Modern sociology largely relies on the classical legacy of E. Durkheim, who paid considerable attention to the development of the methodology of sociological knowledge, believing, following A. Comte, that it should focus on methods of cognition of the natural sciences. The main goal of sociology is the discovery and formulation of causal regularities, which must be supplemented by the study of functional connections. According to E. Durkheim, the subject of sociology should be composed by "social facts", which should be "studied as things."
He referred "collective representations", i.e. traditions, rites, customs, rules of human behavior, firs of all, to "social facts". These phenomena exist objectively and independently of the individual, they forcefully influence him, forcing him to lead him in a certain way.
The philosophical basis of E. Durkheim's methodology was the so-called sociologism, which is a kind of social realism emanating from the recognition of the objective existence of spiritual life. E. Durkheim believed that society is a special kind of reality, which is not reducible to its natural, biological bases, or to the psyche of the individual.
He provided rationalization for the recognition of society as a special kind of substance by reference to the specificity of group consciousness and group behavior: "The group thinks, feels, acts quite differently from what its members would have done if they were separated" (E. Durkheim, On the Division of Social Labor. M., 1991).
The theory of "social solidarity" is the core of the sociological theory of E. Durkheim. Analyzing the evolution of society, he distinguished two main types of social ties: 1. "mechanistic solidarity" and 2. "organic solidarity." The prototype of the first one is an archaic society in which the acts and actions of people are homogeneous, similar to the behavior of molecules in a mechanical aggregate. Such a society seeks to completely subordinate an individual to himself, to completely determine his consciousness and behavior.
In modern society, social solidarity is ensured by the social division of labor and the economic interrelationships of individuals, the individual exists to a large extent independently of such a society that provides the individual with freedom and autonomy from it.
The transition from one state of society to another is accompanied by the existence of a certain transition period - anomie. This period is characterized by a weakening of moral regulation of behavior, ineffectiveness of the activities of major social institutions. E. Durkheim believed, that the contradictions common to the capitalism of the nineteenth century will be overcome at a more mature stage of its development, when the negative consequences of the social division of labor and social anomie will be eliminated.
He developed the suicide sociology. E. Durkheim saw the decisive cause of suicide in the nature of the social environment, i.e. degree and intensity of collective ties and mechanisms of social integration. The higher the level of integration in society, the lower the suicide rate: for Catholics it is lower than for Protestants, in cities it is higher than in rural areas.
E. Durkheim believed that the source of faith is the society itself, which cannot exist without religion or its modern varieties - ideologies, since it is a religion that expresses the absolute values of society, is the object of people's worship.