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EMILE DURKHEIM Even though some histories of sociological thought place David Emile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) below Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, another shade of opinion credits him as one who established the discipline on a solid footing and was, along with Karl Marx, an architect of modern social science. While the works of Comte and Spencer, despite being voluminous, resembled what was then known as 'system-building', Durkheim was far more down-to-earth than both his predecessors, as one can witness from his very first major work, The Division of Labour in Society (1893). Coming two years later, in 1895, the present work did two things at the same time –first, it defined the subject matter of sociology and second, formulated a methodology for it. His contention was that in order to emerge as a science, sociology must (1) study social facts and only social facts, and (2) explain a social fact only by another social fact. It is not surprising that Durkheim, who found the first department of sociology and became its first professor in Europe, succeeded in getting the principle accepted that sociology must study social phenomena instead of individual actions. Also, his was a major contribution in the battle between collectivism and individualism that raged through the 19th century, and his terms like 'collective consciousness' have come to stay in the jargon of sociological research. It was not surprising if Nikolai Bukharin thought him close to the philosophy of materialism. Suicide (1897) and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) are other major works of this thinker whose journal L'Annee Sociologique, established in 1896, found as wide an acceptance in Europe as its founder did.

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