Annotations on The Rules of Durkheim (III). The sociology prescriptive

Chapter 3 of The Rules (on the distinction of normal and pathological) can be divided into two parts. In the first Durkheim tries to defend the idea that it is possible to get from the reality to a normative criterion, and so the science can tell the subject what to do, and from this -and using their previous rules (Durkheim here is intensely consistent)- deduce the rule that corresponds. In the second, Durkheim applies this discussion to a specific case, the analysis of the crime.

This entry and the next will defend two central assertions, and a wholly owned subsidiary: Where Durkheim tries to defend a sociology prescriptive mistaken; but his analysis of the crime is among the best of its pages -and some that work very well as a sign of whether sociology can be of interest to one of: No one who rejects those pages can be a good sociologist. The affirmation subsidiary is that the claims in question can be separated: it is Not necessary to admire the analysis of the crime, to back up the claims that Durkheim says at the beginning of the text. In this entry we will defend the first statement and in the following the remaining two.

Durkheim makes clear because it considers that it is necessary to defend that science can prescribe the action, you can determine on her own what is the appropriate action: Without that, two things happen. First, the science is still no reason to be:

La science se trouve ainsi destituée, ou à peu près, toute energy efficiency pratique, et, par conséquent, sans grande raison d’être; car à quoi bon travailler by cpnnaître le réel, if the connaissance que nous in acquérons ne peut nous servir dans la vie? (Ch 3, p 48)

The assertion that what matters is the practical activity, which from there makes sense knowledge, it is quite common (and even the Weber neutral valuation says something similar in the Science as a Vocation); and it is something that the positivist Durkheim shares with almost all those who defend the critical approach. The differences operate after -the criterion which is the foundation of commitment.

The second reason is that without science there would be no rational approach acceptable. There are two occasions where the text repeats the idea:

Pour savoir, non plus ce qui est, mais ce qui est désirable, cést aux suggestions de / l inconscient, qu il faut recourir, quelque nom qu’on l’appelle, sentiment, instinct, poussée vitale, etc. (Chap 3, p 47-8)

Le problème que nous venons de poser will we permettre de revendiquer les droits de la raison sans etomber dans l idéologie (Chap 3, p 49)

On the first occasion, Durkheim describes what would happen if one were to accept that science has nothing to say about the action: a reduction in the feeling or the instinct. Then, Durkheim describes a possibility to exit of this method is ideological, but that Durkheim criticized as unscientific, and only with it it is possible to hold ‘the rights of reason’ in the proper way.

For Durkheim, then, the only way to substantiate a properly ethical choice is through science. And if this does not happen I would have nothing to say to the practice. Durkheim criticizes the idea that if science can not say anything about the purpose, you could put it on the media: at The end of the day, what is purpose in a context, is the average in the other; and if there is no way to choose the purposes, where is that coming from that to be able to recommend the most efficient means instead of the fastest or other criteria?

Up to here, then the reasons for Durkheim, which -as already raised, in fact they are quite wide in a discipline that has wished many times to be associated with the practice. What difference to Durkheim, in particular those who work in positions critical, is not the motivation nor the way of reasoning, it is the specific criteria that it develops torque to give an account of this necessity of founding a sociology prescriptive.

The criterion baseline is developed in the following way. In the first place, then immediate of our last appointment:

En effet, les sociétés comme pour les individus, la santé est bonne et désirable, the maladie au contraire, est the chose one et qui doit être évitée (Chap 3, p 49).

Given this, then if we can find a criterion that differentiates the health of the disease, we have solved the problem. Durkheim devotes so much of the rest of the chapter to search for that criterion. Following his usual first eliminates several of those considered not serving, until you finally find the right one. And that criterion is found using the same rules as mentioned above -seek an external signal and objective that will allow us to differentiate the two orders, without going yet into the root causes. That is the criterion of normality, which are two classes of phenomena:

Les unes sont particulars dans toute l ‘ étendue de l espece; elles se retrouvent, sinon chez tous les individus, du moins chez la plupart d between eu et, si elles ne répètent pas indentiquement dans tous les cas où elles s observent, mais varient d’un sujet à l’autre, ces variations sont comprises between des limites très rapprochées. Il est d’autres, au contraire, qui sont exceptionnelles; non seulement elles ne encontrent chez la minorité, mais, là même où elles se produisent, il arrive le plus souvent qu elles ne durent pas toute la vie de l’individu (Cap 3. I, p 55)

Durkheim, as well as organicist it is evolutionary, it is only in that criterion: Given that holds that societies evolve, then (in section II) discusses how you can determine what normal differentiated pathological in situations of change. We won’t go into detail to their proposal, but only to insist that the proposal to differentiate what is appropriate / inappropriate for normal / unusual not to be reduced to a mere conservantismo (as is often read).

