Friday, February 10, 2012

Enforcement of Social Facts

I'm team-teaching a class this semester in the history and philosophy of sociology with a buddy of mine who is a sociologist.  Today, we started working on Emile Durkheim's book, The Rules of the Sociological Method.  The central notion in his view is that there exist social facts, norms that are internalized within members of the society and sanctions for those who would violate them.  We starting thinking about these penalties.  Some of these norms are formalized into law and violation these may bring about fines, imprisonment, or removal of your rights to possess firearms, drive a motor vehicle, or participate in the political process.  For those that are not made into law, there are other means of being punished -- dirty looks, nasty comments, not being able to get dates,... 

Some are more effective than others, but there are those that have a certain style.  I had an apartment mate in college who would regularly come in in the wee hours of the morning in various states of chemically induced intoxication and would do things whose volume would seem inappropriate for the hour, especially if someone in the apartment had an early morning class.  One night, he decided that playing drums on his furniture at 3 in the morning was a good idea.  When reminded of the hour, he thought that playing lighter on the wooden dresser with wooden drum sticks for the next hour and a half was sufficient to address the concern.  The next morning, on my way to my 8 a.m. class, I left our phone outside of his door, put it on speaker, maximized the volume, and dialed the time. 

What are some of the most creative sanctions you've heard of for violating social norms?