Why is the Concept of 'Social Fact' of Central Importance to Social Scientist?

Essay by EileenmaloneUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, March 2006

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In this essay I am going to be researching why the concept of 'social fact' is of central importance to social science. I will be demonstrating what social fact actually is and how it has been identified by sociologists in the past and present, this will include looking at the works of the famous sociologists Emile Durkheim (1858 - 1917). I will also be introducing the notion of structuralism and looking at functionalism and positivism in social science, demonstrating its relevance to the key concept of social fact. Let it be known that this is a complex question, so therefore by providing specific evidence, also could be seen as arguable to others depending on individual beliefs. Therefore I have chosen to be selective, as no attempt will be made to be encyclopedic, rather I have selected some of the cardinal strengths within the subject matter.

By a social fact, Durkheim is referring to facts, concepts, expectations that come not from individual responses and preferences, but that come from the social community which socializes each of its members.

Although we might embrace the normative community behavior and share its values, we are constrained by its very existence. Though we as people, or as individuals may think we choose to behave in one way rather than another, in reality the choice is already made for us. It was Durkheim who first stressed the consensus view that even the possibilities of thought and experiences are inherited, not invented. (P, Jones 2000). A good example which I can think of to demonstrate this notion is religion, allow me to elaborate. People who attend a religious service may believe sincerely in their God, but the beliefs and practices of their religion were in existence before they were - these people learned...