At the same time, Durkheim knows that his criterion is, recalling the first rule, only external. He argues that the normal conditions must. in general, to be advantageous (Cap 3, I, p 58), and it is in this that -then – is based the equivalence between the normal and the healthy; but the criterion of utility cannot be used immediately. And also cannot be performed: If the generic is to be useful, it does not follow that it must be as useful as possible (Chap 3, II, p 63). Which emphasizes, then, the possibility of reforms. The criteria for Durkheim, then, remain to be conservative.

Up here the doctrine of Durkheim. But we have said that it is an error. We will conduct the review in two levels. In the first place, assuming that the reasons for Durkheim are correct (i.e., that it is necessary to a sociology prescriptive) criticaremos the criterion. In the second place, the reasons for Durkheim. Although Durkheim is not at present in a moment of high influence, the argument of normality has had a long and successful career in the social sciences, and the reasons durkheimianos are still common, for which the critical will not be all useless.

Durkheim eliminates several possible other criteria because it would not differentiate properly what is healthy from what is sick. With one exception. There is a criterion that yes difference yes those situations, only that it would not be appropriate for sociology in particular, That the disease is anything that facilitates death and avoid life. Now:

Or if, dans les cas de maladies purement individuelles, cette démonstration [that such a phenomenon increases the likelihood of death] est souvent possible, elle est tout à fait impraticable in sociologie. Car nous n avons pas ici le point de repere, ch dont dispose le biologiste, à savoir le chiffre de la mortalité moyenne. Nous ne savons même pas distinguer avec une accuracy, simply approchee à quel moment naît une societe et à quel moment elle meurt (Cap 3, I, p 53)

This is interesting because the whole argument of Durkheim depends, finally, a conception of organismic -is because the society is like an organism that can be applied to it, it makes sense to think of it in terms of, categories as healthy or pathological. But the equivalence breaks down. And precisely breaks down at the point of the criterion of what is healthy, since the criterion most basic from the biological point of view: The criterion with more direction inside biology is not applied to the social sciences. Simply the society, in that area, is not observed properly according to the analogy organic. Which then produces, questions on analogy in general. But without this analogy there is no reason to think the equivalence to normal with healing (or good).

More in general, it can be seen that here Durkheim does not follow his own rule. Since you are using a preconception (society is an organism), and not only that: you’re using such preconceptions as the basis of one of his central arguments. In this sense, the rule that you want to implement Durkheim in this chapter is in contradiction with its own recommendations. The text is not fully coherent.

If the criterion is not sufficient, the basic idea -to look at the reality of a criterion that allows to establish a science that determines what is to be done – there would still be standing. Then, we continue with the second task announced: criticize that idea.

It can be seen that the two reasons Durkheim are, in the end, unnecessary. If science (knowledge of reality) can’t tell us anything about what there is to do, it does not follow that there is no room for reason or reflection on these issues. It is a simple bias to pretend that only the scientific reason is the only form of rational discourse about something. That the science may not be able to say X does not have any impact on the validity of X. Nor can you say that if science has nothing to say directly to the action, lose all practical relevance: even if can not say anything about which order to choose, nor (the critique of Durkheim in this regard is the right to choose the means, of all forms has things to say: If you can’t determine whether to choose fast or safe, may well indicate what is the fastest or insurance, if you can talk about what is possible. Even for those who, like Durkheim and a good part of the sociologists, the study of reality can only be valuable when it is associated with the practice, as it has enough elements to show the importance for the action of such a study.

What appears only as a claim that has not been reflected is that instinct for science to say and set everything. To know the own limits is, I think, one of the requirements of any approach you want rational.


NOTE. As on the other occasions, quotations from the edition Presses Universitaires de France, edition Quadrige

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