Rights & Freedoms
Rites of Passage
Roles & Responsibilities
Sociology & Social FactsSociology can be described as the science of social fact.
Postmodernism & Social FactsPostmodern views of social fact, particularly critical theory, view social facts as imposed by elites or oppressive systems. In this context, social facts are viewed as negative because they constraint the absolute freedom of the individual. This can be contrasted with the traditional academic view that social facts have emerged to serve human needs. The latter approach adopts the pragmatic view that humans are social beings who tend to value civility, cooperation, connectedness, economic growth, technological progress, shared experience, stability, safety, security, justice and belonging over unconstrained freedom.
Material Social FactsMaterial social facts are social realities that can be physically measured such as demographics, economic production or military capabilities. It is incorrect to say that material social facts are those that are institutionalized. Material facts simply correspond to material realities.
Non-Material Social FactsNon-material social facts are fully intangible such that they are socially constructed and do not directly correspond to some specific physical reality. For example, a language that is mostly a collection of abstract concepts that have been developed and transmitted over generations.
A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations.The term social fact originates with Emile Durkheim who defined it (above) as any social entity that exerts external control over the individual.
~ Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method
CounterexampleAnything that extends from the individual isn't a social fact. For example, if you believe that people are inherently competitive, you could argue that competition isn't a social fact that is imposed on the individual by society. Likewise, social realities such as friendship could be viewed as driven by individual behaviors and needs.
|Overview: Social Fact
A widely accepted social construct or measurable social reality.
Any social entity that exerts external influence or control over individuals in a society or particular social context.