This article emphasizes the importance of the Dreyfus Affair in the manner in which Emile Durkheim approached the subject of anti-Semitism between 1897 and 1899, while the Affair was in full swing in France. Although Durkheim was the founder of positivist sociology, disconnected from preconceived notions, he nevertheless courageously entered the fight to defend Dreyfus, both as a scholar and as a Jew. In a series of articles and letters, he reflected on the causes of anti-Semitism and proposed an interpretation of Jews as scapegoats, because in his view society’s suffering was resolved by ostracizing Jews as pariahs. But this interpretation is unsatisfactory. Based on impressions rather than on a sociological analysis conducted in accordance with his Rules of Sociological Method, Durkheim’s analysis of explanatory variables is not convincing and is oriented around psychological considerations rarely seen elsewhere in his work.
Durkheim’s writings on morality are examined, distinguishing his earlier, more familiar account from later developments that advance new ideas relevant to present-day debates. The question is raised of the extent to which familiar criticisms of Durkheim’s sociology of morality are justified and ways are suggested in which sociologists and anthropologists can gain from reconsidering Durkheim on morality. His attempts to demarcate the scope of the sociology of morals against the claims of the philosophers and psychologists of his time are, it is argued, relevant to how sociologists of morality should view today’s philosophers and psychologists. Durkheim’s influence on current work by sociologists of morality is considered: positive influence, whether acknowledged or not, and negative, in response to what are seen as inadequacies of Durkheim’s approach. It is suggested that apparently non-Durkheimian studies of trust, collective action, and the evolution of social norms are nonetheless Durkheimian in their object of inquiry.
Mark S. Cladis
The development of a science of morality, or what he called rational moral art (l’art moral rationnel), is one of Durkheim’s most ambitious endeavors. The very idea of rational art will strike many as an oxymoron. Yet it is precisely at the intersection, and within the tension, of these two terms—art and the rational—that we find Durkheim’s most mature efforts at establishing a science of morality. On the one hand, this science is rational insofar as it is attentive to the actual, lived social practices and institutions of humans in various cultures at various times. On the other hand, this science is a form of art insofar as it employs practical judgment and creativity as it seeks to move from the detailed studies of the social scientist to the reformist critique of social institutions and practices. In short, Durkheim recommended that sociologists join sociohistorical skill to the moral imagination.
Francois de Singly
Emile Durkheim’s first specialized course in Bordeaux (in 1888) was on the sociology of the family. Although his work on the topic is not his best known, and is often rather misunderstood, it is still quite interesting. Durkheim was able to perceive the two leading characteristics of the European family under the first modernity (from the 1850s through the 1960s): the personalization of ties and the increasing intervention of the state in family affairs. Understanding this change did not lead Durkheim to approve of it, however, and he worried about the weakening of rules and discipline within the family.
As religion has gained public and scholarly attention, sociologists have critically revised orthodox secularization theory. This article revisits Emile Durkheim’s sociologie religieuse and explores its potential and limitation for analyzing contemporary religious reconfigurations in the twenty-first century. First, it reviews how the “New Durkheim” as recovered by the recent historiography of classical sociology defined, explained, and assessed religion. It argues that Durkheim’s theory of the sacred, its relation to society, and its impact on morality and knowledge displays inherent tensions reflected in his quest for social bonds in secular society. Second, having acknowledged Durkheim’s ambivalent legacy in the sociology of religion and cultural sociology more broadly, the article shows that his theory of the sacred, while failing to grasp religio-political power configurations so central to the Weberian tradition, helps discern the persistence and production of collective religious forms in a global age, ranging from nationalisms to human rights.
Weber’s concept of Islam as a cultural configuration including religion, society, and political order was conceived against the backdrop of Europe’s supposed uniqueness and exemplary path to modernity. Yet his ambition of advancing transcultural understanding and exploring a plurality of developmental histories offers inspiration to this day also for the Islamic perspective. Repositioning his ideas about warrior Islam, Islamic beliefs, Islamic law, and patrimonialism in the context of contemporary postcolonial, postmodern, and global theory reveals details, correlations, and perspectives that Weber at the time ignored or omitted. Complementing theory with up-to-date historical research on the Middle East provides further corrections. A critical appraisal of Weber’s approach and the discussions it triggered allows recognition of the dynamics of Islamic history, such as the role of religion and religious authority in the evolution of state–society relations. It also assists in understanding Islamic features of modernity, including fundamentalism and the role of tradition, that inform the tension between moral values and politics. Going beyond the historical limitation of Weber’s assessment of prevalent features of Islam, the vitality of Islamic tradition and its particular pathway to modernity are recognizable in terms corresponding with the intention of Weber’s transcultural approach and its contemporary reinterpretations.
