Name of student: Topic: Lecturer: Date of Presentation: Relation of Individual to Society Sociologists have different perspectives regarding how society is formed and how the individual relates to the society. Some theorists such as Hobbes and Weber emphasise on individual as independent of society hence existing before formation of society while others like Durkheim emphasize on society as an external reality existing outside the individual…
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To try to understand individuals and the society, the paper will discuss the works of Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Thomas Hobbes who are the earliest founders of sociology. Emile Durkheim (1857-1917) His conception of society is based on realism which views society as an external reality existing outside of individuals and can be studied as such (Morrison 2006, p. 150). His theory therefore, is based on the idea that society exists before the individual, and that individuals are shaped by the structures and mechanisms of society. He (Durkheim) conceives the individual as acting in pursuit of his own interests but constrained by the social facts of society. In his study, he regarded individuals as members of a social system hence they are social actors who observe and interpret facts of the external world. The social facts in this case refer to language, religion, economy, and law and other beliefs and values that exist in society and determine the actions of individuals. He considered them as real and therefore referred to society as “Sui-generis” (Roberts 1997 ch.6, par 11) meaning the society is real. As observed by Morrison (2006, p. 152) Durkheim asserts that the external framework of the society is made up of structures and mechanisms that constitute realities and make individuals members of society. He gives an example of how the class structure determines the rank and position of individual in social hierarchy. According to him, these structures and mechanisms are objective and given at birth and possess power and dispositions that affect people’s actions by placing restrictions on them. Individuals as pursuits of own interests have senses, and therefore engage only in those activities that are beneficial to them. In the process of trying to achieve their goals, they exchange with other individuals in the society thus develop mutual relations and act in solidarity guided by what Durkheim refers as collective conscience. Solidarity and collective conscience unlike the society are not given. In his work, Durkheim stressed the importance of the role played by rules, values and beliefs and asserted that the authority of the society superseded that of an individual. In this case, the society is said to have a collective conscience as opposed to individual conscience. To live in harmony, social solidarity is vital and thus he recognised two kinds of social solidarity; the mechanical and organic solidarity. He also emphasised the role of division of labour in enhancing movement of individuals from mechanical to organic solidarity. As observed by Morrison (2006, pp. 160-165) Durkheim regarded mechanical solidarity as one that exists in primitive or traditional societies. Each traditional society has values and beliefs that become the norms which individuals must conform to and these form a code of ethics for the society. Deviation from the norm is considered pathological and a crime punishable by use of repressive laws. He (Durkheim) recognised the role played by religion in the integration of society as the provider of moral ground on which to judge individuals or the religious law. It thus becomes the moral duty and obligation to conform to moral authority. If an individual fails
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