Tag Archives: The Rules of Sociological Method


“What we are dealing with is knowledge of causes, and I maintain that we cannot, in order to know the cause of an event or an institution, limit ourselves in any way to questioning solely the actors in that event and to asking for their view. . . . Everybody admits that science progresses slowly and never establishes more than probabilities. But as soon as there are in history a certain number of positive data, as soon as you deem those data sufficient to provide the threads of an [sic] historical account, why should they be insufficient when one needs to institute a methodical comparison? Nowhere are ready-made causes to be found; it must always be the mind that uncovers them, and to do so one must proceed methodically.” (Emile Durkheim, “Debate on Explanation in History and Sociology,” in The Rules of Sociological Method, Free Press, 2014, pp. 164-165.)


“First of all, we need not expatiate on the great transformation that has occurred in historical method in the course of this century. Beyond the particular, the contingent events, the succession of which would seem to constitute the history of societies, historians have sought something more fundamental and permanent, which their research could grasp with greater assurance. This was found in institutions. Indeed institutions are to these external occurrences what for the individual are the nature and mode of functioning of the physical organs to the processes of all kinds which daily fill our life. Through this alone history ceases to be a narrative study and lays itself open to scientific analysis.” (Emile Durkheim, “Sociology and the Social Sciences,” in The Rules of Sociological Method, Free Press, 2014, p. 147.)