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In his work on The Rules of Sociological Method ([1895] 1982), the French sociologist Durkheim defined social facts as ways of acting, thinking, and feeling that were external to individuals and exercised a constraint over them. Although the concept of social facts is closely identified with Durkheim, it is also relevant to the understanding of any type of social theory that treats society as an objective reality apart from its individual members. In general, it can be distinguished from theoretical paradigms that place a greater emphasis on social action or individual definitions of reality.

According to Durkheim, social facts are general to the whole society and have a distinctively collective character. They constitute the distinctive subject matter of sociology. They are often embodied in social institutions, ...

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