Durkheim and Weber Theories Essay


Durkheim and Weber Theories Essay

Durkheim distinguished between two forms of social facts, the pathological and the normal. He states that science never makes moral judgments instead they deal with facts. So, then how is he able to distinguish between normal and abnormal? Durkheim claims that science is able to differentiate between health and sickness, and therefore, social science should be able to do the same. In order to do this objectively one must remain loyal to science and avoid subjective involvement when placing social phenomena within these categories. A normal phenomenon is present when that phenomenon is present through culture, time, and place essentially unchanged and almost everywhere. While is it pathological if it is rare, there variations are present within very narrow limits, and they usually do not last for an extensive amount of time. The normal phenomenon is contingent on the development of the society, in order for to be unanimous. A normal phenomenon is an integral part of a healthy society, and it is impossible for the society to be free of it. By understanding the health of the phenomenon, one is able to understand the role that, that particular fact plays within that particular society of species.

Durkheim's distinction between the normal and pathological is his basis for asserting his value judgments (Lukes, 1972, pp.28). The man who is trying to objective by using scientific models is making subjective inferences and categories. Durkheim tries to re-labels the categories to give it scientific legitimacy. The labels of normality, healthy and pathological have social context of their own that humans cannot detach themselves from. The more investment one has in the categories, the more familiar one is with the categories, the hard objectivity becomes (Huer, 1990, pp.66). This is because we are unable to make presuppositionaless claims in regards to categories that have value relevance to humans (Keat, 1975, pp.198). As a result, of the lack of objectivity its lacks the logistics that is crucial to the truth that science claims. The general or statistically significant is not a set criterion for understanding normalcy. How and are we able to define this conception of rarity, is it 60- 40, or perhaps 30-70 the conception of rarity is very context specific and is hard to apply in reality. At what point to we say something is statistically rare and we are able to have a definite answer. Is that not in its self-very context specific and at points a value judgment itself? Therefore, sociology is not about constricting people further by creating categories with moral attached to them. It needs to negate this idea of the scientific model as the solution to the problem of subjectivity, because socialization processes have ingrained ideas within us that even science cannot resolve. By eliminating science as the solution to value judgment, relevant sociological knowledge is available for discovery in new ways.

Durkheim is not the only sociologist confined to the idea of positivism, and empiricism. Weber is also limits himself by placing such heavy emphasis on the production of laws, and objectivity, but combines it with interpretive thinking when removed from the scientific model they have great possibility in expanding sociology. Weber developed the idea of ideal types, which has its underlying principles in formulating generalizations and laws. For Weber the ideal type is the basis for the construction of the comparison. The ideal type has no connection to behavior, which is perfect. It has its basis within the idea that it is consistent within different societies. According to Weber, Ideal types must have either of two properties, they must be diminished to actions or the possibility of actions by the individual, or they can be made into rules or laws, or the meaning of the rules are apparent through the external. The purpose of ideal types within sociology, according to Weber is that social phenomena is lacking in its conception within reality, so sociology offers meaning. Meaning is only available through the rational concepts and laws. Rationality is only present within this construction if it is, absolute or the appropriate means to an end (Weber, 1978, pp.23). Weber's concept of the ideal types may seem ambiguous, but it is in his attempt to find meaning through science that this concept is problematic.

Weber and his construction of the ideal type are important because once the need for objectivity is eliminated, the concepts surface, the comparative purpose of socially becomes apparent. By trying to be interpretive and objective creates great problems within the method itself, as both are contradictory to one another. The point of being interpretive is to find meaning behind social phenomenon, but objective meaning seems problematic because meaning is specific to the individual and the ways in which they grapple with the material. Even the choice of the subject matter is in itself subjective and has some form of meaning for why you have chosen that particular subject, so how can you be objective? Weber makes it clear that role of ideal types is for predictability. However, this can be problematic because, social phenomenon that is predictable is already known by common knowledge. Many, so called forecasts are nothing but trends that are widely acknowledged. Therefore, if there is no predictability purpose for ideal types then is just a summary of common knowledge no new information is being brought forth rather then common knowledge, which in itself is problematic. By trying to enforce the scientific method to ideal types subjectivity and common sense are just reinforced, rather then making knowledge, which is exclusive to sociology.

