

And he said this is particularly difficult in social sciences because we think we know how society works. We don’t necessarily think we need social scientists to tell us how society works. We experience society, and therefore we have an idea how it works. And we have a strong interest how we would want society to work, and if the conception, if the findings, goes against our interest or beliefs, strong sentiments, we tend to disregard it. So it’s very difficult to get rid of dogmas in social sciences, because we have an ordinary knowledge–right?–not scientific but ordinary knowledge–how society and the economy operates–right?–and we have an interest as well involved. So very difficult to get rid of our preconceptions. Well he said, “Well yes, because we have very strong sentiments–and that’s okay–we should study the sentiments.” Sentiments should study as if they were objects. But we should not be led by sentiments. Right? We have to proceed without passion and without prejudices.

Well we have to define the objects of our investigation independently from our values, as such. And therefore he said we have to come up with objective definitions of what we are studying. He said, “What is a crime?” He said, “Crimes are social acts which are punished.” Therefore I don’t have to make a value judgment in defining crime. If I see a society in which certain acts are systematically punished by that society, I can say in this society this is defined as a crime. I may disagree with this. I may say this should not be a crime, but in this society it is a crime. In many societies, for instance, homosexual acts were defined as a crime. In those societies, they were a crime. You can disagree with it, and you should say, “Well, homosexuality should be decriminalized”; as it was, fortunately, decriminalized. It’s not a crime any longer.

Well smoking and selling marijuana is a crime. Right? It is being punished; you can end up in jail. That’s a fact. You may think that marijuana should be decriminalized, but the fact that the consumption of marijuana and marketing of marijuana is a crime today in the United States is an objective fact–right?–and it can be studied by looking at the law and what on earth judges do in this country. Right? So that’s his point. It doesn’t matter what your values are, what matters what the practices of society are.

The same goes for morality. He said, “Well some people will say well they are immoral because they act differently than I do.” He said, “No, every society has morality. You have to understand what that morality is, even if it is different from your own morality.” Well we have to disregard too subjective informations. This is what scientists do when they use measures and instruments. That’s what–he’s very much attracted to the scientific reasoning in sociology; it’s a very French idea.

Chapter 5. Distinctions between Normal and Pathological [00:44:15]

Well then he makes a distinction between normal and pathological. So what is the difference between normal and pathological? Well he said, “Normal is the most frequent form of action.” Right? We need a conception for normality, because we just cannot operate without defining normality. But how can we do that, and at the same time remain objective, when we can say something is abnormal without us making it? He said it’s easy, because what we shall do, that we should regard those as normal which is sort of the most common way of act, and to define the extremes as abnormal.

And he said the reason for this is that it would be incomprehensible if the most widespread act were not at the same time the most advantageous one. But then he takes it back. He said well we can actually see a number of occasions when frequently behavior, which is frequently followed, is actually not useful. In this case, it may be inherited from the past. It may have been functional at one point of time. The situation changed and people still keep their habit, and they still keep behaving that way, and that can be now defined as abnormal, though it can be probably quite average behavior. Right? Think of racism, for instance, as a good example. Right?

Well there is a very interesting argument about crime. He said well crime looks like it is indeed, by definition, pathological. But is it? He said well crime is present in all societies. So when is–he makes this very interesting argument. And therefore really, I think, we are calling crime abnormal if there are too much crime in society. Crime per se is a normal state, as such. Well I think I’ll leave this nominalism, realism argument out. We’ll put it on the internet.

Chapter 6. The Question of Causality [00:46:47]

About causality–I’ll finish with the idea of causality. He said well the task of social sciences is to explain, not only to describe–to be able to deal with causes and causality. And there are different methods how to do causality. He said in social sciences the typical method is comparative, rather than experimental. In natural sciences we do experiments. In social sciences we can’t. Experiment does assume that we assign certain stimuli randomly to a population, and then to see how they respond to this stimulus. We can’t do that in society. And as I mentioned about suicide, we cannot assign people to get married and others to assign not to get married, and to study later on what the effect of marriage was in something like suicide. So therefore what we can do is the comparative method. Well I think I’m out of time.

He makes a distinction between two types of comparative methods. The comparative methods can be either the method of agreement; a method of agreement if I compare two similar types of societies. For instance, the United States and Canada, and to see whether there is a difference between these two countries. For instance, the level–I have a theory that poverty may be related to crime. People who are hungry are more likely to steal food–right?–because they have to feed themselves; to put it very simply. Now I compare two societies by the level of poverty is the same, and then I will see whether it is indeed poor people are more likely to commit certain type of crimes.

Or I can do the method of difference. And the method of difference, if I compare two very different countries. I compare the United States with Bangladesh, where there is a very different rate of crime–right?–and then I see whether there is a difference in crime as such. He said the problem with this method is that there is not enough cases, and therefore the proper method, interestingly he argues, is correlation. What we have to do is to find what the correlations are between two variables. Well this was guiding contemporary social sciences.

But Durkheim was smarter than most number crunchers in social sciences, because–here I think the last sentence what I’ll show is important. Well you have to make sure that the relationship, what the causal relationship shows, is really causal. Right? “And therefore we shall investigate, by the aid of deduction, how one of the two terms has produced the other one.” Right? Today we would say, what Durkheim is suggesting, if you want to establish real causality, short of the possibility of an experimental method, you have to figure out what is the causal mechanism, what relates the two phenomena together, which are statistically correlated to each other. Statistical correlation does not necessarily show that they are–one is causing the other one. Right? You have a theory that the stork brings the baby, and then you test this, and you show that fertility in Scandinavia is low, and there are not many storks. So you have a very strong correlation between number of storks and number of babies being born. This still does not show that–right?–the storks bring the babies. Right? Therefore you have to look at the causal mechanism how babies are being produced. That’s basically, I think, a very early, insightful argument by Durkheim’s methodology. And that’s about it. Thank you.

[end of transcript]

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