Social fact is a concept by sociologist Émile Durkheim and refers to the habits and ways of acting and thinking that determine the way individuals behave in a society. Social fact definition
According to Durkheim, social facts are expressed in social rules, values and norms and force individuals to act in accordance with cultural standards.
When an individual acts outside these standards in a society, he will be considered maladjusted or may even be punished.
Social facts are external to individuals, as they form part of a collective consciousness and are already established before their birth.
The 3 characteristics of social facts according to Durkheim
According to Émile Durkheim, for a custom or behavior to be considered a social fact, it must have three characteristics: Social fact definition
- Generality : the social fact, expressed in rules and values, must be applied to all or most individuals in a society;
- Externality : the social fact is outside of individual consciousness, it is independent of the will of individuals and prior to them;
- Coerciveness : social facts exert force on individuals and those who do not follow the standards imposed by society can be punished.
Examples of common social facts
According to Durkheim, social facts determine the way individuals act in a society: they shape the way of acting, thinking and understanding the world. Social fact definition
Some examples of social facts are:
- Family relationships;
- Role of each member in a family;
- Use of clothing;
- Religious and cultural rituals;
- Political organization.
When an individual does not act in accordance with the social fact, this may suffer embarrassment or punishment. This could happen to someone in our society who decides to walk the streets without clothes.
As in our society we have the habit of walking dressed, nudity will cause strangeness on the part of other people and, if there is a law for the subject, the individual can be held responsible for the act.
The rules imposed by social facts do not always need to be written, they are often tacit understandings, present in the collective consciousness.
There are, however, many social facts that are translated in the form of laws and norms that make up the legal systems of the countries, with punishments foreseen for their non-compliance.
For Durkheim, social facts act as impositions on individuals, who may not feel this force because they are already used to them. Social fact definition
The force of social facts, however, can be felt by an individual when he tries to transgress them.
The role of education in social facts
Education is itself a social fact and it is also the way in which individuals are molded to act in accordance with the cultural standards of a society.
Education is based on the principle that adult individuals are responsible for teaching and educating children in accordance with society’s values and customs.
This means that children go to school not only to learn the contents of subjects, but to understand social norms and how they should behave in society.
In other words, the school prepares the individual to live collectively and act in accordance with established cultural and ethical standards. These standards serve as a beacon for people’s behavior.
At school, students also build their understanding of the world, understand themselves as a society and know their origins. Social fact definition
Normal and pathological social fact
Émile Durkheim classified social facts into normal and pathological:
- Normal social fact : social facts that are in cohesion with society and respect the institutional order and norms of social groups. Normal social facts are common to most individuals;
- Pathological social fact : pathological social facts are those behaviors that are outside the norms and behavior of the majority. They are considered diseases and bring negative consequences, some examples are crimes and violent attitudes.
Émile Durkheim is considered the father of sociology
Émile Durkheim was born in France in 1858, where he lived until his death in 1917. The researcher dedicated his life to studies on collective behavior. Social fact definition
Durkheim inaugurated sociology as a scientific discipline by developing a rigorous scientific method for social inquiry.
In his scientific method, he defined social facts as the central object of study in sociology . Social facts helped to explain the repetitive behavior of individuals in a society.
In his understanding, society was above the individual and social facts acted as impositions on individual behavior. Social fact definition