The social factsAccording to sociology and anthropology, they are those regulatory ideas of human behavior that are generated from society and that are external to the individual, coercive and collective. It is, then, behaviors and thoughts socially imposed by the community. For instance: the applause after a function, coups, elections.
This concept was coined by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim in 1895, and supposes a form of modification of the interiority of every subject, forcing him to feel, think and act in a certain way, akin to the community.
A subject can, however, oppose this collective mandate, thus strengthening their interiority and their individuality, as artists do. However, the break with social facts can have consequences against them, such as censorship of others or, depending on the society and the fact, disapproval and punishment.
Types of social fact
A social fact can be classified according to three categories:
- Morphological. Those who structure society and order the participation of individuals in their various environments.
- Institutions. Social facts already contained in society and that are a recognizable part of life in it.
- Currents of opinion. They obey more or less ephemeral fashions and trends, or that gain more or less force according to the moment of the community, and push society towards a form of subjectivity with respect to something.
These social facts are always known by all members of the community, shared or not, and they position themselves with respect to them, for or against, without having to be previously discussed in any way. In this way the process is fed back: social events influence people and people generate and condition social dynamics.
Finally, from a certain point of view, all facets of human subjectivity: language, religion, morality, customs, are social facts that give the individual a belonging to a community.
Examples of social facts
- The applause after a performance. The social behavior approved and promoted after an act of some nature is the collective applause, and it is a perfect and simple example of social fact. The people attending will know when to clap and how, without anyone explaining it to them at the moment, simply carried away by the crowd. Not clapping, on the other hand, would be taken as a gesture of contempt for the act.
- The Crossing of Catholics. Among the Catholic community, the persignation is a learned and imposed part of the ritual, which not only takes place at the end of Mass or at times indicated by the parish priest, but also takes place at key moments of daily life: in presence of bad news, as a gesture of protection against an impressive event, etc. No one should tell you when to do it, it is simply part of a learned feeling.
- Nationalisms. Patriotic fervor, devotion to patriotic symbols, and other patriotic behaviors are openly fostered by most societies in response to an underlying opinion pattern of contempt for self. Both aspects, chauvinism (excessive love for the national) or malinchismo (contempt for everything national) constitute social facts.
- The elections. Electoral processes are fundamental social facts for the republican life of nations, which is why they are imposed by governments as a milestone of political participation, often mandatory. Not participating in them can, even if it does not carry legal sanctions, be disapproved by others.
- Demonstrations or protests. Another form of organized citizen participation is protests, which often arise from the perception of a minor individual or group and then rise to mobilize and strengthen the sense of community of the masses, sometimes pushing them to acts of recklessness (throwing stones at the police), expose themselves to repression or even violate laws (such as looting).
- Wars and armed conflicts. An important social fact in the history of mankind is wars and conflicts, unfortunately. These transitory states of violence alter the entire social, legal and political apparatus of nations and oblige societies to behave in certain ways: martial and restrictive, such as the army, or anarchic and selfish, as in the case of populations trapped in conflict zone.
- Coups d’etat. Violent changes of government are external conditions to individuals that nevertheless impose certain feelings, for example, of joy and relief at the overthrow of a dictator, of hope at the coming to power of a revolutionary group, or of depression and fear when , when unwanted governments start.
- Urban violence. In many countries with a high margin of criminal violence, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, etc. high rates of criminal activity are a social fact, as they alter the way people feel, think and act, often pushing them towards more radical positions and allowing lynchings of criminals or attitudes of equal violence to which they reject.
- The economic crisis. The economic crisis factors, which drastically alter the way in which people interact commercially, are social events with a profound impact on emotionality (generating depression, frustrations, anger), opinion (guilty is sought, xenophobia arises) and acting (voting for populist candidates, consuming less, etc.) of the people affected.
- The terrorism. The action of terrorist cells in organized societies has an important radicalizing effect, which we have witnessed in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century: the resurgence of right-wing nationalisms, fear and contempt for foreigners, Islamophobia, in short, diverse feelings that are imposed on the individual from not only the violent actions of the extremists, but from all the media discourse woven around it.