Sinead: So by choosing to not follow in your families rabbinical routes, do you feel as though you have missed out on a large part of bonding with your family? As well did it cause you to explore different religious beliefs?
Durkheim: Although I had decided to not follow a rabbinical path, I did remain to have close bonds with my family. One thing you will learn from me time and time again is that without strong social bonds, you will not face an easy life. That includes bonds with family, as well as with your peers and past religious comrades. You must remember that I find that society is not just around us, but in us as well. This led to my studying of religion. And the conclusion that it is one of the forces that are created within individual a sense of moral obligation to follow society's norms. Religion is exceedingly social, it occurs in a social context, and, more importantly, when men celebrate blessed things, they unsuspectingly celebrate the power of their society. This power so surpasses their own existence that they have to give it sacred significance in order to visualize it.
Sinead: You mentioned that “society isn’t just around us, but in us.” What do you mean by that?
Durkheim: Well Sinead, as you may know, society existed long before you and I. And I believe that it will continue to flourish long after we are gone. Our patterns of human behavior, cultural norms, values and beliefs, exist as established structures or as social facts; a subject I have based many of my ideas on. They all have an objective reality beyond the lives of individuals. Society is much bigger than us, it has the ability to lead our thoughts and actions. Once created by the people, society takes on a life of its own, and requires compliance from is forerunners. Once we see lives following common patterns, or when we feel the pinch of morality when faced with a mo. of temptation, we then experience the control of societies.
Sinead: One idea that I’ve noticed has become a main part to your thinking is the idea of a social fact. What is a social fact?
Durkheim: Social facts are concepts, expectations that come not from individual responses and preferences, but that come from the social community which socializes each of its members. Although we might embrace the normative community behavior and share its values, we are constrained by its very existence. When I fulfill my obligations as brother, husband, or citizen, I perform duties which are defined externally to myself and my acts, in law and in custom. Social facts contribute to the operation of society as an entirety. Think about crime; crime is vital to ongoing life of society itself. By defending acts as wrong or right, we defend and develop our morality, this gives us direction as well as meaning to our communal lives. Crime is normal for a society.
Sinead: What do you believe are the causes to the rapid social changes we are experiencing at this time?
Durkheim: Tradition operates as the social glue that binds people together. Our collective conscious is so strong that the community will quickly punish those who go against these conventional ways of life. At first I thought of things to be a mechanical solidarity. We the people were linked in lockstep, with a somewhat unconscious sense of belonging. But…