Working Paper BETA #2024-13

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Title : Durkheim’s forgotten rules of sociological method for studying social facts.

Author(s) : Jean Daniel BOYER

Abstract : In The Rules of Sociological Method, Emile Durkheim proposes a specific object for sociology, namely the social fact, which he defines as a social force. While, logically, it seems he would have had to transpose the methods of the physical sciences in order to study such an object, Durkheim in fact prefers those of the biological sciences. His initial project is therefore quickly transformed. We propose to take a step back, and to consider the perspectives on sociology that Durkheim opens up in the Rules, in particular the possibility of conceiving sociology as a “social physics”. By using quantitative methods, sociology could unveil the nature as well as the intensity of the social forces which determine human behaviours. Social facts would thus appear as forces, but also as probabilities that certain human behaviours would occur. Thus, sociology would be tasked to reconstruct the causes of the advent of both social facts and of social phenomena by using quantitative series. In this context, sociology could also be a predictive science.

Key-words : Durkheim, force, method, social fact, social physics.

JEL Classification : A12, A14, B40.