Emile Durkheim was a prominent sociologist who contributed significantly to the development of modern sociology. He is famous for his theory of social solidarity, which explains how societies are held together and how individuals relate to each other within those societies. In this article, we will explore Durkheim’s social theory in detail.

Durkheim’s Background

Emile Durkheim was born in France in 1858 and studied philosophy before turning his attention to sociology. He became the first professor of sociology at the University of Bordeaux in 1895 and later went on to teach at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Social Facts

Durkheim believed that society is made up of social facts, which are external to individuals but have a significant impact on their behavior. Social facts include institutions, laws, customs, beliefs, and values that shape our behavior and attitudes.

Example: The institution of marriage is a social fact that influences our behavior by setting expectations for how couples should act towards each other.

Social Solidarity

Durkheim argued that social solidarity holds societies together by creating a sense of belonging and shared identity among members. He identified two types of social solidarity: mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity.

Mechanical Solidarity: This occurs in traditional societies where individuals share common beliefs, values, and customs. People engage in similar work and have similar lifestyles.

Organic Solidarity: This occurs in modern societies where people are interdependent on each other due to their specialized roles in the division of labor.


Durkheim also identified a state of anomie, which occurs when there is a breakdown of social norms and values. When individuals don’t know what is expected of them or don’t feel connected to society, they may experience feelings of alienation and despair.

Example: In modern societies, people may feel disconnected from each other due to the fast-paced and individualistic nature of life, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The Collective Conscience

Durkheim believed that the collective conscience is a shared set of beliefs, values, and customs that bind society together. It is the source of social solidarity and shapes our behavior by setting expectations for what is considered right or wrong.

Social Control

Durkheim argued that social control is necessary to maintain social order and prevent deviant behavior. Social control can be formal or informal, such as laws or peer pressure, respectively.


In conclusion, Durkheim’s social theory provides an essential framework for understanding how societies function and how individuals relate to each other within those societies. His ideas on social facts, social solidarity, anomie, collective conscience, and social control continue to influence modern sociology today.