Distinguished himself from Marxist insistence on economic factor as the determinant of social change and Weber's famous view on the great influence of religion, Durkheim tries to explain social change by means of explaining the society itself apart from its individual members, through the analysis of the functional relationship between 'social facts'. By differentiating between social solidarity - one of the most important social fact that he is concerned with, Durkheim developed a series of theories to interpret the social change caused by industrialization and modernization.
Durkheim's analysis of society is based on his view of social facts. Unlike his colleagues, he sees human society as an objectively existing entity preceding the individuals who comprise it. He believes that the behaviours of each individual do not evolve from one's desire, rather, these behaviours are lead by the social system. In his opinion,
'Members of society are constrained by 'social facts', by 'ways of acting, thinking and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him'.
Beliefs and moral codes are passed on from one generation to the next and shared by the individuals who make up a society...' (Haralambos, 2000, pp.1035)
For example, if one buys a Rolls-Royce, the transaction does not occur simply because s/he wants the car, in deed s/he is also trying to earn certain respect and acceptance from the other individuals in the society. Durkheim coined the term 'social facts' to describe such societal respects and acceptance which he believed can hardly be modified. And from a functionalist stand point, these facts will be passed on from generation to generation by means of education, religious practice and other relevant social functions. Therefore, the person's will to buy a Rolls-Royce is probably inherited from his/er family tradition...