Founders Dread

What is the differentiation of social fact vs. social current? And how did Durkheim come up with them? How did Suicide create Sociology? How is it different than Anthropology?


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  • Ian Whiting  On February 3, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    From my understanding of the reading, social fact is a far more stable set of values, customs and laws that exist in any given group of people, ie society. A social current is a temporary situation which may even overcome these social “norms.” My example would be that of a political revolution, whereby the social current is the “spark” of the (often violent) revolution. However, when a successful revolutionary state is established, it typically seeks to legitimize and stabilize government power. This is an attempt to appease the social facts of the dominant culture.

    Durkheim’s studies are rather limited to understanding the socio-political cohesions of industrialized Western nations. In a sense, this was the initial purpose of sociology as a field. If it can be said that sociology began a focus on the “inward,” then I would argue that early anthropology began to look “outward” towards the non-Western “other.” While anthropology looks into the development and variations of human culture in a broad spectrum, the purpose of sociology is far more interested in the social institutions of complex societies.

  • Catelynn Danell  On February 4, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Social facts are the general rules of behavior that we have internalized due to growing up in our society. They can only be experienced through their effects, which occur when they are broken. These rules are unspoken but are set as the “laws” of our society. Social currents are spur of the moment feelings that drive a group of people. These feelings are not those of the individual and are instead impressed on them. These may override social facts and are short lived. This differs from social facts because instead of being short lived, social facts, are imbedded into the structures of society and shape its individuals without dying out.
    Durkheim wanted to pose sociology as a science. Social facts stand as the laws needed to study and gave sociology the push it needed to become its own field. The laws that govern society became something that could be studied. Sociology differs from Anthropology in that it focuses more on the complex social structures that influence our behaviors while Anthropology’s focus is on a smaller scale.

  • Chong  On February 4, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Social facts are informal established rules of society. How we act, what we do, and why we do things are all influenced by these social facts. Social facts are what society sees as acceptable behavior. Social currents, on the other hand, are not what we would call the established rules. Social currents are more of temporary emotions and attitudes of a group. An example would be like trends. They go in and out of style every so often. It doesn’t last for a very long time. Durkheim wanted to make sociology better known as its own science. He wanted to differentiate sociology from other social sciences like anthropology and psychology. By using the study of social facts and how it drives a society to act is how Durkheim came to drive sociology as a science. Anthropology and sociology are quite similar in that it studies different societies and people. The difference is that sociology goes more in depth into how societies grow and what factors influences social movements while anthropology goes through how a human culture as a whole has changed.

  • Lennin  On February 5, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Does social facts, take into account cultural variability?, In other words, are we looking at social constants/tendencies? Are social facts set in stone?

    • Monica Kiser  On February 5, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Social facts can evolve within a society so they can change. It would take a social current to change a social fact. Social facts can take into account cultural variability because it is up to a group as a whole to adopt a social fact. However, the dominant culture is usually the ones that control social facts.

      • TheAnthroGeek  On February 8, 2015 at 10:50 pm

        “the dominant culture”, what’s that? The Social Fact is often the dominant cultural force, but no one seems to be controlling it.

  • dkcruz22  On February 5, 2015 at 8:56 am

    No social facts are not set in stone. Trends, ideas, traditions are somewhat changing or being tweaked everyday. With Durkheim’s idea and using suicide he challenged he belief of what was affecting people mentally, which seemed to be the world around them. Using the insecurities that people get from their status in life as in a sense the pill of the experiment.

    • TheAnthroGeek  On February 8, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      i disagree. Social Facts are often set in stone.

    • Lennin  On February 9, 2015 at 11:22 am

      I think what suicide did was connect the individualist action of suicides, and add that they are structurally connected, thus Durkheim posed the theory of structural functionalism. Suicide created sociology the study of society as a science, through empirical data.

  • Laura  On February 5, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Social fact is basically like a social norm. It is the rules that people follow because it is what is expected of them. Social currents, however, are the temporary changes in the expectation. They are imposed by a large movement or reaction to an event that a group of people may have and press onto others. Social currents may override social facts, but only for a short period of time, then the social facts will come back to the forefront as the way society and individuals behave.
    Durkheim was able to come up with these terms as he found a way to make sociology into a form of science. In science, there are laws that govern the way it is studied and looked at. Thus, sociology needed their own kind of laws which is where social facts come into play. Social facts are the laws that sociologist must follow when in their field of study. This is similar to the way anthropology is studied as they both focus on the way a society is run. However, anthropology encompasses more than just the current culture and their laws but also the differences between cultures and the way they change from the influences around them throughout time a places. Sociology is more focused on the structure of the society while anthropology is focused on the influences and changes.

