Social factIn sociology, social facts are values, cultural norms, and social structures that transcend the individual and can exercise social control. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim defined the term, and argued that the discipline of sociology should be understood as the empirical study of social facts. For Durkheim, social facts "... consist of manners of acting, thinking and feeling external to the individual, which are invested with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him."
Durkheim's social factIn The Rules of Sociological Method Durkheim laid out a theory of sociology as "the science of social facts". He considered social facts to "consist of representations and actions" which meant that "they cannot be confused with organic phenomena, nor with physical phenomena, which have no existence save in and through the individual consciousness." Durkheim says that a social fact is a thing that many people do very similarly because the socialized community that they belong to has influenced them to do these things.
Durkheim defined the social fact this way: :"A social fact is any way of acting, whether fixed or not, capable of exerting over the individual an external constraint; ::or: :which is general over the whole of a given society whilst having an existence of its own, independent of its individual manifestations".
He viewed it as a concrete idea that affected a person's everyday life.
Durkheim's examples of social facts included social institutions such as kinship and marriage, currency, language, religion, political organization, and all societal institutions we must account for in everyday interactions with other members of our societies. Deviating from the norms of such institutions makes the individual unacceptable or misfit in the group.
Among the most noted of Durkheim's work was his discovery of the "social fact" of suicide rates. By carefully examining police suicide statistics in different districts, Durkheim demonstrated that the suicide rate of Catholic communities is lower than that of Protestant communities. He ascribed this to a social (as opposed to individual) cause. This was considered groundbreaking and remains influential.
Durkheim's discovery of social facts was significant because it promised to make it possible to study the behaviour of entire societies, rather than just of particular individuals. Durkheim points to individual actions as instances or representations of different types of actions in society. Some contemporary, interpretivist, sociologists like Max Atkinson and Jack Douglas refer to Durkheim's studies for two quite different purposes, however: