Tag Archives: Emile Durkheim

Durkheim

Durkheim says “we must contract our horizon, choose a definite task and immerse ourselves in it completely, instead of trying to make ourselves a sort of creative masterpiece, quite complete, which contains worth in itself and not in the services it renders.” What I gather from the statement is whatever job one chooses to perform to earn a living determines their worth to society. Everything we do in society helps to keep it running and productive. People seem to take on a view that everything should be equally split, but not every task is simple and not every task is complex. If you want a high position in society choose a task to learn that will give you that position and earn you that pay you feel you deserve it. The growth of society is bigger than the self, so you should focus on bringing the best to society. He doesn’t seem to focus on the individual self as I feel others do when it comes to a capitalist society. Even those in the lower classes are guilty of selfishness to an extent in my opinion, because it is a given lower classes don’t get paid nearly enough, whose to say if the roles were reversed they would not act in the same manner of those in the higher class? Everyone is biased of their own talents and worth as they should be, but how does this serve the greater good of a society?

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Blog 2: F*@king Sacred!

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In his pursuit of establishing Sociology as a separate academic discipline, Emile Durkheim provided interesting, and novel, theories related to society and social phenomena. Many of the students in this class have already commented about Durkheim’s fascinating conceptions of both crime and suicide. I too began to think hard about these topics, and found myself nodding along as I read what initially struck me as oxymoronic stances. Crime is necessary for society? Suicide is in fact a collective phenomenon and not an individual one? Durkheim’s thorough analyses of both topics, and the way he carefully lays out his ideas as he builds toward his larger points, are nothing short of masterful. But rather than simply praising the man often referred to as “ED” in our class slides, I would like to look at the most recent aspect of society that we have read about, Religion.

It seems to me that Durkheim is most fascinating when he appears to be paradoxical, and his thoughts on religion do not lack that quality. Although you might not believe it to be true, Durkheim maintains that social life is inherently religious. There is no difference between an act deemed “religious” and one deemed “secular.” While this distinction doesn’t appear to exist for Durkheim, his theories on religion rest on one key societal division that relates to religion. This dichotomy, and the one that we spoke extensively about in class, is what Durkheim asserts is the dichotomy that is the source of all others within society, that of the sacred and the profane.

I don’t know about everyone else, but when I hear the term “profane” I think of profanity, and foul language. I happen to love etymology and the source of words, so this dichotomy had me wondering about why foul language is referred to by this term. For Durkheim, “sacred” refers to something apart from the everyday world, something that should be protected because of some value that it possesses. In contrast, “profane” refers to something that is every day, something that should be kept away from the “sacred.” Looking up the actual etymology of profane, it seems to come from a Latin root meaning “outside of the temple,” which fits in nicely with Durkheim’s conception. Some of the first usages of this term were in translations of the Biblical commandment to “not profane the name of the Lord,” which meant to not desecrate or render it unholy. Again, this supports Durkheim’s usage of the word, as the act of taking the Lord’s name in vain (treating it as regular vocabulary), causes something deemed “sacred” to join the ranks of mundane verbiage.

But what about profanity that the FCC cares about, the words that are the subject of comedian George Carlin’s most famous bit? Why do we categorize them with this label? It’s clearly not because they are mundane, because why else would they get censored or lead to a parent washing his child’s mouth out? Sure one could posit that their designation as “profanity” is not due to their everyday quality, but because they must be kept separate from other language. But most frequently these words, known most commonly by their first letter (or their letter amount), are peppered in with regular language. They might be used in order to punctuate and pontificate, to accentuate and emphasize, but their “natural habitat” is most certainly amongst the lexical laymen, not grouped with the verbally venerated. In fact, our treatment of “swear words” (phraseology with a related Biblical origin) seems to give them power. They may have their roots in the mundane, and most often be found with the ordinary, but they appear to have acquired a “sacred” quality, and maybe that’s part of Durkheim’s point. Our behavior towards these words is inherently religious because they serve such an important social function and social life is inherently religious. Maybe our treatment of “curse words” as something “sacred” is similar to the way we treat technology or yoga as “sacred.” It may not be as fully fleshed out as our breakdown of football’s “sacredness,” but it’s not hard to find special symbols (#$@&%!) and movements (flipping someone off) designated for these words. We all know them, and if we don’t we quickly learn. Isn’t this collective aspect a fundamental aspect of religion for Durkheim? It is definitely a provocative, if not humorous, topic to ponder over.

Curse words are holy? The profane is sacred? This all seems paradoxical, like one puzzling identity crisis, and I’d expect nothing less from Emile Durkheim.

Sources:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=profanity

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=profane

Blog 1: What Is Sacred?

In class today we discussed what is “sacred” and what we believe to be sacred today but before I explore this, let me back track to what religion is. Durkheim has explained that religion “a system of symbols and rituals about the sacred that is practiced by a community of believers” (121). Religion varies among different cultures and is always changing over time. In other words, our society is a reflection of our religion today; crime is a social response. Therefore, what may have been considered sacred during his time may differ from today.

Now, how do we know what is sacred and what isn’t? According to Durkheim, “sacred refers to the extraordinary, that which is set apart from the ‘above and beyond’ the everyday world” (123). Aside from the obvious religious activities—attending church, praying etc.—there are other activities, which to the observer and the doer could classify as “extraordinary”. For example, the celebration of a sport during its high season. Avid football fans (or any sports fan) will schedule and host parties to watch a game together. Everyone attending may come dressed in specific clothing attire and behave in ways not used in one’s typical day. Some even tailgate and gather on a parking lot. These series of actions express how partying and getting together to watch a sports game is something extraordinary to them, something sacred.

Another example is how students prepare for their first day of school. The week before school starts, Staples, a popular supplies store, is packed with students of all ages. Going to Staples or any supplies store near by to buy notebooks, pens, paper etc. before the start of the semester is an activity that does not happen everyday. So, according to Durkheim, this specific epoch would be considered sacred.

Post # 2: Durkheim’s theory on suicides

At first I thought it was strange for Durkheim to believe that through his analysis, suicide rates increased through sociological terms, rather than psychologically. However, as I continued to read on about his perspective on these occurrences of suicides in different societies, I was able to understand his explanations on how suicide rates mostly increase. When Durkheim mentions about social crisis that lead to suicides, this made me think of an cause and effect. For instance, if a person became isolated at home, work, or even through a relationship- this may effect a person’s mind to think negatively, which possibly leads to depression. Therefore, even though Durkheim does not necessarily mention the effects of one’s mind that was caused sociologically, it all interrelates by having one to first go through a circumstance to then be psychologically effected.

An example of this connection, in an anomic and egoistic suicide, would be an unexpected big win in the lottery. People would believe that winning the lottery will change their lives for the better. However, this drastic change could make matters worse because of their unpreparedness. A person may become socially disconnected with many because of his or her lack of trust on others. Personally, just thinking about what I would do if I suddenly won the lottery, overwhelms me- so to me, its not surprising that many commit suicide through this situation because one should also be mentally unstable.