Weber's concept of ideal types does not lack in one critical way. It allows for meaning and to demonstrate the complexity of social phenomena by the way in which it humans internalize. By creating an ideal type in the sense of something present to all societies, just like Durkheim's concept of social facts, it becomes the criteria for comparing. Rather then being a construction of the individual it should be part of reality, therefore existent, and then a historical or temporal comparative is available for analysis. As long as each social system is, independently valid and authentic a society learns about itself only through other social systems (Huer, 1990, pp.126). Therefore, transcending the spatial and temporal pivot experienced by Durkheim's social facts the concepts become logically comparable. By creating ideal types of phenomenon, new forms of meaning can explore and their effects on certain social facts within different societies. By creating a comparative method for sociology, sociology widens its scope of knowledge unique to its own, and breaking the limitations set out by science and its application to the social.

However, Weber states that in order to be able to comprehend the ideal types one must find the meaning, which develops within his concept of understanding. According to, Weber there is two types of understanding within sociology. There is the understanding of observation, which understands something by merely looking at it. An example of this would be facial expressions and context of peoples' emotions when they display these expressions. The second type of understanding is explanatory understanding. This type of understanding to Weber is one when you know the motives behind the action through understanding the rational behind the motivation, meaning you place the action in a more isolated context of meaning. Meaning also has two forms. The first is that is the solid case within a given example. Alternatively, according to Weber you can use the idea hypothetical meaning of ideal types and apply them to actors. Understanding is also available through the rational, which means that you grasp the experience of the actor including a contextual understanding. Understanding is crucial within sociology because of the fact that this is the only new insight that sociology has to social phenomena, as it is available to the everyday.

Weber does a wonderful job in outlining the understanding and meaning, and how to maintain integrity to the practice of sociology while creating meaning. The problem within his method is that allows for too much subjectivity. People carry their social contexts where-ever they go and in studying a person and putting yourself in their position by studying them that creates an issues of bias, in the sense of the meanings being made by your own experience with you self placement. By being aware of your biases prior to approaching the field of study, one is able to avoid complications. Weber develops a method that may allow for a better understanding of social phenomena by being able to understand the context of the individual instead on analyzing and in a sense creating empirical fallacies. By approaching social phenomena in the distinct ways that Weber described, both the need for some form of awareness plus meaning, which gives new insight into social problems expanding sociology.

By comparing and contrasting the ways in which both Durkheim and Weber's approach to social methods one continues to see the need for new perspectives of study exclusive of science. For Weber “sociology was a consumer rather then a producer of laws”, because it looks for “general regularities of what takes place” (Anderson, 1987, pp.163). Weber claimed that laws were pre-existing and it is the role of a sociologist to find the laws rather then create them. Unlike, Dukheim who believed that studying social facts empirically would create laws between them, Weber wanted to discover meaning and understanding in order to reveal the laws that were inaccessible to humans within different contexts. Weber's lack of extremist views on empiricism created more potential for sociology as a meaningful practice rather then a constrictive science. In terms of the ways in which they explored their concepts' Durkheim and Weber were in conflict. Durkheim believed, “That historian were overtly concerned with specific events, a concern which never yielded scientific laws” (Mestrovic,1888 , pp.90) This too allows for a more meaningful and insightful perspective into the ways in which sociological practice should be. It should not be inclusive of the individual rather then institutional facts within society. According to Mestrovic, “Durkheim placed far more emphasis on collective representations than on personal events” (Mestrovic,1888 , pp.35). By doing this, he feels that laws will be able to be formulated within an objective framework, which is incorrect because the institutions are internalized by humans and therefore, become a part of the comprehensive and interesting science.

By removing the epistemological from Weber and Durkheim's concepts, problems of fallacy are removed and a new sociology is defined that has subject matter and method exclusive to its work. By placing an emphasis on empiricism, a box is created and certain more interpretive social phenomena cannot penetrate the box therefore limiting the sociological perspective. By needing to have science present within the sociology, sociology is just looking for a form of legitimacy that is present within society in regards to science. Rather then changing the perspective, of society and trying to make other forms of legitimate inquiry, sociology is socialized to the beliefs of society. As a result, of the subject matter that sociology deals with it is problematic to apply these methods because it negates new forms of meaning, comparison or and emergent realities that are only available to the more “subjective” form. Sociology is about the complexity of the human experience that cannot be captured by creating laws, but rather needs to be made by having in-depth analysis with the subject. If sociology gains a new form of method, perhaps sociology would gain legitimacy within the world as having some form of exclusive knowledge, which is how science gained its authority