Emile Durkheim provides two definitions for social fact. The first definition states that, “A social fact is to be recognized by the power of external coercion which it exercises or is capable of exercising over individuals, and the presence of this power may be recognized in its turn either by the existence of some specific sanction or by the resistance offered against every individual effort that tends to violate it.” [p. 10]. (http://www.
sociology.ohio-state.edu/classes/Soc488/Moody/class_notes/rules.htm). Secondly, He states that “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.
” (http://www.sociology.ohio-state.edu/classes/Soc488/Moody/class_notes/rules.htm) . In these assertions according to an anonymous writer from Ohio-state education, Durkheim defined two types of social facts which are; “Constraints coming from social organization: (Legal, and moral constraints)” and ‘Social Currents’: Moments of enthusiasm crowd behavior, etc.
” (http://www.sociology.ohio-state.edu/classes/Soc488/Moody/class_notes/rules.htm).Durkheim also provided two principles for explaining a social fact. In his own words he stated that “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 (p.
110). Explaining this principle the “Functionalists arguments say that something exists because it is needed for the greater whole to survive. Applying this principle in biology is often this way: We have a heart in order to get oxygen to the cells. This teleology places the end result as the cause of the prior event.” (http://www.sociology.
ohio-state.edu/classes/Soc488/Moody/class_notes/rules.htm). The question arises therefore as to where to look for social facts that could cause other social facts. The Ohio-State Education answered the query by stating that it can be sought in what Durkheim termed as the “Social Milieu” which consists of things and persons. It further elaborated that in “Things” includes material objects, but also laws, customs, etc.
However, things contain no volition, no motor, they can’t put something into action. The second principle is that “The function of a social fact ought always to be sought in its relation to some social end.” (p.
110-111) “ The function is not the same as purpose. The purpose of an institution may be one thing, but the function in its contribution towards organic solidarity may be entirely another.” http://www.change.freeuk.
com/learning/socthink/durkheim.html).“The principal task of the sociologist ought to be, therefore, to discover the different aspects of this milieu which can exert some influence on the course of social phenomena.
” There are two types: The number of social units, the ‘size of society and the degree of social interaction, what he calls the ‘dynamic density’. “Dynamic density may be defined … as the function of the number of individuals who are actually having not only commercial but also social relations, i.e. who not only exchange services or compete with one another but also live a common life.
” (http://www.sociology.ohio-state.edu/classes/soc488). An example of this is the cultural forms of a school which will vary depending on the structure of friendships in that school.