Exam2 Pre Review Questions

Q: I have a question regarding the quote "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but social existence that determines consciousness". I thought this had to do with class in/for itself and also where we stand in society determines what we are aware of, but I'm not sure…

The second part is correct. Existence here is material; consciousness ideal — thus, this is a statement of Marx's "turning Hegel on his head."

Q: Concerning all kinds of issues here, mostly suicide…If a person commits suicide because of anomie, feeling worthless, then why (to feel worth) would it be valuable to join a group that never fulfills an individual's needs, only the needs of the group. If addressing an individual would be considered profane and something to stray away from, does someone ever lose feelings of anomie in performing the sacred, or do they simply obtain only false feelings of worth?

Anomie is not feeling worthless; it is feeling like the world is normless. Why is normlessness associated with disconnection or dis-integration? Recall how in Elementary Forms Durkheim shows/claims that norms are social and so if you feel the world has order and rules then you are feeling society in you and you are thus feeling connected or integrated.

Q: What is the meaning of Marx's quote, "Man makes his own history, but he doesn't make it out of whole cloth…" ?
I thought he saying that workers life is always in constant struggle which he didn't choose it voluntarily, but it is the only way for him to survive, to sell his labor.

Marx's main idea about material conditions being determinative might be heard as "man has no agency." But Marx wants a revolution so you have to have actors who can actually act. So, men DO make history, but they are subject to all manner of material constraint. Social life is a dialectical tension between (free) agency and (constraining) structure.

Q: I am trying to clarify the ideas in Durkheim about society creating "social facts" and the idea that we discussed in class about suicide as a social fact. If I understand correctly the concept of suicide is tangible because it is an indicator of social climate which gives it its "thingness". Instead of being a problem for just an individual, it is a fact that shows in what direction society is moving?

Hear the phrase "social fact" in contrast to "natural (or physical) fact" and "individual fact."

Suicide (rate) is social fact because it is real, but external to any individual and not an innate/natural human phenomenon. It varies over time and space. The rate reflects individuals responding to social causes. At the level of ONE individual, there are social factors (connections, order of world around person), but more importantly, the RATE represents individuals' response to social conditions.

[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. Consequently, since they consist of representations and actions, they cannot be confused with organic phenomena, nor with psychical phenomena, which have no existence save in and through the individual consciousness. (The Rules of Sociological Method p. 52)

We do not say that social facts are material things, but that they are things by the same right as material things, although they differ from them in type … A thing is any object of knowledge which is not naturally controlled by the intellect, which cannot be adequately grasped by a simple process of mental activity … To treat the facts of a certain order as things thus is not to place them in a particular category of reality, but to assume a certain mental attitude towards them; it is to approach the study of them on the principle that we are absolutely ignorant of their nature, and that their characteristic properties, like the unknown causes on which they depend, cannot be discovered by even the most careful introspection. (The Rules of Sociological Method, preface)


Durkheim presented a definitive critique of reductionist explanations of social behavior. Social phenomena are"social facts" and these are the subject matter of sociology. They have, according to Durkheim, distinctive social characteristics and determinants, which are not amenable to explanations on the biological or psychological level. They are external to any particular individual considered as a biological entity. They endure over time while particular individuals die and are replaced by others. Moreover, they are not only external to the individual, but they are "endowed with coercive power, by … which they impose themselves upon him,independent of his individual will."1Constraints, whether in the form of laws or customs, come into play whenever social demands are being violated. These sanctions are imposed on individuals and channel and direct their desires and propensities. A social fact can hence be defined as"every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint."2

Although in his early work Durkheim defined social facts by their exteriority and constraint, focusing his main concern on the operation of the legal system, he was later moved to change his views significantly. The mature Durkheim stressed that social facts, and more particularly moral rules, become effective guides and controls of conduct only to the extent that they become internalized in the consciousness of individuals, while continuing to exist independently of individuals. According to this formulation, constraint is no longer a simple imposition of outside controls on individual will, but rather a moral obligation to obey a rule. In this sense society is"something beyond us and something in ourselves."3Durkheim now endeavored to study social facts not only as phenomena "out there" in the world of objects, but as facts that the actor and the social scientist come to know.4

Social phenomena arise, Durkheim argued, when interacting individuals constitute a reality that can no longer be accounted for in terms of the properties of individual actors. "The determining cause of a social fact should be sought among the social facts preceding it and not among the states of the individual consciousness."5 A political party,for example, though composed of individual members, cannot be explained in terms of its constitutive elements; rather, a partyis a structural whole that must be accounted for by the social and historical forces that bring it into being and allow it to operate. Any social formation, though not necessarily superior toits individual parts, is different from them and demands an explanation on the level peculiar to it.

If an example of influence is standing too close to someone and then the person moving and an example of authority is my mom telling me i need to home by twelve and obeying her because she is my mother, what is an example or definition of power?
Lewis A. Coser, Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context, 2nd Ed., Fort Worth:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1977: 129-132.

Secondary Sources

See Secondary Sources


Chapter 2
Chapter 3 (p. 66-89): The Enigma of Everyday Life
Chapter 6 The spread of Reason: Habermas' Critical Theory

Giddens and Turner

Ethnomethodolgy (p. 224-273) - John C. Heritage.
Class Analysis (325-347) by Ralph Miliband

Ritzer, George

Chapter 2 (p. 15-31): Classical Theories I.
Chapter 3: (p.57-65): Classical Theories II.
Ch4: Conflict Theory,
Ch5: Neo-Marxian Theory

Ritzer. Encyclopedia Social Theory
Frankfurt School
Gramsci, Antonio
Green Movements
Gyogy Luckas (SP)
Liberal Feminism
Lorde, Audre
Marx, Karl
Material Thinking
Mills, C. Wright
Self and Self-Concepy
Social Action
Social Class
Social Constructionism
Social Dynamics
Social Structure
Social Worlds
Structuralist Marxism;

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