Bryan S. Turner and Rosario Forlenza
While Max Weber wrote extensively on a range of religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and most extensively Protestantism—there is no fully developed sociology of Catholicism. This chapter attempts to construct Max Weber’s missing sociology of Catholicism from the various scattered comments across his works. While Weber saw Protestantism influencing the growth of capitalism (and more broadly modernization), his view of Catholicism was largely negative: it was ritualistic, magical, bureaucratic, and traditional. What would Weber have made of Catholicism in the twentieth century and twenty-first century? This chapter first examines developments in nineteenth-century Catholicism that lay behind Weber’s critical commentary. The second half asks how changes in Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council (informally known as Vatican II, 1962–1965) have brought about a modernization of Catholicism. The chapter argues for the relevance of Weber’s views today by considering the impact of Vatican II on Catholic teaching and practice, arguing that it represents the political modernization of Catholicism. Vatican II represented a radical departure from the political conservatism of the nineteenth century. In principle, the church was no longer critical of secular democracy, pluralism, the party system, and state sovereignty. This modernization, however, began to undermine the universalism of the church and pushed Catholicism toward denominationalism. However, the church did not modernize its teaching on contraception, abortion, marriage, divorce, and family life. This tension between political modernization and what we might simply call “familial conservatism” still haunts the church today.
W. Watts Miller
This article tracks key changes and continuities in Durkheim’s approach to the modern individual, beginning with the landscape of his thesis on the division of labor. A period of transition then helped to generate his increasing belief in the dynamics of creative effervescence, both as a foundation of an irreducibly social realm and as a way to tackle a modern crisis and get going processes of reform. He nonetheless never abandoned his commitment to the importance of social structures, as in his call for a web of new intermediate groups linking the individual with a wider society, or in his view of the division of labor as a source of modern ideals and route to combining autonomy and solidarity. He was also well aware that times of effervescent upsurge come with serious risks. Indeed, risk is built into the freedom and indeterminacy they entail.
The Sociality of Mind: Key Arguments, Inner Tensions, and Divergent Appropriations of Durkheim’s Sociology of Knowledge
Ever since Durkheim, the question of the sociality of mind has remained both contentious and fruitful. This article discusses the Durkheimian contribution to the sociology of knowledge in three steps. First, by drawing on Durkheim and Mauss’s “Primitive Classification” (1903) and on Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), two key arguments of the Durkheimian sociology of knowledge will be distinguished. Second, it is argued that the differences between these two key contributions reverberate through the reception of Durkheim’s sociology of knowledge, resulting in two quite different lines of reception: one that focuses on classificatory homologies (Lévi-Strauss, Bourdieu, Boltanski) and one that focuses on ritual, the sacred, and the emergence of nonordinary realities (Bellah, Joas). Finally, the continuing provocative force of Durkheim’s sociology of knowledge is explained by systematizing the various tensions within Durkheim’s arguments as well as within and between its appropriations.
Sociology of the Sacred: The Revitalization of the Durkheim School at the Collège de Sociologie and the Renewal of a Sociology of Sacralization by Hans Joas
This article analyzes three key stages in the development of the sociology of the sacred: the Durkheim school, the Collège de Sociologie, and the work of Hans Joas. First, it shows that the Collège de Sociologie was deeply influenced by the Durkheimians’ studies on religion and the gift but interpreted them in a very specific way. Whereas the Collège and the Durkheim school agree on the importance of the sacred for social cohesion, they disagree on other important theoretical, methodological, and political issues. Second, it compares Hans Joas’s studies on sacralization processes to the Durkheimian sociology of religion and the sacred sociology of the Collège. It argues that Joas’s analyses, even though they are inspired by Durkheim, in particular go beyond the Durkheim school and the Collège in three respects: (a) they provide an account of the articulation of the experience of the sacred; (b) they ground sacralization processes in a theory of action; and (c) they contextualize sacralization processes in terms of a sociology of institutions and power.
When Max Weber began his work on the historical importance of the relationship between the Protestant ethic and modern capitalism, he committed himself to the most enduring of his theoretical interests, the economic ethic of the most important religions. Investigating central issues in Max Weber’s study on ancient Judaism, this chapter points to its relevance for the understanding of contemporary populism. For this purpose, two key aspects of his work are emphasized: this religion’s rationality—inescapable for the understanding of Western modernity—and the charisma of the biblical prophets, based on their social and political position as well as on the affective bond they formed with the masses. Both aspects provide important insights for the assessment of contemporary populist movements.