  • Selena  On February 5, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Social facts are the rules that guide social activities and behaviors; they are often unspoken and differ depending on the particular society that you’re in. Social currents aren’t as constant and tend to rise out of an unexpected need. Though differing in relation to time, both are major factors that influence individuals. Durkheim came up with these ideas as he sought to create a new field of study – sociology – that would study the individual in a different way (a more collective way, as opposed to psychology for instance). An example of his intentions is with his book on Suicide. Suicides had previously been seen as an individual thing, but through his studies and research findings, Durkheim revealed that it was more rooted in social facts. Sociology is closely related to Anthropology as they’re both concerned with understanding humans in a collective way, but I feel like the difference between them would be in their methodology (induction vs deduction and all that).

  • Monica Kiser  On February 5, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Social facts are the norms and values that govern a society. Social facts have a great influence on a person’s behavior. These facts help a society act as a whole and function day to day. An example of a social fact would be language, religion, kinship and marriage, political organizations and economic systems. A social current can be seen as a movement in a society that goes against the social facts. Social currents are short lived and are carried out by a group. Sometimes social currents can become social facts if adopted by the larger group. Durkheim used this idea of social facts as a way of studying suicide. This was the idea behind making Sociology its own discipline. He felt these social facts could be used in a way to study societies as a whole. How it is different from Anthropology is Sociology looks more into social structures and how these structures affect societies. Also, they look at how an individual fits in society. Anthropology takes a more holistic approach and considers biology, behavior, our past and our present.

  • Tiberius!  On February 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    When talking about social facts it is explaining the basic rules of society, these are considered the norm or our society and we follow these rules with the understanding that if we dont there will be consequences. Social current is more of a changing fad, this is when something gains popularity and even social fact is overrode in the moment. Durkheim wanted to study society scientifically, he believed that society was more than individuals and wanted to learn how a society operated. The biggest social factor durkhiem looked into was suicide, he believes that suicide is a reaction to social causes. It was not an individualistic act as previously believed. Anthropology focuses on the whole aspect of life, the past biology and the present behavior of a culture. Sociology is focused on the society in a broader context than anthropology.

  • Brionna Mendoza  On February 10, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Durkheim describes a social fact as the catalyst for social activity. This force cannot actually be seen; it is only acknowledged in the effects it produces. Furthermore, if these social facts are not obeyed, there are consequences, such as being ostracized. For example, there are ever-present laws, such as those that prohibit violence or murder. To do either would mean being arrested and a reputation as a criminal for the rest of one’s life. Social current, on the other hand, is a momentary rush of feeling that gives power to a group and sometimes even empowers them to override social fact. For example, the Nazi regime was able to commandeer a formerly democratic society, based on their appeal to the citizens’ resentment toward being blamed for WWI. A social current is forceful, but short-lived in comparison to the security of social fact through time.

    Durkheim’s work Suicide was the first systematic study of a social fact in the context of society, which fulfilled his goal of applying scientific principles to the study of society. Sociology seeks to establish the universal structure of societal behavior, but anthropology focuses more on documenting foreign cultures and their specific societal patters. I would also venture to say that cultural anthropology is not as systematic as sociology seeks to be.

  • Alfred L.  On February 10, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Social facts are coercive rules and behaviors that a person inherits from his or her society. Social currents are emotions collectively experienced by a crowd of people indefinitely, whereas social facts are definite. I think Suicide created sociology by using statistics to predict behavior, creating “a scientific method for identifying social facts”. Anthropology focuses more on individuals, whereas sociology is more focused on collective groups of people.

  • sunny  On May 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    social fact is in essence a template that an individuals is practically born with which are identified as truth or as Durkeheim describes it is the catalyst. Whereas social current are trends that are brought forth by a group and usually have short shelf life. They do not last for that long. Suicide on the other hand created sociology through the data of behaviors of individuals, and through the analysis of the data assumptions and so forth are made. Anthropology takes a holistic approach on individuals and sociology takes in account of a whole.

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