Theories of Emile Durkheim


Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist, scholar, thinker, professor, and writer of the 19th century. He was born in 1858. He acknowledged August Comte as his master. He used to say that sociology should also follow the scientific method.


Emile Durkheim was a bright student in college and won several prizes. He was not interested in the conventional subjects that were taught in college. Rather, he wanted to get moral education. 

Theories of Emile Durkheim

The theories of Emile Durkheim are the following.

1. Social Fact Theory

2. Suicide Theory

3. Theory of Division of Labor

4. Religion Theory

1. Theory of Social Facts

According to Emile Durkheim, man is a part of society, a group, or an organization and he is influenced by the cultural norms and morals of the society. He is directed by the facts of his tasks and thoughts.

He defined sociology as a science of social facts. He did not focus on one individual rather he kept the idea of the group in his mind. He further said that no society can come into existence without group life.

Meaning of Social facts

He says that social fact is a phase of behavior (thinking, feeling, and acting) that is subjugated to the believer and has a coercive nature.

Importance of Social Facts

The cultural norms and other manners of group life (social facts) are the guiding principles for the individual. So, the individual follows them and does not deviate from them.

Characteristics of Social Facts

The characteristics of social facts are the following;

  • Social Facts must be treated as things as imperial facts from outside and we must discover them as we discover physical facts.
  • They are found outside the body of the individual (living or dead, no matter) but they control the individual from outside i.e. Crowd and Fashion.

Read More: Karl Marx’s Theories on Class System

2. Theory of Suicide

Suicide is an act in which an individual causes his own death intentionally. The reason may be some mental disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder.

According to Durkheim, 

“Any action resulting directly or indirectly into someone’s death that is performed by the victim himself/herself or by any other else.”

Durkheim told that suicide is a conscious act and the victim is fully aware of its consequences. For example, if a person shoots himself, jumps from a building, or drinks severe poison.

Types of Suicide

According to Durkheim, suicide is of four types.

  1. Egoistic: Lack of integration of an individual into his social group
  2. Altruistic: Over-integration of an individual into his social group
  3. Anomic: A state of normlessness in the society
  4. Fatalistic: Too many rules and regulations in the society OR over-regulation by the society.


3. Theory of Division of Labor

Durkheim proposed his theory of division of labor in 1893. His concept of division of labor can be interpreted in three ways.

  • Technical division of labor: It describes the production process as a whole i.e. demand and supply
  • The sexual division of labor: It describes the social division between men and women
  • Differentiation in society: Upper class and lower class system 

Social Solidarity

It is a state of a group in which there is social cohesion and cooperation among the members of society to attain a common goal.

Division of Labor and Anomie

Anomie is a state of normlessness in society and also in the individual. 

Though the division of labor is an essential element of society, it may cause harm to society if it is carried to the extreme.

Modern societies are giving rise to individualism that in turn gives rise to Anomie.


4. Theory of Religion

According to Emile Durkheim, The simplest form of religion is called Totemism.

When people gather on an occasion, they talk about anything placed near them such as an animal, plant, or any other object, and they consider it sacred. They believe that it is the reason for their gathering.

It means that all the tribes are organized around a totem.

From this fact, Durkheim concluded that when people worship the religion, they actually follow the society


It is concluded that Emile Durkheim developed the theories of the division of labor, functionalism, and anomie. Functionalism is a concept with three integral elements.

Leave a Comment